Tuesday, September 10, 2019

How to Life Your Life Purpose: Joy, Part Six

I am delighted to begin the final step of six in my series, How to Live Your Life Purpose. The last step is the sweetest: joy. Fall is a great time to make changes. Hopefully, you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands and a return to a more regular schedule. As the leaves begin to change, we can think about any life-giving, joy-filled changes God wants to inspire within us. 

Are you new to my series? You can read the first installment of the other steps below. Scroll through my blog to read all of their related entries. And don't forget to subscribe here to get the last special installment of my series, which will be available only to subscribers by email! 


Part One: Longing

Part Two: Surrender
Part Three: An Inventory of Strengths
Part Four: Risk
Part Five: Persistence


Part Six: Joy

Imagine living in such a way that a current flows through you. You have a natural, vivacious energy that comes from doing what you were made to do. It flows from God's Spirit through you and out to others as you make an impact precisely as God has intended just for you. Further, this energy is renewable. As you stay connected to your Source, God will continue to renew and empower you. Your life, therefore, shows circuit-like harmony and flow, and it feels good!

While the Bible does not address circuitry, this same principle is represented in Jesus’ discussion of the vine and branches in John 15:1-8. Jesus, the True Vine, cares deeply about our connection to him. He wants us to grow and thrive, but he makes it clear that it is impossible for us to do so apart from him. Apart from him we cannot bear fruit, and we wither and die. But with him, we can find life, bear fruit, and flourish. Jesus wants to foster beneficial intimacy with you and me, an intimacy that is so rich that he is flowing through our veins. We grow up and out into the world as branches with him as our Source. Whether it's electricity or natural imagery, the conclusion is the same: Flourishing life is possible through an intentional connection to God.


It’s important to recognize that our spiritual connection is the reason for our joy. God supplies the necessary energy or life. Our own connectivity or intimacy with God allows it to flow in and through us, and the result is that joy bubbles over. Therefore, it is not our output itself that produces joy. Our output, or willingness to embody our life purpose, is the fruit of the inherently joyful connection. This understanding allows us to be joyful even when our efforts do not produce the immediate outcomes we had hoped for.

We’ve explored the cost of the pearl for the merchant in previous weeks, but part of unpacking joy means also noting what the merchant got out of the deal. Matthew 13:45-46 reads: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We can imagine that the merchant had a discerning eye for pearls for him to excel at his trade. When he saw his prize, he unquestionably recognized its value. His joy at the thought of owning it propelled him to willingly change everything.

The joy that God offers us hinges upon our choices too. It's rooted in our connection to him and willingness to go on the adventure that he has in store for our lives. We’ll learn to increasingly recognize this connection’s value and trust it, just like the seasoned merchant. We’ll also flourish with its power coursing through our veins. We'll explore more of what we can anticipate through study in the weeks to come!

Congratulations to C. Reed for winning my recent giveaway on Facebook. She will receive her resources soon. Stay tuned for another fall giveaway later this month!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Back to School Three-Book Giveaway (And Prayer)!

This week is my boys' last week of summer vacation. In honor of back to school time, I have paired with the Christian children's book publisher Zonderkidz for an exciting giveaway. Our children will be learning, growing, and changing this year...let's make sure their development includes the spiritual kind! One way to do that is by choosing resources to help us that are busy-parent friendly. I like the first two books because they break the Bible down into easy-to-digest portions that are easy for children to remember and for parents to talk about with them!

The first book is the Bible Gems to Remember Illustrated Bible: 52 Stories with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less. This Bible shares popular stories and simplifies related scripture verses for easy memory and theme-based teaching. It is for grade schoolchildren.

The second book is Bible Gems to Remember Devotions for Kids: 52 Devotions with Easy Bible Memory in 5 Words or Less. These devotions take Bible concepts further by filtering them through the eyes of older children, applying them to their lives, and equipping them to make godly decisions. This devotional is suited for middle school children (10+ years old). 

A bonus book will also be included in the bundle! This is a great free reading option—I can't wait for my sons to read it! Arcade and the Golden Travel Guide is the second book in the Coin Slot Chronicles series by New York Times bestselling author, former NFL running back, and Dancing with the Stars champion Rashad Jennings. This humorous and imaginative series encourages readers to value the power of friendship and imagination, and to never underestimate an underdog.


I am doing this giveaway a bit differently! The giveaway will happen this Sunday night on Facebook. Simply post a comment on my post announcing the giveaway to register. I will then select a random winner from the comments the next day! I usually post an inspirational Facebook message on Sundays—this one will include loot for one lucky winner! I invite you to like my page so that you don't miss a thing. Note: Entrants must have a US street address, no PO Boxes, for shipping purposes. Also, I was given a copy of these books in exchange for my review.

In the meantime, want a back to school prayer to pray for your children? You will find two options here that I wrote from the heart!

Stay tuned for the conclusion of my life purpose series starting the first week in September!

Monday, August 12, 2019

New Article! "Passing on the Torch"


For the past several months, I have been sharing my life purpose series with you. We have completed five of the six steps—only the last step, joy, remains. Before we launch into that step this fall, I wanted to share my recent article.

The article, Passing on the Torch, is the perfect culmination to our series. It describes the wrestling and subsequent joy I've experienced living my life purpose. Some of its story will be familiar to you, and some of it will be new. 

My article includes scriptural support for female leadership and ordination in the church. If you or anyone you know has been personally struggling with this topic, I hope you will share it with them. There are many, many women who still need to feel and experience this holy affirmation.


It's a delight to be a repeat featured author for my writer's guild, Redbud. Please leave a comment after reading! And again, stay tuned in September for the culmination of our series! We also have giveaways coming soon!

Friday, July 19, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Three

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," is underway. This is our third week studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this next week from my own story, subscribe here

1 Timothy 6:12 reads, “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (NRSV). This notion of “fighting the good fight of faith” alludes to persistence—living our faith will not always be easy, for a fight is required and mustered courage is implied.

Theologian John Calvin cleverly picks up on these principles as he writes:
Nothing can fill us with courage more than the knowledge that we have been called by God. For from that we may infer that our labor, which is under God’s direction, and in which He stretches out His hand to us, will not be in vain. Thus, it would be a very serious accusation against us to have rejected God’s call. It should, however, be the strongest encouragement to us to be told, “God hath called thee to eternal life. Beware of being distracted by anything else or of falling short in any way, before thou hast obtained it.” *
According to Calvin, no labor is in vain when we are living our life purpose. He advocates honoring the primacy of God’s call and keeping from being distracted in any way. Persistence, therefore, is necessary for a genuine observance of faith.

Calvin wants us to live each day as if our decisions and obedience really count. Considering eternal life necessitates that we number our days this side of heaven. His writing encourages a sense of focus. 


In other words, we have to dig our heels in and keep going.



John R. Walchenbach, "Vocation," The Westminster Handbook to Reformed Theology, edited by Donald K. McKim (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 233.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part Two

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," began last week. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story, subscribe here!

While persistence involves our own action in obedience, it can also involve our willingness to wait for God to act. Is there a blessing you've been waiting for? Is there a dream that God has put on your heart? Have been several roadblocks and disappointments along the way? Just ask a toddler if waiting is any fun. The frustration and whining of the "terrible two's" really doesn't get any easier; the struggle just becomes more internal as we age.


Scripture reveals that we’re not alone in our waiting. The Psalmist yearns, "I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning" (130:5-6, NRSV). But the Psalmist also declares God’s faithfulness while we wait too. The Psalmist professes in 27:13-14, "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Asking us to “be strong” and “wait for the Lord” implies persistence.



This encouragement is important because waiting is often necessary, especially as it pertains to our life purpose. While we understand the frustration of waiting from an early age, the things we want as we get older usually take a bit more arranging. A dream come true takes more than a flick of magical wand or a cookie from our parent's hand. It's often a compilation of years of striving, faithfulness, and even heartbreak until we taste the sweet fruit of satisfaction. But the Lord promises, someway, somehow, that fruit will come. {Tweet that.}

The pinecone is an interesting metaphor for persistence. Notice that while the pinecone is one object, it's made up of many "leaves" called scales. Each scale must grow individually to produce the ovular shape we know as the pinecone. Its formation is a multi-step process. To uncover God's faithfulness in big ways, we need to be faithful in little ways. We need to allow each scale to form along the path toward the completion of our God-given purpose. Every decision matters. Frustration cannot lead to giving in or giving up while our formation is still in process. 

The Psalmist extols, "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act" (37:4-5). Paul echoes the psalm in Galatians 6:9 by encouraging, "So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up." Both verses, along with the pinecone, reflect the tension that persistence involves not only our continued action in obedience but also our willingness to wait for God’s action too.

The faithful have waited throughout the centuries and over the course of each lifetime. The Bible resounds with God's faithfulness all the same. Time and time again, witnesses prove it. If you are weary and ready to give up, be encouraged by the promises of a faithful God. Like the pinecone, you are forming. Commit your ways to the Lord and stay tuned to witness the full expression of God's artistry through you. You're going to see something beautiful.


***


It's been a landmark week on the blog! It hit 200,000 views since its inception! Thank you to the thousands who are checking in each month! I pray God has been touching your heart through this series. Stay tuned for next week as we continue our study on persistence!

Monday, July 1, 2019

How to Live Your Life Purpose: Persistence, Part One

Step five in our six part series, "How to Live Your Life Purpose," begins today. For four weeks, we will be studying persistence. Prior steps of the series have been longing, surrender, an inventory of strengths, and risk. To catch up on prior steps, scroll through my blog. To receive exclusive material like this every month from my own story of finding and living my life purpose, subscribe here!

Our journey in this series began with a discussion of the parable of the pearl. You can find it here. The scripture itself, from Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV), records Jesus saying: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

I cannot imagine the resolve that the merchant must have had to sell everything he owned for the pearl. As he parted with each piece of property bit by bit, his fingers trembled as tinges of fear crept in. It is not hard to believe that he could have been experiencing full-blown panic. He was letting go of the security he had made for himself to receive far greater security solely by faith. He was being transformed. Now Jesus offers him as an example of how to respond to God’s call in our lives, because he willingly remains persistent even in risk to claim his prize.

The merchant’s parable understandably involves goods. His goods stand for whatever we depend upon for our livelihoods. God is the ultimate source of our security—not just spiritually, but physically and emotionally as well. God wants our relationship with him to be the guiding factor for our lives. For this relationship to mature and deepen, we must remain persistent in our obedience and pursuit of him. In so doing, we slowly draw nearer to the pearl ourselves.

Persistence is a rich biblical principle; growth in the kingdom of God requires it. When I was in high school, I remember feeling impatient to begin ministering. I saw what a difference I could make on a mission trip, and I wanted to feel that real-time difference everyday instead of being buried under mounds of future homework. But my youth pastor encouraged me to look to nature for wisdom in my frustration. A sapling, he said, springs up quickly, but its roots are shallow and its trajectory is small. A mighty oak, however, allows time for its roots to burrow deeply into the ground. These roots weather many winters, but that makes the tree stronger and eventually more productive: It has more shade, lumber, and beauty to share. The same can be said of us. The kingdom of heaven often hinges upon slow, quiet, persistent growth as God actively transforms us. {Tweet that.}



Our transformations will look different because we have different life purposes. Persistence may be needed in our training, in our work inside or outside of the home, or certainly in our diligent pursuit of God. The key is that we do not give up; we do not waver despite potential risk or actual cost. Paul agrees, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2, emphasis mine). Here, perseverance and persistence are interchangeable. Paul is arguing that having persistence is inherent to the Christian call; it not only produces external results, it also develops an inner fortitude as we grow in relationship and trust in Jesus. Both are key to living our God-given life purpose.

Questions to think about this week: Can you remember a time when you were persistent and it paid off? How might God be calling you to be persistent now, and what might the benefits be?

TODAY Video Clip