Monday, October 30, 2017

A Prayer to Grow Stronger, Part I: Roots

While some conceive God’s favorite answer is no, I’ve discovered it’s a resounding yes! God not only says yes to our life, but desires us to have an abundant one. Some of the richest biblical images for God involve life and growth. Perhaps my favorite is when Jesus describes himself as the vine, and we are the branches; we simply cannot flourish apart from him (John 15:5). As I seek to grow at God’s direction, as I look to deepen connections to my Source, I offer you this prayer that revolves around the different parts of a tree. Relevant stories illustrate each part and will ensue in the coming weeks. My hope is that we will flourish in our life and service by praying it.

Lord, help me to cultivate my roots in you. Gift my foundation with wisdom and my fruit with abundance. Guide me so that I bend, not fall, when the winds of life blow — for many are the benefits of life with you!
I began practicing yoga about seven years ago in order to stretch and strengthen. I soon discovered that balance is another one of its benefits. Yoga classes often include balancing poses. Tree pose is a popular and basic one. It entails finding a concentration point in the room and balancing on one foot. The other foot is often delicately tucked above the knee and against the groin. The arms are raised and fan out like the branches of a tree. Holding this position takes focus; when concentration wanes, the body often wobbles. Instructors encourage practitioners not to fight the wobbling, but rather to try rooting the standing foot into the ground even more intentionally. The concept of growing roots releases a stabilizing force.
In relationships and life, I’ve found the same to be true. I remember a particular conversation with my father one day when I was a college student. He wanted to impress upon me the importance of building a future marital relationship wisely. He explained that a healthy marriage, like a thriving tree, is dependent upon its root system. In order to grow strong and healthy, it’s what is under the soil that really counts. Faith enables a couple to draw upon support that is stronger than themselves; in essence, it enables them to prosper in good times and be fortified in tough ones.
It didn’t take long for me to discover the truth of his words. While I was dating my future husband, we experienced 9/11 as New Yorkers. We drew strength from the unique hope and uplift of regular church attendance during that trying time. Our faith cemented us together. We’ve since been married for over fifteen years. As I consider the challenges and changes we’ve weathered, root imagery still applies. The best metaphor to illustrate this is the palm tree. Its root system anchors the tree so that its flexible trunk will bend and not fall over amidst hurricane-force winds. As the winds of change have blown in our lives, and even as I wobble during yoga class, I’ve discovered the strength that can come from a good foundation.
While activity underneath the soil can better a marriage, it can also better a person. Roots have the capacity not only to anchor us, but to ensure a positive growth trajectory. Jesus’ parable of the sower illustrates this principle (Matthew 13:1-9). The sower discovers that the path, rocks, scorched ground, and thorns all threaten growth. When soil is fertile, however, roots develop and produce fruit one hundredfold. The hectic pace of culture, a desire to people-please, and empty worldly goals are not the fertile soil for building wise foundations. We need to root deeper to unearth the alternative scripture offers. It’s not just what we build, but how we build it that counts. {Tweet that.} As we cultivate fertile soil, our resultant fruit will be richer both in relationship and as individuals.

Next week features Part II of the prayer, which focuses on patience and is based upon the trunk of a tree...Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Watch the Cure for Hectic Schedules!

Do you feel like you're operating on autopilot?
Are you struggling to simply get through your days instead of enjoy them?
Is your schedule turning you and your family into something you're not?

We don't have to allow our culture of rush to rob us from what's authentic and important in our lives. But having a conviction to fight isn't enough; we have to have a game plan. Luckily, faith can provide us with just that.

This week last year, the premiere episode of my TV series went live on the topic of hectic family schedules. Hear one ordinary mom of two raised children reflect on what's at risk, and hear one dad who is also a teacher and coach struggling through it all as he raises two young children. How can their perspectives bless your life and bring wisdom to the decisions you're making right now? WATCH HERE to find out.

You're not alone in the chaos — calm can be right around the corner. Stay tuned for more episodes this year from my series Chaos to Calm! Finally, if you loved this episode, please SHARE IT!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why We Don't Have to Live Discouraged

This Monday marked the worst shooting in US history. Our hearts break as a church, community, and people of faith. As we learned about the event in disbelief, it’s hard to find our bearings. Sometimes it feels like tragedy just keeps unfolding on the wide-screen of our TV’s and in our very lives.

I remember hearing an encouragement to “look for the helpers” in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Mr. Rogers, the popular children's television icon, coined that phrase as a sign of active hope.  He said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world."

As the country lit candles, sang songs, pledged dollars, and honored rescue workers this week, we have seen those helpers. Living in New York City during 9/11, I can testify that that show of solidarity indeed means something. But I believe as a people of faith, our job isn’t just to look for the helpers; our job is to be the helpers.

It is through the eyes of people who have suffered that we can see the suffering of others anew. We can work to bless others who are in pain. We can bind together what once was broken, and in our effort to mend fences, the holes in our hearts can heal too. The miraculous promises of our Savior are active in the world partially to the extent that we open ourselves up to be those "helpers" — in the broader communal sense and at home. Here are some ways we can do that:

·      Pray. This isn’t a trite, quick-fix solution; the Bible promises that it unlocks the power of God to move redemptively.
·      Give. We can send money, supplies, or handwritten letters to those who are hurting. Recently, my youngest son made teddy bears for children affected by Hurricane Irma at his school. He was so proud to help make a difference for another child.
·      Model. I love the quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Whether we’re modeling with our life or patiently teaching character-building to our children, we should never underestimate our power to plant positive seeds. These seeds can grow and become much more impactful than any tragedy, as they are not limited to a single event, but rather reflected over an entire lifetime.

This week and always, remember your God-given power to make a difference. Share your tears, open your palms, and shine your light.

It's good to be blogging again after a late summer/early fall break, though I wish it were not under these circumstances. My prayers continue for Las Vegas. If you'd like more encouragement, you can read my full Boston Marathon post here. Also, be sure you've signed up for my free devotional ebook and email updates here

This post was also shared with my church site

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