For When You're Stuck

We returned recently from full-time, front-line mission work at Camp Barnabas and though it was an incredible summer I’ve been feeling stuck. Actually run over and then left to dry... in the rain... might be a better description. I’m just spent. Spent and stuck. Stuck and spent. Feeling like there’s nothing else to give and yet too much left over. Spiritually God knocked this summer out of the ballpark- and I got front row seats to His show. He even called me on stage a few times to participate. It was spectacular. People found Christ, dozens upon dozens were baptized, demons were exorcised, and people’s faith grew stronger and mightier. I couldn’t have asked for more. I felt as if I should be walking- no swaggering- out of camp with my head held high, my Bible worn through, my voice singing praises, and my cup overflowing. After all, it was all GodStuff right? And yet I’ve been stuck in this weird, post-victory void; one that both leaves me exhausted and yet feeling guilty that I’m not handling the celebratory victory very well. In fact I’m pretty much sucking at it.

Ugh.

I’ve been in need of some encouragement of late. I desperately needed to hear God tell me it was okay to feel this way, that He understood- even if my feelings are counter-intuitive to the situation- maybe especially because they don’t match the season.

And then I happened upon Elijah. After his epic spiritual victory over Jezebel’s priests in 1 Kings 19, we find him running, alone, hungry, tired, and afraid... spiritually Stuck. So much so he asks God to die right then and there (fortunately I’m not personally <there> but man I can relate!)

God met him right where he was- alone, discouraged, restless and yet exhausted...

“And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” 1 Kings‬ ‭19:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This struggling and depressed prophet, one of the mightiest in the Bible- rested. When Stuck, God sent sustenance. He gave him rest, He let him lie down, He fed him and gave him shade. His angel actually came a second time to revitalize him again.

I love that. I desperately needed to have permission to rest and be a bit overwhelmed at the past battles. God knows me... as He knew Elijah... as He knows you.

What a relief! What a thought! What grace!

Sometimes I have a tendency to struggle against my Stuck. I look around and I think I’m doing it wrong- and that pulls me down even further. And yet, there is grace even within the quagmire of being spiritually Stuck- whether it be metaphorical or physical- God allows His servants rest, rejuvenation, and revitalization.

So, dear one, if you’re feeling Stuck, take heart and know you’re not alone. Jeremiah encourages us, even in the Stuck, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬

Going Number Two

I'm excited to feature another writer today. My sister Alicia Costello has graciously written a wonderful blog for us to enjoy. Please check out her brand-new website too! ~B

My son is 4 years old and 2 months, and this kid is not. potty. trained.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. He took to going number one in the potty fairly well. He goes to the potty every single time to go number one. It’s just, um, number two. He won’t go. No matter how long he is sat on the potty, he won’t do it. The second he gets that Pull-Up back on, he goes. We’ve tried everything. And it’s not only that he won’t go in the potty, but his face is one of no remorse. He’s resolved. He does not care about what we’ve asked him to do. Heck, after changing 4 Pull-Ups today before 2pm, he’s walking around my house literally butt naked because I just don’t have the mental capacity today to change another Pull-Up.

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I’m sure any mom who has potty trained can sympathize. Unless your children are robots, and in that case where do I buy robot children??!!

My husband once said, “I never understood before I had kids why it seemed like every preacher’s story was about their kids. Now I get it. Everything they do preaches to you.”

And God’s never one to waste an opportunity so of course he’s been talking to me through it.

My child has one job: to poop in the potty. We have had many, many talks about this. I have told him he can’t go to big-boy classes at school or church until he poops in the potty. He understands poop goes in the potty. I feel like God has told me, you have one job. You are to go and preach my gospel. Use the tools I’ve given you.

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And like God, I’ve given my child tools. Pull-ups. Access to the potty. And God’s given us tools, although they’re different. He’s given some an extra measure of encouragement, or some a teaching gift, or some a hospitality gift. God’s given me everything I need to do the job he’s asked me to do. And with my kid, I’ve given him everything he needs to do what I asked him to do successfully. And he still won’t do it. In fact, he takes my tools I’ve given him and just poops all over them, which is the opposite of why he has them. And I don’t know if you’re honest enough with yourself to point to a time in your life where you, even you, have taken the tools God has given us to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do with them. I know I’ve done that more times than I care to remember.

As a mom, the second my kid actually poops in that potty, I will be so relieved and elated, I won’t even care about the years he spent being disobedient. I will just be so happy he’s being obedient now. I’ll just let that preach itself.

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But for now, I’m stuck changing Pull-Up after Pull-up. I get frustrated until I literally take the Pull-Ups away. He couldn’t even go in his pants if he tried. He has no pants. Even the act of taking the Pull-Up away preaches to me on some deeper level. Like, it reminds me of the parable of the talent where Jesus says about the unfruitful servant “even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt 25:29)

But, thankfully, unlike me, God is so, so patient. Even if it takes us years, God continues to give us unmerited second chance after unmerited second or third or forth or seventy-ninth chance.

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The Bible says very explicitly that God’s mercies are new every morning. So, consider today a great place to start. Apologize to him, and begin using those tools God gave you to do to accomplish the goals he’s set up just for you. Don’t be afraid of how many days you’ve spent being disobedient, just worry about your obedience today.

Take these next few sentences as your challenge:

I’ve given you the goal. I’ve given you the tools. I can’t move you on to the next season until you start being obedient in this season. I’m ready to go if you are. I’ll be beside you on this journey. I see the way. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your job is just to trust me and obey. And if you follow me, we’ll go on an adventure together.

Testify

It has been on my heart of late the importance of our testimony. Everyone who is in Christ has one, we know our own stories like the back of our hands... and yet so often we hesitate to share the story of our salvation. Scripture implores us to share our faith. If we know nothing else, no scripture, no verses, no words of wisdom... we still know our own Jesus right? Our testimony is our story- it's our own, personal love story with the Creator. We don't need to be theologians to tell it. We don't need to have massive amounts of scripture memorized to throw at people. We need only the guts to open our mouths and tell it.

Our testimony is one of God's most potent weapons against the enemy. Wielded through the mouths of the ones who lived these salvations, our testimony cannot be stopped. Revelations 12:11 says the word of our testimony conquers Satan himself! It is such an easy yet mighty tool in our arsenal for the kingdom. And yet, still... we do not use it as much as we should. Why?

Shame.

How often, even those of us who are walking in freedom, grace, and mercy hesitate to share what God has done because of the shame that our past still holds over us. Satan just loves to keep us living in the past right? And if it's not shame for what we've done... it's shame for what we didn't do. Anyone out there feel like their testimony isn't worth sharing because it's just not juicy enough? It's not littered with drugs or affairs, abuse or porn... so it's just not worth sharing?

Satan'll take our closed mouths either way. He'll convince us our past is too dark to share or too light to share. I would ask you today, do you view your own testimony through the lens of shame or the lens of victory? What's keeping your mouth shut?

"For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love, and self-control. So do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me, His prisoner. Instead, join me in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time eternal. And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher.For this reason, even though I suffer as I do, I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." 2 Timothy 1:6-12 ESV

We have to open our mouths dear ones! We have to share the salvation of Christ in our lives! We don't need a degree, we don't need a long story, we don't need to be saved x-number of months, we don't need to be a speaker, we don't need a juicy story. All we need is to tell what Jesus has done for us. Good, bad, or ugly. Like the woman at the well. Having been saved a hot-minute, she spoke the only testimony she had, which was a whopping eight words. That's it!

"Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me all that I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, 'It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.'" John 4: 39-42 ESV

Our testimony is God's tool to use through us. All it needs to do is point people back to Him. He'll take care of the rest. So let us walk unashamed in the salvation He's provided and proclaim it from the rooftops. Whether it's X-rated or a very mild G, all are important, all need spoken... there IS someone who needs to hear yours today. Be brave, be bold, and speak up! Testify!

If you haven't read mine, please do here. I'd you to hear my story and learn about my Jesus!

Filled to the Brim

Any cup-hoarders out there? If you are anything like me, I love me a cute cup. Mugs in particular. Being an avid coffee drinker and a nurse to boot, I have my fair share of cups to go around. We have more than my family needs, but I just can't seem to part with many of them. Whether given to my by a friend for a birthday, or purchased during a special trip, many of my cups hold significance to me and it is rare that I part with them. I especially love my mugs that have an encouraging word or scripture written on them. In addition to the caffeine inside, often the words on the outside are just as mood-boosting for me. More often than not, my morning cup of coffee energizes mind, body, and soul.

Walking around with a full cup is no small thing. Navigating small children, desks, carpet, animals, co-workers, traffic, with a cup filled to the brim is quite the undertaking. It takes patience and no small amount of concentration to keep all the liquid inside. Add in contents that are scalding hot or can permanently stain and the stakes are raised even more. We have to be so careful!

Now take our spiritual life- our 'insides' if you will. A cup (our physical, visible testimony) that has beautiful wording, or a fantastic saying, scripture, or lovely pictures on the outside, can still spill horrible liquid right? When bumped or pushed, knocked around or dropped... it doesn't matter one bit what the outside of that cup looks like... the fallout will involve the contents on the inside. Hot coffee will spatter and burn anything around it. Red Kool-aid will stain anything it touches, often permanently. It doesn't matter what the cup looks like- when things get dicey, the damage done is dictated by what is on the inside.

Dear ones, I hope you see the parallels here. Faking this Christian walk can only be so successful. The prettiest, most pious, 'Christ-like' exterior and actions are simply that.... exterior. Sooner or later when adversity strikes, be it getting cut off in traffic, being betrayed by a friend, or something much worse, those 'bumps' will always spill out what is truly on the inside. What your reaction to these bumps is will spill what is truly in your heart.

Do you spill grace, mercy, forgiveness? Or wrath, anger, frustration, curses, revenge?

Matthew 6:21 tells us, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.'

Contents of your character will always overshadow the exterior vessel. I challenge you today to take a good look at what you are filled with. What does the content of your heart look like? You're filled to the brim with it... is it Jesus or something a bit more destructive? The splatter will most definitely affect all those around you... will is scald and stain or edify them? Only you have control of this.

Jesus warns us that He doesn't care a wit about our exteriors... only what the condition of our hearts are. He will come for our hypocrisy, make no mistake.

Mark 12:38-40 And in His teaching He said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

My prayer for all of us today is that when tried and tested our inner contents will spill Jesus all over the place. We cannot be perfect every time, but we can change our reactions with help from our Great King!

Destination Unknown

If you are anything like me, you love a good plan. I am a sucker for a well thought-out, finely executed plan. Add in a worthwhile and attainable destination, a point B if you will, and I’m in. I love me a great adventure. God loves adventures too. In fact, scripture is filled from cover to cover with Almighty adventures, holy quests, and God-assigned goals. He is the ultimate plan-Maker.

Except more often than not, God’s plans- His calling on our lives- has no defined end-point. He tends to leave out the destination altogether. Especially (and infuriatingly!) at the onset of each new quest. Take Abram for example, “Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ Notice the distinct lack of finale? He simply tells Abram, “...I will show you.” Anyone else get a little clammy at the lack of point B?

Destinations will come. If we follow God He will show us where to go. Step by step we will make it- wherever ‘it’ is. It’ll come- we will get there.

But that’s not the point.

God’s point B is the journey. His goal is our obedience. His finale is our faith-builder.

His outcome encompasses our personal souls, not our personal scenery.

When Abraham was 99 years old, almost 25 years into this journey of unknown destination, God established His covenant with him, “and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’” ‭‭(Genesis‬ ‭17:1-2‬)

You notice the walking order here? Read it again....

God commands him to walk ahead of Him- eyes forward, listening for instructions from behind. In this case, God didn’t lead Abraham to the destination- He followed him... telling him the destination. The destination was the journey. “...and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

Stop today and take a look around. Listen for the Master’s word... and go. May your faith be your finale.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah‬ ‭30:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In a World of a Thousand Yeses, What are You Saying No to?

If I were to take a quick look at your schedule what would I see? Basketball games, employee meetings, church, PTA meetings, bills due, doctors appointments? Our lives are nothing if not a culmination of a thousand scheduled moments- each one individually agreed to and committed on. Each entry chosen to be a part of our life, however big or small. Let’s face it, we’re all over-extended. We are too committed. We have such a hard time saying no.

To often there is just too much. Too much to choose from, too much to entertain, too much to be a part of, too much to do... and simply not enough time to do it. We over-exert, over-emphasize, over-do, and over-commit.

In this frantic world we race here and there, agonizing over trying to fit it all in. We over promise and usually under-deliver... simply because we just. cannot. stop. doing. stuff.

A quick look at our calendar shows a soul woefully busy but a life, I would imagine, woefully empty of meaning.

Too often we strive to fill our lives with purpose. We want to spend time on important things, we ache to fill our days with that which is weighty and worthwhile. But all too often, in order to fit it all in, we drop the very things that actually hold eternal ties.

Question: When things get busy and you find yourself exhausted- too tired to do anything else... too worn out to commit to one more thing... what ‘goes’? Looking at that calendar, what is crossed out? What do you see as the most expendable? What is lowest on the level of importance?

What we do and spend time on is perhaps the fastest and most honest way of assessing where our hearts desires lie. Does that devotional get left behind? What about that Tuesday night prayer team? Do you cut out Sunday school because it’s just too hard to get there on time? How about spending time discipling or being discipled?

What goes first when the chopping block of exhaustion comes out?

I challenge you today to take a look at your schedule and determine what you are devoted to. Ask God to take any blinders off regarding how you spend your time and energy. When you’re over-extended, look at what is sacrificed on the Alter of Constraint. What activities lie on top of it? These are what you are telling yourself, your spouse, your children, your friends, your world.... are the least important- the most worthless. Let the Lord look over with you the priorities in your days and readjust (as He enlightens) areas that need a refocus and rededication. Let your yeses be eternal- of weighty consequence. Let your no’s merely temporal- a passing of the wind.

Acts 2:42-47 ESV And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Press In

My husband and I attended a marriage retreat this last weekend and the speaker told a story that hit me profoundly. He told of a time when he was sick, discouraged, mad, frustrated... and he purposefully turned all his angst and venom towards his wife. He knew his words would hurt her... he spoke them anyway, admittedly trying to hit as deeply as he could. Her response was to come in from the next room, take him in her arms, and hold him. "I don't know what's up with you right now. I know you're trying to hurt me. I still here and I'm not going anywhere." Stick around Christian groups, meetings, sermons, or books long enough and you'll eventually hear this idea of 'pressing into Jesus'. For those that might be new to the faith, often times we're not great at giving real-life application to these church-y sayings. Yet, this man's story gave me a visual of exactly what to 'press in' looks like.

This sweet wife, in the face of discouragement... even attack you could argue, pressed IN. She pressed towards her attacker. She shortened the ground between them. She moved closer to the fight. Even with the very real possibility of more harsh words, total rejection, perhaps physical wrath- she pressed in.

Just like Jesus.

When assaults come our way there's usually two responses. At worst we attack back. Words are exchanged, sometimes blows are thrown; we match the assault- thought for thought, word for word, fist for fist. We FIGHT! At best, when we are confronted with criticism, ridicule, bullying, back-stabbing, anger, rage, attack... at best we step back and throw up all manner of defense. We COWER.

Self-preservation is an interesting thing- even spiritually. Fight or Flight.

Jesus did neither. He exemplified a third option. Jesus PRESSED IN! To attack, criticism, anger, frustration, deceit, betrayal, even to death... he pressed closer to his enemies. He didn't run, he didn't cower, he didn't stab back, he didn't mince words. He stepped towards, he moved forward, he wrapped arms around, he pressed in- and loved harder. He loved closer. He loved better.

There was no self-preservation about Jesus.

Even at the moment of his betrayal, by a trusted disciple no less, knowing this arrest would ultimately lead to his death, Jesus showed this kind of love. "...Jesus asked him, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss?' When Jesus' followers saw what was going to happen, they said, 'Lord, should we strike with our swords?' And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And He touched the man's ear and healed him." Luke 22: 48-51 NIV

What an example! What a lovely picture of what pressing in really looks like. What or who in your life today dear one needs to be loved closer. Who has betrayed you? Press in. Are you under attack? Press in. What is beating you down? Press in. Don't step back, don't swing out, fight the instinct of self-preservation and take the third option... the Jesus option.

Pressing in to these situations, just as Christ did, enables you to press in to God more as well. Each step takes you closer to the nature of Jesus and isn't that what this is all about?

PRESS IN today dear one!

Losing What You Never Had

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. We're almost done dear ones! This is the last part of our Jonah series! I pray you've been encouraged, convicted, and refined through our Bible study of this wayward prophet. We looked through Jonah's hissyfit in our last installment. I pray that my attitude is never quite so juvenile as Jonah's, however I'd best not look too closely...

Let's take a final look at the God's goodness and His sovereign will in the last chapter of Jonah.

 But the Lord replied, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

5 Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. 6 Then the Lord God provided a leafy plant[a] and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the plant. 7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the plant so that it withered. 8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

9 But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh,in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

Jonah is angry at God. As we saw in the last installment, he's throwing a hissyfit when things didn't go as planned. And yet, in this passage we see God still providing good, rest, respite to him... even in the midst of his disobedience and angst. God made a shade vine grow over him. His grace overflowed in a very physical way- and Jonah relished in it.

He was refreshed- and yet a change of heart didn't occur despite God's provision. Has God ever provided goodness, even in the midst of your disobedience? How did you respond... with joy and heartfelt change of attitude? Or perhaps with continued selfish entitlement? How often are your feelings affected by whether things are going well or not?

The shade ended, the hot winds blew once again... and Jonah sank further into his resentment of God, even going so far as to say "I'm so angry I wish I were dead." Whoa! Ungrateful much?!

Jonah demonstrates here what so many of us still struggle with today. This strange idea of entitlement, that God somehow owes us something. That the good things in life we deserve and are owed. I liken it to my children at Christmas- they wake up and find presents under the tree for them. They don't necessarily deserve them, they've been lovingly picked out just for them just because I love them. They surely didn't earn or pay for them, they were purchased with my money through my hard work. The gifts are freely given... and often (depending on their behavior) they are freely taken back. How often after receiving a great present have I found my boys fighting over them, resulting in me taking them back for a time. They pitch a fit, they cry hysterically, they bemoan how unfair it is that I took "their" toy away. How quickly possession occurs in their little minds. What they do not understand is that me, as 'sovereign' mom, gave them that toy and I can just as quickly take it away.

You see the picture here? As the scripture states, the shade provided Jonah was not of his doing, it was God's grace. It was not tilled or nurtured by him, it was through God's gardening that it grew. It was God's gift to give and to take away. Yet so quickly after it appeared Jonah claimed it as his own- his very own, his precious (cue Gollum voice...)

How quickly do you claim God's goodness in your life as your 'own'... your deserved gift? How quickly do you close your fist around the present He gives you, and cry out in frustration and angst when He takes it away? Health, wealth, children, cars, houses, possession, spouses, everything. We received NOTHING of our own volition. It is ALL through the Father. His to give, His to take away.

Unlike Jonah, who received a stern reprimand from God about his attitude, dear ones we must learn to hold our palms open at all times to the Holy One- both in the receiving of His gifts, but also in the easily giving back to Him when He takes away.

It's all by His hands that we give and receive. Let us keep open hands and open hearts in the good times and the bad.

Thy Will be Done

Submission is a hard word. At least it is for me. It implies a letting go, an intentional lessening of oneself to the will of someone else. More of them, less of me. Often it means that my choice, my opinions, my plans take a back seat (or more often, are just flat out left on the side of the road!) I no longer have any input or 'voice'... yes, submission is hard. It leaves me out of the picture. It puts authority and decision-making into someone else's hands. Some people are fine with arrangements like this... I'm (more often than not) NOT okay with such loss of control. And yet God calls us to exactly that. Letting go, letting Him, putting mySelf down at His feet. The perceived loss can be overwhelming and super uncomfortable at times. I don't particularly like it. I imagine few do. Yet He still calls for lessening of us so that He may be glorified more.

I recently sent book proposals off to several agencies. It is no play-on-words that the industry calls these manuscript "submissions"- after all, I'm putting my own words, thoughts, and ideas out there to be accepted, rejected, encouraged, or torn apart by somebody who I've never met, who doesn't know me, who has all the 'power' to make a decision on my behalf. It's a scary place to be in. I'm fully submitting very special pieces to the mercy of someone else.

Not unlike what God asks of us. To put ourselves out there, humbling our pride and ego, plans, desires, and futures to His authority and direction instead of our own. Indeed as scary thing! But, unlike the unknown of the publishing world, my God's response to my weakness is promised in scripture as one of grace, love, mercy, having only my good in mind. The chance of rejection is zero. The chance of humiliation in Him is non-existent. The chance of ridicule or loss is none. He knows me, and I know Him. There is no unknown in this arrangement!

In His arms I am safe and that takes so much of my fear away! Yes, there is still discomfort, after all it goes against our nature to let someone else call the shots. But what a someOne! We can take such hope in knowing that God only calls us to lessen ourselves so that He can do it better. His plans are better, wiser, more excellent, exceedingly beyond what we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). His elevation in our lives can only be for the best, and because of this, perhaps 'submission' isn't quite as scary as it once was.

James 4:6-7 (ESV) But He gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Submit yourselves therefore to God.

Not my will, but Yours be done...

Between God and Jonah- When Rowing to Shore is a Very Bad Idea

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. To see part 1 of this series, click here. Still in chapter 1, I hope you've had a chance to read through this very short chapter. If not, here's a quick link. Read it aloud to yourself. See what strikes you as you read it. I'll be right here...

Okay, so Jonah... or rather, as I did with the first #Jonahpost, I want to talk about the sailors again. Oh man, those poor sailors! I think they must have been rather perturbed to find themselves the innocent bystanders in the middle of this cosmic, supernatural show-down between God and Jonah. Except they weren't bystanders at all were they? They were smack-dab in the middle of a very real storm, with very wet rain, very huge waves, very blustery winds, on, as the NIV says, a "tempestuous" sea. Their lives were in danger in a very real way. And all because this crackpot Jonah decided to run away from God on their boat.

This mariner would be less than amused.

Yet how often do we find ourselves in the middle of a massive storm of someone else's making that suddenly becomes very much our business. The waves meant for them- blast us. The winds meant to blow them away- encircle us. The rain meant for them- saturates us. And before we know it, someone else's storm has become one that consumes our own lives.

Let's see how our mariners are doing.

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

The verse here that gets me every.single.time. is 13- despite having very clear instructions on how to obediently and swiftly exit stage left the sailors "INSTEAD... did their best to row back to land" (emphasis mine.) Whoa! Wait a minute. I'm confused. At what point did these poor saps think it was a good idea to get between God and Jonah? They had instructions. They knew what to do. And yet they took it upon themselves to save him. Suddenly the sailors decide that they have some weird responsibility to save Jonah from the wrath of God... and they actually try to fix his situation.

I would love to point fingers here, though I think that 4 others would be pointing back at me.

Haven't we all, even in the middle of someone else's storm, tried to row them to dry land? As dangerous a place as it is, we have chosen to insert ourselves into (what we consider) a solution to somebody else's issue with God. We boldly and recklessly stand between them and God Almighty thinking we have a better solution, a better way to shore, a better idea of how to fix the problem.

Arrogant much? And extremely costly- both in time and lesson.

It's time to throw our Jonah's overboard dear ones. As hard as it sounds, we have to remove ourselves from the supernatural battle (i.e. spiritual lesson) going on. Jonah's storm of disobedience does not give us permission to become his salvation (more on that in the next newsletter!)

Notice that the storm stopped ONLY once the sailors obeyed instructions- which involved throwing him into the sea. The storm affecting them so mightily came with Jonah and immediately left with him as well. I can only imagine the same effect can be had when we listen to God and obey His instructions to us about the Jonah's in our lives.

You may be asked to throw him overboard, you may be asked to row him to shore. But take care to listen and obey. So often these storms not of our doing involve our very intentional 'sacrificing of him to the seas' in order to be walking in our own obedience.

Search your lives dear ones and see if you're trying to row a Jonah to shore. It's a hard oar to hold, a dangerous position to be in. Inserting yourself between God and a Jonah is a very precarious position to be in.  Ask God for the courage and wisdom to throw him overboard if that's what's necessary.