Just Say No…

Author, Adrienne Yerzy
Author, Adrienne Yerzy

I feel dried up. I’m wiped out. I haven’t had a day off in weeks.  I’ve been working some overtime at work, someone needs help on a Saturday, I need to see my family, and Sunday, the only “free” day, I am participating in a conference…

…the list goes on and on and I am tired. Even as I sit here, I want to scream a little and cry a little because as an introvert I need time alone to rejuvenate and I have not been able to find any space in my schedule for that restorative rest. So my body, my soul, and mind are exhausted.

Didn’t God give us an example? Doesn’t the first book of our Bible start out with “… so the seventh day He rested from all his work”? I mean, even God rests, because it is good.

I remember being in this place before. I was in college, studying, performing, volunteering with a youth ministry, mentoring, etc. and I was burned out. I remember attending a youth camp as a counselor at that time and having devotions in the morning. It was quiet outdoors and I was at a table in the forest, the weather was comfortable, and I read what Jesus said to his disciples:

“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” “ (Mark 6:31)

I CRAVED reading that. For some reason the passage gave me peace; it gave me permission to rest. Unlike the Energizer bunny we aren’t supposed to keep going, going, going; we need a break. We need rest. We have to be refreshed. And I loved that within that verse, it showed that Jesus, as a leader, cared about those who were following him. He made sure to give them a break and because he instructed it, they didn’t have to feel guilty about asking to press pause.

So I write this as someone who is really burned out this weekend urging that if you are a leader or a parent or a boss, look out for those under you and take care of them. Make sure you are allowing rest and peace. If you are like me, maybe it’s time to learn the word “no”. I mean, it was one of those first words we learned as a baby, but for some reason as an adult it is harder to remember.

However, to maintain joy, to be refreshed, sometimes we are going to need to say “no” when people ask us to do extra things. It’s especially hard to say “no” when you enjoy helping people. But give yourself some rest, say “no” to a few things now, so that you can do other things in your future with your whole, refreshed, heart. And today, this is what it truly looks like for me …just living the thing.

Now, tell the truth… by Lisa Wilsey

Crossing out Lies and writing Truth on a blackboard.For some of us that means tell yourself the truth. Don’t listen to the lies that are inside your head. Don’t believe the lies that were told to you as a child. You know they are not true, but for some reason they keep haunting you.

Sometimes, telling yourself the truth is painful. To honestly look at the choices you’ve made or what has been done to you is difficult. You might wonder why you do the things you do. Is it because of some unspoken lie you believe in your head? Ask yourself, “Who do YOU think you are?’ Then tell yourself the truth. You are precious. You are holy if you have submitted to Jesus. You are a child of God. You are redeemed. You are in-process.

Keep in mind, the truth is a beautiful thing. It is freedom: freedom from shame, from secrets, from fear.

For some of us it means to tell others the truth. Chances are, they already know! Yet, we need to say it out loud. We need to admit the things we have done. We need to own our choices! Maybe we need to sit in the truth of our choices for a minute.

We need to learn from our choices. The good choices, we need to repeat. The bad choices, we need to run from. How did we get there? What can we do to make sure we don’t repeat those bad choices again. The truth is we need to admit what we have done and ask forgiveness whenever we have hurt someone.

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth,” more than 30 times in the book of John. Do you want to know the truth? Do you want to live in the truth? Go to Jesus! Ask him. He will tell you the truth. He speaks it in His Word. He speaks it to our hearts. He is trustworthy! He will not be cruel or brutal. He will always be a gentleman when He speaks to you. But understand, He won’t sugarcoat the truth either.

Be prepared. The truth is not easy. Sometimes we have to face some ugly things about ourselves. Sometimes it is not fair. This world is not fair, but He is.

The truth is that life is hard, but God is good.

Not only do we need to speak the truth to ourselves and to others, but we need to speak it in love. Don’t be like that bitter relative at the annual family gathering who claims,

“I’m just truth telling!”

Speak the truth in love. Speak to yourself in an honest but loving manner. Speak to others in an honest and loving manner.

Life is short. There is not time to be wasted on dishonesty. Tell the people in your life that are precious to you that you love them. Tell the friends that you have who much you value them.

Let’s all tell the truth as we all are …just living the thing.

Hope In God…

Author, Ann Marie Collins
Author, Ann Marie Collins

Angst.  Restlessness. Despondency.  These feelings find me awake and heading to the grocery store at o’dark o’clock on a Sunday morning.  Well that, and the fact that WinCo will be so empty I can browse as slowly as I want, and hear myself think.

It was a serious miscalculation on my part to watch news programs all week, when all I really wanted to do was to track the impact of hurricane Matthew.  By week’s end I was in despair.  Add to that my awareness of the difficult times, pain, and heartache being experienced by so many friends and family members, and I have to admit I was beginning to understand why so many choose escapism; alcohol, legal and illegal drugs, ladder-climbing, mind-numbing entertainment…, religion?

Instinctively, I felt the need to “have a little talk with Jesus”, but never being one to choose an easy lie over the tough truth, I had to consider, was this just another way to escape?  Some people presume that Christianity is just another way to escape the harsh realities of this world; that Karl Marx was right when he wrote in his Communist Manifesto of 1848 that (all) “Religion is the opiate of the people.”

You’d be amazed at the conundrums one can work through while walking practically empty aisles at WinCo which is how I settled that Marx was right AND wrong.  If my ‘religion’ consists only of the ‘spiritual rituals’ of church attendance, singing, reading the Bible, and so on, it may be true that all I’m doing is numbing myself, choosing escape, denial, and the proverbial “pie in the sky when I die” over life in the trenches of human frailty and failure.

I’m a Christian because I have made an informed decision to believe that God, the Self-existent One, inspired 40 people over 1600 years to write and compile 66 books that reveal truth without contradiction, and with continual scientific and archaeological discoveries, supersedes every challenge to its accuracy. And if you don’t think that’s impressive, try getting the same story from two different people who saw the same accident three minutes ago.

In His book How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Colson writes:

“We must show the world that Christianity is more than a private belief, more than personal salvation.  We must show that it is a comprehensive life system that answers all of humanity’s age-old questions:  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Does life have any meaning and purpose?…”

“Why are you cast down, O my inner self?  And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me?  Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God.”  Psalm 42:11 Amplified Bible

My ‘religion’ is not a mind-numbing drug, it is an ever-evolving relationship with the Self-existent One that has me leaving WinCo with hope and confidence, back into the trenches …just living the thing.

It Started With A Simple Question…

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

Sometimes the simplest question can plant the most fruitful seed.

After some years of having to work on Thursdays I am finally able to attend Bible study again. To say I’ve missed it would be an understatement. Sitting around a table, discussing the word of God with a group of ladies, is such a joy and a privilege.

We have a lady in our group whom I’ll call “Julie”. She is a young mother, new to the Word of God and is looking for answers. She showed up late one morning apologizing for not having done her homework. A little embarrassed, she said she didn’t want to interrupt our discussion but needed help understanding something.

“What does it mean when it says God’s Word is living and active?”

In our study there are some questions that we tend to answer briefly because it is something we’ve heard for so long that we know we won’t need to spend much time there. Usually it’s the follow up questions that will stimulate the discussion.

However, Julie, who until our first week had never even owned a Bible, didn’t need a quick, shallow, answer. She needed to know how something written could possibly be “alive and active”.  She needed to understand the nature of this treasure she held in her hands.

Our current discussion was forgotten as we all gave our attention to explaining this one truth which seemed so simple, yet was so weighty. I wish you could have seen this group of women, who two weeks before were basically strangers, as they came together with such love and wisdom to help Julie grasp something she did not comprehend.

As a substitute co-leader I can tend to talk quite a bit, but I was happy to sit quietly and watch Julie as understanding dawned. It was wonderful!

Someone took her to the scripture referenced in our book:

“The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.” Isaiah 40:8

 She explained that if the Word ‘remains’ it can’t be dead, it must be alive.

“So My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

 God’s Word is always doing something. Isaiah tells us that His word is like and rain and snow, causing growth and bringing forth life.

Another told Julie how God’s Word brings about salvation and restoration; that it is life.  Deuteronomy 32:47

The rest of our time was centered on the Word of God being living and active, and the seed that was planted…was in me.

I hope a seed was also planted in Julie, but I received a gift that day. I needed to be reminded of the sweetness of the Word of God; of the life-giving truth God’s word contains, and how it feeds my soul, to see the living and active in every verse I read…just living the thing.

A Divorce Story…

Author, Sonna Evans
Author, Sonna Evans

After a five and a half year period of separation, I received my divorce papers in the mail a couple of weeks ago. Some I’ve shared this with have said, “Wow, it’s been that long?” Others have said, “Seems like it has been so long.” In my opinion, it has been just the right amount of time.

Marriage should not be entered in to lightly, and the same holds true for divorce. It is not something you rush into. I did not rush in to it. I credit good, sound advice from trusted godly advisors and counselors for taking things slow. From the very beginning of my separation I sought out people who would walk this journey with me, keep me grounded in Christ, correct me, encourage me, and guide me. I found just that, and I am forever grateful for my circle of friends.

It was not an easy road. I had people left and right telling me what they thought I should do and not do. There were certainly moments of confusion, second guessing, worrying about what others would think of me, what I thought of myself and how my decisions would affect my family.

Growing up in the church, the concern about what others would think of me was a huge one. Would some think I didn’t try hard enough to make it work? Would I be considered unfit to continue ministry? If I did divorce would people judge me for my decision? Traditionally, I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to like me and think well of me. Part of this process over the last few years has been to focus less on what others thought of me and more on how God saw me. His Word says:

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

“For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” John 12:43

It took me a long time to overcome this hurdle and allow myself to make decisions based on just God and me, not God, me, and other people’s opinions. In the church we can be loving, caring, compassionate and encouraging. We can also be judgmental, critical, unforgiving and unkind. Sadly, I have been the latter more than I’d care to admit. When we operate out of a heart of legalistic thoughts and feelings we hurt people. I have been hurt and I have hurt as well.

I hope that my experience has taught me that there is no one right formula to walk through the break-up of a marriage. I cannot judge someone else’s process because it is not just like mine. I can encourage, lend a listening ear, a word of advice, correction if needed (iron sharpening iron,) and a whole lot of encouragement and compassion as we are …just living the thing.

There’s no ‘I’ in team…

adrienneSometimes I feel like a phony without valuable or authentic contribution when I sit down to write. But my heart’s desire is to point people back to Jesus for truth, and what better way to do that than to use God’s own words?! So I’ll share something that stood out to me this past week in my morning quiet time.

 “Now the Israelites were in distress that day, because Saul (the king) had bound the people under an oath, saying, ‘Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!’ So none of the troops tasted food.” 1 Samuel 14:24

King Saul hurt his own people because he was so blindly self-focused. Nobody was going to be happy until he felt vindicated! His son Jonathan was a different kind of leader.  He looked around and seeing the damage and said:

 “My father has made trouble for the country. See how my eyes brightened when I tasted a little of this honey. How much better it would have been if the men had eaten today some of the plunder they took from their enemies.“ 1 Samuel 14:29-30a

Saul felt angry and defeated, so nobody would be happy until he was happy. His ego put his own goals and pursuits ahead of the best interests of his people. His leadership style was… lacking. Even his own son saw that the people needed to eat. But Saul was consumed by his own inner turmoil.

Perhaps his selfishness stemmed from insecurity, or maybe he was dealing with anger, or maybe he never felt good enough so he developed an all-or-nothing mentality.  However it happened, he was self-centered and thoughtless of others. The people who depended on him for security suffered unnecessarily until he was satisfied.

Sometimes we can be so self-focused, blinders on, and fixated only on what is in front of us, that we don’t look back to see the trail of hurt and devastation we’ve left behind pursuing our own goals or dreams.  Are we more interested in self-promotion than we are in investing in the growth and advancement of people around us? Can a parent be so wrapped up in the comparison game, they forget about the person they are actually supposed to be parenting? Can the captain of baseball team get so wrapped up in his own stats that he forgets about the team work it takes to make the TEAM to win? Do we forget that when the team wins, WE win?

Jesus taught that we would experience more satisfaction if we cared less about ourselves, and more about the welfare of others.

“Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.” I Corinthians 10:24

At some point, we will all need someone’s help, but who will be left if we’ve trampled over everyone else’s needs in our determination to satisfy our own desires, no matter who gets hurt? These are my wonderings today as I’m …just living the thing.

The Power of “It”

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

Everyone has their “it”; that thing lodged in the heart waiting for a chance to surface and take the place of Jesus. It can lay dormant for long periods of time, just waiting to take us captive for a moment, a day, or even longer when we least expect it.

I used to have many “its”. Approval, spouse, career, notoriety, children, wealth, and before this week, I thought I had been successful about surrendering “it” and all his cousins. However, when “it” popped up this time, I thought it was a bona fide good thing.

God gives me what I want so often, I mistakenly assume He will give me everything I want, especially if It is a “deep desire”. So when the answer to the thing I’ve been wanting and praying about for years turned into a definite “No”, I was confused and, frankly, hurt. In fact, I had a meltdown of sorts. It took several days to pry white knuckles off my entitlement to happiness. Or at least my understanding of what happiness should look like.

Like being under the spell of a first crush, old thoughts consumed me; other people get what they want… I deserve to be happy too… Something this good must be from God!

Yet a small voice underneath the infatuation seemed to be asking me a question:

Whom do you love?

Offended at the implication, I immediately reacted:

Of course I love you God! Why don’t you know that by now?”

 The question persisted and nagged my soul until I had to admit the truth: the thing had captured my heart. I loved “it”.

That’s when I knew I couldn’t have it. Not because God didn’t want me to have good things, but because I couldn’t embrace something powerful enough to take first place in my soul.

As I released all “it” represented (joy, fulfillment, contentment, family), I realized all those things can only be found in my relationship with Jesus. Not in a place. Not a dream. Not a longing.

I can relate a little to Jacob when he came away from a wrestling match with God with a bum hip. Yet truly, if you think about it, a limp is a small price to pay for freedom.

Because as much as I wanted “it”, I still want Him more.

“Little children, guard yourselves from idols” John 5:21

 …just living the thing.