Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: At Every Turn

My favorite thing about writing these Treasure Hunt Tuesday posts is how the intentionality brings to mind so many blessings I might have forgotten about too quickly otherwise. However, the difficulty that comes with recounting the multitude of gifts is trying to narrow down what to actually write for you!

This week I can’t help but share a treasure from the Bible study I’m doing with a special group of “chicks.”

We are delving into the book of 2 Corinthians with Kelly Minter’s study All Things New. It’s actually one I went through on my own two years ago and felt God had perfectly timed for me in that season. I had written so many extra notes and prayers in the margins of my book that I decided I needed a fresh copy to have plenty of room to write this time through as well. Even just two days into the “homework,” I’m already grateful for that decision!

So much in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians has been dear to my heart for many years, but it hit me afresh this time, too. In verse 5, the apostle Paul gives us this encouragement:

“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (NIV84)

To expand on this concept in the study, Kelly gives an illustration of two rivers in Brazil that meet to form the start of the Amazon River. They are vastly different in appearances, make-up, and flow, but they come together as one powerful force. In a similar way, she noted that Christ’s sufferings and comfort don’t seem to mesh from our point of view, yet “you will never find one without the other--the sufferings of Christ and His comfort flow together.”

Kelly then encourages us to look back on what we have suffered in our own lives and asks “how has Christ’s comfort met you at every turn?”

As soon as I read those words, my entire spirit shifted, and I scribbled out the overflow of my heart in the margin of the page. I knew the space provided under the question itself would definitely not suffice!

“Lord, truly You have met me at every turn. How quickly I forget. Please forgive me. Thank You for…”

And I continued by listing one difficult season after another and loss upon loss over the years, but my focus was on how God has shown Himself to me in each one. And here’s what gets me the most: one by one God brought to my mind the names of so many people who helped me through each devastating stretch. My eyes start to fill with tears as my heart floods with gratitude. Once I started naming them, more and more would come to the front of my thoughts. And even though some of the people I listed have since died and others have left, this I know:

God has met me at every turn.

He keeps providing just what I need right when I need it, even if it sometimes takes me a while to see it. So when my vision is clouded by discouragement or loneliness, I can look back and remember the faithfulness of God. He has shown Himself faithful throughout Scripture and throughout my own life. And He will show Himself faithful to the end.

I’m reminded of an exchange someone shared on Twitter recently from Josh Howerton:
“An older Christian in my life had more peace than me about a hard situation today.
 I said, ‘You have more faith than me.’
 He responded, ‘No, I have more experience with a faithful God.’
 I’ll never forget that.”
Wow, what a great example of how remembering God’s faithfulness to us can uplift and strengthen those around us, too.

So how can we best respond to the overflowing compassion, care, and comfort God so faithfully provides? We give Him praise, and we share His comfort with others.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV84)

I’d love to hear from you as well! How has God shown you His compassion and comfort in difficulty or suffering? How have you shared His comfort with those around you in their troubles? What other treasures have you been finding lately? Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: Winter, Writing, and Worship

Happy Treasure Hunt Tuesday! I’m sharing a few blessings and treasures each week that I hope can be encouraging to you, and I pray they can spur you on to pause, notice, and give thanks for the treasures in your own daily life, too.

This week has been another cold and dreary one weather-wise, but I am always grateful for glimpses of beauty like this sunrise from Sunday morning.

As much as I personally would love to skip winter altogether and fast forward to summer, or at least to Daylight Savings Time (March 10th if anyone’s counting down with me), I’ve also been reminded not to rush this season. While winter is important for the earth and part of God’s design for creation, I keep coming back to the truth that winter seasons are good and purposeful for my soul as well. God is always working something beautiful even in what feels dormant, cold, and unseen.

In the meantime, I’m encouraged by J.P. Pokluda’s exhortation in his recent interview with Annie F. Downs to leverage whatever season you’re in for kingdom purposes rather than rushing on to the next one. His prayer when he first felt called to ministry sticks with me from that conversation as well: “Lord, put me where You want me, and help me find contentment there.”


A Few Writing-Related Treasures

It seems this week has also been filled with some great encouragement for writers (or wanna-be writers), so I wanted to share a few of the goodies with you…

This episode is actually a fantastic listen even if you don’t think you want to write a book. The interview was from a conference with a Q & A at the end, and one of the attendees said he didn’t raise his hand at the beginning of the session as someone who wanted to eventually write a book, but by the end he had changed his mind. Maybe you will, too! At the very least you can get some ideas for different ways to share and repurpose content to help and encourage more people and leave a legacy for future generations.

If you do think you might like to write a book or are curious about the process, author and speaker Jon Acuff shared his book-writing approach on Instagram stories last week and saved it as a highlight called “Write a Book.” It’s a short overview but always interesting to get a sneak peek into how an experienced writer tackles such a daunting task, and he shows real examples from his current book-in-progress.

My personal draw to writing is something that, ironically enough, I have a hard time putting into words. It just seems that over and over again, God nudges my heart back to this method of processing but doesn’t let me be content keeping it to myself. I’m reminded time after time how sharing our stories and what God is teaching us matters in the world even if we don’t always see the impact first-hand.

I love how a hope*writer friend articulated her thoughts that convey how I feel in writing, too: “I write for my own sanity, but I share with hope that I can help yours.” (Read the full post by Jodi Arndt here.)

When I take the time and effort to put actual words on a page or screen to express what I’m processing or learning, the treasures somehow find a deeper way to my heart, and it’s always my prayer that the ones I share will resonate with you, too.

Many times when I feel words failing, I’ve found such relief when I’ve been able to read something that supplies the words I’m lacking to give voice to my thoughts or emotions. Whether it’s a Psalm or another Scripture, or even a line or two from a blog post or a book, I feel an instant connection and a lifting of my burden when the words fit and the unknown becomes known. Naming that unnamed stirring can help us feel seen, understood, and not alone--a treasure indeed.

One more bonus for writers: I’d be remiss if I didn’t share that Hope*Writers is open for new memberships January 22-25 only. You can find more information here if you’re interested in joining this community and gaining access to their valuable resources. You can also check out the free replay of Emily P. Freeman's hope*writer masterclass on how to be a wholehearted, creative, authentic working writer without selling your soul or self-promoting--but it's only available through Friday!

A Closing Song of Worship and Prayer

I love when a worship song, whether old, new, or somewhere in-between like this one, gets stuck in my head and leads me back to prayer over and over. What a blessing to get to play and sing it Sunday, too…

Truly when the Holy Spirit takes over, He changes what we see and what we seek. Let it be, Lord. “We only want to hear Your voice. We’re hanging on every Word.”

As always, I'd love to hear some of your recent treasures, too! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. May God’s grace and blessings surprise you in this season, maybe like the unexpected gift of getting to pet a wild animal on someone’s porch! (Some treasures aren't the kind to elaborate on here, but I still want to remember...) 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: Blankets of Rest

It’s another Treasure Hunt Tuesday, and I’m glad to have you reading along as we look for the treasures God keeps providing day by day. I’m loving how taking time to recount our blessings seems to make them multiply, and I hope this post will help you think of and share your own as well.

Here are a few treasures from this past week…

A Snow Day of Rest and Respite

Last week you may remember I was excited for a warm weekend to soak up the enjoyment of spending leisurely time outside, but all that seems like a distant memory now as this past weekend was filled with snow and cold instead of the cheerful sunshine.

But even though winter weather is not my favorite in the least, I’m grateful it still has brought many blessings. First of all, a blanket of snow really is beautiful, especially if you don’t have to be outside for long:

The white covering makes everything feel fresh and clean, even if only for a short while.

But beyond its external beauty, the snow day also brought a welcome respite from the typical posts we see on social media. I have loved catching glimpses of children beaming with laughter and delight in the snow, whether sledding, making snow angels, or posing proudly next to a snowman or inside a snow fort. And there were some pretty impressive snow creations made by adults, too! So I’m grateful for everyone who shared pictures to bring a little joy to the internet world like a warm blanket in the cold.

And an excuse to stay inside and rest was a pretty nice blessing also!

So many timely podcast episodes!

I promise I’ve tried to narrow these down, but it seems like every podcast I listened to this past week is worth sharing. Here are some top choices:

(The link above lets you listen and/or download the full transcript to read.)

Full disclosure-- I may have been in the middle of a frustrated rant in my mind when I heard Emily speak these words: “Dallas Willard says whenever we become angry it’s because we believe our kingdom has been invaded.”

Ouch. Maybe I need to work at this “taking off my crown” thing more than I thought.

But I loved these truths she shared from James Bryan Smith, and I need to repeat to myself often:

“I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights. I live in the strong and unshakeable kingdom of God. The kingdom is not in trouble and neither am I.”

What peace in knowing and remembering Who is really in charge.

This conversation covers a lot of current topics in the church, with much emphasis on the “culture war” in America and how we’re often looking at it all wrong. Ed’s encouragement is for Christians to “speak more as missionaries and less as guards of the culture” because “you can’t war at a people and reach a people at the same time.”

To me, the entire discussion felt like a little sanity in a world that often seems anything but sane, and it is refreshingly hopeful if we take it all in.

** That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs is starting off the New Year focusing on the next generation, and Annie’s conversations with Amy Byrd and Drew Hill that aired this past week were both fantastic. They fired up my passion for student ministry even more (if that is possible), and they have great insight for youth leaders, parents, or anyone who wants to better love and encourage a teenager in your life.

This is the first in what will be a series of seven messages on Sabbath at Bridgetown Church in Portland, Oregon. It caught my eye when John Mark Comer posted about it on Twitter, saying, “Sabbath is more than just a day (though, not less); it’s a way of being, a way of living in restful connection to the Father’s love all week long.”

I’ve shared before that Sabbath is something it seems God keeps pressing on my heart to practice more fully, so I definitely wanted to check out that message, and I’m glad I did. It’s so easy to get caught up in the desires and restlessness of our consumeristic culture, but John Mark exhorts us that “rest is a weapon” against the schemes of the enemy who tries to keep us stuck in busyness, hurry, striving, and discontent.

As St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Speaking of John Mark Comer…

Another quote of his showed up in my Facebook memories from a year ago. It could not have been more timely encouragement then, but it seems so fitting to remember and share now, too. He articulated this insight on Twitter:
“I’m starting to notice a pattern in Scripture and my own life…
God rarely gives a map for the future.
Instead, he gives an identity (this is who you are), and a next step (go do this).
The longer I follow Jesus, the more that’s enough.” 
- John Mark Comer

Looking back to a year ago, I had no idea where my next step would take me. But I am so grateful for how God has led me in His infinite grace.

And looking toward the future, I have no idea where the steps ahead will lead. But this I know: God is faithful. So I will keep following Him one step at a time. And as our minister Josh reminded us in his sermon on Sunday, God has an answer for our fears:

“I will be with you.” (See Exodus 3:12, Joshua 1:5, Judges 6:16, Matthew 28:20, and more.)

What peace and rest that promise brings even as we go wherever God leads us. Such a treasure!

I’d love for you to share some of the treasures you’ve been finding lately, too! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Treasure Hunt Tuesday: Looking for Refreshment?

Welcome to the second edition of Treasure Hunt Tuesday! (If you want to read the introductory post from New Year’s Day, you can check it out here.) We are seeking to look for and notice the treasures God is providing in big and small ways every day, and I’m posting one or more of mine each Tuesday with the hopes you will join in and share yours with us, too.

I’m already finding it helpful to be more intentional about keeping track and giving thanks for many blessings, and I pray it will be a life-giving process for you as well. The more we notice, call out, and recount the positive, the more we train our eyes to see God's provision even in the midst of hardship or the mundane. I think of it kind of like mushroom hunting: My husband was great at this, but I don’t believe it’s because he had better eyes than I do. He had simply spent way more time looking for them over the years, so he could often spot several morels before I would even find one. That might be a weird analogy, but I want to develop the habit of turning my eyes and heart toward what’s best, no matter how my day or season of life is going, and over time it becomes easier and easier to seek and find more treasures each day.

So let’s get to the good stuff! Here are a few of my favorite recent treasures:

** A gorgeous sunset after an all-day rain

This past Friday I spent much of the day driving in downpours for a meeting (not to mention trekking through the rain and all the standing water in the parking lot!), so I was beyond grateful for the gift of a calm even if cool evening to go for a walk to unwind at the end of the day. The rain had moved on, and the cloud formations made for a spectacular sunset. I couldn’t resist snapping a few pictures.

Sometimes the most beautiful moments in life come right after a stretch of dreariness… and often even the clouds we wish would go away actually bring out the splendor of the light even more. So I want to remember and be grateful. (I’m also thankful it warmed up for a great weekend to spend time outside, which always refreshes my spirit, too!)

** Timely gifts of encouraging words

A friend to whisper a prayer with me on Christmas Eve night, an uplifting comment that same evening on a vulnerable sharing of my heart, a simple email of response and encouragement at work from one of my volunteers, and even the grace of a kind message and sharing of my blog this past week (which also feels like a vulnerable expression of my heart)-- These are the kinds of treasures I can come back to over and over because they are so impactful.

And here’s the thing: Three of the gracious efforts I listed above took less than five minutes, and one was only about a 30-second comment. Yet all of them stuck with me and made a mark on my soul and my perspective. So not only do I want to treasure and remember the refreshment these friends gave me when my heart can become discouraged, but I’m also asking God to help me notice and take advantage of opportunities to give these kinds of gifts to others.

Sometimes I can be overwhelmed by the needs around me to the point I think I can’t do anything that will make a difference, but I often forget that a five-minute card or phone call, or even a 30-second Facebook comment can make a big change in a person’s day and outlook. We all need to be reminded we’re not alone or invisible, and it often takes less effort than we think to be that encourager for someone else. I want to slow down and not pass up the open doors in front of me to share a kind word or prayer with a friend, acquaintance, or stranger.

** A song drawing my heart to worship and prayer

This one feels like a real “treasure hunt” because I’d actually been looking for this song for a bit, and the reason I couldn’t find it is that it wasn’t officially released until just a few days ago. I was blessed to hear Cody Carnes sing it live this past November, and then I heard it again on the Passion livestream last week (another treasure!). The prayerful lyrics and melody have captured my heart afresh:

Ahh… truly I just want You, Jesus. Nothing else.

This reminder also makes me want to be sure to articulate that the treasures we are looking to take note of every day are not an end in themselves--only Jesus. But as we name and recount His gifts, we remind ourselves that God is working in all the details of our everyday lives, and we turn our eyes in praise of the One who gives every blessing out of the fullness of His grace. What joy and refreshment for our souls!

I’d love to hear the treasures refreshing your heart lately, too! Feel free to leave a comment or send me a message. Happy treasure hunting!