Cultivating Hearts of Adoration

ABBY HUTTO | GUEST One summer while my children were in elementary school, I instituted a new prayer policy in our home. I could no longer take hearing the same prayer over and over again. Every single day, three times a day, they prayed, “Thank you, Jesus, for our food and please help us have a great day.” I finally had enough. I purchased a little chalkboard, downloaded a prayer guide with 31 names/attributes of God, and made a new rule: before we thank Jesus for our food, before we ask him to make every day a great day, we must first thank him for being himself. I declared that summer a season of adoration. Meditating on God’s Character My children were doing what comes instinctively to all of us. When we pray, it’s easy to thank God for the things he has done for us. We don’t have to search our minds for things we want to ask him for. If we’re truly spiritual, we confess our sins. But appreciating God for just being who he is doesn’t seem to come naturally to us. Adoration is not something modern American Christians spend a lot of time doing. Our culture, our schedules, and our overactive hearts don’t leave us time to slow down and meditate over who God is in his character and nature. We rarely separate who God is from what he does. At first glance, that may not seem like a big deal. After all, who God is in his character and nature is displayed in his acts of power as he works in our world to rescue and save his people. Thanksgiving and supplication are vital to our prayer lives. Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts.” It is good and right to be moved by God’s intervention in our life. When he provides, comforts, rescues, it is right to be thankful for what he has done. But do we also adore him for who he is? Do we open our prayers as Jesus taught us, adoring our Father who is hallowed and enthroned in his heavenly kingdom?

Cultivating Hearts of Adoration2022-05-04T00:37:03+00:00

How Advent Transforms January

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN | GUEST It’s jarring to come off the worship of Advent season and land in January. A week after Christmas, we turn off the carols and snap on the workout track. We rush as quickly as possible toward productivity. We dream that our lofty goals will produce the perfect version of ourselves. Frantically, we scrawl habits that will make us as successful as possible in the shortest amount of time. If only we could turn over a new leaf, we would become as flawless as is humanly achievable! We attempt to shove down our own human frailties to claw our way to the pedestal of who we can become. Oh, but January is hard. Our resolutions are interrupted by sick babies in the flu season. Snow days force us into the stillness of hibernation. We attempt to refocus our sights on the sweaty-faced trainers screaming “don’t give up on yourself now!” on the screens of our tv. The package of kale goes bad in the refrigerator. As one grey January day dissolves into the next, the willpower we mustered in our hearts begins to melt. Don’t Forget Advent What if we allowed the truths we learned in December to transform our hearts in January?

How Advent Transforms January2022-05-04T23:32:28+00:00

The Sabbath is a Womb

LEAH FARISH|GUEST I once started a list with just the title, “What I accomplish on the Sabbath” —and those words lay on a big blank page. Actually, that captures most of my point.  At least in the world’s eyes, Sabbaths don’t accomplish very much, and I think that’s fine.  How did I get comfortable with such scandalous unproductiveness? In college I was dating a Christian who decided to “keep the Sabbath.”  What that meant to him was, no studying on Sunday.  I had a choice of either mirroring that schedule or being out of sync with him.  So I quit “working” on Sunday.  Eventually I fell out of love with the guy, but I fell in love with the Sabbath.  What won me over was this passage from Isaiah 58: “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, And honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure And speaking your own word, Then you will take delight in the Lord, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth…." I was intrigued by the reward offered for keeping the Sabbath: that I would take delight in God.  I was tantalized at the idea of increasing my enjoyment of Him, and amazed that it could happen as a result of doing something—or rather, not doing things.  After all, the passage indicates as much “negative” obedience as positive action...

The Sabbath is a Womb2022-05-04T23:25:38+00:00

Comforting Caregivers: The Gospel Call to Self-Care

ELIZABETH TURNAGE|CONTRIBUTOR My father was dying of cancer, and I was caring for our twenty-two-year-old son who had already had three surgeries for a brain tumor and now required IV antibiotics four times daily. I skipped my yearly physical and my yearly mammogram. I ate more sugar and exercised less. I slept poorly. Strands of hair came out in my hands as I washed it. Dark half-moons carved themselves into the skin under my eyes, and fatigue fell over me like a persistent fog. During my most intense season of caregiving, my self-care deteriorated rapidly, and my body paid the price. According to the 2020 AARP Study on Caregiving, I was not alone. Of the approximately 53 million people who are now providing unpaid care for an adult with “health or functional needs,” at least 23 percent say caregiving has worsened their physical health.[i] Kelly Markham, LCSW and palliative care expert, explains the lethal cycle: The caregiver believes that she alone can tend to the loved one properly; the loved one often reinforces that belief. Under the chronic stress of caregiving, the caregiver’s health suffers. Committed to caring for her loved one, the caregiver neglects her own care. Such neglect of self-care has been shown to lead to an earlier and higher mortality rate for caregivers as compared to non-caregivers. One in five people are now unpaid caregivers and 61 percent of caregivers are women. Chances are, you know an unpaid caregiver. To minister well to our caregiving friends, we can help them understand the gospel call to self-care and assist them in practical ways. The Gospel Call to Self-Care for Caregivers First, we can help the caregiver recognize that the type of self-care advocated is not self-indulgence. Sadly, some people have destroyed their own health in the name of denying themselves and taking up their crosses (Luke 9:23). When Jesus called us to deny ourselves, he did not mean for us to deny or denigrate our humanity—our mental, emotional, and physical needs for rest, exercise, good nutrition, and medical care. Jesus himself acknowledged his human limitations by sleeping and eating and taking time away from his ministry to pray and rest (Mark 4:35-40; Matthew 14:22-23). Jesus tended to his physical health and to that of others, showing us how to live our calling to “glorify God” in our bodies, because they are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Self-care of this kind is not self-indulgent, but rather, responsible stewardship...

Comforting Caregivers: The Gospel Call to Self-Care2022-05-04T23:20:10+00:00

Investing & Resting: Tiny Investments of Covenant Faithfulness

RACHEL CRADDOCK|CONTRIBUTOR “You sow, and you sow, and you sow, and much later you will reap.” These words of life were spoken over me by an older friend of mine when I was a young mom to four children under five. The physical demands of rocking, holding, shushing, changing, and heavens to Betsy—the mealtime clean-up! There was never enough time to get all the spaghetti sauce off the baseboards nor pick every goldfish cracker up off of the floor. My friend’s words stuck with me; during the exhausting days of new motherhood, the image of sowing seeds coupled with the hope of reaping filled me with joy while I served the Lord in my home. Her words gave me the big, long, biblical picture of discipleship. God could use the seeds I was sowing with every wet wipe, every word of “Jesus Loves Me,” every ABC Bible Verse, and every sticky hand for His glory in the hearts of my children. I was sowing and making investments in the little disciples who filled up my lap. As a pastor’s wife, I have been alongside many different people in ministry: Sunday School students, youth group students, young adults, and women of all ages and stages. Just as in parenting my own children, my tiny gospel investments have been human, exhausting, and imperfect—many times I have not gotten to see the end of the story—but thinking biblically about sowing and the One who does the reaping has given me the freedom to invest and rest as a kingdom laborer. God uses the tiny investments of ordinary laborers not because of who they are, but because He is the Lord of the harvest. Discipleship is all about investing biblically and resting in the promises of a covenant-keeping God. He is faithful to His generational promise to redeem, deliver, and adopt the people He set apart before the fullness of time. In discipleship, whether you are alongside your own children or involved in the life of another Christ-follower, the tiniest gospel investments are perfected in the big, long, biblical picture of God’s covenant promises to an imperfect people. God is the covenant-keeping God. He takes the tiniest, imperfect investments of covenant faithfulness and brings them to completion by His grace and mercy. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Resting in Covenant Promises My sinful heart is prone to wander to unrest, which causes weariness in the sowing. In the flesh I want to fix things, hurry God’s plan with my human helping, complete a task on a discipleship-program-year timeline, and see the end of the story wrapped in a bow and with a cherry on top. Like Abram and Sarai, I want to nudge along the redemption process and give God a little bit of my own help. Unrest is earthly behavior but developing a posture of rest is heavenly. Resting in God’s covenant promises is a spiritual discipline. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:16-17). In this life as a Christ-follower, you will sow, and you will sow, and you will sow, but much later you will reap. Much, much, later...

Investing & Resting: Tiny Investments of Covenant Faithfulness2022-05-04T23:16:19+00:00

Rest for the Spiritually Weary

KATIE POLSKI|CONTRIBUTOR About seven years ago, I cleaned out my parent’s house, my childhood home. It took about a month to declutter, box up various belongings, and then fix, paint, and re-carpet the house to sell. Through the years, I’d heard folks talk about similar circumstances and the stress that accompanies this stage in life, and while I felt sympathy, I felt little empathy. Their exhausted faces connected only as a distant reality. But then at age 35, with three young kids in tow, it was no longer a future prospect. My father passed away, and my mother was incapacitated and needed a better environment for around the clock care. I don’t remember a more vexing time than this. On day one of cleaning out, I was savoring every fork and every dish towel. I wanted to find a home for everything. By day fourteen, I hated all the forks. I cried over letters I found from my father, poured over old pictures of less weighty days, and debated what items were valuable. Eventually, I threw away all the forks. When the “sold” sign was displayed in the front lawn and the last box taken to Goodwill, a friend called and said, “You need a vacation.” I was tired, yes, and a trip out of town seemed appropriate. But the kind of rest that accompanies a vacation wasn’t ultimately the kind of rest I needed. My soul longed for deep, spiritual rest. I spent months questioning the Lord’s plan, neglecting time in His Word, and suppressing frustration toward my simultaneous responsibilities as a daughter and a young mother. In short, I was spiritually weary. Reasons We Become Spiritually Weary Life’s burdens can be overwhelming, but they don’t automatically lead to spiritual weariness. Because of this, it’s important to acknowledge some of the reasons we get to this point. Neglect of Physical Rest - Jesus Himself physically rested on several occasions. He is fully God and fully man, yet without sin. So, when he fell asleep in a boat (Luke 8), and when He left the crowds to be alone to talk with His Father (Luke 5:16), Jesus was not doing anything wrong nor was He displaying weakness. The Creator did what was good and right to do. Jesus rested. Neglecting physical rest can too easily lead to spiritual weariness. We become so work obsessed that our computers stay open until late hours, and the hamster wheel becomes so routine, we begin to idolize our busyness. Physical rest is never a waste of time and neglecting it can leave us feeling spiritually dry...

Rest for the Spiritually Weary2022-05-04T23:16:40+00:00

Better than Balance: Finding Rest in Christ

AIMEE JOSEPH|GUEST As a science major, I spent my fair share of time in chemistry classes during college. I wish I could say that I draw heavily from my hours of past study in my present life in ministry and motherhood; however, outside of recognizing organic chemistry nomenclature in cleaning ingredient lists, that degree is gathering dust. The one lasting impression left on my life from years of chemistry is a deep desire for life to balance like an equation. As strange as it sounds, I loved stoichiometry. If you stared long enough and thought hard enough, you could find out exactly where everything belonged. It might have taken some trial and error, but chemical equations could be perfectly balanced. Unbeknownst to me, I have carried such a chemical approach into calendaring and life. I keep thinking that if I could simply buy the right calendar or rearrange the pieces of my life enough, I would find the balance our culture touts and trains us to find. Perhaps you are like me. Perhaps you are drawn to cute calendars and colored pens because you desperately want to achieve the perfect balance of work and rest. Unfortunately, life is not stoichiometry. Souls and sentient life are so much harder to pin down and arrange. When Balance Betrays Us Balance and efficiency, in and of themselves, are not wrong. In fact, we desire them because God ordered the world that we might have them. In fact, in the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, we see a beautiful balance of work and rest. God gloriously created the earth and all it boasts. Then he stopped and savored the fullness of the fruits of his labor. Adam and Eve were invited into such a rhythm of careful, yet carefree work and rest. Just as God had balanced the earth on its axis, humanity experienced a God-enabled, God-created balance. When we betrayed our Creator, our balance betrayed us. Labor became laborious. Work became wearying (Genesis 3). Separated from our Master and our metronome, human hearts went haywire, as did the human approach to work and rest. Ever since then, we have sought to return to the life we left on our own strength and by our own devices...

Better than Balance: Finding Rest in Christ2022-05-04T23:16:50+00:00

Seasons of the Soul

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST Editor's Note: The following is an adapted excerpt from Patsy Kuiper's new book, Be Still: Quiet Moments with God in my Garden. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.  Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 Nature’s Seasons I once attended a presentation where the speaker began with, “Summer, fall, and winter are seasons – spring  is a miracle.” I’ve thought about her comment every spring since. Early warm spells begin to nudge plants from their slumber in January here in the South. Witchhazel, Lenten roses, and paperbush start the floral parade that continues for multiple weeks as plants take turns in the spotlight. Trees, flowers, baby birds – all embody the joyful message of rebirth, which in turn stimulates hope and rejuvenation in us. But spring gives way to summer, and tender ephemerals[1] disappear for another year as heat-loving specimens flourish.  Summer annuals and perennials bloom, then set and disperse their seeds before beginning their decline. Fall arrives. Crops are ripe for harvest, the fruit of spring planting and summer tending. Soon daylight hours decrease, as does the temperature, and autumnal leaves create a riotous display of color – one last hurrah before they let go and blanket the ground for the winter. Ah, winter. Based on my observations, I’ve concluded it is the most misunderstood, under-appreciated season, at least from a gardening standpoint. Those unfamiliar with the ways of plants scan the leafless, apparently lifeless landscape and pronounce, “everything’s dead.” I used to think that too, but my horticulture studies dissuaded me from that notion. For instance, some seeds won’t germinate without scarification,[2] and some bulbs won’t bloom without adequate chill time. Many plants depend on the decreased daylight and increased darkness that accompany winter to flower at the appropriate time. My newfound knowledge has given me a different perspective...

Seasons of the Soul2022-05-04T23:01:02+00:00

Find Rest in Jesus Christ

The springtime months of 2020 were supposed to be busy. While all the events on my calendar were good things, still, it was packed to the brim, and I had little margin for rest. In fact, for the week following the Final Big Event chiseled into my planner, I had penciled in “Slip into a coma.” And then, a month before my anticipated collapse, the Lord wiped my calendar clean. My best-laid plans were scuttled in the onrush of a global pandemic. As it happens, a clear calendar and government-mandated quarantine do not guarantee a calm heart and mind. Inactivity does not equal rest. Days and weeks of inactivity may still be filled with the restlessness of worry and fear. A multitude of concerns, whether sparked by the virus or other circumstances, threaten to fill my days and keep me awake at night. The rest that I need—that we all need—cannot be found in settled plans, an empty calendar, or even the safety and well-being of my family. We need rest that doesn’t deny these very real concerns, but one that places them in more capable hands than our own. We need rest that entrusts ourselves and our loved ones to the God who made us and loves us and has planned for yesterday, this day, and all our tomorrows from before the beginning of the world...

Find Rest in Jesus Christ2022-05-05T00:38:08+00:00

Soul Rest in a Restless Time

As Covid-19 continues its march across our globe, through our land, into our homes, conforming our lives to its harsh realities, I’m learning where I choose to allow my mind to rest is the only place to find soul rest as well. In March when stay-@-home became the new reality, we received a letter referencing that popular phrase from a few years ago, What would Jesus do? The writer suggested changing it to, What is Jesus doing – in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Many good things were happening. Jesus was at work. Our governors made decisions to protect their citizens. Companies offered to retrofit their plants to manufacture ventilators and protective gear for our hospitals. Volunteers across America sewed masks. People bought groceries and ran errands for those at-risk. Caring and kindnesses were happening— and still are. The question morphed in my mind: What should I be doing? How can I help? In March, God led me to five answers, five ways to experience soul rest. As the restrictions of stay-@-home were relaxed (in Colorado, our governor is now saying safer-@-home), God continues to define how I think about my question. Now my answers, although similar, are not the same as in March...

Soul Rest in a Restless Time2022-05-05T00:40:32+00:00
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