What is it about water? I was asked recently where my favorite vacation spot would be. The more I thought about it, harder it seemed to provide an answer. I love to travel and can be happy in pretty much any environment. I love mountains, beaches, cities and wilderness. But then it struck me. If I truly want to relax, I need to be near water. Being around water cleanses my spirit. It lets me exhale and release every ounce of anxiety and stress. Jesus talked about sending rain on the just and the unjust in Matthew 5:45. As it did then, water means crops, prosperity, and life.
Find the Joy
It’s there if you choose to see it. It’s in a rainstorm, it’s in housework. Joy is in relationships, kindness, and laughter. You can find joy everywhere if you’ll just look for it. We all go through hard times, and I never want to minimize anyone’s pain. Sometimes we don’t want to find the joy. Sometimes we actually want to be miserable. I’ve had periods in my life where I felt completely abandoned by God and those around me. I wasn’t feeling the joy. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t available to me.
One of the many gifts we have from our Heavenly Father, is that we are not bound by our circumstances. He gave us the freedom to choose joy over sadness and victory over defeat, no matter what we’re facing. And once you find that joy, share it with others. They need it. They are hurting too.
It was early fall, a fisherman cleaned his catch by a cold, mountain river . . .
Growing in Christ can sometimes feel like you’ve undergone surgery. When I asked myself how I was feeling after surviving and reflecting on a difficult part in my life, I responded that I felt like a fish that had been boned, cleaned and filleted. Struggles have been had, and I could see how God used those to shape me in painful, life-altering ways. For a very long time, life was a constant struggle. Doing the best I knew how, I made some good and some very bad decisions. Coming to peace with my imperfection has been a process in and of itself.
What started as a simple analogy for where I stood in my journey as a Christian, quickly became a deeply, detailed picture of how God takes His children into His care, and helps them grow to become something different. Something so vastly different, it will take the rest of this life to unveil. You see, I am that fish. Attracted by the lure of true community, God drew me to Him at a young age. He is the fisherman. Seasoned in His work, skilled at His task, He chose me, yet at the same time I chose Him. When I took the bait, I became a child of God, forever changed by the work He would do in my life.
A few weeks ago, I headed into the North Georgia mountains for some time of renewal, rest and reflection. I never imagined how healing 48 hours of complete silence could be! Among the many takeaways, I not only got to spend hours tromping through the woods listening to birds and squirrels, I learned to set up an ENO for the first time (those of you who don’t know what an ENO is – look it up, it will change your life!). Most of all, I relished the freedom to spend uninterrupted quiet time alone with my Savior in His creation.
During one of my writing sessions, I flipped through a planner for 2018 and I came across a page marked for “Personal Notes”. Unable to resist the temptation, I wrote one. What came out surprised me, and I thought I would share it here. I hope you find it as encouraging as I did…
Our company supports an orphan care and prevention center there called myLIFEspeaks. For the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to travel with a handful of coworkers, to a small village in Haiti called Neply (about 30 miles outside of Port Au Prince). Upon arrival, we’re immediately immersed in the village’s daily life and spend the next 7 days serving the community; connecting with everyone from infants to endangered teens and village elders.
One of the best parts of this trip for me is seeing the impact it has on new team members. On the way home from our most recent trip, I asked them if they viewed the city of Port Au Prince differently coming home than they did when they first arrived. Their answer surprised me. They said that the trip through the city streets was much harder to digest on the way BACK to the airport, than it was when they first arrived. I thought that the biggest shock would be coming from the United States to a city like Port Au Prince. I was wrong.
My entire life has been an exercise in guilt. There’s the obvious guilt – when I’ve done something wrong, and the Holy Spirit is reminding me I need to make it right. That’s healthy; that’s good; and that’s where conviction serves its true purpose.
But no, I’ve bought into a more twisted guilt that ultimately leads to my disadvantage, and affects the lives of everyone around me. See, I have a tendency to feel guilty for not only things I’ve done wrong, but for things I’ve done right. Yup. Why should I feel guilty when I’ve done something right? Because the enemy whispers in my ear saying I don’t deserve what goes well for me, and I listen. I did nothing to deserve the wonderful family and freakishly amazing friends that I have. I must have really fooled them all somehow, right? The Bible says we don’t deserve love on our own merits. So isn’t it hypocritical to accept blessings we don’t deserve? No – absolutely no. Allowing those thoughts to take root is what I call “runaway guilt”, and we can conquer it.
I’ve listened to a series recently about establishing guardrails in our lives to guide us in the right direction and protect us from harm. For example, if someone has an inclination toward gambling addiction, a good guardrail might be to avoid the poker table. The more you expose yourself to a temptation, the more likely you are to compromise your principles, make excuses and avoid accountability.
What I realized in going through the series though, is that there are areas in my life where I’ve established a guardrail, that actually became a roadblock instead. What I thought was a boundary put in place to protect a relationship damaged it in the long run.
As an avid lover of elephants, I cringe every time I hear the question, “How do you eat an elephant?”. That is not an image I need in my head! But no matter how uncomfortable it makes me, I must admit that the adage is right. We can only conquer something that seems large by taking it on in small pieces. It’s a basic principle of time and task management. But if there’s such an obvious solution, why do so many of us struggle with feeling overwhelmed?