Oh No! Not YOYO Night!

My kids are hungry – A LOT. In fact, I think they’d be thrilled at the prospect of me staying in the kitchen all day aspiring to be the next Pioneer Woman.

Pioneer Woman’s kids have it made. Think about it. They have the Food Network’s test kitchen in their house every day! A teenagers’ dream.

But I’m not Pioneer Woman. I have a job, things to do, errands to run.

You probably do, too.

When my kids were younger, it was essential for me to feed them several times every day. If I didn’t feed them, they didn’t eat. If they didn’t eat, they wouldn’t grow and become healthy.

Now they’re getting older and it’s important for them to learn to feed themselves because I can’t accompany them to college to pour their milk and cut their meat.

I’ve been feeding them their whole life – they’ve come to expect it. They desire it. So when they don’t see me in the kitchen by 5:30pm, a look of dread melts across their faces. Their eyes become glassy and the color begins to drain from their faces.

Eventually, one of the kids will sheepishly ask, “Mom, are you going to cook dinner tonight?”

And if I reply, “Nope. It’s YOYO night!” their response usually resembles, “UGH! Not YOYO night!” (Insert gigantic sigh with the dramatic tossing back of their head.)

Because in our house, YOYO night means, “You’re On Your Own.”

In other words, I’m not cookin’.

AKA, Feed Yourself.

For the kids, this usually means throwing something from the freezer into the microwave or cracking open a can of soup. If they’re feeling particularly ambitious, they may pull out the toaster.

But by their reaction of despair, you would think I was asking them to kill and prepare the fatted calf from the family farm! (No, we don’t live on a farm and no, we don’t have any fatted calves. Just the occasional feral chicken, but I digress.)

They don’t want to do the work of getting their food. They want me to feed them.

As Christ followers, I think sometimes we have a similar approach regarding our relationship with God.

We love it when our pastors, books and small group leaders feed us. And they do. And they will.

But they can’t be the primary source of our spiritual food.

Your church, your small group, your friends have an important part to play in your spiritual growth. They build into your life, but they can’t be the sole caretakers of your spiritual life.

You have to do that. You have to take responsibility for your spiritual growth.

Eating a great meal once or twice a week might keep you alive, but you won’t flourish. You won’t be strong. You won’t grow very big.

In Jeremiah 17, the prophet Jeremiah tells of a tree that was planted by the riverbank.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear whe

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

The tree was intentionally planted by a water source.

The tree did the hard work of digging its roots down deep.

The tree never failed to bear fruit, even in times of heat and drought.

The tree wasn’t looking for someone to water it. The tree took responsibility for its own health and growth.

The Bible is the power of God. It has the power to transform your life. It has the power to cause your life to flourish even under adverse circumstances. You have to plant yourself by this healthy water source and do the hard work of digging your roots down deep.

When you’re physically hungry, you go to the kitchen for food. When you’re spiritually hungry, you go to God’s Word. (Not Netflix or social media) 🙂

Spiritual growth doesn’t happen from a distance. It happens as you dig your roots down deep.

Dear friend, feast on the abundance of God’s Word. It’s rich, fully satisfying and will never leave you wanting.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water… Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you… I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:1, 3, 5

What would your life look like if you gave God the first of your day? Your time? Your thoughts? Before you looked at your phone to check for messages, you paused and gave the day to him and said, “Thank you.”

 

 

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Blooming After a Long Winter

I love Springtime. After months of barrenness, everywhere you look there’s evidence of new life bursting forth. Following a long, cold, hard winter, hope springs forth. New life begins to break through!

You may live in an area, as I do, where you don’t witness the dramatic seasonal changes; however, we all experience changing life seasons. Some happy, some fruitful, but other seasons will be sad, barren, dark and cold.

When our lives feel “dead” on the inside and there is no evidence of growth, no budding of life, how do we melt the frost crusting over our heart? Where do we go to find enough sunlight to help us pierce through the dark clouds shrouding around us?

Perhaps you’re currently in a wintery season, desperately hoping for brighter days and clearer skies. If so, Isaiah’s message is for you, my friend…

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!,… Isaiah 35:1-4 ESV

I love how Isaiah uses a crocus blossoming abundantly as his illustration. The crocus is among one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. In fact, crocuses are known to thrive in late winter and early spring because they’re hearty enough to break through frost and bloom even in light snow.

I want my life to resemble the heartiness, yet hopeful beauty of the crocus. A life that can endure winter and emerge to blossom without any evidence of the harsh climate it pushed through to bloom. A life that perseveres through wilderness and dryness to experience joy and singing once again.

Don’t discredit the hidden potential of winter. Buried treasures can be found there.

In fact, winter prepares the way for spring.

ON POINT

Wintery seasons will come. Seasons of loss, discouragement, fear and isolation.

But you can be sure of this – no season lasts forever. Winters will come and go, just as the fresh loveliness of spring will come and go.

When I look back at “wintery” seasons in my life, there’s something in me that wants to forget those painful seasons – to erase them from my memory, blow past them, dismiss them as a waste of my time. I don’t want to dig up the dark storms, lonely nights or relationships gone cold.

It’s easier to focus on the “happier”, more pleasant seasons – seasons of fruitfulness, warmth, clear skies and sunshine.

Yet, I’ve noticed that God has brought some of my greatest seasons of fruitfulness out of my wintery seasons.

Out of the frozen, dry ground, new life appears. On the bare trees, buds begins to bloom and once again, we begin to feel the warmth of the sunshine on our face, flowing through our bodies.

God has the power to bring beauty out of our brokenness.

Our lives have the incredible ability to flourish after a famine. New life can and will spring forth from the cold, hard lifeless ground. It’s hard to embrace the warmth and joy of spring when you’re winter has seemed unrelenting.

Perhaps you’re feeling as if your life is in a wintery season. Take heart, your life will bloom again. Spring will come and you’ll experience new life in a new season.

As Isaiah reminds us, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!”.  Don’t lose heart. Persevere through the winter, trust God’s presence to be with you and strengthen you.

You may be asking, “How do I begin to move forward? What do I do during my wintery days?” Here are a couple of things I’ve found helpful.

  • Reach out to God. Dig into his word and allow the roots of your life to be developed in Him, not in your circumstances. Allow God to use this barren season to draw you closer to Him. It’s often in our most desperate, darkest times when God grows our faith and we learn to depend on Him.
  • Remember the promises of God. Never doubt in the dark what God has shown you in the light. Wintery seasons aren’t absent of God’s presence and they don’t discredit God’s faithfulness in the past. This season will end. You will get through it.

He will make your life bloom again. He is faithful.

The temperature will rise, the ground will thaw and the beauty of new life will begin to bud.

Contagiously Clean

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13

Leprosy is a horrible disease that affects the skin destroys the nerve endings, making its victim unable to feel anything. Sores break out on the skin and when they begin to ulcerate, the smell is horrible. Those diagnosed with leprosy were declared “unclean” in the Jewish culture, and because leprosy was contagious, those who contracted it were forbidden to live in the community. They were considered outcasts and even those who touched them would also be considered unclean.

In this Bible story, Luke tells us that this man was covered in leprosy. Imagine the disfigurement. Sense the stench coming from his body. Feel the fear that gripped people as they saw this man enter the community, their community – a community filled with their children and the people they loved. And this man had the audacity to enter their midst, with his body decaying and oozing leprosy in their town.

What would you do? How would you treat this man? Honestly, I would grab my kids and run. Sadly, I don’t think I would even try to be kind or compassionate; I’d be more concerned about staying away from him.

Most likely this man was used to rude treatment, insensitive comments, fearful gazes and people shrinking back in his presence. He had lived as an outcast, rejected by society, a disgrace to his family, and shunned in the Jewish culture.

In desperation, as a last resort, this man musters a shred of hope and cries out to Jesus, “If you are willing…”

Notice that he didn’t say, “If you are able…” This man knew rejection. He wore the scars of shame. He lived in the shadows as an outcast—unloved, unwanted, unaccepted and avoided by people. His concern wasn’t in Christ’s ability. It was Jesus’ willingness to help him.

Would Jesus help someone like me?

Could Jesus love – or even kinda care about – someone like me?

And Jesus responds by touching him.

What a tender moment Luke captures! Jesus touched the man before he cleansed him. He drew near to this man while he was still unclean, still an outcast, still unacceptable, still avoided by society. Jesus identifies with him by becoming unclean himself before He heals him.

Is your story any different? Not really. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul reminds us that

God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

It is in our uncleanliness, in our pain, in our ugliness that Jesus extends His love to cleanse and heal our lives. In our awkwardness and feeling alienated from God, Jesus reaches out to us and does a beautiful thing.

He becomes sin for us, sharing our pain, taking the burden of our shame upon Himself.

Sin, like leprosy, isolates us, cloaking us in shame. Even more importantly, it isolates us from God. It’s highly contagious – running unrestrained and rampant in our world like chicken pox in an elementary school.

Shame tells us that what we’ve done is too bad to be forgiven, that our mistakes are irreparable and our failures are unrecoverable. Shame whispers to us that our lives are beyond repair.

But to the contrary, Jesus is contagiously clean. Anything He touches is restored. Anything in His presence is transformed, made holy, righteous and whole. In His light, the darkness of shame begins to recede, making way for truth. Pure, hope-full, grace-filled truth!

Our failures become opportunities for growth, our mistakes are forgiven, leaving us to experience His abundant grace generously, and undeservedly poured out to us.

You don’t have to shrink back in fear; you no longer have to live isolated, bound by sin and cloaked in shame.

You don’t have to doubt God’s willingness to cleanse you.

In Christ, you are clean.

What fear, failure or feeling of shame keeps you from believing the truth that, in Christ, you are clean?

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7