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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Ten Minutes till Impact – What I Learned from the Hawaii Missile Scare

January 13, 8:07am. A day and time that will forever be imprinted in my memory as the morning when over one million people received this startling alert…

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No need for your morning coffee when you wake up to this!

My phone conveniently decided to stop working the night before; so, when my husband told me in his calm Japanese demeanor, “An emergency alert just came to my phone,” my usual Italian “level ten” freak out reaction was reduced to about a 6.5.

Within seconds, our peaceful isle of paradise spiraled into a panic. People racing through the streets to find shelter. Families hiding in bunkers and bathrooms. One of my sons, who was at his paddling regatta, said the scene at the beach was reminiscent of the apocalypse – hundreds of people running to their cars trying to escape the imminent threat.

Thankfully, it was an error. Apparently, someone pushed the wrong button.

While those 38 minutes were quite traumatic – and a message I hope to never see on my phone again EVER – in a strange way the whole experience was kind of a gift.

Let me explain…

Our community, for 38 minutes, collectively captured a glimpse of what’s truly important.

Faced with the realization that within ten minutes we may be entering into eternity brought laser focus to our lives like nothing else possibly could.

My hurry and hustle, necessities and needs suddenly didn’t matter. The projects, the cleaning, the laundry, the errands – my “urgent, don’t-get-in-my-way to-do list” was reduced to…

  1. My family
  2. My family
  3. My family

All I wanted was to get home to my kids. Nothing else mattered anymore.

I wasn’t alone on this.

In my conversations with others about their experience, all of them involved gathering together with the people you love for a few words of prayer, love and comfort.

No one’s focus was on their stuff. It was all about people. Helping people, serving people, calling people, being with people.

I can’t be sure, but hopefully, some of these calls and conversations were between family members who hadn’t spoken in years. After holding onto years of offense, perhaps, this experience created an opportunity to lay aside differences and offer reconciliation?

Scripture reminds us of the urgency of the times in which we live. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians,

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Suddenlyunexpectedly… When you least expect it, Christ will come. You don’t know when, so be ready. In other words, don’t get so busy with your life that you schedule God out of it.

It seems the apostle Paul understood this pretty well and lived with a level of urgency and awareness that life is a gift to be used wisely, with great care and intention.

Paul continues on this thought to the Thessalonians by finishing with these words,

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Perhaps the urgency with which Paul lived is what continually inspired him to encourage the early Christians to live in unity with one another? To be a light to a dark world? To offer hope to the hurting? To turn their focus from their wants and desires outward to the world they were called to love.

You can almost hear him pleading in his letters, “Put aside your pettiness, prejudices, preferences and politics and be the Church to a world that is hurting and searching for hope.”

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.

Which caused me to consider, what if I learned to live with this urgency and focus every day?

To receive every day as a gift, being fully present, truly enjoying and valuing the people in my life? Not taking them for granted. Not allowing little things to drive a wedge into my relationships? Not allowing my busy schedule to take precedent over the joy of gathering with those I love?

  • Is there a phone call you need to make? Make it.
  • Is there forgiveness you need to extend to someone? Extend it.
  • Are there words you need to say? Say them.
  • Is there something you need to do? Do it.

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearing the Clutter to Make Room for Something Better

The holidays have passed. The kids are back to school. The Christmas décor is sagging, reflecting the hurried pace of the last few weeks. Sigh. Time to pack them away for next year.

It’s ironic that in the rush of the preparation for the big day (Christmas), the peace of Christ can seem illusive and slightly out of reach – lost in the crowded malls, long lines, overcrowded schedules and unrealistic expectations. The voice of God that should be preeminent this time of year can too often seem distant – drowned and muffled by the voices telling me to “go”, “do”, “eat” and “spend”.

The week after Christmas is one of my favorite weeks of the year because the pace of life slows down dramatically.

This year in particular, our family made a conscious decision to hit “pause” to create space to rest, reflect, refresh and enjoy relationships.

No schedule. No commitments. I didn’t cook. Didn’t do laundry. Didn’t clean our house. I bought a ham, a palette of Cup of Noodles, made sure we had cereal, juice and milk and called it good. (In case you’re wondering about vegetables, there are a small handful of freeze-dried peas and carrots in every cup of noodles.)

Don’t judge me. It was only one week.

As the pace of life slowed and our scheduled enjoyed some much needed breathing room, I began to realize how easy it is to substitute activity for relationship. Spending a lot of time with someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll truly see them, intently listen to them and authentically connect with them.

Could the same can be true regarding our relationship with God? Can we become so consumed with our Christian activity that we overlook the necessity of pausing long enough to hear His voice? Stopping to appreciate the nuanced beauty of His creation? Lingering to enjoy His presence?

We can go to church, serve in ministry and even read the Bible, yet still fail to see Jesus, hear His voice and connect with Him intimately. Time with God isn’t a box we check off every day. It should be a delight, not an obligation. Yet, when our schedules scream it can easily be reduced to a task in a long line of duties and expectations.

In a culture that values how fast we run, how much we do, how full our schedules are, Jesus, during His ministry on earth, modeled something quite different for us. He exemplified an unhurried life that valued and delighted in spending time alone with His Father. The book of Luke gives us a glimpse into how Jesus handled the delicate tension between the demands of His schedule and His relationship with His Heavenly Father:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Jesus was unquestionably a busy man whose time was in great demand. He also possessed God’s perfect love and intense compassion for people, feeling the weight of every need, every heart break and every loss. Yet, He wasn’t driven to meet every need and demand.

Jesus’ schedule wasn’t dictated by the circumstances surrounding Him. He made time alone with his Father His first priority and that is what fueled the rest of His decisions and charted the course of His day.

The clutter of activity and over-commitment wearies our soul but doesn’t take us very far. 

Jesus knew this.

Jesus knew that He couldn’t meet every need and make everybody happy.

Jesus knew that true worth and value are found in intimate relationships, not in big crowds, productivity and packed schedules.

He knew that clarity for his life could only be found through spending time in the presence of God.

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Jesus knew that clarity and rest are only found when we create space for the presence of God. 

Jesus knew that to hear the voice of God, you had to clear away the noise and clutter.

And Jesus knew that it’s in the silence, in the space, where God begins to transform us. 

This year, let’s make a commitment to pull away, create space, be present and listen to God who’s desperately longing to speak to us.