Are You Thirsty?

Thirsty
“O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.”
Psalm 63:1

During the hot summer months, I am more mindful of our deep need for water.  I find myself more thirsty and consuming more amounts of liquid during the day.  Our bodies need water to sustain our life.  It has been said that we can go quite a while without food, but not very long without water.  As much as my body needs water, it has not always been my “drink of choice”.  In the past, I would much rather have sweet tea, diet coke, or even milk over water, but then the weirdest thing happened.  I began to force myself to drink water.  As I drank water on a regular basis, I found my body actually cultivating a thirst for more.  As my body experienced the benefits of water, I began to yearn for more and more of it.  Where I used to have to force myself to drink one glass, now I am usually carrying a bottle around with me throughout the day.

This is much like our spiritual life.  While we may think that we are able to go without feeding it, we actually cannot go very long without drinking from the water of His word.  We will shrivel up spiritually without the refreshing spiritual nourishment of His word.  The Bible tells us, “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst for His righteousness”.  The only way to cultivate a hunger and a thirst is to digest it regularly.  As we absorb His word daily, we will find ourselves developing a deeper thirst for it.  We will find ourselves taking more and more of it with us and desiring it throughout the day, not just taking a little dab here and there.

No matter where you are in your journey with Christ, whether you are finding it hard to digest His truth, forcing yourself to partake of it when you can, or enjoying its nourishment each and every day, the truth is the same.  If you will take the time and enforce the discipline to get into His Word each and every day, you will find that you not only gain spiritual benefits, but come to a place of deep desire for more.  The psalmist said, “as the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs after you”.  This is where I want my spiritual appetite to be.  I want to absorb God’s Word each day and allow God to increase my hunger and thirst for Him.  Just as I physically carry water with me and drink it throughout the day, I want to have such a thirst for God that I am consciously taking His word with me throughout the day, as well.  I want it to soak into my heart and life and overflow into the lives of others.  Just like I can see others drinking a cold glass of water and feel thirsty or hear someone talking about a great restaurant and get incredibly hungry, I want others to see my life, and Jesus in me, so much so, that they are drawn to Him.  I have found the source of living water and I want to gulp it in and share it with all those around me, as well.  Don’t you?

Lord, thank you that you are the Spring of Living Water.  Thank you that when I soak in your Word, my spirit is renewed, refreshed, and nourished.  Help me to cultivate a deeper hunger and thirst for You and enable me to share the thirst quenching water you offer with those around me.

Smarter Than a Fifth Grader

You may be smarter than a fifth grader, , but are you as smart as the wind and sea?

“Jesus reprimanded them, “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass.”
Matthew 8:26

You’ve all probably heard of the popular television show called, “Smarter than a Fifth Grader”.  As a home schooling parent who has taught a fifth grader, I can just tell you that I do not need to go on national television to know that I am not smarter than a fifth grader.  Oh, I may be wiser, but smarter… many days, I just don’t think so!  While some of us may be smarter than a fifth grader, I wonder how many of us are as smart as the wind and the sea?  You are probably already thinking, “Of course, I am smarter than the wind”.  You may be reading this and saying, “Who isn’t smarter than the “mindless” sea?  I mean it’s just water.”  Well, before you give your answer, let me elaborate on my question.

Matthew 8 gives us the account where Jesus was traveling across the Sea of Galilee with His disciples and a storm came.  The disciples were overcome with fear and just knew they were going to die, even with the King of Kings on board (how quickly we can loose our perspective!  But that’s another devotion altogether).  When Jesus is approached by His fearful followers, He rebukes them for their lack of faith.  Then, he turns and speaks, and no doubt, the disciples were listening, but more importantly, the wind and the sea heard Him loud and clear.  The Bible says that He told the wind to be silent and the sea to quiet down.  With one word from Jesus, we are told that the sea became “as smooth as glass”.  This is where my question comes in for me and you.  I wonder how many of us are as smart as the wind and the sea in the sense that we recognize and quickly obey His voice.  It doesn’t say it took the wind and the sea a while to settle down or that Jesus had to speak a few times to get their attention.  In one word, “Silence”, they obeyed Him.  WOW!

What about you?  We may be smarter than a fifth grader on many accounts, but are we smart enough to know the importance of promptly obeying the Creator of the Universe?  Do we respond to His Word in absolute and total surrender?  Next time you think of the television show, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, ask yourself this even more important question, and ask God to grace you to respond to Him as quickly and obediently as the wind and the sea, because that, my friend, is smart!

Lord, help me today to respond to you in total obedience.  May I recognize your authority in my life and obey you without question.  Give me the ability to hear your voice when you first speak and may you not have to repeat yourself.  Tune my heart to Your wisdom and strengthen me with your might.  Thank you that You are Omnipotent and as I obey you, even the storms in my life, can be smooth as glass, reflecting who You are!

In Over Our Heads

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“If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own,
you’ll soon be out of your depth.”  
    Proverbs 19:27

I can remember when my children were really small and we would be enjoying a refreshing day at the pool.  They couldn’t swim yet, so they would play with their toys right on the water’s edge or as they stood safely on the steps.  I would warn them over and over to be careful, explaining that one step too far would put them in over their head.  It never failed, that one of them would eventually get distracted with what they were doing and make that dangerous step that would send them sinking just under the surface of the water.  They would stare at me from under the water for those brief seconds just waiting for me to see that they had gone too far.  Like any mother, I would jump to their rescue, hold them close to calm their fears, and then remind them of the importance of following instructions.
The Bible says that when we “quit listening and strike off on our own, we will soon be out of our depth”.  There are many instructions God has given to us.  Numerous commands we are told to follow and areas we are to avoid, yet somehow, we often times get so engrossed in what we are doing that we find ourselves just under the surface, looking up to find that strong arm that will pull us back to safety.
I can think of so many times that I have become distracted doing “my own thing”, only to find myself in over my head.  I am grateful for our loving Heavenly Father, who never misses a step I take.  No matter how deep I fall, His arm is always long enough to rescue me. He wraps me in His love and calms my anxious heart, and He always reminds me of the importance of following His instruction.
You see, the depth itself is not a bad or even dangerous place to be, when you are with the Master of the Sea.  It is when we “strike off on our own” that we find ourselves “out of our depth”.  I want to be a person that follows God to the depths of His love and grace for my life, knowing that it is there that the real treasure is found.  If I am going to go into deep waters, I would much rather enjoy the view as I follow Him, walking on the water’s surface, instead of the fearful view from below.
What about you?  Are you in over your head today?  Have you taken that dangerous step that has left you feeling out of breath and fearful?  He is waiting to pull you to safety.  If you will just look up, you will find His mighty arm there waiting and ready to save.  Let Him pull you to safety and warm you with His love.  Listen to His careful instructions and follow Him.  He will lead you in the depths of His love where the view is breathtaking, life giving, and the treasures are untold!
May the Lord help each of us today to stay close to Him.  May He enable us to follow His instructions and not get distracted with our own thing.  May we be mindful of each step we take, knowing that just one step away from Him and His will for our life can be life threatening.  No matter where we find ourselves today, may we rest in the reality that He is mighty to save and His love can reach us, no matter how deep we have fallen.

Stewarding the Treasure of Relationships

We often hear about stewarding our finances, stewarding our resources and even our talents, but have you ever thought about the importance of stewarding your relationships? No matter what it is, value increases the more you invest in something.

I have learned that we have to be intentional and live on purpose, especially when it comes to relationships. I have seen many relationships dissolve, many marriages broken, and if we could trace the steps of both individuals, we will always find a moment in time when someone stopped making investment a priority, and instead began making withdrawals from the “relational account”. Somewhere along the way, the treasure of the relationship, wasn’t protected and nurtured.

Think about it! If you have anything valuable, financially or materially, you protect it, you monitor its growth or maintenance, and you probably invest alot into it, right? We do this with our financial investments, our homes, our cars, and even our bank accounts. Why do we not have the same diligence in our relationships? We tend to take people for granted, especially those we claim to love the most! I don’t know about you, but I want to be purposeful in my investments, when it comes to people, most significantly to the ones I love most! I don’t want my treasured relationships to get the leftovers and then, wake up one day to them starving. I am sure you don’t either, so what are some things we can do to intentionally pursue greatness in our relationships?

One thing I have started doing this year is putting my key relationships on my calendar. We all know that if it doesn’t get planned, it doesn’t get done. Therefore, I am very intentional to schedule time with the ones I love, the relationships I want to invest in. This may be as simple as a weekly date with my husband, a monthly date with each of my children for some one on one time, or even some scheduled time spent on the back porch, sipping our favorite shake and unplugged from distractions. No matter what it looks like (and it usually looks different each month/week and with each person), it is giving the most precious gift I can give to the ones that matter most, TIME! If we want anything to grow, we must give it our attention. This is no different in our relationships.

Another thing I try to implement is giving verbal bouquets. This is simply communicating the value of the relationship and the person. I do this through text, through spoken words, and even through thoughtful notes around the house or mailed to a friend. I’ve seen my children begin doing this, as well. It’s amazing what this does for the hearts of those we love, and for our hearts, as well. I see it as a way of “polishing the treasure” of those I love and the relationship we share. I don’t want to wait until it’s too late to tell people what they mean to me.

The creative investments we can make in our relationships are endless, but one thing is for sure, we must invest in anything we desire  to have ever increasing value, and relationships should be at the top of our stewardship list.

What are some ways you practically invest in the people and relationships that you treasure?

Stop and Smell the Roses

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses”? It’s a common statement I hear, when life seems to be in Mach 2 gear, and it reminds me of the need to slow down and enjoy the little, yet significant, blessings around us.  My husband is so good at this. He can be found quite often, just reflecting on the gifts God has given us that are often overlooked.

All of us can find ourselves so busy, rushing through life, and so focused on what we desire that we miss what we’ve already been given. Haven’t you been there? We can be so driven in our work to reach a goal or promotion, that we can miss the gift of even having a job. We can be longing for a certain relationship, and miss the treasured relationships that already surround us. We are prone to pray, desire, and work hard for blessings and miss the treasures we already have.

Don’t get me wrong. I think we should work hard, have goals, and definitely take our requests to God, but we must remember to be mindful and thank Him for the blessings we already have. The reality is, if He never gave us anything else, we already have far more than we deserve.  In the hustle and bustle of life, we have to be intentional to practice gratitude, being alert to the gifts of today.  “Stop and smell the roses”, slow down and inhale deeply, feeling your lungs expand. Be quiet and feel your own heartbeat. Look around you and enjoy the vast array of color in the art of creation. Listen to the sounds of the voices of those close to you or the beautiful melody of their laughter. Ponder the vast array of gifts necessary for our survival that we completely take for granted everyday, like the distance our earth is from the sun, which keeps the temperatures on the earth just what they must be for our existence. Do you ever stop to consider the way our earth is tilted? Did you know that its tilt is what gives us our four seasons, and without it, we would have catastrophic events? Were you aware that this tilt, according to scientists, is impossible, because of the mass distribution of water on the earth. Obviously, we have a God, who is engaged in our lives, and He is holding it right where it needs to be, by the word of His power. Do you see how many significant gifts we are given everyday, that we forget or overlook, yet they are vital for our survival?

May we continue to work hard, strive for goals in our lives, and continue to grow into all that God has called us to be, but, as we do, let’s be intentional to be more mindful to take time to relish the gifts already entrusted to us. As I type this, I’m working from the beach this week and soaking up some personal revival. Everyday I’ve stepped outside, I can smell the flowers outside and I am slowing down to breathe it in a little deeper. No matter what you have going on, stop and smell the roses today, and if you have children, invite them to join you, so we’re modeling this exercise of pausing and practicing gratitude!

 

He Loves Me! He Loves Me!

Daisy flowers

“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you.  I’ve called you by name.  You’re Mine.  When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you.  When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down.  When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior.  I paid a huge price for you:…That’s how much you mean to Me!  That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”   Isaiah 43:2-4

Have you ever sat thinking about the one you love and, perhaps while you were dating, wondering if they really loved you?  We’ve all seen it before.  The young girl holding the beautiful flower, plucking one petal at a time, saying, “he loves me, he loves me not”.
As I read these verses in Isaiah chapter forty-three, I found myself reflecting on the reality of God’s love for me.  Besides John 3:16, which clearly tells us how much Jesus loves us, these verses are screaming of His deep love for us.  Word after word, it says to my heart, “He loves me, He loves me, He loves me”.  Read over it again.  It says, “He is our personal God, our Savior”.  He paid a huge price for us.  Why would He do that, we might ask.  His word clearly replies, “that’s how much we mean to Him”.  “That’s how much He loves us!”
Do you remember the song Jesus, Loves Me?  Most of us probably learned this as a child and could still sing it today.  For most of us, it’s probably been a long time since we found ourselves singing this sweet melody, but I am grateful for the reality that we can never outgrow the love of Jesus.  If anything, this precious song that we learned as a child should be even more meaningful to our hearts as adults, as we grow in the understanding of the incredible depth of His love for us. Take a moment to sing this song, and allow God to whisper to your heart through each phrase, “I love you, I love you, I love you”!

Jesus loves me this I know

For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak, but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
For the Bible tells me so!

I am so grateful that He loves us. He doesn’t just tell us in His Word, but He showed us with His life that He deeply loves us. May we be mindful and experience the breadth, test its length, plumb the depths, and rise to the heights of His love for us (Eph. 3:19).  Rejoice and rest in the reality that nothing can separate you from His love.

Climbing to Companionship

When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. (Matthew 5:1
)

Do you ever wonder why the activity of God can draw a crowd, but the call from Him to be committed, draws only a few?  People are ready to get in on the blessings, the buzz that often surrounds His activity, but only a few follow Him on the uphill climb to companionship.
Companionship is defined as the state of being with someone.  This communicates more than simply a mental knowledge or even fond feeling toward.  One is not considered a companion if there is no consistent fellowship and time spent together.  It is during this time of intimate fellowship that companions share their heart with one another.
It takes work to follow Christ.  It is often times a steep hill and can feel like a hard and strenuous journey, but only those that make the climb with Him, are blessed with the quiet place where He sits with you, teaches you, and becomes your dearest companion.  God desires to share His heart with us, but it takes commitment and work on our part to follow Him to that quiet place that is conducive for Him to do so.
Are you taking the time each day to climb to that quiet spot?  Are you putting forth the effort and energy to get up early enough to sit with Him and hear what is on His heart?  Are you a part of the crowd that is watching from the lower plains of life?  If so, what is it that is keeping you from making the journey up the hillside to be with Him?  Is it the lack of discipline to make the time?  Or perhaps it is simply being unwilling to give up a little sleep and rise early enough to meet with Him before the rush of your day begins.
Whatever it takes, start today with that first uphill step towards that quiet place with Jesus.  Find renewed strength through His companionship and enjoy the new perspective and joy that comes from being up on the hillside with the Lord.

I pray we will exercise the disciplines necessary to make the climb today to meet with Him, drawing to the quiet place where He is waiting to share His heart with us.  May we have ears to hear and the will to climb as high as He leads us, in our pursuit of greatness, no matter what the journey requires of us.

Pursuing Greatness Through Gratitude

Today is another random post of some of my favorite things. As I ponder the many things I am thankful for, today the following things seem to be on the surface of my heart.

  • My amazing husband! I am deeply grateful for a man, who not only loves me, but who leads me in my pursuit of greatness. He leads me by his wisdom, by his example, and even through his own growth. Even this morning, as I edited a paper he had written, I was overwhelmed with gratitude, as I gleaned from this amazing man God has chosen to lead and love me. If you’re reading this and don’t know my husband, I would encourage you to find him on social media and follow him, as he follows Christ. You’ll be refreshed, challenged, and encouraged! Facebook: Tony Nolan/Enjoying Jesus or Twitter: @tonynolanlive
  • My “job”! I love what I get to do! I am a mother to four incredible kids, the administrator in my husband’s ministry office, and I am a certified health coach. I get to serve the Lord, inspire and encourage others, all while sharpening the arrows (children) God has entrusted to me.
  • My community! I love the community I get to do life with. It’s one thing to enjoy what you do, but to be able to choose who you do it with is so special! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the incredible people who are on mission with me. Each one is such a gift, not just to the mission itself, but to me personally. They each inspire me on different levels, and they add such fun, creativity, and unique gifts to my life!

So, what are you most grateful for today? If there are people in your life you’re grateful for, make sure you tell them…before it’s too late! Life is short! Pursue greatness through gratitude today!

The Fourth Man

“Suddenly, King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound hand and foot, in the fire?…But look!  I see four men walking around freely in the fire completely unharmed!  And the fourth man looks like a son of gods.”
Daniel 3:24-25

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in King Nebuchadnezzar’s castle on this day.  To see these three Hebrew boys talk smack (respectfully and boldly) to the king and take a stand for God would have been amazing.  Just reading this story fuels my faith.  Doesn’t it yours?
I can just imagine King Nebuchadnezzar enjoying the sight of everyone bowing down to him, only to have his vain moment of glory interrupted by these three Hebrew boys, who refused to worship any god other than the one true God, Jehovah.  They are called out by the king and he “graciously” gives them another chance to bow down to him at the sound of the trumpet, to which they confidently told him that the band didn’t even need to wet their whistles.  They had already purposed in their hearts where their devotion would be, and they weren’t budging.  We know the story, Nebuchadnezzar had these three boys bound and thrown into the fiery furnace, which was turned up seven times hotter than normal.  I am not real sure why it says that the heat was turned up.  I mean when you think about it, fire kills no matter how hot.  Anyway, suffice it to say, the furnace was hot!  So hot, in fact, that the Word of God says it consumed the guards that threw the boys into the furnace.
Can’t you just see it?  Just as the king began to relish in the “I showed them” thoughts, he catches a glimpse into the window of the furnace.  Once again, his heart skips a beat and he “jumps up in alarm”. (vs. 24)  Not only does he see four men walking in the fire, but we are told that they were “walking around freely and unharmed”, and the fourth man obviously had a distinct look of deity because he says, “the fourth man looks like a son of gods”.
In the middle of these three boys’ darkest hour, God showed up and walked with them.  Oh, they were full of faith, but I don’t think for a minute that they were any different from you and me.  I don’t think the story is meant to portray three boys of incredible bravery and unquenchable faith, but rather three young men that had a powerful Source as the object of their faith.  They believed that either way, in life or in death, God was able to see them through and get the glory through their obedience.
Don’t you want to have a life like this?  We all face furnaces in our journey of life and some are “hotter” than others.  It may be a financial furnace, relational furnace, a physical furnace that deals with our health or that of a loved one, or even death.  Whatever it may be, we can look at the fire and say with confidence, “My God is able!”  We aren’t walking through the fire alone and there are always people on the outside watching our journey.  Some may simply get a glimpse into our furnace and others may stop long enough to actually peer inside and observe the drama unfolding.  It is my desire to walk through the furnaces that God allows in my life in such a way that those passing by will be able to see the “Fourth Man” walking with me!
One precious friend to our family is currently walking through a furnace most of us fear most, the loss of her precious husband. She is walking through this furnace in such a way that those of us walking closely with her, as well as, those peering into her life through the windows of social media outlets, are seeing the “Fourth Man” walking her and her precious boys. She is giving me and so many others a fresh hi-def look at God, just like we get from this Scripture about the three Hebrew boys and King Nebuchadnezzar. If you’d like to be encouraged and have your faith strengthened, I would encourage you to take a peek through the windows of her heart and life, through here on her blog. You’ll be richly blessed, challenged, and deeply inspired!

I am so grateful that I serve a God who can be trusted, whether He allows our life path to take us around a furnace or straight into the fire, we can follow Him with confidence that He is with us every step of the way.  May we all walk in such a way that others can see the “Fourth Man” walking with us and the freedom, peace, and ultimate safety that comes from only Him!

His Throne Is Still Intact

Have you ever had those moments when you just really felt like everything was going wrong, times when life just seems to be spinning out of control?  Perhaps it is a health issue with you or a family member.  Maybe it’s the loss of a job or just the stress of too many responsibilities.  Whether it’s from our own poor choices, decisions made by those around us, or just circumstances beyond our control, we’ve all had times when we just felt like the bottom was falling out from underneath us.

That is exactly where we find the children of Israel in Lamentations chapter five.  In this case, they were being disciplined by God, their loving Heavenly Father, for their sins.  They had chosen to “buy into the pagan system” of their day (boy, does that sound familiar) and God was grieved and angry.  The bottom had fallen out of their lives.  They were dealing with famine, war, violence, and complete despair.  The writer of Lamentations is drawing the desperate picture for us, and right in the middle of all the discouraging details, he penned these words in verse twenty.  “…and yet God, You’re still sovereign, Your throne intact and eternal.”  No matter how bad things were, he recognized Who was still in control.

This isn’t always easy, but this is an amazing truth that is often times our only hope.  No matter how difficult life may get, God is still sovereign and His throne is still intact and eternal.  We can trust Him with our health concerns.  We can rest in His sufficiency, knowing that no matter how hard the storm rages, His Anchor holds.  Corrie ten Boone said it so eloquently, when she said, “There is no pit too deep, that He is not deeper still”.  We are never so far that His arm cannot save us.  Our life is never so dark, that He cannot see exactly where we are.

When life seems to be spinning out of control, hang on, my friend, because God, the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, is still in complete control.  He is still on His throne, where He will remain for all eternity, and He is working all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) together for our good and for His glory!

May our hearts choose to rejoice today, knowing that God is in total control.  His reign is eternal and there is nothing, or no one, that can overthrow Him.  May we remember, when life is hard, whether it’s due to our own sin or circumstances out of our control, that nothing surprises God and nothing is too big for Him.