Learning the 'Unforced Rhythms of Grace'

Have you seen the new challenge at Chick-fil-a these days called the “Cell Phone Coop”? You place your cell phone in the “cell phone coop” and if you can successfully leave it in the box the entire meal on silent, after the meal, your entire family can receive small ice cream cones for free.

Society is speedily maneuvering at a break neck pace. Technology is both positively marvelous and relentlessly frustrating.

As indicated in the cell phone coop challenge, it is abnormal to be “present” emotionally and mentally with the ones we love while at dinner or anytime.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Shaunna Neiquest just came out with a new book titled: "Present Over Perfect.” In it she reveals a process she experienced recently "a winding, messy journey from exhaustion to peace, from isolation to connection, from hustling and multitasking to sacred presence.”

Shaunna spoke on this journey at a conference I recently attended and she delivered a challenge to the listeners, a challenge to live a life characterized by three words: SLOW, DURABLE, and BEAUTIFUL.

I have not been able to mentally part from this concept or these three words, and so I feel compelled to discuss them with you here.

Friends, I know we are all different yet fight some of the same battles, all driving to the answer to these questions:

How can we stay emotionally present with the people that matter most?
How can we stay on the positively marvelous side of technology instead of the relentlessly frustrating side?
How can we live a life pleasing to the Lord?

Join me for the next three weeks as we take these three words as we examine and explore how we can live slow, durable, and beautiful life in Christ.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

'There is Hope' Day 15

Today is Adam's last day of Radiation! Praise Jesus!

 

Today's Verses:

Now I’m sure of this: the sufferings we endure now are not even worth comparing to the glory that is coming and will be revealed in us. 

Romans 8:18

 

Today's Thoughts:

John Piper writes:

Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

 

John Piper mentions four stories from the bible:

 

1) Joseph

A poor guy sold by his brothers, turned into a slave, imprisoned for years, falsely accused, forgotten, and in the end turns around and says to his mean brothers, "What Satan meant for evil, God meant for God, for the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20)

 

2) Job

A blameless man who Satan decides to pick on, to test to see if he really did love the God who had blessed him so. God allows Satan to have all of Job's family fall dead in a storm, all of his possessions lost. He is left with a terrible disease, a sorry wife, and friends who blame him for his literal destruction. However, the end of his story reads, "So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job's life more than his beginning.....Job lived an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. So Job died, being old and full of days." Job 42:12,15,17

 

3) Esther

A girl who is taken from her home and comfort to be ONE of the kings mistresses. The King actually picks her to be his wife, but doesn't realize she is of the line of people he is about to kill. So, she has to literally put her life on the line, and ask him to spare "her people," the Jews. The end of the story reads as such: "The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor" for the Jews who were to be exterminated were been saved because of God's providence through Esther's life.

 

4) Ruth

A young woman left widowed, follows her mother in law to a land known for disliking people like her. She works hard labor for food and meets a man who can actually save her from all her and her mother in law's hardships. The end of her story reads as such: "So Boaz took Ruth into his home, and she became his wife.... And gave birth to a son, and his name was Obed." The great great grandfather of baby Jesus who came to save the world.

 

John Piper mentions each of these stories because they are incredible stories of suffering, hardship, and sovereignty of God. Yet, In each of these stories, God gives us a glimpse of redemption. I'm absolutely positive none of these "characters" would have pictured their lives going the way they did, or could foresee the incredible hardships they would face. But, they also couldn't envision their lives the way God did, everything about their stories coming full circle, God unquestionably using them to fulfill His divine purposes.

 

I don't know about you, but I find this scripture, this quote, and these stories remarkably encouraging. It invokes my soul to remember, God is plotting carefully our stories; He is in control, He knows, He sees, and His ending is far greater than we can fathom. 

 

Today's Prayer:

Thank you for the examples of suffering you left in the bible for us to read giving us hope and providing peace. Thank you for your unending grace. Thank you for carrying us through the last few months; you have been ever so faithful. Thank you for your promise that the sufferings we deal with here on earth won't even compare to the glory that is to be revealed later. Jesus we long for the day that we get to see you face to face, but until then Jesus we beg you to use us for your kingdom's sake. Amen. 

 

Today's Song:

"This is My Story" Big Daddy Weave

"Of the grace that is greater than all my sin. Of when justice was won and when mercy wins. Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him. 

"This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior, all the day long....."

 

'There is Hope' Day 14

Today's Verses:

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning. Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Matthew 14:24-30

 

Today's Thoughts:

Can't you picture it? The disciples all freaking out in their boat in the middle of a huge storm. Jesus shows up and the crazy brave one asks to walk on water to Jesus. He stays brave and obedient until he sees how huge the storm really is, and then he becomes terrified and begins to sink. 

I can so see myself in this scene. My heart desperately wants to trust Jesus, to be brave, to be obedient to whatever He calls me to no matter how scary or costly, but sometimes obedience is just plain hard. 

All of this reminds me of how important it is to keep my eyes on Jesus. I hate to admit it, but honestly, it can be extremely easy to take my eyes off of Jesus.

When I take my eyes off of Jesus, I can lean toward some of the most selfish tendencies like feeling sorry for myself or becoming bitter, literally sinking emotionally. I love the verses in Prov 4 that read, "Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the path of your feet." These verses remind me that I have my own unique path right now, and it doesn't look like anyone else's. Right now my number one calling is to serve, to serve my family with a humble spirit and grateful heart. 

Today, I want to remember, obedience does not come without me keeping my eyes on Him every single second. Just like Peter, I cannot look around me and get scared or lack the faith to believe God can get me through whatever it is I face today, I have to have my mind and my heart fixed on Him, returning to His promises, and remembering that if He took on the humble attitude of a servant I can too. 

 

 

Is Jesus calling you to be brave in obedience to Him? If so, have you taken your first step? Tell someone what you believed Jesus has called you to and ask them to call you next week and check in on you.

Are you in a position of service right now? How can fixing your eyes on Jesus help you serve with the right heart attitude?  

 

Today's Prayer:

Dear Jesus, thank you for reminding us today that you came to serve and not to be served. Help us to serve you from a pure and grateful heart. Whatever you have asked us to do, enable us to keep our eyes on you, for we know you are the provider of everything we need. Thank you for helping us get up when we do stumble and fall; you are unbelievably patient with us, help us to be patient with others today Lord. We love you. Amen. 

 

Today's Song:

"King of My Heart" Bethel Music

 

'There is Hope' Day 13

Today’s Verses:

I waited a long time;
    He finally knelt down to hear me.
    He listened to my weak and whispered cry.

He reached down and drew me
    from the deep, dark hole where I was stranded, mired in the muck and clay.
    With a gentle hand, He pulled me out
To set me down safely on a warm rock;
    He held me until I was steady enough to continue the journey again.

As if that were not enough,
    because of Him my mind is clearing up.
Now I have a new song to sing—
    a song of praise to the One who saved me.
Because of what He’s done, many people will see
    and come to trust in the Eternal.


Psalm 40:1-3

 

Today’s Thoughts:

In super Adam and Ashley Fisher dramatic fashion, yesterday, I end up in a field, on the side of the road in Forest City, Arkansas watching smoke come out from under the hood of my car as if it were a chimney. Frantically, I call Adam and unlike me, he doesn't panic. Just like any loving caring husband would do, He immediately formulates a plan for my rescue.

This crazy story reminded me of the verses above, my life verses, and some of my favorite in all of the bible. Let me tell you why. They prove:

1) Jesus doesn’t leave us hanging.

Even when it feels like we have been waiting for longer than we can stand, God has a reason and a plan and He promises to deliver us, maybe not in the way we think we should be delivered but always in the best way. Think about the Israelites being slaves in Egypt for 430 years. (Exodus 12:40) They were His people. He allowed to live in slavery for all of this time, yet He had purposes that we will never know this side of heaven for making them wait for deliverance. He however, heard their cries and finally saved them.

2) He kneels down to hear us.

In the same way I am attentive to my children when they need me, if we are His, Jesus is in the business of listening to us. Scripture is full of passages that prove He listens to those who live to follow Him. "He hears the prayer of the righteous." Prov 15:29 "The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry." Psalm 34:15

3) Jesus is the Ultimate Rescuer

No matter how bad our situation seems, if we are in the deep dark hole of addiction or depression. If we are figuratively stuck in the mud and clay of bad habits, or selfishness in it’s many forms. Even if we are stuck in thought patterns because someone else has hurt us. He has the power to deliver us.

4) He is gentle in His rescuing.

The verses say He sits with us while we recover, waiting until we are steady enough to continue on. “He knows our frame and remembers that we are of dust.” Psalm 103:14

5) He gives us a new song to sing.

Just like we talked about yesterday, He does not waste our pain. Whatever he rescues us from, He gives us a story of his greatness to tell whether through spoken story, written story or even sung story to those around us.

 

These verses so greatly exemplify, our deliverance doesn't depend on us, it’s all about what He does for us. He is the great rememberer, listener, rescuer, gentle Father, and story maker and today I'm thankful.


Today’s Prayer:

Thank you Jesus for rescuing us time and time again and remembering “we are of dust.” Give us strength for this day. Help us to lean on you, not on ourselves, or too much on others or distractions, but on you. Enable us to remember the promise that you are always with us. Thank you for the new song you are writing in our lives even today. We love you Jesus.

Today’s Song:

 

 

 

'There is Hope' Day 12

 

Today's Verses:

 

All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life, so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles.
2 Cor 1:3-5

 

Today’s Thoughts:

15 years ago my cousin Calvin passed away in a tragic car accident. Our whole family was shaken to the core. How could this have happened to a young man with such potential? Why would God allow this? It was an excruciating few years for all of us, but it was especially hard for my aunt and uncle, Calvin’s parents. Without the much desired but never supplied answers to the questions about God’s sovereignty, my aunt and uncle searched for meaning in their pain and became the most beautiful display of today’s verses.

Aunt Charlotte began a ministry called "Helping Hurting Hearts." The purpose of this ministry is to execute the verses above, to supply others with the boundless comfort God gave her through the loss of her only son. Her ministry has been very successful in coming alongside those in deep grief.

The verses above describe God has the Father of all compassion, and the God of all comfort. I think of Him as a Father who sits and cries with us when we are hurting.  I’m thankful for this picture of God being present in our hurt and I know from personal experience that God provides this comfort in different ways, often times through friends.

Have you ever had that friend? The one who really knows you? Maybe they haven't experienced the exact same pain, because what to "pains" are identical, but they get it. Not only can do they see your hurt by sympathizing, they can feel it too, being able to empathize. Or have you been able to comfort someone with understanding who is in need of a real friend?

Using the comfort God has generously provided for us in hard times to comfort and console others does not take away one ounce of the hurt we have experienced, but it does allow us to see God redeem some of our pain. I’m grateful to serve a God in whom I believe that in His sovereign plan, no pain is ever wasted.

I am challenged today, to look past myself to see those wounded around me and I'm prompted to thank God for those He has graciously placed in our path in the seasons, like these last few months, when we have needed His life giving comfort as well.

 

 

Who can you reach out to today that might need some encouragement?

 

Who can you thank for being there for you in a time when you needed emotional encouragement?

 

 

Today's Prayer:

Jesus thank you for the verses above for they paint a picture of great purpose in our pain. Empower us to use our story to comfort and energize others in their walk with you. Only you can turn our trials into good in such a way, and we are exceedingly grateful. God, thank you for the abundance of comfort you provide, it is truly unlike any other and thank you for the friends who have "carried our burdens." We know you blessed us with them in our exact time of need to be your hands and feet on earth. Please use us in the same way. We love you, Amen.

 

Today's Song:

“In Christ Alone” Kristian Stanfill/ Passion

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'There is Hope' Day 11

Today's Verses:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

 

Today's Thoughts:

Ever since Adam's diagnosis, we have mentally explored the many angles of cancer, like I'm sure everyone does who receives the same call. We've asked, is this lymphoma genetic? Is it nature verses nurture: was it going to happen regardless, or is there a way we could have helped prevent it? And how do we do our best to avert a repeat?

The part of me that continues to be type "A", the small sliver that hasn't disappeared with the raising of three children and moving nine times, that type 'A' part, desperately desires a way to control this, to make absolute certain we don't have to go through this again. However, the part of me who has grown to love a God who acts in ways I will never understand, knows that no matter how much I desire to grasp tightly to my illusion of control, God's sovereign plans always win.


Why do we adore control the way we do? I believe it's because we desperately want to feel safe, we believe the lie that if our life goes exactly how we plan it, we won't have to be disappointed, sad, or hurt by anything or anyone.


Karen Ehman writes: "no matter which way you manifest your control freak tendencies, the root cause is the same: if you’re trying to run things, then you’re not trusting God."


I know God can be trusted, therefore I want to live like He can, with wisdom but without the longing to control.

Today's Verses provide some practical help for our worry and desire for control. They remind us to think on what we know to be true right now, not to think too far into the future or too much into the past. They also prompt us to trade our worrying for prayer. Sometimes I don't have the words, I simply realize I'm on a slippery mental path headed straight to an anxiety overload and I reach out to a friend who I know will pray for me. No matter how you turn to prayer the moment the worry hits, the point is that you turn there.


Often times walking with God isn't simple and doesn't feel safe. It takes serious discipline to set and keep our minds on the here and now, to thank God when life feels out of control, and to pray instead of worry. I'm not pretending it is easy, but I know it is possible. I'm certain the promise above is true. When I give up, loosing the grip on my illusion of control, and choose to pray instead of worry, He provides me with the most perfect unexplainable peace. Peace that satisfies and sustains no matter what circumstances I face today or how scary the future may seem.


In what ways do you feel like you are grasping for control that's not yours to have?


In what ways can you recall a time when you gave up control and felt God's peace?


Today's Prayer:

Oh God, you are good and you are sovereign. Help us to trust you no matter what life looks like right now. Give us discernment to make wise choices, but ultimately rest in the good plans we know you have for us. Give us eyes to see our lives the way you see them. We love you Father and we need you. Thank you for your extravagant love and for being ever faithful.


Today's Song:


"Extravagant" Meredith Andrews

 

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