Thursday, October 30, 2014

Day 30 :: Pouring comes from a deeply contented heart

When I am content with what the Lord has given, or taken away, or not yet revealed, I can bless Him.

A heart that is content can see the success and joy in others without becoming envious.  Envy rots the bones and is a hindrance to blessing others.  When I compare my life to someone else's it becomes very easy to withhold serving and blessing them because I begin to feel they are undeserving.  

If I want to truly live a life of blessing, pouring out to the Lord and those around me, I must have a heart that is content.

"God carries his children through this world through a variety of conditions.  Sometimes we lack, and at other times we abound.  This allows our graces to be tested.  We will find that God's love is stable, certain, and constant in a variety of conditions.  God does not change, and his love is constant however our lives might change.  We must learn not to quarrel with God's government.  Let God do as he pleases as he brings us to heaven.  It is no matter what the way is like, or how rugged it is, as long as he brings us there.  God's grace is able to carry his children above all conditions."

Richard Sibbes, Voices from the Past, p 323

This is Day 30 of a series:  Made to Pour, living a life of Blessing

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day 29 :: How to pour when I'm empty

Throughout this month as I've been thinking on my topic "Made to Pour" and learning what it looks like to live a life of blessing, there's been a nagging question in the back of my mind:

  How can I pour when I'm empty?

Maybe some of you wonder the same thing.  Life can be so busy and we go and go, give and give, and then we're spent.  Good things can be so draining.

In addition, hardship comes to all of us in different forms and these crises cause grief and pain that make us feel needy, not ready to give to others. 

I've been there.  I experienced months of soul-neediness and I learned that backing away from some of things that I typically did to serve others was okay. 

Being a part of the worship team at church was a way that I used my gifts to bless our church family.  But when I was working through the news that Mason had Down syndrome I couldn't play the piano without crying.  It's kind of hard to hit the right notes when you can't read the music, and messing up the band wouldn't have blessed anyone.  So, I backed off of this ministry for awhile.  

When Jennavieve was born and I was juggling two babies and two preschoolers, I had a hard time planning out my grocery list.  The thought of entertaining people in our home was way too overwhelming.  It took forever for me to cook dinner for a few extra people and I would get distracted, usually ending up in tears at the thought of having to talk to people for a few hours.  This was something we had always done, so giving it up for awhile was really hard.   But we knew it was best for our family, so we put that form of 'blessing' on hold.  

Did this mean I stopped being a blesser?   I hope not.  I think part of living a life of blessing is just being a follower of Christ.  If we are seeking to walk in the Spirit, then whatever we do, will bless others because it will point people to Jesus.  

I liked what one person said as a definition of being a blesser:  it's bringing someone to a point of seeing God more clearly for who He truly is.

Maybe by knowing our limits and living within those, we're helping others to realize that our relationship with God and service to Him is not about how much we do.  It's just being in Him.  When I watch people depend on the Lord, I see God as a God who loves, comforts, and strengthens His people.  This is a blessing.

Blessing others doesn't always have to be about serving others either.  It blesses me when I hear people's honesty about their pain, and still acknowledge God's goodness in the midst of their suffering.  So, even when you're backing away from doing, you can bless people by continuing to live a life of faith in God regardless of your circumstances.  

Not only have the challenges of life left me feeling empty, they also make me feel like I'm a mess.  

How do I bless the Lord when I'm a mess?  I think it's pretty simple: I have to realize that my mess is where He met me in the first place. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)  "Bless the Lord...who redeems your life from the pit" (Psalm 103:4)  So, if I think that my mess--whether I made it or not--is a hindrance to blessing the Lord then I've failed to understand God.  He is my Redeemer.  And His love never fails.  When I come to Him in the midst of my mess, His very presence becomes the most precious gift, and He continues to teach me that He is enough.

Blessing others when I'm a mess?  Maybe a break from some forms of service are needed so we can heal.  

But the truth is, we're all a mess, whether we realize it or not.  There is nothing in any of us that is capable of blessing anyone apart from the grace and strength of the Lord.  We are simply vessels.  

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us...For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh...So we do no lot lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day..." (portions of 2 Corinthians 4:7-16).

The acts we do of blessing others, pouring out, will probably look different from time to time, but we can live a life of blessing by allowing the power of God to shine through us so that others see Jesus, even when we feel empty and in the midst of our biggest messes. 

This is Day 29 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Day 28 :: On wondering how to bless

"What is the best way for us to encourage you?"

This was how my Mom started one of our evening conversations at the beach last month.

After we all joked that Starbucks gift cards, Chick-fil-a meals, or cash worked, we took turns sharing how we feel most encouraged.  There were a variety of answers:  written notes, a listening ear, words of praise, empathy, truth.  In  a group of just 8 people we differed in the ways we liked to receive encouragement.

So, I concluded that not everyone likes to be 'blessed' in the way that I do.  And if I'm struggling to figure it out?  Just ask.  

People around us might be hurting, struggling, or going through a challenging time.  And, yes, we can certainly depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us on how to minister to them.  But, I think sometimes we feel at a loss as to how to help and so we just don't do anything.

Maybe we need to say, "How can I best serve you right now?" 

I have always loved this verse.  There is so much packed into those few words about how our speech can hold power to impact someone in a positive way.  While it is a verse on speech, I think the principle can hold that any timely act of service or word of encouragement will bless someone.  

Maybe we need to sit down with those close to us and have a 'how can I encourage you' conversation.  It was really fun for our family to spend some time discussing this.  We all came away learning a little bit about one another.  

So, if you get a question from me about this, you'll know why :)

And, to the one who might be asked the question:  Tell them.  Be honest.  If someone is wanting to bless you, allow them that opportunity.  I'll be the first to admit that it's really hard for me to receive help from people.  But I continue to learn that this whole 'living a life of blessing' isn't just for me.  If we're all striving to bless those around us, then we need to be willing to be blessed.  And just as giving blessing takes humility, receiving blessings also requires humility.  

This is Day 28 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Monday, October 27, 2014

Day 27 :: The time I kept the blinds closed and refused to answer the door

Right before we moved to Florida this summer I had the privilege of attending a Missions Conference at my parents' church, the church I was raised in.  It was so encouraging to be around missionaries from all over the world and hear the stories of relationships they were building with their neighbors, co-workers, random people they encountered.  They had a theme song for the conference; the chorus went like this:

I wanna be your hands and feet, I wanna be your voice every time I speak.  
I wanna run to the ones in need in the name of Jesus.  
I wanna give my life away, all for Your kingdom's sake.  
Shine a light in the darkest place, in the name of Jesus.

I left that week with a resolve to be intentional with relationship building once we got settled in Florida.  I even wrote this post about friendship, sharing a little bit of what I had learned.

Well, do you know what I did the second day we were in our home?  I closed all the blinds and refused to answer the door because I didn't want to talk to anyone.  

Within five minutes of opening our front door I had been bombarded with people who were very different from me, heard some unsettling stories, and had children clamoring to come into my empty home asking to eat our food (we had none) and play upstairs with my kids (who had no toys).  

I didn't want any of them in my life.  They were disrupting my space and making me uncomfortable.  I blamed it on the fact that we had no furniture for two weeks.  But the truth was I was neglecting to simply be someone who lived to serve people in the name of Jesus.  

I guess I was looking for something comfortable, hoping for people who were like me that were easy to get to know and be with.  The reality was that might never happen.  I could always be in a place where I looked different from other moms and had differing values.  I needed to look beyond the apparent differences to peoples' hearts and love them the way Jesus does.  Isn't that what I had been singing about just weeks before?  

This is what happens sometimes with living a life of blessing.  We look for opportunities, sometimes even wanting a big or new ministry.  But, there are probably people already in our lives that we can serve.  We might just not want to, or we might blind to the opportunities because we want something better, more interesting, or people who are easy to serve.  

Lysa Terkeurst wrote a book recently called The Best Yes.  In it she shares how to make wise decisions in our lives that are often too busy, sometimes with good things, and what it means in the midst of that to have a 'best yes'.  I was convicted in a lot of ways as I read through her book, but what stood out to me this summer was this:

"We will see our Best Yes answers most clearly when we are present, paying attention, seeing what we need to see, and being willing to extend God's love in the moment."

I didn't need to find people like me to serve and bless.  I just needed to pay attention and love the people around me. 

When I started paying attention I realized that my next door neighbor was hungry to learn about God's Word.  So we started doing a Bible study together.  One of Bradley's co-workers was here without her husband and kids for six months and feeling lonely.  So, I try to stay connected with her through the week, we try to include her in our family movie nights every now and then, and she is interested in learning about God, so she has come to Bible study too.  The neighborhood kids can sometimes have a negative influence on my children, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't encourage relationships with them.  The girls are learning how to serve, love, and be with people.  Yes, we have many teaching moments as a result, but our prayer is that even our kids will learn how to be a light and extend God's love to those around them.  

I want to extend God's love to everyone I encounter.  My husband, my kids, my neighbors, my friends, my extended family, a cashier at the grocery store, a homeless person on the side of the road, a parent sitting next to me during Mason's therapy sessions.  

Living a life of blessing means I have to pay attention.  To the Holy Spirit's prompting and to the people and situations around me.  Practically this will look different for each of us, but it requires being involved in the small moments of our days, aware to what's happening around us.   

This is Day 27 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

In the midst of reading Lysa's book, my friend Julie also wrote a series on Hospitality.  And although we aren't seeking to do a lot of entertaining in our home while we're here, the principles that Julie shared in her posts encouraged me that there were still ways that I could seek to be hospitable and open up my home in different ways. For those of you who are hesitant to open up your homes, her series is excellent!  Please, go and read her 3 part series:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Day 26 :: A Sunday Hymn

  1. Living a life of blessing can only happen through the strength that God gives.  And it is my prayer that as I seek to serve those around me, looking out for their needs before my own, that they will see Jesus, not me, through whatever it is that I do or say.  

This hymn is one of my favorites and I think it summarizes beautifully this idea.  

May you have a blessed Sunday.

  1. May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
    Live in me from day to day,
    By His love and pow’r controlling
    All I do and say.
  2. May the Word of God dwell richly
    In my heart from hour to hour,
    So that all may see I triumph
    Only through His pow’r.
  3. May the peace of God my Father
    Rule my life in everything,
    That I may be calm to comfort
    Sick and sorrowing.
  4. May the love of Jesus fill me
    As the waters fill the sea;
    Him exalting, self abasing,
    This is victory.
  5. May I run the race before me,
    Strong and brave to face the foe,
    Looking only unto Jesus
    As I onward go.
  6. May His beauty rest upon me,
    As I seek the lost to win,
    And may they forget the channel,
    Seeing only Him.

This is Day 26 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of blessing

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Day 25 :: Blessing others should become a habit

Writing this month has been good for me in several ways, but mostly, it's been good because I'm learning.  And, oh, how far I have to go to truly live a life of blessing. 

Earlier this week I asked for your input on what a blesser is/does, and I received some great feedback that I wanted to share.  Thank you for your input--it has really helped me!  Here is what was said: 

A blesser is one who, by the Holy Spirit's enablement, brings another to a point of seeing God more clearly for who He truly is, thus glorifying God.

A blesser is someone who is sensitive, tuned in to people around them, and obedient to the Holy Spirit's direction as to how to reach out to those people.

A blesser "shows up" as God's ambassador when there is a need in someone's life to be encouraged, prayed for/with, assisted, or just to let someone know that they are cared for in such a way that through their love, God is glorified and praised!

Blessers use their words to speak life and blessing into those around them.  Blessers see others for their calling and destiny in Jesus instead of their immediate behavior.

And, in one email, I received the following that I thought was excellent:

Oh, how I struggle with these things!  May God continue to teach us how to live as blessers!

This is Day 25 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 24 :: How a rainbow led to a conversation about hell

Florida weather can change at any moment.  This can make planning for outdoor activities challenging, but it also means we get to see some amazing aspects of God's creation.  And when I'm paying attention, these glimpses of God in nature can bring about opportunities to teach my children.

As we drove to school one morning, it was starting to drizzle, but up ahead I could see blue skies.  I was inwardly praying for no rain by the time Isabella had to walk into school, when I noticed a gorgeous rainbow in the sky.  The girls saw it too, I snapped a picture, and we continued on our way.

On the way back home, 45 minutes later, Mallory, squealing with delight, pointed out the rainbow to me once again.

So, I talked with her about what I had been thinking of earlier when I saw the rainbow  "You know, rainbows are a way of reminding us of God's promises.  The first rainbow was in the sky right after Noah and his family got out of the ark."

Mallory:  "Mommy, is Noah dead?  What about Zaccheus?  And Moses?  How did they die?"

Me:  "Well, the Bible doesn't tell us how Zaccheus died, but it does mention that Moses and Noah died when they were old."

Mallory:  "I don't want to die."

Me: "We don't have to be afraid of dying if we believe in Jesus."


Mallory: "Why aren't you saying anything?"

Me:  "What do you want me to say, honey?"

Mallory:  "I want you to talk to me about dying."

These are the moments that I pray for.  The questions that my children might ask, opening a door for the gospel.  Often times I feel inadequate to answer the questions, and I sometimes fear misspeaking or not explaining things well enough for them to understand.  When a door opens, though, I try to seize the opportunity and beg God for wisdom in that moment.

So, when Mallory said she wanted me to talk to her about dying, we talked about dying.  I told her about Jesus, how He had died.  And that He rose again, and then God took Him to heaven, where He lives forever with God.  That was a good enough answer for her at the time, but then she asked me another question.

"What is Satan's place called?"

In this particular conversation she was working through the difference between heaven and hell.  Nothing more.  God is in heaven; Satan is in hell.  When we die, we either go to be with God in heaven, or we go to Satan's place.

Later on that day as we were driving home from picking Isabella up from school, Mallory said to Isabella, "When you die, if you believe in God you go to heaven, and if you don't believe in God you go to--Mommy, what's Satan's place called?--hell."

Isabella's exasperated reply, "Mallory, you have to believe that God SAVES you."

Before an argument broke out, we talked about our sin that requires being saved, and yes, we do need to believe that God alone can save us from our sin.

This isn't the only conversation we've had with the girls lately.  They have both been asking very good questions and wanting to understand salvation.

It's amazing to me how much they grasp.  And, yet, at the same time, there is so much about the Bible they don't understand.  "Faith like a child" has become something Bradley and I talk about more and more frequently.  What is a necessary measure of knowledge for salvation?  Specifically for our children?

Salvation came for me at the age of almost 5.  I distinctly remember sitting on the middle cushion of our brown faded couch, reading family devotions one night, and understanding that I was a sinner, I needed Jesus to save me, and I trusted in Him that night for my salvation.  It was pretty simple.

And from that point forward, the roots of Truth took hold in my heart and continued to grow, by the grace of God, in fertile soil.  People from my church invested in my life through discipleship, teaching me how to read my Bible, share my faith, and live in the light of God's truth every day.  My parents talked about the Bible with me, we discussed theological issues around the kitchen table late into the night.  They asked me about my faith.  They prayed for me.  They pushed me to seek God in everything, from relationships to teachers that I disliked, to college, career choices, and marriage.  Their counsel came from their own deeply rooted faith and by simply living it out and sharing it with me, I saw firsthand what it meant to follow Jesus.

This is what we want for our children.  We want to constantly be talking with them about the things of the Lord, not in an awkward or forced way, but in a 'this is my life of faith in Jesus, come live it with me' kind of way.


And so, when I see a rainbow in the sky, I share with my children that it reminds me of God's promises.  I didn't plan for that remark to bring about a conversation about hell, but it did.  Mentioning God in the midst of our days, as we go about our tasks, these are the moments that will open up doors for the gospel with our children.  

We can't make them believe, only the Holy Spirit can do that work, but we can be faithful to pray for open doors for the gospel, share the truth and live it out before our children.

This is the best way to bless our kids. 

This is Day 24 of a series:  Made to Pour, Living a life of Blessing

Verse print can be found at Gracelaced.  Ruth is an excellent artist who creates beautiful prints and custom pieces.  She incorporates Scripture into her art and has a gorgeous collection of Christmas prints.