Spread Too Thin


Thank you Logan Wolfram  for today’s message.  

“I know I don’t look it…but I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”  Bilbo’s words from Lord of the Rings rattle in my head. You’ve probably felt the same way at some point too, right?

Even the basic demands of life can leave us feeling over extended and stretched out. You spread thin across jobs, spouses, children, church, extracurriculars, and whatever else wants to suck time and energy away from you. Sometimes what’s left of us is so thin it feels as if we have become nearly translucent. Eventually, to avoid anything that requires more, we began to avoid anyone who wants more too.  All the spreading thin will eventually scrape away even the good parts life. When you have nothing left to give, if you give at all, people just get whatever is left over.

But here’s the thing, you may look ok. The pieces that are visible from the outside appear put together. But instead of running your life, it seems more accurate that life is running you.

I know you get this. You’re living and loving and doing your thing and somehow find yourself in a place where you hardly even know what’s happening anymore. Life isn’t happening with you, it’s happening to you.  One day you’re doing the planning, and then something weird happens and all the planning is now the ruling factor of your life.  Jobs, kids, spouses, sports, carpools, church, friends…it is all too much and you become mechanical in your execution of tasks or you shut down completely.

I get it friend. I burned the candle at both ends for a long time.  Somewhere in there though the candle broke in half and I found myself burning both sides of the candle at both ends and whatever was left in the middle got burned up.  Which really means that I burned out.

And what probably burned me out more than anything else was when I inadvertently started burning bridges that I didn’t even mean to set fire to at all. I hurt friends because I didn’t make time for them. I felt alone because I was so overwhelmed that I disconnected myself from the people and activities around me that I loved. I stopped doing things that I enjoyed like art, or creative projects, even cooking dinners that tasted good.  But dinner wasn’t the only thing that had lost it’s seasoning, my entire life had begun to feel that way too.

When it comes to making extra space for neighbors or friends or even just one more person, sometimes it feels like you just can’t.

2 Corinthians 12:5 reminds us that we need not boast about ourselves, except about our weaknesses.  Because it is in our weakness, that the Lord makes us strong. In a very area of his life where Paul struggled and asked the Lord to remove the struggle, Jesus said to him “ “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” He goes on to declare that he would “boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.1

I know what it is to be worn out, spread too thin, stretched beyond my limits, and I know that’s not the way you want to begin a new year either.

Scripture is full of people who felt not enough and spread thin across too much. But as we begin to search the Word of God to find more in our thin places, it seems most often the greatest thing God asks is that we trust Him even (and especially) when we come up short.

He asks us to offer what little we have to him so that He can make much of our offering. And in doing so, He makes much of His goodness to us. In the places where we have little, he promises to make more. In the areas we feel weak, when we lean into Him instead of ourselves, he promises to make us strong. He takes the moment we come with little left to give and blesses us with a Kingdom kind of leftovers that aren’t so much all that remains, as they show God’s abundance, excess, sufficiency, and strength.

Maybe spread too thin is the very place that God wants to show us exactly how much abundance there is for us? That instead of trying to spread ourselves over the world around us, we can uncover what can be when we spread our lives across the abundance that is the Bread of Heaven himself.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

What Does God Want From You?

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

Sometimes I think we’ve made our relationship with God far too difficult and confusing. We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in.

For more than half a century, I have been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing her tail, I’ve been going in circles.

Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness wandering ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God. During a recent poll, 65 percent said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth. On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

We have everything we need to experience the ever growing, continually maturing, abundant life, so why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

“God, what do you really want from me?”

I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their heart through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot.

And somehow, we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

I had asked the question a thousand times, but one morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that my busy sisters and I have been asking the wrong question.

Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those eight little words: In Him we live and move and have our being. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

So today, I encourage you to be still. Just get quiet. Breathe deeply. Jesus in. Worries out.

Don’t make your faith about what God wants from you, but what God wants for you.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Overcoming the Troubles of This World

Thank you Erin Odom for today’s message….

God doesn’t promise us a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. To the contrary, Jesus told His disciples that in this world we would have trouble. But He didn’t stop there: He reminded them that He overcame the world.

Several years ago, my family walked through a period of extreme financial frustration. Month after month, we saw our savings dwindle and our bank account diminishing. We felt like we were barely surviving financially, emotionally, and even spiritually at some points.

But it was during that troublesome and turbulent time that God pointed us to Himself and the promise that He has overcome the world—despite the troubles we encounter in it. He also showed us very clearly that He is the Great Provider of all our needs. No, we will not have perfect, trouble-free lives on this earth, but God has promised to provide exactly what we need, when we need it. His provision might not always look like we would imagine or what we would pick out for ourselves, but it’s exactly what He knows is best.

I clearly remember when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I thought life would never get better. We would never be able to breathe. And we would always barely be making it.

The humility of our season of trouble brought me face-to-face with real need, and real provision. More than anything, our time in the tunnel tuned our hearts to God’s. We failed to acknowledge or appreciate the Lord’s provision when it seemed we were meeting all of our own needs, when we had enough money for excess. But when every penny counted, when our budget never made sense on paper, when we had cents instead of dollars in our bank account at the end of the month, that was when we learned that only God is the provider of all of our needs.

Are you there now, friend? You don’t see a way out. Hope is dim. There is no light. Are you stumbling around in the fog? Is the tunnel still dark?

Romans 8:37 says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Yes, we will have trouble in this world, but, through Him, we can overcome them.

With the right attitude and perspective, we can look back on a season of troubling times as some of the most faith-building days of our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Don’t Miss The Beautiful

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message….

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. ~ Hebrews 12:2a, NIV

A few years ago I was invited to speak and sing in Tennessee at a women’s event. To my delight, my daughter Kennedy was able to join me. The two of us are all about “mommy-daughter time” so we were all smiles as we started off on the three and a half hour drive.

Prior to the trip, I had given Kennedy permission to use my iPad to watch a movie. So once we hit the highway, she got cozy with her pillow, her headphones went on, and her attention became fixed on the rectangular screen in front of her. Random giggles floated from my little movie-watcher as I drove and prayed for the event we were heading to.

It was the first week of November, and in the Tar Heel state that’s primetime for fall tree color. Once we past the congested traffic and the hullaballoo of the suburbs, the splendor of God gripped me. Showcased through traces of red, yellow, orange, and brown, the leaves danced in the breeze under the backdrop of a brilliant blue Carolina sky. The trees continued to boast of more and more glory as I neared Virginia… and then the mountains joined in.

Oh, the mountains!

They puffed their chests with the majesty of color and power!

My heart was captured by the glory of it all.

And then I realized that Kennedy was missing it. Ugh!

I tapped her on the shoulder and pointed out the window. “Look around! Lift your eyes and soak in the wonder, sweetie! Don’t miss the beautiful…” I urged.

“Don’t miss the beautiful!”unnamed-2.jpg

She paused her movie and joined in on the beauty moment, totally agreeing that God was showing off with His fall art. Minutes later, she went back to watching her movie as I drove on undone. Wrung out by glory. Overwhelmed by the sacred sanctuary I’d stumbled upon. I stayed in the moment and celebrated the beautiful as the psalmist did in Psalm 96:

1 Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Worship poured from my heart. Splendor and majesty were before both Him and me. I thanked God for the beauty show. And as praise and adoration continued to rise, a God-thought settled on my heart. Tell them, Gwen.

“Tell them what, Lord?” I wondered.

Tell the women what you told Kennedy. Tell them not to miss the beautiful.

Ahhhh, yes! I would tell them, and I would chew on that challenge for days to come. Convicted by questions like: How often do I drive right through the busyness of my days and miss the beautiful? How many moments of glory do I not even see because my eyes are on the mundane? Do I even look for it?

As we dance between the days of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – as we decorate the doors and the hearths of our homes and communities – let’s be intentional to decorate the doors and the hearths of our hearts with ribbons of God’s grace.

Let’s live with eyes lifted to the Gift of gifts, Jesus Christ.

When we face the stresses of our lists, and our tasks, and our activities, and our heart burdens, let’s commit to remembering that the best present is His presence. He’s our Hope, our Peace, our Joy… our Beautiful.

Don’t miss the beautiful.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Simple Things

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Now as they went on their way, He entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home  (Luke 10:38, NIV)

Balance always requires a fierce and ruthless examination of priorities. Our true priorities are not just lists of activities. They are candid reflections of our heart desires. What we deem important receives the most time, energy, attention and resources. The importance of right and balanced priorities is illustrated by the life of Martha.

Jesus knew that He was always welcome in the home of Martha. Scripture tells us that Jesus “had no place to lay His head,” but He often came to this home when He needed to rest or get away from the demanding crowds. At the age of thirty, the Son of God left His natural home and there is no record of His ever returning to live there. He often went to Bethany, to the house of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and even spent His final week on earth there. Jesus didn’t have to wonder if He was welcome in this home or if Martha was “ready” for His presence. He knew she was. Can He say the same about us?

Seeking God begins with recognizing who He is and then inviting Him into our lives as Lord and Savior. If He is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all. For some of us, the problem is not that we lack a personal relationship with God. Our problem is that we are not “making room” for that relationship. Balance comes when we yield to His plan in the everyday moments of life

One summer our family went to Pennsylvania where we visited Amish country. I have always been fascinated by the Amish people and enjoyed every minute spent in their beautiful and carefully ordered world. As our visit came to an end, I wanted to buy a souvenir to remind me of the peaceful days we had spent there, but everything I picked up was too expensive. Being a committed shopper, I was not about to let that stop me.

We travelled up and down the small hidden back roads of each community, looking for the Amish products known only to a few and to those relentless shoppers who were willing to persevere. I was beginning to lose hope when I spotted the small, white sign posted on the fence of a quaint and absolutely perfect house. “Amish Crafts” it said. This was it!

As we climbed out of the car, a sense of peace settled around us like an old familiar blanket. Our voices immediately dropped to a whisper as we tiptoed up the narrow stone path and gently opened the screen door. When we stepped onto the porch filled with beautiful Amish crafts, a woman welcomed us with a beautiful smile and introduced herself as Mary. She invited us to browse and to let her know if we needed any help. I have to admit that I was almost rude in my pathetic attempts to catch a glimpse of her home through the porch windows. Reading my mind, she graciously offered, “Would you like to come in and look around?” I thought she’d never ask!

Mary’s home revealed a world very different from mine and an uncommonly simplistic lifestyle I desperately longed to experience. The house was sparsely furnished with only the necessities. Mary described her life and daily routine with words like “calm, uncomplicated, peaceful and serene.” When I asked why she had chosen such a lifestyle, she sweetly responded with words of wisdom I will never forget, “I have discovered that when my life and my heart get too crowded, there is not enough room for God.” Exactly!

An unbalanced life is too crowded for God. It is so easy to relegate our spirituality to religious activity when all He really wants is to spend time with us. He wants to wipe away every tear.  God longs to share every hurt and celebrate every victory. The Father yearns to wrap His strong arms around us, bringing the peace and balance we so desperately need.

Instead, we often relinquish control of our life to unworthy demands dictated by a world that operates in “urgent” gear. We forget what is really important. The important rarely barges in while the urgent is always an offensive intruder. Certainly, there are times when the important is also urgent – but we must learn to discern between the two. We wrongly conclude that a busy life is automatically a productive life and think that a full schedule will surely produce a full heart.

I have great news! He loves who you are more than He loves what you do. Seek Him today. Make room for Him. He is waiting.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!