A few Sundays ago I was so excited to win a Starbuck gift card for some work I did at church. I was so excited because that very week was going to be the first in a decade I could actually go to Starbucks and sit inside all on my own and enjoy a delicious drink. My youngest was off to part time preschool. And salted caramel mochas were back. It was bittersweet, but a coffee alone seemed like a really good way to cope / celebrate.
The next morning I arrived at the bus stop to find my new (and only) bus stop mom friend was not feeling well. She was about to go crawl back into her bed when I found myself saying the dreaded phrase:
“Let me know if I can do anything.”
I don’t like that phrase because I know myself. Myself would never let anyone know if I need anything. Therefore, I assume others are that way. And I made a decision quite a while back to not be that way. To not settle for that kind of thing. Instead, I came up with a new mantra, “Think a good thing, do a good thing.”
In that moment with my friend, I knew I wanted to do something. Sick mom of three, I know how that feels. What could I do to inject just a moment of positivity into her day? Just a moment to let her know I know it’s tough and I care about her.
To be honest, I didn’t have time to make chicken noodle soup. Plus it was 90 degrees, so that didn’t seem like winning idea.
And then. BOOM! I remembered that Starbucks card. Before she walked away, I told her I’d bring her a Starbucks coffee. Okay, now I had a solution.
To be honest, I was momentarily sad that I wouldn’t be able to use my awesome gift the way I’d planned. I decided to just buy hers with my gift card and grab a coffee on my own dime. Of course, then I found out the gift card was $10! That’s two coffees! I’m not a person who frequents Starbucks, so this made perfect sense! Thanks Jesus!
What happened next was truly laugh-out-loud-awesome. But you’ll have to wait so I can wrap up the though of think a good thing, do a good thing concept.
You see, so many times we shrink back from doing good things.
We might feel it may be too small. So, what we would’ve done for one we don’t do because we feel we should be able to do it for lots of people. Or we don’t drop off a coffee because our Southern upbringing tells us it should’ve been a casserole.
Sometimes, we think our small gesture can’t possibly make a dent in something as emotional as grieving over the loss of a loved one. Or we think two hours of babysitting our friend’s kiddos isn’t much compared to the six month deployment she is facing.
Sometimes we don’t do things because they aren’t perfect, they are good enough. So, instead we do nothing.
Other times it can be even less serious. Let’s say you see someone looking fabulous in a dress or with a really cool tattoo. You might think it, but why not say it? Why not think a good thing, do a good thing? Pastor Craig Groeschel says it this way:
Set the blessing free.
You see, whatever it is may not seem like a big deal to you, but it might be HUGE to the other person. Whatever little good thought God put inside your head, that’s a blessing that He wants to be set free. Even a simple smile can totally change the trajectory of a day for someone. You could be that pivotal moment. Don’t keep the blessing imprisoned inside. No, set it free! Think a good thing, do a good thing.
Imagine a world we lived in where no one held back? How much joy, gratitude and goodwill would that world be filled with?
Well, we can’t control the world, but we can control ourselves. Why don’t we just agree, right now, that we’ll act on those little thoughts that come up? Those little, teeny tiny ideas. I’d say, if you think a good thing, do a good thing.
Now, for the grand finale of this short story I’ve made long:
I sat down to drink my coffee while I did some work. This kind, older gentleman came and sat adjacent to me and chatted with me for a few moments. Out of nowhere, he randomly gave me another Starbucks gift card. That’s kind of a great metaphor for setting the blessing free. It always blesses the giver.
I’ve been reading through the Bible this year at my own pace, which is quite slow. There is quite a bit of head scratching in the Bible, and lots of it happening in Genesis. I’ve (mostly) made peace with the fact that I don’t have to understand or rationalize it all, but that doesn’t stop me from trying in the moment. Does that happen to you? Or is it just me?
I’m far enough into Genesis to be reading Jacob’s story. It’s a real page turner. A real puzzling page turner. As I read, I believe that Jacob is supposed to be a good guy, he’s the hero in these chapters.
But he’s not. He’s just really not. That’s an epiphany I’m sure people who grew up in the church had long ago. For me, today, it’s a comforting revelation. If my story were written out in the Bible from a bird’s eye view, I wouldn’t look like the hero either. You’d be puzzled and shaking your head just as I do reading about Jacob.
When I look at Jacob’s story without trying to make him a hero, it’s enlightening. God uses Jacob despite his character flaws (lies to his own father, runs away from his father in law, sleeps with any woman thrown at him). God has a plan for Jacob that happens despite how many struggles he faces on the way (brother wants to kill him, father-in-law cheats him, wife is barren). Finally, God blesses Jacob even after he wrestles against him (wants to do things his way, through his own strength and wisdom, possibly wants to run away from what God wants to pull him through).
If I look at my own journey, I certainly can see those similarities. God has used me and is still with me despite all of my many character flaws (prideful, overambitious, impatient). Even though I might look back and see a path littered with struggle and shame (drugs, sex and rock n roll, etc), God has still gotten me to this very point in my life, this plan he’s always had for me. Most incredibly, God is still blessing me, still with me, as I struggle and wrestle against Him even daily.
Jacob’s new name becomes Israel, which means “struggles with/wrestles with God.” Clearly, the struggle is real and the struggle is preordained.
The scripture that most struck me today was:
I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps! -Gen 32:10
I thought about all I’ve done and been through. Literally, the only thing that has pulled me out of some of my darkest moments was that unfailing love. The comfort of unfailing love. Even when I’ve made bad choices or done wrong, God has been faithful.
Then I think about when I left home. I, too, owned nothing other than a lot of mental baggage and a lot of ambition. But I left home a broken little girl who had no idea how to show up in the world, how to love and accept to love. I didn’t even know how to feed myself properly! I had no meaningful, deep relationships. I had no roots. I couldn’t wait to be on my way!
It struck me as I looked at the parallel to Jacob’s journey.
Now, I have a marriage about which all I can say is Only God. It’s far from perfect, and we’re still working. But considering the examples we both had, it’s pretty incredible. I left home with a terrible attitude toward men and false expectations about them. Now, I am well loved and cared for, I have a partner and teammate and provider. I wouldn’t have even been able to accept that as the girl who left home.
In fact, that has been part of my continued wrestling with God. I can see now that God was leading me here even from the first step out the door. Becoming the woman I am today is something I have fought, wrestled against for…as long as I remember.
For example, I’d always planned to stay in the military for 20 years. God had other plans. Experiencing the pain of separation just a month after being married and faced with it again, I suddenly knew I couldn’t be without my family once I had a family. A miscarriage illuminated that. God also gave me a husband I would slowly learn to trust and rely on. The really, really painful kind of slowly.
Then, once I was working in the civilian world and became pregnant again, I just knew I couldn’t bear to leave him. So, I became the thing I’d sworn I’d never become: a stay at home mom. It’s funny now to read and write that thought. It was not then. It was gut wrenching. I couldn’t understand how I could feel pulled in two different directions so vehemently. Now I know it was like that night Jacob had. I was wrestling with God.
I wish I could say it stopped then. Or that it stopped…ever. It hasn’t. And that’s just one part of the struggle. That’s just one thing I wrestle with!
However, being aware of that struggle was the first step. Then being able to lean more into being obedient IN SPITE OF the way I felt helped. And knowing Jacob wrestled also helps. Because, in the end, Jacob got the blessing.
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” -Gen 32:26
I also now have a household full of three kiddos who love me unconditionally, who bring me joy and who give me purpose. (That sentence, read to 18-year-old me, would probably made me vomit.) I left home never having even babysat another child! Never having even been around other children for any length of time, except those I saw at school.
Now I have some wonderful relationships in my life, I have a relationship with God. I have joy and peace. So, it might not fill two camps, but it feels so much larger than what I left with. So much more full and overflowing.
And it’s all because of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. It’s pretty crazy to think about how far I’ve come since I left home and try to see the parallels from Jacob’s journey.
In what ways do you wrestle with God?
How has God demonstrated faithfulness in your life?
Remember, with great power. comes great responsibility. -Uncle Ben
Remember that? It’s the Spider-Man quote! Every time I read about the Parable of the Talents, I think of ol’ Peter Parker.
This morning I read Luke’s version.
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. -Luke 19:26
So what’s the practical way to learn from this quote?
Well, if you look at ol’ Peter Parker, he was given Spidy senses and strength. If he hadn’t used it, that would’ve been bad. But he used it and he found great purpose, fulfillment and even love. And heck, here recently he got upgraded to the Avengers!
To avoid missing out on our own purpose, fulfillment and upgrades we must first take stock of what we’ve been given.
What gave you been given? Personally, I’ve been given a healthy, lovely family. I’ve been given a spirit of positivity and encouragement. I’ve been given a lot of energy and the ability to set things in motion. I’ve been given a strong body too.
What have you been given? Maybe you’ve been given a way with children, a leadership role at work, a healthy income, a healthy body, a new phew who looks up to you, a wife who needs a hero, an eye for details, a gift for public speaking, a way with food.
Whatever it is, take stock of what we’ve been given. Then, let’s ask the tough question. Are we using it well?
In my case, I know every once in a while I take my eye off the prize with my family. I get focused on other things, I go on mom/wife autopilot. It’s not great, and I hate to admit it.
But! When I AM focused on them, when I AM putting my best forward and pouring into them the way I know God desires, I am so blessed in return. SO blessed! It goes along with what I heard at church last weekend.
The more I value something, the more value I get from it.
This rang so true for me. For example, I’ve taken the time lately to really focus on building up my son. All of the sudden, I noticed Zach seemed to have overnight become my best helper. He does so many things without asking, I feel like I’ve got another member of team adult.
I am also trying to steward my gift of planning, encouragement and positivity as a writer, a personal trainer / coach and now as a planning/productivity coach for moms. And yes, the more I pour in there, the more I get back. Both in terms of more women to help but also in terms of passion, purpose and knowing I am truly helping people.
And, as long as I have the ability, I’ll be running because I’ve been given the strength to do so!
So, that’s me. But what about you? Are you using what you’ve been given well this week?
What’s one thing you can do to use what you’ve been given well TODAY?
My girls are watching Saturday morning cartoons, My Little Pony to be exact. I heard something about “Elements if Harmony,” and being the nerd I am, it piqued my curiosity.
Or maybe it’s just that I am not feeling harmonious at the moment. I worked too many hours, my husband’s been gone and off the grid all week, the kids finished school this week and I did not eat well last night so my gut is wrenched in pain this morning.
Yeah, not harmonious.
So, I of course Googled the ponies and what their elements of harmony are.
It made me think about what my elements of harmony are. Then I realized, I already knew, I’d come up with them years ago! They were just hiding as goal sets.
Faith is the first element of harmony for me. Have you ever heard of the Israelite cycle? I mean, that’s not the technical term, but I’m no theologian. The Israelite cycle refers to how we read the Old Testament and watch the Israelites come back to God, and everything’s so good and awesome. Then they go back to serving idols and sin. Things get worse and worse until they finally turn back to God. And then poof! Things are good again. We see it from a distance and think, they’re kind of dense. How can they not see this cycle?
We have the same cycles in our lives though, I know I certainly do. Every once in a while I’ll wonder why things seem so hard lately. Not just regular hard, but swimming-upstream-holding-a-baby-hard. Where it seems like it’s coming from every angle and it just doesn’t make sense (it’s almost laughable) how hard things are.
That’s usually about the time I realize I’ve stopped leaning on God like I need to. When I realize I’ve been trying to do it alone. I realize my faith is out of harmony. When I hook back up to my power source, things don’t necessarily get instantly better, but my ability to handles them certainly does. In fact, it’s like poof! My entire perspective and attitude are different. And it’s like 🤦♀️. Shana, you’re just like the Israelites, minus golden calves.
Next up is family. I’ll tell you, even as a stay at home mom, this one being in second place is tough. It’s tough because sometimes I put it first and then I fall wearily flat on my face. It’s also tough because as an entrepreneur I can sometimes put other things before my family (mostly my marriage) but also enjoying my family. I’ve learned to keep them in this order, in priority, in order to keep harmony.
That’s not to say I’m a maid on call all the time. It just means I make sure I’m present with my family when we are together. It means I prioritize the when and the way I spend time with them. It means the home they live in and the food they eat are a priority too. Things that make my family feel out of harmony are:
Being in separate places in the world. This is inevitable as a military family. And I do enjoy affording my kids the opportunity to go elsewhere and learn and be with others. But I just don’t sleep as well as I do when they’re all in my house.
An unclean home. I’m NOT OCD trust me. But I realized I can’t truly relax and enjoy my family if the home isn’t in decent order. I don’t spend more than 30 minutes most days on upkeep, it it’s a definite priority. And my family helps. We have a work hard, play hard philosophy. And none of us are quite at the top of our games if the home isn’t cleanish.
Quality time ain’t happening. When we are rushed, when we are all in our own little worlds, that’s when I feel out of harmony. I’m an only child, so I relish my alone time. However, we are a family. And we do things together as a family. On purpose, not according to other people’s agendas. So, if we aren’t doing that, I feel off.
Fitness encompasses my mental health, my rest and, duh, my physical fitness. I’ve finally learned, after all these years, that this is such an important priority. I walk into the gym a lion, I come out like a lamb. It makes me a better mother, wife and overall human.
When I get enough rest, I literally feel like I can take on the whole world. I’m pretty stubborn about my ten minute cat naps in the afternoon. Not because I’m lazy but because it’s like a brain reset each day. I get up less stressed, more focused and rejuvenated.
Likewise, going to the mental gym is a big one for me. Putting good things in my brain, thinking about big ideas, how I can improve myself, self-correcting if I’m being mean to myself are all part of getting my mind right.
Somewhere along the road, I apparently adopted the idea that being a married, adult woman with three kids meant I wasn’t allowed to do things I like to do. I know that sounds crazy and younger me needed therapy. But I bent my will so hard for everyone else, I rarely did just what I wanted to do in my late 20s and earlier 30s.
In my book I write about my nap time epiphany. I’ll tell you, once I took some time to just do me and what I wanted to do, I noticed immediately it was like a baptism of joy. Like, whoa! It completely changed the game and now I now if I don’t get time for fun (doing what I want to do) and friends (this is another f word, but I tuck it in fun) then things are definitely out of harmony. My husband knows this too, he’s seen the reward of a Shana who’s had some fun. So he is always gracious about letting this pony run. (Pam Tillis)
I definitely have to work hard for fun. In fact, of all of them, it’s probably the one I struggle with the most, even though I know the rewards. It’s another cycle, one best described by T-Boz.
Every now and then, I get a little easy,
I let a lot of people depend on me
When I force myself to have some fun, it all comes back into balance. I have standing dates with friends like weekly coffee. I have once a month friend dates prescheduled because if I don’t, I won’t. But I need to.
For me, finances are all about work and money. I have an entrepreneurial heart. I love my work. So much that I would put it all the way at the top. I’ve never had a job I didn’t like. I’ve been working since I was 14. I’ve had like ten different careers. It’s fine. I’m working on it. I remember a few years into our marriage, my husband went off to training for a few months. I had just landed my dream job (at that time). I got to build our training program from scratch. And I got to pick my team. Y’all, I was in heaven. It was glorious. I was working 12-14 hour days. Because I wanted to. There was no requirement. There was no deadline. No one even knew I was working that much! Except my husband. He came home and was like…Shana, this is not normal. It was a first of many red flags. God certainly gave me Chris to help me figure out how to balance this fire I have inside. I have a really hard time just relaxing. Or just being. Or staying still in the home I pay a lot of money for. Slowly, he has helped me try to find some balance with my ambition and my priorities. On the contrary though, if I’m not working on something I feel passionate about I’ll also feel out of balance. I’ll look like Branch from Trolls.
That was another hard fought lesson for me. I’ve gone back and forth with work since becoming a mom. I think we all probably do. I’ve learned that I’m in harmony when my family comes first but I am also doing work that lights me up.
The other part of finances for me is security. Dave Ramsey says women like to feel secure when it comes to finances and he is right. It’s like the day when I go grocery shopping and my pantry is full and my fridge is full, I feel SO GOOD. How weird is that? Like, I can go to the grocery store any day. For some reason, having loads of food at home, ready to nourish my family makes me feel secure!
And so it is with my finances. When money is out of whack, I feel out of harmony. On the contrary, when we know where our money is going and those places are in alignment with our family goals, I feel good!
So those are my elements of harmony (we typically hear this as “balance” these days).
What are yours? Did any of that ring true for you too?
If you liked this post, please comment & share!
Attempting to achieve harmony without systems is futile. Listen to me as a recovering stubborn system refuser. I’ll be leading 10 women through a 90 day mastermind planning group where we will attempt I get all of that 👆🏻out of heart and into a plan. Join us, it will help you. It’s only for 90 days, what do you have to lose?
Several years ago I started listening to things other than music when I was working out. Weird, I know. That year was tough, so I needed all the help I could get. My dear friend sent over a podcast and implored me to listen. I’m going to link it here because it will definitely help you. It was so good I started listening to Steven Furtick every week. On one random leg day a guy named Craig Groeschel guest preached for Furtick.
I don’t remember what the topic was, but I promise you it was profound. How do I know? Because I have been listening religiously (pun intended) to Craig Groeschel ever since. For years. In fact, he’s my official lawn mowing sponsor.
That first time, though, I distinctly remember thinking, “How does he keep up at this pace for 45 minutes? That’s incredible.” I mean, the content was so good, his delivery so good, I didn’t understand how he could say it so fast. I mean, he was speaking so fast without messing up!
When I went to turn it off at the end I finally figured it out: I had inadvertently turned him to 1.5 speed. So, he was basically on fast forward! That made me feel better, but slightly less impressed if I’m being honest. 😉 (What does it say about my brain that I think fast is impressive, sigh. Time for self-reflection)
I learned, though, that day, the key to getting content in faster. Put them on 1.5 speed. You see, unlike other times, I was able to start and finish a podcast in one sitting. That was so important because:
Getting good stuff in my brain is necessary.
I could finish podcasts in 1 5k or 1 workout or 1 lawn mowing.
I like to finish things (and that never happens if it gets cut off with 10 minutes left.
My train of thought wasn’t jacked up if I did manage to make it back.
Fast forward a few years and I heard Pastor Groeschel say he listens to books in the same way! Well, isn’t that funny. When he is traveling or working out, he listens to audio books a little faster (1.5) speed so he can get more good stuff in his brain. That’s really important because a lot of us are relying on his stuffed-with-good-things brain to help us weekly and monthly.
So, there you have it. That’s the secret to getting more stuff in: 1.5 speed. It’s simple, but it’s not always obvious. It’s in the bottom left of your podcast window. Where it normally says 1 you can press and either speed it up and slow it down. You can also do this with YouTube videos y’all!
Tell us which books/podcasts you’ve listened to lately! We can all use help getting good stuff in.
PS: Disclaimer: Not everything needs to be on hyperspeed. Be smart y’all.
PPS: My Planning Mastermind starts next month. Check out what’s happening. You’ll notice I have listening to these things tied with another good habit. That makes both more likely to happen. Just like working out with a friend or eating popcorn when you watch a movie. 😉
One of my favorite songs to run to is Long Back Road by Electric Light Orchestra. Here’s the words that hit me every time.
You gotta get up in the morning take your heavy load
And you gotta keep goin’ down the long black road
It reminds me that the way we do life is a choice. That you have to choose, every morning, to take your heavy load and keep going.
This week one verse has kept coming to me. It was in a podcast Monday and in my regular reading today.
Take up your cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
That’s the Christian’s perspective on the long black road. Everyday, I wake up and I have a choice to make. A choice for Jesus. For me, my cross involves pouring into my family and having standards of love, grace and excellence for them all day long. That is REALLY hard and I fail daily, often. But I choose to work at it everyday.
My cross shows up in work. I’m called to stand out, to be different. I love that the companies I affiliate myself with also align with this principle of going overboard, of being excellent, of not stopping short. But, you know what? It’s a heavy load. It’s not easy, it takes real effort.
My cross also shows up in my daily travels to the grocery store or in traffic. My choice is to love others. Recently, I’ve been a bit overcome by the idea of seeing others the way Jesus would see them. It really has changed my perspective and attitude in many situations.
How does your cross show up daily? I think when we think about it in terms that it’s a directive and that it’s something we all have to do, it changes our perspective a bit. We’re not just waking up and letting the day get at us. No, we’re waking up ready to take up our cross and do the hard and worthy work.
When the Pastor who has built the largest church in the country from the ground up gives you very clear clues on how to make your own success, you listen.
When’s the last time you did something that required faith? That required you to depend on God or lean on God to get through it?
Personally, I know exactly when that is something I’m doing. It’s when you’ll hear me blaring Chris Tomlin in my radio. I have the physical need to sing out:
I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always on my side.
Yes, if you hear me belting that out it’s because I need an injection of faith for what I’m about to do.
On the secular side, jumping outside of your comfort zone is always worth it. Growth is always worth it. It doesn’t make it easy. And that first step can be terrifying.
But just think about what’s come next each time you did it?
Landing in the pool after jumping off the diving board.
Making a lifelong friendship that started with you awkwardly striking up a conversation
Getting the job after that sweaty-palmed interview.
I remember the first day I taught PIYO (choreographed fitness class). I was literally shaking in fear. That was new for me, I’m not normally nervous. Or maybe I had just got used to being in the comfort zone.
Teaching PIYO was one of the greatest gifts ever though! Some amazing friendships began in PIYO, the skills I developed, the muscles I toned. It was totally worth that first shaking, heart pounding step!
When you add the element of faith in to stepping outside of your comfort zone, it gets really interesting. While stepping outside of your comfort zone and doing something that requires complete and utter faith is scary, it’s also gold. That’s because on the flip side, your faith grows. It’s like this awesome cycle of…awesomeness. Hear. Do. Survive & thrive. Faith grown. Then, the next time you hear, you have a little bit more faith to take that leap. Before you know it you’re doing incredible things for GOD! You’ve gotten kind of used to living in faith rather than living in fear.
I’m here to tell you friends, it’s an addictive feeling. It’s exhilarating. It’s rewarding because you are growing as a human and in your relationship with God. You’re also confirming what you’re hearing from God which, oh by the way, also grows your faith.
Recently, a few things I’ve done that required faith have been:
Starting a new business career.
Moving across the country when I was totally and completely all set professionally, personally and family-ly.
A job interview.
Meeting with someone who would say yes or no to the vision I believed God had cast for my business.
Paying off all my debt.
Today I took another step. I spoke to a group of women about willpower. Now, I talk about willpower all the time. But this was different because it was a group of women I’d never met, a group of women who might not even care what I had to say. But, the vision God’s given me requires refining my speaking skills. And the doors have opened with little effort, even though I could’ve stood a little more delay. So here I am. Rather, there I was. Again doing something I wasn’t good at or comfortable doing.
But I did it anyway. Christy Wright says we should “Do it scared.” The bible puts it this way:
So, tell me, what can you do today that requires faith? It certainly doesn’t have to be public speaking. Maybe it means giving in on an argument you know you’re right about but you’re hearing you should probably just let go. Maybe it means talking to that person who you can tell is down even though you don’t know them and you’re afraid you’ll look like some kind of creepy stalker. Maybe it means tithing at church. Whatever it is for you, I challenge you to grow your faith by using it today.
I was listening to Pastor Steven Furtick’s message on Wednesday and it got me thinking (that’s the point, right?).
The message was about letting the dirt do the work. Regarding the parable of the growing seed, Pastor Steven explains that you should concentrate on doing your part while leaving the “how” of growing the seed to God.
Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. Mark 4:27 NLT
The farmer plants, waters and weeds. That’s his what. How the seed will grow he doesn’t understand-it does it while he’s asleep for goodness sake.
Now Pastor Steven’s message is waaaay waaaay more eye opening and interesting and mind blowing than that. Please go listen/watch.
However, it did get me thinking. If part of our what is the word, why not share how I do it?
That might seem to be counter to Pastor Steven’s message. But you see, no one sat me down and showed me “how to word.” I kind of learned little tidbits from here and from there. I’ll tell you exactly how I do it though, because I know it’s something others have a hard time with. Whether it’s because of schedule, because of awkwardness or because of other reasons, getting in routine with God’s word can be harder than it seems.
There are three main parts to my routine that I think are critical:
Do it first.
So, let’s break those down.
Do it first.
If you don’t read God’s word first in your day it’s probably not going to happen. It’s not like reading a book or working out that you can do with distractions. It’s intimate, there’s a lot of critical thinking involved. That requires your best attention and a quiet time.
Reading God’s word first in the day also helps you by setting the tone for the day. If you can start with something good, positive, inspiring, that calls you to a higher level of living at the beginning of your day, you’ll be able to use that as fuel as you continue throughout your day. It’s like a morning pep talk.
Personally I also believe that reading it first shows God he is your priority. It’s like a tithe of your time, first thing in the day. It’s you putting him first.
None of this means it has to take forever or you have to light candles or do anything super fancy. Don’t put qualifiers on it. Do what you can, where you can, how you can. The doing is the point. Your heart is what matters to God.
Being a life long learner and a journalist, I believe in reading and researching things for myself. I love to hear how a Pastor interprets and I need that guidance in my life. So much so that I listen to Life.Church and Elevation Church every week in addition to my own church where I listen every Sunday.
However, I believe it’s important for me to “fact check” by reading the word myself or at least going back and highlighting it in my own bible. I read what they mention and I read the word all on my own. I also started reading through my bible (because Pastor Craig told me to) this year according to my own plan. For some reason, using other people’s “Bible in a Year” plans was just too intimidating to me and I never stuck with it. My own plan is to read one chapter a day, one book at a time. I’ve been jumping all over just based on what I want to do next. I am checking the books off as I go. Reading the word for myself is making me more familiar, smarter and allowing God to speak to me uniquely. It’s also helping to cement it in my brain. I’m not the kind of person who can just hear something and really understand and learn it. I need the visual too. Which brings me to my next point.
As I mentioned, I am a life long learner (I have 2.5 degrees) and a journalist. Writing is not only a way for me to communicate, but it’s always been a study method for me. I wrote out notecards for everything. Not only because of repetition, but because writing things out physically helps my brain remember them. Writing out verses helps me remember them, helps them get in my brain and my heart. Even if that’s not long term, it’s definitely a short term burst of deeper connection to God’s word that has made a difference in my life.
The verse is not the only thing I write out however.
SOAP is a method many folks use to really get a little more out of reading their bible. It stands for Scripture, Observation, Application & Prayer. So I begin my day by reading the word. Whichever verse sticks out to me, I write it out for the S. These verses come from either my own reading or a verse from a Bible App devotional I’m doing. I actually just started really trying to remember to write down the actual verse data (book, chapter, verse) so I can maybe someday be like those awesome people that remembers all that stuff. For now, remembering to write it down is the first step.
From there, I write out what I think the verse is saying or something that struck me about the verse. It’s important not to get stuck behind perfectionism here. Anything the word speaks to you is great to write down. You don’t have to be Billy Graham. There is no wrong answer.
Once you write down your observation, next you want to write down the application. How can you put what you’ve just observed into practice in your daily life?
Finally, pray about. Pray about the word, what you’ve learned and applying it.
It’s that simple. As you do it, you will get more comfortable and you’ll find a rhythm that works for you. Somedays everything I write is one line, some days it’s way longer. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re on purpose seeking to be close to God and allowing His word to get into our hearts and do it’s work. That’s the cool part. You’re doing the what here. He takes care of the how. We don’t understand it, but once that word is in there, God grows it, transforms it, just like the parable of the growing seed.
Here are a few examples from my journaling just to get you started. That’s the kind of person I am, I need exact examples and templates. Once I have that, I can tweak it to my own preferences. So, even though it’s a little scary, I’ll share with you:
Scripture: God put me to work from the day I was born. The moment I entered the world he names me. He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me. He made me his straight arrow and hid me in his quiver. He said to me, “You’re my dear servant, Israel, through whom I’ll shine. (Is 49:1-3 MSG)
Observation: God has been working on me since I was born, my words are from him.
Application: Stay in tune with God so I can keep doing his will and his light will shine through.
Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for calling me by names and that you had words for me since I was born. Help me to stay in tune with you word.
Scripture: 2 Cor 12: 7-10. To keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh…God said, “My grace is all you need, my power works best in weakness,” …when I am weak, I am strong.
Observation: Weakness makes room for God. It allows God to get glory & proves faith & gives supernatural strength.
Application: Accept my weaknesses, lean even more on God when they rear up.
Dear God, thank you for my weaknesses and for giving me grace. I have felt it, I need it and it keeps me going. Thank you that I am plugged into my power source: you. Keep me running. In Jesus name, Amen.
Scripture: The seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted.
Observation: This is a promise from God. He has already done this in my life.
Application: Be good soil: honest, good hearted, cling to God’s word.
Prayer: Father, thank you for showing me this promise. The abundance in my life is proof of this promise. It amazes me what you can do with a little. The little I have. Even this week, you have made me very successful (business) and all I did was obediently stick with it. I look forward to recognizing this promise more. In Jesus name, Amen.
I hope you see with this that it’s not super theological. I leave that for Sundays. This is just me and God’s word. Whatever comes of it, comes of it. The most important part is to just do it.
I love the Dixie Chicks. I know they’re controversial, but I fell for them well before all of that nonsense. They have this song called “Sin Wagon.” It inspires the name of this idea. The idea is simple: turn your car into a jukebox of positivity. Relegate all noise coming out of the car speakers to something that makes you feel happy, that is uplifting, that makes you feel like singing and dancing. I play my favorite praise songs so much that my 3-year-old knows them all by heart now. That’s a long way coming from a girl who realized her 4-year-old knew the words to S&M by Rihanna. Oops.
Pastor Steven Furtick did a series on Functional Faith which I loved (duh, I’m also a personal trainer!) and this is a method, to me, that puts my faith into action. This method helps to inject a little joy, keep you in a state of positivity and hopefully praise and thankfulness. It’s an easy discipline to put into practice and you’ll find that it helps at those times you need most. If you’re taking the kids to the carpool, there’s a slight possibility the rush out the door or the waiting in line brings non-joy-sparking feelings. Am I right? That’s why we turn the car into a praise wagon. To reset that mood. Or maybe you’re commuting from work. We all know how relaxing and peaceful that is. NOT! But, turning your car into a praise wagon is one way to make it more enjoyable. Plus, it’s slightly harder to flip someone off if your stereo is saying “Jesus” or even if Taylor Swift is loudly commanding you to shake it off.
Personally, I know sometimes I’m just grumpy. I’m like that Jodi Messina song, “I just want to be mad for awhile.” But, if I can just force myself to turn something positive on, and believe me sometimes that’s really hard, it’s crazy how dramatically my mood can shift. Everyone benefits too. I’m just a nicer person, mom, wife and driver on the road.
Do you have a praise wagon? How about a praise playlist? Here’s two of mine, Christian version and secular. What songs would be on yours? I love new music!
When you need to turn that mood around, use the praise wagon concept!
Just wanted to share a cute moment. Today Ayla discovered a photo had come off of her sister’s collage that was in the car for some reason.
I am SO excited about this week’s Fierce Faith Friiiiday! I got the inspiration for it on Wednesday, wrote it down then lost it. Guess what? The parable the idea comes from just happened to come up in my reading today. Oh God, you’re so good like that.
So, without further ado: What’s in your sack?
In Matthew 25, Jesus gives us the parable of the talents. Basically, the master gives his three servants bags of silver, all different amounts, in proportion to their abilities. Then he goes away and we see how the servants do. One invests his large amount and doubles it. The other invests his medium amount and doubles it as well. The last servant dug a hole in the ground and hid the silver because he was afraid he would lose it and because he was afraid of the consequences. The master’s super excited about the work the first two servants has done and gives them praise and more responsibilities. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work out so well for the other guy.
You know the moral of the story right? You should be using what you’ve been given as an investment! What does that look like for you?
What has God put in your sack? What’s your silver? We are each uniquely designed with certain abilities. What are yours? Identifying what’s in your sack is the first step!
Sometimes it’s hard to figure this part out. If that’s the case, I want you to ask those around your what they think you’re unique good at. Or ask yourself what it is people are always coming to you for or asking your advice about. You’ll find some clues.
*Or* if you’re like me you might know what you’re good at, you just fight it. You might struggle with feelings of inadequacy or feeling unqualified (Who-Am-I syndrome.) You might also be afraid to step out. So you act like you don’t know what’s in your sack or you confuse yourself about what’s in your sack. But you have a duty to use what’s in your sack, not to bury your sack in the ground because you’re afraid. God gave you whatever’s in your sack on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. We, the world, need what is in your sack.
Your abilities come with responsibilities. That sack has consequences that can be good or bad. This parable concludes with a serious call to action:
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. M25:29
Are you using what’s in your sack? What’s so awesome about this is that the sack that never ends. God filled it up and is waiting for you to use it. But, read that last line! Once you start using it, it just breeds into more and more. Abundance. More is given to you! Your sack will overfloweth y’all!
I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes from a lesser book but one I love.
“We need smart people with huge hearts and creative minds to manifest all the wealth, resources, and support they need to make their difference in the world.”
Jen Sincero is speaking that bible verse in You Are A Bada$$ and she doesn’t even know it. The idea is this: imagine if everyone in the world was walking around using what’s in their sack? What would that world look like? Jen’s quote speaks to the same end as what Jesus is calling us too, just without the weight of eternity, which is kind of a big deal.
You are a smart person. Whatever is in your sack is your unique gift from God and it’s your duty to invest it in the world and hey! The how is your way of being creative. Then you get more (#abundance). Who doesn’t want abundance?
I’ll tell you it can be a little scary. When you step out on faith and start really using what’s in your sack, you will see this truth manifest in your life. Things will flow, opportunities will come. Your sack will runneth over! You might be overwhelmed but just remember that’s God’s plan. He gives us just what we can handle to our ability and then keeps adding as our abilities grow. You know, you were created for such a time as this.
So. Start by figuring out what’s in your sack. Then get about the business of investing it in this world! Then take note when God gives you more and continue to invest that too!