The Secret to Satisfying Your 2017 Life Goals [with God]

I received a new pair of running shoes for Christmas. Not the cheapos– the certifiable kind from an authentic running store for athletes. Game on, 2017! The truth is I’ve been running for years. I’ve trained and ran races, mostly with ease, until last year. My last race was less than desirable. And I had a hunch it was time to consider good, quality shoes to accommodate my stAGE of life.

The gym is crazy cakes these days. Open treadmill’s are few and far between. I get it though. It’s a new year and everyone’s got the resolve to make a change, do things different…probably due to that stAGE of life thing. I’m with ya. Gonna try some new running goals, change it up a bit.

It’s no secret I’m also running this fierce race of life with a different set of achievement in mind. We can talk running races on dirt and pavement and mills all day long, but really, truth is, my heart and mind and soul are running for a way different prize. And it’s all about intimacy with God. My life’s race is really about cultivating a deeper, stronger relationship with God.

This is my goal. The prize is contentment.

I think a few of you want this too. A real certifiable relationship with God. And you’d like to start running the fierce race of life equipped with the quality of God by your side. Hear my heart and understand that I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT BEING A RELIGIOUS PERSON [a common misconception when the world sees someone crazy cakes about the things of God] — the notion that we “do” all the right things; be kind, love a little, go to church because of a duty to follow these so called rules. But that is NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking about igniting your personal desire to know God more. This is about finding food that will satisfy every single one of your resolutions – a daily nourishment for our soul that only God can provide. Something I believe can only be found by devoting ourselves to a secret life with God. It’s about forming a habit each day to live worshipfully before God, reading the stories contained in the Word, and praying fervently.

This is the secret to a satisfying 2017. A good goal, in my opinion, to running a good race. A different race.

And don’t think the world won’t notice. The transformation comes…in time. If you want to go out and change the world, you’ve got to devote yourself to the inner life, first. How can we expect to export life giving resources if there’s no import?

Don’t know where to start? The book Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge paired with the Bible (I read from the New International Version and The Message version) and a little quiet time is my recommendation. Sorge’s devotional book has 52 chapters (one per week) and is a great guide to get you going. You can get a copy here. 

Game on, 2017!

When Joy Feels Like You Nailed It, Again!

Have you ever attempted one of those Pinterest prized creations? You just saw the most awesome creation, it looks super easy, your confidence soars to great heights, you tackle the task…and then there’s a moment (perhaps a blackout) when you suddenly realize that your great elaborate plan of Pinterest perfection has completely failed. You don’t know how you got here but your huddled in the corner covered in flour, burned from the glue gun or bandaging a wound.

 

 

Nailed it, again!

I’m convinced Joy is a lot like a Pinterest prized creation. We can see it, oh yes, in all it’s prize and glory. But whenever we set out to make it our own something usually goes terribly wrong, another failed attempt.

Before we head for the lofty hills of attaining Joy, once again, let us consider a few of these truths:

The truth about Joy is that it’s a gift from God. It was already created (whew, pressures off) and yeah, it’s pretty much already perfect. While this Joy gift in all its 100% perfection remains in Heaven, we can still receive it here on earth because the Father gives good gifts to his children. Namely, Jesus, the reason for the season. A gift to us. He came and died and rose again so that because of our connection (belief) in Him and all things eternal we too can have full access to Pinterest parade of Joy.

But first we need to receive it and say thanks for the gift of Joy. Think of it as being placed on your tongue like a piece of dark chocolate, let it coat your insides and satisfy your belly.

Now I know what your thinking. Ha. That’s real nice. I get it. Yeah, I’ll receive it but the second I turn around, bam! The irritating circumstance or the pain of loss or the fear of what’s ahead…none of that has changed. How can I keep the Joy in my heart when it constantly feels like its being ripped away from me?

Here’s the thing: the tension of fully receiving Joy is a beneath the soil understanding that it’s possible to have both (joy and sorrow) at the same time. It’s possible because the Bible tells us so. He (Jesus, the Joy giver) was a man of many sorrows, familiar with suffering, but because of the Joy set before him he endured the cross.

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see it.” -Ann Voskamp

See the gift. Receive it and say thanks. Breathe, believe and live.

5 Great Books to Boost Your Spiritual Energy This Christmas

Waiting is hard, especially when we are in a hurry. It feels like we’re always scrambling, especially during the Christmas season. We often feel more depleted, tired and totally worn out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve discovered that one of the greatest resources of replenishment is a few moments of quiet each day. A hard habit to form, indeed, but once you’ve pushed through the threshold of resistance…the rewards are spectacular, full of life renewed.

So, do yourself a favor this Christmas and give yourself the gift of quiet time, space to remember and dwell on God’s goodness to YOU. Reflecting, thanking and laying low are wholesome ingredients. Some of the best gifts are worth fighting for, doncha’ know!

This Advent, as you prepare to give yourself the gift of solitude, consider one of these 5 great books to help you boost your spiritual energy.

 

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I’ve listed them for your personal preview. Click on the links below to preview and order the book that best suits you. Blessings & peace this holiday season. xo

1.) Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camely

2.) A Moment of Christmas: Devotions for Time-strapped Moms by Anna Rendell

3.) The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

4.) 25 Days of Christmas: A Devotional for Incredibly Busy People by Ray Hollenbach

5.) 10 Days of Christmas: A Baker’s Advent Devotional by Rachel Britz

 

How To Change the World This Thanksgiving With Pumpkin Pie

One thing you might not know about me is that I spent 7 years working in residential property management. A season in my early adult life that I regard with great fondness. It was hard work. But I was young and ambitious and a single mom with a mouth to feed. I climbed the ladder in a few short years and acquired the management position to lead a new development project – 130 units in the suburbs of Minneapolis. While the property was high-end luxury, a certain percentage of the units were reserved for low income families. The model was a relatively new [at the time] tax incentive for development investors. In reality it was a co-mingling of social and economic classes. A test, of sorts. And my property would be a guinea pig.

The year was 2000. I scrambled all year long to market, promote and lease up those apartment units. I even picked one for myself [and my daughter] and moved in. By the end of August we neared 100% occupancy. The low-income units, mostly three bedrooms to accommodate larger families, were the first to get gobbled up. Somehow, in the rapid lease-up process, a large community of Somalian refugees learned of our availability, applied for housing, and settled for a beautiful, brand new apartment in the burbs. I was pleased with the success of that work and was ready to get into the groove of more normal managerial duties.

Not so.

As the first of September rolled around, I received a slightly panicked phone call. It was the elementary school’s principle. In two short weeks over 100 children, new to the district, registered for class. Most of the students were of Somalian decent, and the school was not prepared to offer ESL to this many students mere days before the start of a new school year.

This launched a completely new and unexpected campaign, for me. I called it the The Foundation.  [Because one night I was awoken from my sleep, deeply moved with a thought or dream or vision that had me huddled on the bathroom floor with my Bible. There was a terrible impression that I was being asked to “build a foundation for the children.” This, of course, was well before I really understood the way in which God can and does speak through dreams. All I knew was that I needed to put a plan into action.] So, the very next day, I began. To my surprise all these civic and religious groups came out of the woodwork with resources and programs and money. The school district, the city, the police department and two local churches. We collaborated and united for the children. Before long a full running after school program was in place. The children, many of whom had stolen my heart, were happy.

Little did I know, at the time, the ripple effect this little lease up project would have on an entire city.

Then, 9/11. 

The atmosphere changed in a blink. So much fear. So much uncertainty. So much grief. So much anger. Suddenly, our quaint community filled with a rainbow of nations, colors, and classes seemed to echo the same question-cry through untold, glossy eyed stares: Are we safe here?

In the weeks that followed, putting on a confident smile was like worming into a pair of jeans with wet legs. Not easy. Everyone who lived in the apartments felt like an extended family member, to me. I cared deeply for all of them. And I wanted to reassure all of them that we were going to be ok.

 

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The week of Thanksgiving, 2001 was special, for so many reasons. America was grieving. And yet there was more unity than ever before. On the eve of Thanksgiving I remember preparing several pies to bring to my family gathering a few hours away. As I mixed the ingredients and poured batter into formed shells, one family, a single woman with five children kept coming to mind. She lived down the hall from me. She was a Somalian refuge, and someone I’d felt a special tug to nurture during her cultural transition. My heart had come to adore each of her bright smiling children. As I placed each pie into the oven I thought about the recent events in my nation and wondered too about the events she’d witnessed in her own.

In a blink I felt so much connection. So much love. I knew just what to do.

“Thankfulness is not some magic formula; it is the language of Love, which enables you to communicate intimately…” -Sarah Young

I rose early the next morning and delivered one Pumpkin pie with a note that read, “Happy Thanksgiving!” And something about America and you are welcome and blessed to be here.

When I returned to my office the following week I found one empty pie plate, traced with a few crumbs, sitting on my desk. Perfectly empty. I smiled.

Empty never felt so full.~

 

[Note: I’ve always wondered what ever happened to The Foundation. Do they still offer programs for the children? Two years ago, while traveling through these old stomping grounds, curiosity got the best of me and I stopped in at the rental office. I introduced myself to the manager and asked about the program. “Oh yes,” she said “the program is very much still running.” ]
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One Idea That Trumps Fear & Moving On

I made a terrible mistake. I realize it now. But November 9th got the best of me. While I wanted to remain silent, barring the frenzy which took to the streets of social media, the encourager in me felt the dire need to just say something. So, less than 12 hours after the official declaration of America’s next President I posted this:

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I do believe that most people live in dark places…hurting places, hard places, stuck places. And I do believe that those who carry the torch of God’s love and light have a responsibility to use it wisely, be bold, and pass it on. Now more than ever.

I made the post and moved #onward.

At least I tried. But I didn’t get very far because the cries of nation in mourning are like a baby wailing in the night. It’s not long before exhaustion sets in and the hunger for an ounce of peace and quiet cause normal people to do crazy things. So, I’ve stayed awake, vigilant, listening to broken hearts, terror filled lungs screaming bloody murder, seething anger, and bitter mockery. I rock in my chair, hoping for peace and calm, but the cries don’t cease.

Over the weekend it hit me!

This is full onset grief.

OUR NATION IS LARGELY GRIEVING.

Grief; a familiar cousin, a business partner. I know this grief well. I’ve observed it, studied it, and held its firm hand. But somehow, perhaps due to its seismic proportions (too grand), I missed seeing it for what it truly has become. Which is why, now, I’m regretting the notion that moving #onward was / is appropriate for such a time as this.

It’s a classic response to someone in pain: Move on!

Who tells the young widow in her grief to move on?

Who tells the parent of a wayward child to move on?

Who tells the African American in their frustration to just move on?

It’s a horrible response to someone in pain. And I know better. I’m sorry.

For reasons I’ll explain I have somehow remained quite calm during this election cycle. Mostly unshaken. Not unlike previous elections where my emotional thermometer has spiked record highs. It’s odd to me, this state I’m in. I’ve spent some time internalizing why it’s different for me this time and I’ve concluded the following:

I chose to unplug. Long ago I disconnected from the barrage of media. That’s not to say I’ve been living with my head under a rock. It’s only to say that I choose when and where to gather my information (and please, for those who care, it is my strong opinion that information gathering ought to be sought from multiple sources; leaning and swaying, including and opposing my internal beliefs. Why? Because balance is best obtained when both sides of the scale have been put under pressure.)

I chose to go inward. For me, I need to turn my mind and my spirit inward otherwise fear and anxiety will tear me apart. I’ve learned that if there is fear or anger or hatred beneath my chest, I must discover the root. Meditation on God’s word is where I choose to bring those fleshly battles.

Meditation; the art of reading, speaking out loud, and reflecting upon written love and law quips my heart with a hope on things eternal.

Inward is becoming a lost art in our busy, media laden world. I know, I know that we ought to use our voices to speak out against the injustices of the world. Wholeheartedly, yes! But not without proper preparation. Would you want a med student with a desire and passion to heal heart disease without any training or first hand guidance to perform your heart surgery? Heck no! If we want to see peace come to pass out there…we must come to first discover it within.

There will come a time for each one of us to move #onward.  

Suggesting movement is natural. Especially when get too close to another person’s raw pain. We want an exit plan…and fast. So we push and hustle to hurry things along. But that’s not how it works. Grief is mysterious, taking on a life of it’s own. Time can heal. But my time is mine. Your time is yours. If God is working everything out for good in each one of us…then we must let go of our agenda and timetable and only trust that he is working it all out for each one of us uniquely.

But first we must move #inward.

Let us fight to find a quiet place today. Turn off the radio. Buckle ourself into contemplation and listen, really listen. Write out those fears. Write and write until the ink runs dry. Pour it all out. Weep and weep and pour it all out. Stay here for as long as it takes. Don’t take to the streets. Stay here, just stay here ’till the preparation of peace has been placed upon our feet.

Then, my friend, may we consider a posture of compassion. Then, my friend, may we rise. Straight. Equipped to bear another’s burden. A posture of no fear. A trembling in our core that the heartbeat of hope is still very much alive.

 
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