Leaving Our Kingdoms Behind

Gina Butz faith, growth, identity 0 Comments

Leaving Our Kingdoms Behind

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

I heard once that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God more than anything else. More than love, or the resurrection, or peace. Why?

Recently, my mind has been fixed on the kingdom. Or rather, my kingdom vs The Kingdom.

I know that there exists a kingdom of my own making. You have one too. It’s in our nature, to build a world for ourselves, to find what Buechner calls, “our place in the sun.”

I also know that we need to leave our kingdoms behind.Twitter

I’ve been in a slow process of doing so for many years. God started it. He always does. We aren’t meant to live in our own self-made domains. He loves us too much to let us live there.

But what do I mean by this kingdom creating? I mean the systems we create to provide for ourselves, to protect us from pain, to find love and belonging.

Our kingdoms have rules and values, ways of operating. And unfortunately, they usually run counter to the uppercase Kingdom.

That’s where we get in trouble.

The Trouble With Our Kingdoms

See, in Gina’s kingdom, I take care of myself. I do a pretty good job of taking care of others too. I perform to, or even exceed, the expectations of others. My reward is admiration and recognition, which kind of feels like love.

If you bump up against my kingdom, you might feel the pressure to live up to those expectations too. If I’m too wrapped up in my world, it might be hard for me to notice if you’re doing ok-after all, I don’t expect others to pay attention to my emotional well-being either.

But in God’s Kingdom, there’s no taking care of self, because it is prideful.  There, perfect love drives out the fear that He won’t show up for me. In His way of living, there is no striving, only resting, when it comes to finding worth. There aren’t expectations on performance, just a hope that we will live gladly and purposefully in light of His love.

The troubles we encounter in life often center around the places where we expect others, including God, to live by our kingdom rules.

If the banner of my little self-made land is performance, but your world is focused on everyone being positive and having fun, and someone else’s dominion is ruled by order and perfection, and on and on, well, you can see where we might all have trouble living in peace with one another. Because deep down, we all think our dominion is the right one and the best one.

After a while, they aren’t kingdoms anymore: they’re prisons.

And our kingdoms need to crumble.

Letting Our Kingdoms Crumble
Jesus talked about the Kingdom so much because He knew we would try to make our own, and they would be lousy places to live.Twitter

He knew we would resist living in that true place He offers, so He wanted to give us a solid picture of His vs ours. He won’t stop until we live there.

The good news is that we are citizens of a new Kingdom.

We have a choice. I believe it’s the choice Jesus was talking about when he said to take up our crosses daily and follow Him. Each day, we choose to walk away from our kingdoms, the rules and expectations we impose on ourselves and others, and to walk in a new way.

We stop believing God should act according to our kingdom rules and we surrender to the life-giving freedom of His.

To do so requires humility. It requires a willingness to believe that maybe our best efforts are simply that-our efforts-and maybe there’s another way to live. For our worlds to fall away, we have to surrender.

When we seek His kingdom first, He tells us that everything else falls into place. We can live in peace with our neighbors, because we’re all actually in the same dominion now, not warring against one another.

So we ask God, “Where am I still trying to make this kingdom work for me? Where am I not living by your way but my own?” And then we raise the white flag.

The good news, God is patient, and He is relentless. The Kingdom He has built for us is always there, waiting for us to lay down our defenses and rest in Him.

 

related posts:

Do You Know Your Real Name?

Drop the Hot Dog: Learning to Feed on What Truly Satisfies

A Story of Two Houses 

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The Insidiousness of “Busy”

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

The Insidiousness of "Busy"

Photo by Karen Lau on Unsplash

“I know you’re busy, but . . .”

If I had a dollar for every time someone prefaced an invitation to me with this phrase, I could quit my job and live a life of leisure.

Reality? Sometimes when someone says that to me, it’s simply not true. After hitting a wall last year, I have fought hard to eliminate hurry from my life. Is it full? Yes. Is it too full? Thankfully, most of the time, no.

But here’s the thing: when someone says that, it triggers something in me. It probably triggers something in all of us. Something that doesn’t feed anything good.

That word infers value. It implies that we’re in demand. We like to be in demand, don’t we? While we might tire of our overscheduled lives, there’s a reason we keep doing it.

That word reinforces our tendency to overschedule, overwork, overdo. It doesn’t invite us to freedom. In fact, it subtly tells us, “You should be busy. That’s how we do it around here.”

It also diminishes the speaker. “I’m probably not as important as everything you have going on.” There’s an unconscious out we give people in such a statement that says, “Your busy life can trump me.”

That word limits us. If I am busy when someone makes that statement, they’ve just justified me overdoing it. If I’m not, they’ve implied I should be. There’s no freedom to rest, no invitation to slow down.

Busyness is a cultural expectation. How often do you hear someone say, in response to an inquiry about how they’re doing, “Yeah, you know, we’re really busy!”

We say it with a smile and a shrug, like, “What can we do?”As though it’s something that happened to us, rather than something we’ve chosen. We say we don’t like it, but we continue to agree to it.

And it’s killing us.

How Busy Hurts Us

Busy undermines our ability to live well. All throughout scripture, God calls us to be people of rest, people who love others well, people who live in peace and joy. How do we do that when we barely have space to breathe?

Busy keeps us isolated, ironically. While we might encounter people in all our activities, rarely are there places where we sit and live slowly, deeply, intentionally with others. It’s sports practice or business dinners, church functions or birthday parties. Fun? Usually. Restful? Rarely.

The word itself, when we speak it over one another, keeps our eyes fixed on the wrong things. It tells us to value that which the world values. It reinforces that our worth comes from our productivity. We fear slowing down means we’ll miss out. It keeps us on an exhausting ride.

So What Should We Do?

I realize there will always be seasons of busyness for each of us. What we must guard against is them becoming continuous seasons. When a season of busyness simply leads to another season of busyness, then what you have is not seasons: it’s a climate.Twitter

We lived in Singapore for 5 years. It’s one degree off the equator. When the daytime temp doesn’t shift more than about 5 degrees the whole year around, you lose a sense of time. You become acclimatized. It wasn’t until people came to visit us and complained of the heat and humidity that we were reminded of the climate in which we lived.

When we keep using this word busy in our vocabulary, we become acclimatized. I wonder if we even know what it feels like to not be so driven.

We must fight to keep “busy” from defining our lives.Twitter It is a choice to be busy. And it’s a hard choice not to be.

To not embrace it means to say no, often to good things. We have to face FOMO. Maybe we miss out on something important.

Or maybe we realize it wasn’t as important as we thought.

It can begin with us eliminating this word from our vocabulary. Certainly, let’s stop speaking it over one another. You don’t know I’m busy. I don’t know that you are.

And even if we are, we don’t need others to encourage us to stay in it. We need to invite each other to step away from it.

Let’s Slow Down

What if our answer to, “how are you doing?” didn’t include the word, “busy” anymore? What if instead, we could say, “We’re in a slow season right now. It feels good.” Or at least, “We’re trying to slow down.” Can you imagine?

We were never meant to live as the world lives. In this aspect, in particular, we have an opportunity right now to live counter-culturally.

May we be people who live slowly, deliberately. God, make us people who rest well and love well. May we live just to the limits you give us, not beyond.

 

Related posts:

Learning to Walk (at an Unhurried Pace)

Choosing Slow

When You’re Starting the Week Weary

Warning: Don’t Forget to Breathe

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Rediscovering the ACTS prayer

Gina Butz gratitude, prayer, Uncategorized 0 Comments

Rediscovering ACTS prayer

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

Raise your hand if, somewhere along the way, you learned the ACTS prayer?

If you aren’t familiar with it, this acronym stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. (because who doesn’t call prayer requests, “supplication?” As in, “I’m supplicating for you.” I’m going to start saying this).

Whether intended or not, (and I’m sure it wasn’t), the first three felt to me like some sort of payment.

Like I didn’t have a right to ask anything unless I had duly praised God first. Throw in some confession for good measure. And just in case He wasn’t placated, I should thank Him for a few things.

Then, and only then, could I ask for something.

I always wondered if I’d done enough of the first three to warrant the fourth, or if God was looking at me with my favorite emoji face, one eyebrow flat, the other raised, “Really, Gina? You think that’s enough?”

Honestly, it discouraged me from praying. Too much work.

Along the way, I suppose I realized that’s NOT how prayer works, and I became more comfortable just asking.

But lately, I’ve been rediscovering the value of ACTS prayer.

Rediscovering ACTS prayer

It started one morning when I woke with a prayer heavy on my heart. I was tempted to dive straight into my request, but instead, I wrote in my journal, “Who is God?”

In light of this situation, who is He? How does He see it? What can He do?

I wrote, “He is good, compassionate, able. In the past, He has been faithful. He will be faithful again. None of this is unknown to Him. He plans to use all of it, not only in my life but in the lives of everyone around me. Wisdom and patience pour from Him.”

As I dwelt on these things, the weight lifted. And, I became acutely aware of the anxiety I was carrying, the ways I hoped to manipulate the situation. The most natural thing to do was confess that, something much easier to do in light of God’s goodness to me.

Buoyed by seeing Him, and being right with Him, I found myself thanking Him for the anticipated path I saw this situation taking. Gratitude for the answer I knew He would provide, even if it wasn’t what I might think I want.

When I finally got around to actually bringing my request to God, it came from such a different place. I felt full of faith and hope-such a stark contrast to how I began.

How ACTS changes us

Yes, God deserves our praise. For all He is, this should be our first and more frequent posture toward Him.

But adoration does something in us too. It reminds us of what is true: about Him, about us, about our circumstances. Worship is like dusting off the window so we can see life clearly again and move in the right direction, toward Him. Twitter We see what is most true.

And in light of who He is, I see myself rightly. I see how I have tried to be God in this situation. My soul needs to be purged of that untruth. Confession sets things right in us, lets us off the hook as savior of our worlds.Twitter

Gratitude flows from hearts that anticipate His goodness, even before we lay our requests before Him. When our lenses are filled with more of Him and less of us, it makes sense to thank Him for what He will do.Twitter

At that point, supplication (seriously, can we make this a thing?: “I’ve been supplicating for you!”) becomes almost an afterthought.

So I’ve been doing this more regularly lately. Not paying my dues, but changing my heart and mind back to where they belong. Redirecting my prayers not to earn an answer but to be confident in it. Making my focus not an outcome but a connection with Him.

 

Related posts:

Why Pray?

What God Doesn’t Need Us to Tell Him 

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God’s Long Term Growth Project

Gina Butz faith, growth 0 Comments

God's Long Term Growth Project

Photo by Mariona Campmany on Unsplash

When I was about 20 years old, I thought, “I feel like God’s done a lot in me. I don’t know that there’s much else He wants to change. I think I’m pretty much done.” Like for REAL, I thought this.

And the Lord, in His mercy, chose not to strike me down.

Decades later (has it really been decades?), I am more than aware that I was not done then, and I’m still far from it now. God continues His work in me.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might remember my yellow coffee table. When we first had it custom made overseas, it came to us traffic sign yellow (not what I ordered).

Some might have looked at that table and said, “Good enough.” But I believed under all that eye-blinding yellow, my real coffee table existed.

So I sanded it down.

Better.

Three months later, I sanded it down again.

Still not quite there though.

So, a few months later, I tried again. When my daughter witnessed me doing it, she asked me why. “Because this is what I do now. This is my life. I sand this table for a living.”

Actually, I did it because I had a vision of something greater.

(Truth be told, in the end, I stripped it completely. It’s white now. Sometimes we need a complete overhaul).

The whole process causes me to think about the process of growth in our lives. It’s easy to look at the surface and think, “Yep. Good enough!” But God has a bigger vision for us.

God’s Bigger Vision for Our Growth

That vision involves a lot of stripping and sanding and polishing to get to what is underneath.

He knows our layers, what lies beneath, where the real stuff is. He won’t stop until He is satisfied that we are the way we are meant to be.

It’s a long process. Tiring. Baffling. So often I want say, “Good enough, God. This is good enough. No need to keep working.”

But He does. And what it’s reminding me today is that He is faithful. He will never stop working on us, bringing us closer to Him, molding us in His image.

His ways are higher and bigger and better than what I can see. He sees what lies beneath, the layers of our hearts that even we don’t know. He is determined to reveal every part of us.

God is relentless. He never gives up on us. He doesn’t settle for “good enough” or “close enough.” What He began in us He will complete.

And He is patient. However long it takes, however much it takes, He will fulfill His promises to us and in us. We are his long term project.

“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

 

Related posts:

Seeing the Growth

Redeemed . . . or DIYing Again

 

When Weeping Is Prayer

Gina Butz emotions, grief, prayer 7 Comments

When Weeping Is Prayer

Photo by Kwayne Jnr on Unsplash

I read about a family whose 6-year-old twin boys and 9-year-old daughter died while waiting for a bus. I started to pray for the family in their loss, but all I could do was cry. No words.

It’s not the first time. So often, the weight of the needs around me feels too much to put into prayer. Tragedy in our country. A tough diagnosis. A friend’s child’s struggles. My child’s struggles.

Recently, my own work felt overwhelming, and Jesus whispered to me to stop and pray. When I did, tears came instead.

But maybe that is prayer.

Because isn’t prayer about honesty? Isn’t it touching the heart of God? And doesn’t God weep with us?

Prayer is a conversation. He invites, we respond. We come, He listens. And in it, we bring our hearts.

Sometimes maybe the way we love best is not with words, but with emotion. We step into others’ reality. Allow their pain to become ours.

Or we step into our own reality. We allow our pain to show. We let ourselves feel. Our hearts come to the surface, and we let Jesus touch them. We let them be caught and held by the Savior.

After all, that’s what Jesus did. He stepped into our reality. He embraced our humanity. Allowed our pain to become His, to the point of death.

God Weeps with Us

And He does it day after day. He is not the God who stands at a distance., but the One who watches for the prodigal. When He sees him He scoops up His robes and goes running.

He is the God who bears witness to all the pain of the world, even that which others do not know. Closer than a heartbeat, He is El Roi, the God who sees.

He is the God who collects our tears in a bottle, who hears every sigh and sees every longing. What He hopes for from us, more than our words, is our hearts.

There is an aversion in our culture to enter pain. We stand at a distance and pray, but our prayer is more, “God may that never happen to me,” than, “God this is ours to bear together.”

Or, when the hurt is ours, the prayer is, “God make this go away so I don’t have to feel it” rather than “God here is my heart, please hold me in the midst of the battle.”

What Our Weeping Says

There is a difference between weeping from despair, and tears of honesty. The latter is brave-letting ourselves feel our humanity while we face reality before the One who alone can bring redemption of all that is broken.

So I’m learning to let tears be part of my prayer. When they are for others, they are tears that say, “I do not want to stand at a distance from this.” I want to stand alongside them, where Jesus is. Most likely, someday I will need someone else to cry prayers for me.

And when they are for myself, the tears say, “Thank you, Jesus, that you cherish my heart. You do not expect me to go through this alone, but invite me to give it all to you.” They are tears of relief, of surrender.

May we allow weeping to be part of how we communicate with God. May our tears be our prayer, an honest, dependent cry to the One who understands it all.

 

Related posts:

The Challenge to Rejoice and Weep with Others

What God Doesn’t Need Us to Tell Him 

What to Do When It’s Hard 

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Why I Don’t Have a Word of the Year for 2019

Gina Butz growth, personal, word of the year 1 Comment

Why I Don't Have a Word of the Year for 2019

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

2013 was the first year I chose one word for my resolutions. It seemed simpler-one focus rather than a dozen soon to be abandoned goals. It went pretty well.

I chose one word subsequent years as well. Over time, though, I realized something. During those years, God brought other lessons into my life, unrelated to those words. And it’s hardly my place to say, “Um, excuse me? I’m focused on this ONE THING right now. Come back later.”

Those lessons weren’t short ones, either. Or necessarily new ones. In fact, the same lessons keep coming up over and over. To the point where I get discouraged and say, “God, didn’t we cover this material already? Did I fail the first time? How many times are we going over this?”

Turns out we go over it until we learn it.

What I’m Doing Instead of One Word

So this year I decided: no need to search for a new word. I just need to keep visiting the old ones. Who knows, maybe they’re my lessons for life? I keep learning till I die? Here’s hoping I’m not quite that slow a learner.

And in the interest of authenticity and encouragement and general self-disclosure, I’m going to share those lessons with you. They’ll probably be familiar to you (they could also be titled, “The Themes of Gina’s Blog in the Past Five Years”). I hope they might spur your own Life Lesson List.

  1. Slow Down

    Whenever I think I’ve slowed my life down, God points out a way that it could be even slower. Pretty soon I might be going backward. But He reminds me that He does not value efficiency and productivity the way I do; they are not His goal for me. While they have their place, I want to be someone who journeys well with people, and with my own soul. It is hard to do that when I’m running.

    I want to move at a pace that allows me to hear from the Spirit, to pay attention to the needs around me, to have space to meet them. Hopefully, I will become someone whose spirit invites others to rest and life. I never want my soul to have to catch up to my body. So I will keep seeking a healthy pace.

  2. Love in the Little Things

    One of the biggest things I hope happens when I slow down is the space and awareness to see how I can love others better. This phrase, “love in the little things” has swirled in my mind for months. It’s recognizing the small ways I could love the people God puts in my life.

    It’s often the ways that, if I never did them, they won’t notice. Like sending a card or a text letting someone know I’m thinking of them. Making a meal. Stopping by to say hi. A gift. Honestly, an extra minute of conversation when my temptation is to stay on task. Aside from loving God, loving others is our highest task. So I hope to love in the little things.

  3. Be Poor in Spirit

    When I say this one, people often wonder out loud if it’s a good thing. Well, Jesus said it was, so I’m sticking with it, especially since I can’t say it’s true of me yet. I expect much of myself and others, without realizing it. I spend a lot of energy trying to impress, and my expectation of others often includes them impressing me.

    But I’m done being underwhelmed by life. To be poor in spirit is to be humble and in awe of all that God gives. It precludes entitlement. It assumes nothing, expects nothing, and is then therefore grateful for everything. Being poor in spirit is the way of the kingdom, so I will press on to live well in it.

  4. Ask Audaciously

    The past few years life has brought us bigger issues that have prompted greater prayers. I can’t say He’s answered all of them the way I hoped. But I can say that it has turned me toward Him. It’s strengthened my faith. It’s made me bolder.

    And yet I am aware that I have only just begun to ask for what God might give me. After all, He said He provides more than we can ask or imagine, right? I want to continue to grow not only in the frequency of my requests, but the confidence with which I ask, the hope with which I wait, and the trust I have in any answer. I want Him to say, when I see Him face to face, “Oh child, I’m so glad you asked.” 

  5. Stay at Home with God

    I read this quote recently, “God is at home. It is we who have gone out for a walk” (Meister Eckhart). Yes, I am prone to wander. But in the seasons when I have made it my aim to remember this truth, “I am at home with God and I do not need to search for life elsewhere,” I have lived with the freedom and authenticity I long for. It creates a solid place inside me from which life and love can flow. In fact, I should probably list it first. It is first. God’s greatest desire for us is that we live at home in His love.

    Staying in that truth is a battle, but it is the battle worth fighting. If we don’t believe that His love is enough, we can never slow down-we will continue to seek our value in achievement. We cannot give others a love we do not possess. We can’t be poor in spirit either-we’ll still be looking for proof of our importance. Children ask audaciously when they know they are deeply loved. Staying at home in His love is the key to all of this.

So these are the words/phrases/lessons God keeps bringing around. I hope to grow in them this year. And the next. And probably the next.

I am grateful that He does not give up on us, and the ways He wants us to change. The fact that these stay in my mind are evidence that God is faithful.

What about you? Do you have a word for the year? A new way God is leading you? What do you hope to see happen this year?

 

Related posts:

Learning to Walk (At an Unhurried Pace)

Ask God for the Pony 

How to Avoid Being Poor in Spirit

 

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Grace for the New Year

Gina Butz expectations, grace, truth 4 Comments

Grace for the New Year

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash

I woke up one morning soon after Christmas break all ambitious for the day (the 5-word title of my biography will read Maybe She Was too Ambitious). I planned a few hours of writing, a few hours of talk planning.

But then we had an unexpected doctor visit (all’s well, thanks for asking). That’s alright, I thought-a little less writing, a little less planning.

And then I realized how tired I was. So I decided on a 20-minute nap.

4 times in a row.

While I went in and out of sleep, I felt that old nagging friend, Anxiety, whispering, “You’re not getting things done,” and her companion, Guilt, “some start to the new year. I mean seriously, it’s day 3 of being back to productivity.”

But then, Grace showed up. And Grace said, “Apparently you need sleep. Good thing you’ve got time next week. It’ll be okay. It will happen. One day that doesn’t go as planned does not derail your life.”

It doesn’t take long into a new venture for those old voices to start whispering to us. Maybe we bit off more than we can chew. It might be too hard. Do we really need to go to the gym? How important is that habit I wanted to start? Is that dream actually worth pursuing?

It’s easy to fall into an all or nothing mentality. If I’m not doing it well, maybe it’s not worth doing. If I skip a day, fall short, miss an opportunity, maybe I shouldn’t have tried in the first place.

But that’s a life without the voice of Grace. We won’t get far into our adventures this year without it.

What Grace Says

Scripture says the righteous person falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity (Proverbs 24:16).

The wise woman hits repeat four times on her alarm and then rises to try again, but the foolish one lets the negative voices tell her she’s disqualifying herself.

In the pursuit of the goals, habits, and dreams we hope to accomplish this year, we will stumble. Grace is the voice saying, “get back up, you’re not done.”

Grace says one day doesn’t take us out. Or a week of days. Or even a month. It says we can still hope, and God doesn’t desert, and this is all part of being human.

Grace might be the best companion we have all year. The best workout buddy, the greatest accountability partner, our biggest cheerleader.Twitter

So let’s bring Grace along this year in every endeavor. Let it be the voice that speaks loudest in your mind whenever you get sidetracked. Listen to it call you to freedom and rest. May it be the voice that encourages you to keep going.

 

Related posts:

Grace for the Less Than Ideal Days

Grace Will Take Us Places Hustling Can’t

 

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Speak Your Dream Out Loud

Gina Butz expectations, hope, personal, perspective 1 Comment

Speak Your Dream Out Loud

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Accountability is a beast, isn’t it? I once trained for a 10K, but I didn’t tell anyone except my husband. The morning of, I thought, “No one knows I signed up. If I don’t go (and my body was telling me that was a good idea) no one would know.”

But I went. And I ran a pretty good time.

When you speak your dreams and goals out loud, then it all matters, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly why we should do it.

When I Learned to Speak My Dream

For the last six years, a dream stirred in me. I wanted to write a book. The first couple of years, I wrote by myself in Panera and the public library and Starbucks. Once, a stranger asked me what I was doing. I told him, “I’m a writer.” He was incredibly impressed, and I felt like a complete fraud.

I don’t remember when I first told someone, “I’m writing a book.” I do remember that as the years passed, and the book still wasn’t finished, and then it wasn’t published, I grew sheepish. Ashamed that I had told anyone I was attempting this. Because accountability.

I should have kept my mouth shut, right? But no. I’m glad I didn’t. Because when we put our dreams out there, they become a little more real. And others rally around us. Or not. But that’s irrelevant. Because we are meant to speak our dreams out loud.

Why We Should Speak

Because this is what I know: when something good stirs in us, it’s from God. It’s not just a pipe dream-it’s the whisper of a calling. It might be more than just an idea; it might be the very thing you’re called to do.

And when we say it out loud, we honor what He puts in us. It makes us a little braver, or at the very least, slightly less willing to set it aside. And maybe that in itself is bravery.

Speaking our dreams awakens hope. It opens our hearts. It makes us stand a little taller, try a little harder, look a little further.

Maybe the dream won’t come true. Maybe God will transform it into something else. Something better, even. His ways are even higher than ours, so why not start with speaking the dreams He’s given us? It’s the only way to move toward seeing the bigger things He has in store.

Hope is scary. But so is letting it die. People keep asking me what I’m looking forward to in 2019. When I say, “My book getting published” it feels like a surreal, delightful dream come true.

I’m so glad I never gave up. And I’m so glad for those who heard my dream and wouldn’t let me forget it.

It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t spoken it out loud and invited others to encourage my dream.

My Challenge to You

So dream big this year, friends. Speak your dreams out loud. Anything from, “I’m going to run a marathon,” to, “I’m going to love better,” to, “I’m going to reach my neighborhood.”

What goals do you have as you begin this new year? What dream is stirring in you? Will you be brave to say it out loud?

Ask God to awaken something in you. Speak it out. Then see what happens.

Not Alone Because of Christmas

Gina Butz Christmas, faith, loved 0 Comments

Never Alone Because of Christmas

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I’m not a fan of being alone, at least not for long. (That might surprise some of you who see my introvert side). The loneliness I avoid runs deeper than “who can I talk to at this party?” It’s the fear that ultimately, it’s all up to me to take care of myself.

I’ve talked about it before, this fear. It shows up in my efforts to rescue myself, and everyone around me. I reveal it when I try to pick up all the worries in my life and fix them without others’ help.

When I’m striving to look like I’m all put together, it’s usually because I’m afraid that if I don’t impress, you’ll leave. Rather than leaning into God for help, I charge ahead, alone.

Really, it’s a fear that I’m not enough. Loneliness sometimes feels like an indictment, doesn’t it? Like there must be a reason I’m alone. If I’d been more interesting, more worth the trouble, more something, I wouldn’t be by myself. It’s not. 

And this is why I love Christmas.

Because now, God is with us. Immanuel. The one who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, is now our constant.

Christmas declares that we are not alone. We never have to be alone again.

Christmas proclaims to the world that everything that might keep us from others-our failure, our mistakes, our deficiencies, our “not enough” or our “too much”-does not keep us from the love of God.

In fact, before we even asked, before we even knew we needed it, God decided to remedy our loneliness. Jesus’s birth mended the brokenness in our relationship with Him, and subsequently, in us.

And if He went through all the trouble of coming for us in the first place, He’s not going to leave us now.

The fear that drives me to rescue myself and everyone around needs to simmer in the greatest rescue story ever told, when the Hero stole into enemy territory under cover of darkness to find me because He just had to be with me.

When I’m tempted to pick up all those worries and fix them myself, Immanuel reminds me that He didn’t just come to save us from our sin, but to save us from ourselves. He is with us in the midst of the anxieties, not with condemnation but with comfort and help.

Jesus’s willingness to be with me speaks to the part of me who believes I have to prove that I’m worth having around. He came before we ever did a thing.

And though I forget again and again to lean into Him, He patiently waits, available. He is with us in the middle of every trial, every tear, every heartache, closer than our own hearts.

The one who is with us is the giver of peace, the God of comfort, the Father who won’t fail us, our greatest counsel.

We are never alone, because He is with us.

I’ve had to remind myself this over and over again lately because it’s hard. The self-sufficiency that served me and others so well and for so long in my life is not why Jesus came. He didn’t come to affirm my self-reliance, but to take it away. He came to heal it.

So this Christmas, this is the thought I’m choosing to dwell on: I am not alone. Immanuel. He is with me. With us.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

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Grace Will Take Us Where Hustling Can’t

Gina Butz grace 0 Comments

Grace will take you places hustling can't

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

If you’ve been to any kind of sporting event, you’ve likely heard (or said yourself), “C’mon, let’s hustle!” Move faster, stay ahead of the game, git ‘er done.

Hustling is a high value in our society-those who do get ahead. They win.

But hustling pays a price. When we do it for too long, it becomes the way we feel we must live in order to survive. There’s no peace, no finish line.

We begin to believe we are what we do. We depend more and more on our own strength. The hustling defines us.

And then probably somewhere along the way those who hustle fall down exhausted, because no one is meant to live that way for the long haul.

But then there’s grace. Imagine yelling that at a sporting event, “It’s all grace, baby!” Think what that would do (aside from stink eye from other parents).

Hustling might take us faster, but where does it leave us?

Maybe grace could take us farther.

Where Grace Takes Us

Grace takes us to freedom. It lets us fail, and get back up again, and in the process, we learn more.

Grace says slow is an acceptable, maybe even preferable, pace. It might take longer to get there, but we have stamina for the long haul.

Grace opens the door for us to be ourselves in ways hustling never allows. It tells us that we are a gift just as we are, not as we think we ought to be.

And grace invites others to join us on that journey. As the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

We were made for grace, for a way of life that says, “you’re okay. Stop trying so hard. It’s been done for you. Relax into it.” So when we live in grace, we live like we’re home.

It’s hard to undo patterns of hustling. Hard to shut out the voices around us that say, “Prove your worth.” Grace sometimes feels too good to be true, like we’re letting go and just treading water.

But instead of treading water, maybe it’s learning to grab hold of the liferaft that’s always been there. It’s letting go of striving and resting in what’s been done for us. We stop our desperate swimming and walk to shore. 

So today I want to see where I’m hustling-working hard to earn my place and prove my worth. And then I want to remember that grace is the better option. Let go. Be yourself. We’ll go farther this way.

Related posts:

Let’s Be the Grace Givers

Learning to Walk (At an Unhurried Pace)

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