Packing Our Fragile Lives

Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

Packing Our Fragile Lives

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

I’m no stranger to packing up and moving homes, so you’d think I would be pretty good at it by now.

Unfortunately, I have a strong streak of impatience and a high commitment to efficiency, so I tend to pack carelessly. This is particularly true in the kitchen because so much is fragile and requires extra work.

I remember packing a box of glasses once to give away. I debated the merits of squeezing them all into one box over padding them well enough that they wouldn’t break in transit (especially because I couldn’t find another box and was too lazy to keep looking. Also, I value efficiency over accuracy).

This is how we can fill our schedules.

When I look at my calendar and see wide open spaces, my instinct is to fill them.

It’s like Pac-Man, trying to level up by gobbling empty slots.

The problem is when I add something new, I don’t always think about the padding it needs to not bump up against other activities.

Here’s an example: Someone asked me once to take on a role that on paper is a 3-hour activity once a month. I thought, “That’s totally doable!” (this is generally my reaction to any prospect).

When I talked it over with a wise friend, though, he pointed out that it wasn’t just 3 hours. Taking on that time meant 6-8 new relationships with people I want to invest in knowing well.

It meant praying for them, probably meeting individually, social activities together, being available to them. When I thought about the amount of space it would really take in my box, I knew it wasn’t going to fit.

It’s not just about the activities we do, but all the bubble wrap time that will go into making that activity succeed. It includes all the prayer, preparation, thinking, and meeting that might surround it.

Most importantly, we have to consider the relational and emotional energy expended on top of the actual time invested. I don’t know about you, but I don’t often have an excess of that kind of energy laying around.

I’ve experienced the side effects of over packing. Things break.

I break.

Bubble Wrapping Our Lives

So I’m trying these days to bubble wrap my activities. Leave space around them to actually think about them.

Space to be fully present in what I choose, to let them bleed a bit outside the lines of the time I allotted for them.

It’s not easy. My ego gets in the way, wanting to prove myself through the busyness of my calendar.

My heart gets in the way too-I want to help. I love saying yes. But if it’s going to cause me to overwork, it’s not my best yes. It’s not the best yes for anyone.

So we need helping packing. Sometimes we need to run it by a friend, as I mentioned earlier, someone with no skin in the game, who can call us out when our hearts and egos run faster than our souls.

And of course, we need God. He knows how fragile we are; He knows He made us from dust. His wisdom will guide us if we’re willing to listen as we pack.

 

Related posts:

Learning to Respect My Limits

Choosing Slow

Finding Balance in the Seasons

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Holding Each Other (When We Want to Fix It)

Gina Butz emotions, relationships 0 Comments

Holding Each Other (When We Want to Fix It)

Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz on Unsplash

When her teammate went down in the middle of a game, our daughter immediately ran to her side. Her first aid training kicked in, and she tried in vain to get her friend to slow her breathing. Shock and pain overwhelmed her teammate, though, and all our girl could do was sit by and cry for her.

Afterward, she lamented her helplessness to me. “I couldn’t help her. I couldn’t do anything for her,” she sighed.

“You did the best thing you could. You were with her. She didn’t need you to fix her. She needed you to be there.”

Unconvinced, she continued, “But it was so hard to see her in pain, and I couldn’t help.”

And there is the heart of the issue.

Our Desire to Fix

When we see others in pain, something in us desires to help. That desire is good. It’s God-given.

But often our desire to help is really a desire to fix. It’s a desire for the bad situation to simply not be true.

It seems right, even good, to fix, doesn’t it? It feels like helping. Really, though, it’s usually avoiding. We struggle to sit in places of shalom shattered, both for ourselves and others.

It reminds us that we are not in control. We feel our helplessness. We feel their pain.

Yet there’s something we can offer in these moments that is precious and valuable. We can offer our presence. And that can be enough.

Offering Our Presence

Recently I was in a small group for my spiritual formation program. We were asked to introduce ourselves to each other, and then sit in silence for two minutes afterward. One person shared quite vulnerably, even to the point of tears.

And after sharing, we sat there without saying a word to her. It felt both awful and right.

Awful, because we wanted to enter into her pain, to comfort and empathize, to say, “Yeah, I get that. Me too.”

But also right, because it meant no one spoke a word out of turn. No one offered platitudes or tried to rescue her from something God might be doing. It felt like enough to just be together, to be human with one another.

M. Craig Barnes, in his book, Yearnings, says, “We don’t mend each other’s brokenness, we just hold it tightly.”

What a relief! It’s not up to us to fix each other. While it’s hard to see someone else in pain, wrestling, confused, unsettled, whatever it is, we aren’t being asked to take it away. God has his eyes on all of us. He sees. He knows.

And so our invitation is to simply hold each other tightly. Be there. Be there right away. Cry with them. That is enough.

 

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Rest for the Sake of Others

Gina Butz faith, growth, rest 4 Comments

Rest for the Sake of Others

Photo by Spring Fed Images on Unsplash

This spring I began a program of spiritual formation through The Transforming Center. “Formed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” is the phrase guiding this process.

It’s that last phrase, “for the sake of others” that keeps running through my mind.

Who we are and what we do is not in isolation. There is power in how we live to impact those around us.

Take rest, for example. I have always been someone with a high capacity for activity. I’m ambitious. I often bite off more than I can chew.

For the longest time, I was unaware of the impact that pace had on me, to the point of outright denial. It’s like the popular meme I’ve seen lately, something like this:

Me: Why do I keep getting tension headaches?

My body: because you’re doing too much.

Me: And why are my shoulders so tight?

My body: Because you’re doing too much.

Me: I wish I knew why I got these stomach aches.

My body: Please for the love of God, slow down.

Me: I guess we’ll never know . . .

Only in my case, it wasn’t just my body telling me. It was my doctor, my dentist, my chiropractor, my friends, my family.

I used to think I could just tweak some things-plan a little better, delegate more, stay in front of the ball.

But after a while, I realized I was being unkind to myself.

So I started slowing down. Leaving more margin. Talking to the little monsters in me that drive me to perform. Giving them permission to stop. Breathing more deeply. It’s been good.

Yet, at the end of the day, I’m still tempted to push through busy days. One more task checked off. A little more productivity to get me ahead. The resistance to rest is never far off.

For the Sake of Others

Except now, when this phrase keeps resonating in my head, “for the sake of others.” And I realize that while I might be able to power through, I have to ask what it does to those around me.

Am I the person I want to be for them when I am strained to my limits?

What does it communicate to them about how they ought to live?

Does this pace form me to the image of Christ?

I never want others to look at me and think, “I can’t keep up.” I want to live my life at a restful pace and to invite others to it as well. May they never feel under the pile by the pace I set.

One morning recently, I woke up early because my body is physically incapable of sleeping past 6 am at the latest. My first thought was, “Hey, church starts later today. I could work for an hour.” And then in my Facebook memories, I found this quote from my friend Ken Cochrum:

“I feel it when I am not hurried to finish a conversation, a workout, a chapter in the book I’m reading, a phone call, a project I’m working on, or a meal. Hurry in me creates apathy and thinness. Ease creates spaces for authenticity, genuine concern, acute awareness, and ultimately LOVE. Remember, ‘Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.’” (including a quote from Dallas Willard)

Me resting doesn’t just affect me; it changes who I am with others. It makes me someone who walks better with others, it creates space for relationships with them and ultimately leads to love.

This is true of whatever way God desires to form us into the image of Christ.

We are the hands and feet of Jesus to each other, in how we live, work, parent, play, and minister.Twitter How we order our lives not only shapes us, it shapes who we are with others, and in turn, who they become.

I don’t know about you, but this feels like a call to stewardship. We do not live in isolation, therefore we do not grow in isolation. For the sake of others, may we invite God to do more in us.

 

Related posts:

Choosing Slow

Learning to Walk (at an Unhurried Pace)

Warning: Don’t Forget to Breathe

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What Ever Happened to Sin?

Gina Butz Uncategorized 2 Comments

What Ever Happened to Sin?

Photo by Denny Müller on Unsplash

I’m going to come straight to the point: we don’t talk about sin anymore.

We talk about brokenness and being messy, which is good. We talk about crushed Cheerios in our minivans or how we just can’t get to the gym. Maybe even about the truth of our hard days, and where we feel we don’t measure up. All good.

And in light of all that, we talk a lot about God’s love for us, a most necessary shift from the past. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us less; we know that now, right? It’s important to know that God sees into our brokenness and mess and does not turn away. Again, all good.

Authenticity is great. Being grounded in God’s love is necessary. But what happens when we divorce it from sin? When we don’t look past our crushed Cheerios and failed gym membership to see the ways we rebel against God Himself?

What Happens When We Don’t Talk About Sin

Well, if that happens, then we can go to church and just feel good about ourselves.

We go sing about how much God loves us and it fills us up to live another week. We sing what I call “Law 1” songs.

If you aren’t familiar, the gospel tract we often use in Cru ministry called “Knowing God Personally” used to be called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” Law 1 is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”

Good news, but not if we forget law 2, “Man is sinful and separated from God.”

I know. Who wants to talk about that?

I do. Because what does it mean to us that God loves us if we aren’t conscious of the fact that we don’t deserve that love? If we don’t face the hard truth that apart from the death of Christ, I cannot stand in the presence of God?

Why We Need to Talk About Sin

When our “brokenness” and “mess” fails to encompass the reality of sin, we miss something of God.

When it’s only about bringing our wounds and not our moral failure to the surface, we don’t experience the full extent of what God has done for us.

Jesus didn’t die for our crushed Cheerios or our failure to work out. He died for the ways we choose to walk away from God, over and over, day after day.

Growing up, I was not acutely aware of my sin. I was a good kid. The kind other parents probably wished they had.

So when I was presented with the idea that I was a sinner in need of grace, I accepted it at a head level. I couldn’t really see much God was saving me from.

But as I grew, I began to be confronted by the depths of how I do try to live independently of God. I saw the deep desire in my heart to be my own savior, ruler of my own kingdom.

It was terrifying to me. I thought surely God would realize He’d made a mistake choosing me as a child.

But every time I’ve seen a new depth of my sin, it calls me to see deeper grace. And that’s why we need to talk about sin.

A dear friend of mine once said, “I am sobered by the depth of my depravity, and I’m thrilled by the depth of my redemption.” The magnificence of grace always matches the magnitude of our sin.

This is why we need to talk about sin: so that while we are sobered by how far we stray from God, we can simultaneously be overwhelmed by all that God has done to bring us back.

 

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Why Do We Keep Ourselves From Grace?

Permission to Make Mistakes

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Finding God in the Wilderness

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, transition, trials, Uncategorized 9 Comments

Finding God in the Wilderness

Photo by SAJAD FI on Unsplash

In March, I spoke at a women’s conference about finding God in unexpected journeys.

I talked about the Israelites as they left Egypt (when a season isn’t the good you expected), wandered in the wilderness (when God makes you wait and you don’t know why), and experienced the promised land (when life is just the way you want it to be).

Last fall, when I was writing these talks, I was living in a pretty good season. I resonated with the promised land experience.

And then God invited me back into the wilderness.

Suddenly, I need to listen to my own words.

Finding Myself in the Wilderness

I warned the retreat attendees about this: our real promised land is ahead. God doesn’t leave us long in those seasons. He has more for us to learn. Hence, the journey back into the wild.

See, for most of 2019 so far, I’ve experienced bouts of dizziness and headaches that at times have been debilitating. At the least, they are rarely completely gone (thanks for nothing, new year).

Finally, after an MRI (thankfully clear) and a trip to the neurologist, I was diagnosed with basilar migraines, a diagnosis that still leaves me skeptical, but at least gives me some direction.

It’s been a strange season to walk through. It’s hard not knowing how I will feel from day to day, how long it will last. I’ve wondered what He is doing, what He wants to teach me through this.

Like the Israelites, once I realized I was back in the wilderness, I started asking God for the shortest way out. Sure, You can teach me something, but could you make it fast? And easy?

It’s hard to be in a place where we realize we aren’t the ones in control. The wilderness is tiring, humbling, and at times confusing. A friend of mine put it recently, “God has you in a fog.” Indeed.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t see well in the fog. Yet as I said at the retreat (curse my words coming back to haunt me!) we can find God in the wilderness, no matter how foggy it is.

Better yet, He can see through the fog. He knows the way out of this wilderness.

So I’m looking for God in all of this.

And I’m finding Him.

Finding God in the Wilderness

He is using this season to slow me down even more (I swear pretty soon I’ll be going backward). As much as I hate doing less, He reassures me that it doesn’t diminish me.

Prayers I have prayed are being answered through this (be careful what you pray for!).

In my hardest moments, I have heard His voice speak tenderly and consistently to me words of comfort and invitation. He has felt closer than ever.

Friends have stepped in and wrapped my weakness, fears, and grief with love and care, and in the process taught me more how to let others care for me (a much needed and on-going lesson).

In a sweet moment, our daughter asked me, “What would you do if this was happening to me?” It invited me to consider how to extend compassion, kindness, tenderness, and patience to myself as I would want to give to others.

Finding He Is Enough

I believe it’s in the wilderness where God tries us to see what we really want. Do we want Him? Or do we just want what He gives us?

Will we sit in this desert place long enough to experience His sufficiency, regardless of our circumstances?

This has been a hard season, yes. At my lowest times, I beg God to just make it better. I decide I don’t want the lessons I know He wants to give me.

But God is with us in the wilderness. He meets us in the middle of it to show us more of Him, to transform us, to shake us loose from the trappings that hold us.

He uses these places to bring us to our knees. They humble us to receive from Him and others what we’ve wanted all along but have been too proud and self-sufficient to cry out for.

So I’ve tried to sit patiently in this. Keep my eyes focused on Him. Giving thanks for the good I see, trusting Him for the things I cannot see.

It’s easier to have peace on the days when I feel better. But I want peace no matter what. God keeps bringing to mind Psalm 131:2, But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.” 

God grant us that kind of trust in the wilderness. Calm and quiet souls who wait on Him.

I know it won’t last forever. God will lead me out eventually.

Maybe you’re in a wilderness too. He will lead you out as well.

So let’s stay close to Him. Let’s trust. Know that He is with us. He will do good to us in this place.

 

Related posts:

It’s Going to Be Okay

Why God Won’t Just Make It Easier

What to Do When It’s Hard 

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Claiming the Language of Recovery for Our Spiritual Growth

Gina Butz Uncategorized 0 Comments

Claiming the Language of Recovery for our Spiritual Growth

Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev on Unsplash

In my early 20s, God began to unveil lies I believed about myself-mostly tying my performance to my worth. Once I saw them (and thank God that I did) I quickly went to work trying to overcome those lies. Over time, He has helped loosen the hold they had over me.

No sooner had I started to see growth, I started to claim that I “used to” struggle with performance. You know, in the past, when I didn’t know any better. But now-ta da! All better.

But these days, I hesitate. Because even though God continues to untangle me from those lies, I am humbled by how easily I crane my neck to listen to their voices. How easily I find myself dipping my toes in their invitations to me.

So I don’t like to say that “I used to” struggle with those things anymore.

Instead, I think of myself as a recovering alcoholic in those places. I’m learning to use the language of recovery. “Hi, I’m Gina, and I’m addicted to performance.” (“Hi Gina.”)

Have I experienced freedom in these things? Absolutely. Do they hold me the way they once did? Not at all. But that is not because of my power but His. They are a constant reminder of how I will, on my own, try to save myself.

If I can be blunt, to say, “I used to struggle with that” stems from pride, not humility. It is the language of self-sufficiency, not recovery.

The minute we say, “I don’t do that anymore” we close ourselves to God’s Spirit revealing greater depths of our idolatry, and we cut ourselves off from needing Him to help us in those areas.

The things we struggle with the most will always be our, “there but for the grace of God go I” temptations. The first step is admitting we have a problem.

Living Like We’re in Recovery

And, like addicts, we must remind ourselves that we are powerless on our own to overcome our tendencies. It is only God who can restore. We must take a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves, acknowledging our addictions and admitting them to God.

It’s not a journey any of us can take on our own. As much as it would be nice to hide in the shadows while we sober up, we are called to do this in community. We can only go so far on our own. As we confess our addictions to others, we find we are not alone. We gather strength and courage for the journey.

Being in recovery means staying in a position of dependence, acknowledging our weakness, leaning on the strength of others. It means accepting that we may always walk with a limp in some areas of our lives.

So what is your addiction, if I might be so bold as to ask? How does it still hold you? As we bring these to Jesus, we invite Him to continue to do the deep and necessary work in us to make us whole.

We’re all in recovery.

 

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Leaving Our Kingdoms Behind

The Illusion of Having It All Together

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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.

 

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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