What I’ve Learned About Seeking God

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, hope, word of the year 1 Comment

3 things I've learned about seeking God

Ah, the word of the year. Such a great way to say, “You know what? I stink at resolutions. I will make only one, and it will be somewhat vague in the form of a word so that no one can say I actually didn’t do it.”

Still, I tried. My word of 2016 was Seek. It encompasses phrases God kept putting on my heart over time: watch, pray, seek, find, wait, hope, look. All of them calling me to seek him more deeply.

To be honest, initially I thought it just meant I should pray more. But I’ve learned that seeking is about more than just time with God. It’s about how I seek and what I seek as well. So though I feel I still have such a long way to go to be someone who seeks earnestly, this is what I have learned this year about seeking:

Seek expectantly 
We will not seek if we do not believe we lack something. If we lack something, we will not seek it outside ourselves until we trust we will find what we need. This year God revealed to me how much I can live from the lie that I have to rely on myself, that no one’s going to rescue me. I try to be my own savior (super small s). The more I am aware of my desperate need for a Savior (giant S), the more I believe he longs to help me, and that he will fight for me, the more I will seek.

To do this requires hope, and hope is vulnerable. It opens us to disappointment, because God does always answer in the ways we think he should. He’s a lot like Aslan, from the Chronicles of Narnia-you never know when or how he will show up, but he will, because he is good. Seeking expectantly requires me to put my hope in his goodness. 

Seek continually
I had this erroneous idea that by the end of the year, I would be done seeking, and could move on. As though there’s some end to seeking God, like this:
How to Seek God

We have to keep finding God over and over, in every circumstance, trial, doubt, and need. Our lives are meant to be lived with a posture of seeking. We stay aware of our deep needs and let them drive us to seek his strength. We look for him at work in the world. We watch for his goodness. We seek day after day, moment after moment, ways to put our hope back in him. The more we seek, the more we will find.

We seek his face
Honestly, this is the one that has been most challenging for me. This year God has led me to ask more audaciously, to depend on him more for areas where previously I was inclined to trust in my own meager resources. But this idea of seeking his face is to simply be with him in his presence, enjoying him for who he is and not what he gives. It’s not about prayer so much as it is about his presence.

God asks us to seek his face because we are his children and he wants to spend time with us. What?? Seriously, this blows my mind. I’m the poster child for doing over being, so I come to God with my lists and prayers and scripture I want to read, and I miss just being with him, looking at him face to face.

What I’ve realized this year is that God could answer all of my prayers. He could give me everything I want and I would not be satisfied, because what my soul is really seeking is him. I want to learn what it is to be a child sitting at his feet, content to simply be there with him, delighting in him and he in me. My next word of the year might need to be “sit” or “stay.” (Good Gina).

So what about you? Did you have a word of the year for 2016? How did it go? Did you see change in your life? I figure I still have 24 days to figure this out. Or a lifetime. Keep seeking, friends. He promises we’ll find him. 

“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29

 

If you’re new here, welcome! Join me on the journey by subscribing to receive posts straight to your inbox and receive my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you! Just enter your email in the box on the right. 

Related posts:

I Don’t Need Rescuing (Except I Do)

The Battle Belongs to Him 

Ask for the Pony

Ask God For the Pony

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith 0 Comments

What are you asking for from God today? Ask big. Ask for the pony.

photo by Cristian Newman

It’s the time of year when kids make wish lists of all that they want for Christmas. When our kids were young, I feared Toys-R-Us. I was terrified they’d see something really huge we couldn’t afford and set their hearts on it. One year there was a giant toy pony that kids could actually ride. I think it cost $400. Ridiculous.

Years ago my friend’s son was celebrating his 4th birthday. Just before he blew out the candles, we said, “Make a wish, Luke.” Without skipping a beat, he took a breath and said, “I wish I could fly,” then blew.

That’s how kids think. I want the pony. I want to fly.

Somewhere along the way, we make our lists more reasonable. More practical. We stick to the budget. That’s good in some respects, but there’s an aspect of how kids ask that we aren’t meant to lose.

What are children like? They are weak and needy, and unashamed. They come boldly with their needs and make them known. They’re trusting. They don’t analyze whether or not the ask is too much or out of line-they’re just honest with desire. They believe their parents will take care of them.

I’ve been reading the gospels lately, and I see Jesus inviting this kind of boldness in our relationship with God. He’s always asking people to come closer, calling out their desire, “What do you want me to do for you?” He honors faith, even when it’s just a desperate grab at his cloak. He makes space for children, calling us to be like them. He wants us to come and ask.

So why don’t we? Why don’t we go to God with all our hopes and dreams and wishes and ask big?

Prayer is vulnerable. It’s a raw and scary prospect to bring all our desires before someone who could choose not to fulfill them in the way we hope. It’s tempting to hedge our prayers and only ask for what we think he’s willing to do, what’s in the budget. We wonder if we’re asking for the right things in the right ways so much that we end up asking for nothing at all. It’s easier not to ask than to ask and be disappointed.

But this is where prayer is about so much more than getting what we want. It’s about drawing closer in trust to our father, letting him have our whole hearts, and in the process being shaped to his will. He can’t do that when we hold back.

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more childlike in my prayers. I have been going to God bare hearted, telling him everything I wish were true, everything I hope will happen, everything I want. I’ve been going honest, raw, angry, scared, confused, hopeful, searching. I’ve tried not to censor myself, but trust that he can see through my aching.

As I do, he’s helping me sort out the aching too. I see where he is at work in these areas. I hear him reminding me of what’s true. I feel his delight. I receive his peace and comfort. It’s like in bringing my whole heart, he can fully sift it and give me the right perspective on it. It leads me to gratitude and to worship.

What’s on your list today? Be audacious. Be bold. Be needy. Be honest. Be childlike in your faith and your trust. Ask for the pony. Tell him you want to fly. Bring your whole heart to your father who loves you more than life and trust that he will give you what is good.

“Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” -Matthew 7:9-11

 

If you’re new here, welcome! Join me on the journey by subscribing to receive posts straight to your inbox and receive my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you! Just enter your email in the box on the right. And be sure to check out My Journey to get to know the girl behind the blog. 

Related posts:

Ask Audaciously

When Gratitude Is Hard

Gina Butz gratitude, trials 2 Comments

When gratitude is hard

photo by Arthur Rutkowski

This is the month of the year when we are reminded to be thankful. Pinterest is cluttered with suggestions for ways to count our blessings. At work someone has a thankfulness tree, and a sign inviting others to write on a leaf and add to it. Among the turkey and pilgrim decorations are plates and napkins and signs bearing the word, “Thanks.” But the fact is, sometimes, it’s hard to feel thankful.

Sometimes we have seasons when the blessings are hard to see. Your job is stressful, and you wonder if it’s even where you belong. Your kids are struggling in school. Your marriage feels old and empty. The loneliness lingers. Depression is a cloud you can’t shake. The test is positive. The test is negative. Sometimes the hard is so overwhelming the thought of looking for the good feels beyond our reach.

At times like that, when we don’t feel grateful, what do we do?

We pan for gold.

Now I’ve never actually panned for gold, but I imagine that it was hard work. It was time consuming. It required great focus and a trained eye to look for the smallest bits of gold they could find. They put all their energy into finding that precious metal. Those who were willing to look harder found more.

So when I’m in a season where it doesn’t feel like the gold nuggets are right there for the taking, I imagine myself as a gold miner (side note: I HATE the word nugget. Hate. It.). I have to take more time to look a little harder, sift my life around a little more, asking where I do see Him at work. I look for the smallest blessings. Sometimes I start with, “I am alive today.” And then I thank Him for them. I thank Him for food and clothes and shelter and health and all that I taken for granted every day. I start there.

And here’s the reality: there’s always gold. It might show up in little flakes and specks, but when we begin to look, we see that it is there in abundance. We might not be experiencing the big nuggets of victory, but we can claim the gold dust of everyday grace. It’s breath in our lungs and feet to move us and hands to work and eyes to see. It’s salvation and grace and life and His love and presence and all that which cannot be taken from us even in the darkest moments.

The more we pan for gold, the better we become at finding it. We see gold in a kind word, a safe drive, a quiet moment. We see gold in sunrises and fresh air and every day we get to start again.

We are not asked to give thanks for every circumstance, but in every circumstance. Whatever the season brings, there’s gold in them there hills. We can be grateful people in the midst of trial and heartache and pain. We can choose to seek out the evidence of goodness mixed in with the dirt of hardship. We can search for the reminders that we are never forsaken, even when the road is rough. His blessings carry us. Pan for gold, friends. Our lives are rich.

 

If you’re new here, welcome! Join me on the journey by subscribing to receive posts straight to your inbox and receive my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you! Just enter your email in the box on the right. 

Related posts:

Peace and Hope Amidst the Storm 

Why God Won’t Just Make It Easier

5 Things Christians Can Do After the Election

Gina Butz culture, dependence on God, hope 6 Comments

5 things Christians can do after the election

On Wednesday, November 9th, we will wake up to a new president. Lord, have mercy. However the chips fall, the next four years will encompass a reality most of us probably would not have chosen. It’s easy to feel helpless in light of the future, but there’s still much that we can, and should, do.

  1. We can pray. I’ll be honest-I put off voting because I didn’t want to vote for either major party candidate. I have serious issues with both of them. But here’s what I know about both of them-God loves them, and he can redeem them. To say otherwise is to deny his power. Their souls are more important to Him than anything else about them, and they desperately need our prayers. So we can pray for our new president. We can pray for wisdom, guidance, humility, wise counsel, strength, and peace. We can pray for a heart responsive to His Spirit.
  2. We can respect our leader. Like I said, not a fan of either candidate, but I also recognize that being the president of the United States has to be the toughest job in the whole world. God asks us to respect everyone, especially our leaders (1 Peter 2:17), and that includes people we disagree with. We are called to love even our enemies, and love includes speaking well. So we can speak with the same respect and grace about the president as we would if that person were with us face to face, because it glorifies God.
  3. We can love our neighbors. This election cycle has caused so much division. Shame and vilification have happened left and right, even between people who claim to care for each other. I have hovered over the “hide this person’s posts” button on Facebook more than once. But at the end of the day, our call to love is greater than anything. So we can keep moving toward people who have offended us and see differently than we do, especially when they are fellow believers. Christ declared that the world would know we are Christians by our love. We can prove that true.
  4. We can be like Christ to the world. I’ve been immersed in the gospels lately, and what strikes me about Jesus’ interactions with this world is that non-religious people really liked him. And he really liked them. He went to where they were. He ate with them, accepted them, and then called them to something greater. His lead foot was love. We as the church have focused so much energy on changing laws instead of changing hearts. We can choose instead to imitate Christ. We can move toward people with grace, invite them to the one who loves them more than life, and trust him to change them in a way no law ever could.
  5. We can trust God. He never wrings his hands during election time, hoping we’ll choose the right leader. He uses all of this. He doesn’t need America to be a “Christian” nation for Him to work. In fact, the church is growing the most in places where the government doesn’t recognize religious rights at all. We can live not by fear but by faith and trust that his power and his Spirit are indomitable. We can rest in hope that whichever way this goes, His purpose for our world will continue.

This is an opportunity for us to respond differently than the world. And isn’t that what we are called to do? We can glorify God, love Him, and love others regardless of the outcome of this election. In fact, there may never have been a more opportune time for us to live this way. Let’s make the most of it.

 

If you’re new here, welcome! Join me on the journey by subscribing to receive posts straight to your inbox and receive my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you! Just enter your email in the box on the right. 

Related posts:

Either/Or Thinking in a Both/And World 

Hope in a Broken World 

The Power of Asking What If

Gina Butz courage, faith 4 Comments

Learning to face your fears

photo by Jonathan Simcoe

I’ve always thought it was wrong to focus on the “what if’s” in life. It seems like a recipe for anxiety to imagine all that could go wrong, all that could be hiding in the darkness of “what if.” We could spend a lot of unnecessary energy trying to manage the “what if” scenarios.

But I’ve found that if I just try to ignore the “what if’s,” they don’t go away. They linger in my mind as nebulous possibilities with the power to hold back my hand from being brave. They hide in the darkness just out of sight, allowing the potential threat to grow. I’ve been discovering that there’s a lot of power to demolish lies and face the fears that grip us when we let ourselves get curious about the “what if” questions.

It started for me like this: One night this spring, as I was wrestling with my fear of failure (one of my go-to fears), I felt like God prompted me to ask, “What if you do fail?”

Which, honestly, felt like kind of a mean question. God, you’re supposed to tell me I won’t fail. You’re supposed to tell me everything will be fine.

But the truth is, it might not be. I will acknowledge that failure is a possibility, as much as I would like it not to be.

So I asked the question, “What if I fail? What’s the worst that could happen?”

If I fail, people might see. They might be disappointed. They might turn away. I might feel like an idiot (oh please, anything but that. Seriously).

“OK, well, what if they do see? What if they are disappointed? Will they really think differently of you? Probably not. They’ll probably be glad to see that you’re human. Does that define your value? No, it does not. Are you still loved? Oh yes, so very, very much. And not just by God, but most likely by those same people who have seen you fail.”

Asking myself these worst case scenario questions was not an attempt to build up my defenses to protect from the pain of experiencing them. Instead, it helped me see where I am trying to rest in others for life and love. As I overlaid God’s grace and truth on it, I realize I would survive a “what if.” Would it be painful? Maybe. Probably. But would he walk with me through it? Yes. And I have hope that I would come out better on the other side. More human. Less self-protective. Braver. More restful.

So much energy in life is expended in avoiding the “what ifs.”Twitter We try to ward off the evil, the painful, the uncomfortable, instead of trusting that a) God will walk with us through it and b) however hard it is, God can redeem.

Since then, I’ve been making a more regular practice of facing the “what ifs” head on. Confronting them is like pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz and finding he’s not nearly as imposing as he’s making himself out to be. In fact, he might even be able to teach me something about what it is I want, what I fear, and how to look to God for provision and protection instead of to myself.

So ask the “what ifs.” What if I fail? What if I don’t get this job? What if things don’t turn out the way I hope? What if this situation never changes? What if my needs aren’t met? What if I don’t know what to do? What if I make a mistake? What if people see it happen?

Ask them not to guard from what could happen (or isn’t happening), but to remind yourself that whatever comes, he’s going to walk with you through it. He will help you see what is true about him, you, and others. Each time we do, we gain more courage to step with faith into the unknown.

 

Welcome! If you’re new here, check out My Journey at the top and you can learn a little more about the girl behind the blog. If you like this post, never miss one by signing up on the right to get them straight to your inbox. When you do, I’ll send you my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you!

 

Related posts:

When Fear Is a Dictator

He Makes Me Brave

 

On Becoming Real

Gina Butz loved, poetry 2 Comments

The journey to being authentic starts with accepting that I am deeply, unreservedly loved by God

photo by Jenn Richardson

People often tell me I’m authentic. I hope so, but I know it hasn’t always been the case. My journey of understanding what it means to be real, and learning to embrace it, began years ago.

When I was a youngster, I was a drama geek. I had no idea how uncool that was, but it didn’t matter because I loved it. One of my favorite plays was the Velveteen Rabbit in which I played “Crazed Jack in the Box” as well as “Real Rabbit #2.” I know. So, so utterly uncool.

But there’s a beautiful scene where the Velveteen Rabbit is speaking with the Skin Horse, the oldest toy in the nursery. This is their conversation:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

For much of my life, I lived in fear of moving close enough to people to let them love all of me. I feared they might reject the weaker, less appealing parts that I saw. I believed the lie that I had to be a certain kind of person, not too much, not too little, in order to be loved.

For me, the journey to being authentic started with accepting that I am deeply, unreservedly loved by God and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it. It is in letting him bring out all that I believe is unlovely in me and hearing, “yes, I love even this” that I have begun to allow others to see it as well.

Paula Reinhart in Strong Women, Soft Hearts, says, “You can’t really love people well unless you are at home in your own soul. You will simply be too afraid.” Twitter It is still a terrifying prospect to be simply me with others, and to waver in the hope that they will accept me just as I am. But when I come from a place of love, it gives me courage to truly be myself.

And it’s a beautiful thing, to be truly real with others. It is an opportunity for us to love others with his love, to be open and vulnerable and known. Yes, sometimes it hurts a little, and we get a little shabby in the process. But when we are REALLY loved, then we are free to become real.

 

Velveteen Rabbits and Skin Horses

Wonder at the miracle
of offering in trembling hands
pieces of yourself
to have them taken
oh so softly, gently,
with a smile.

The greater awe
of trust and faith
as pieces are returned
you hold and treasure them
and it does your soul
such good.

Roots sink deeper
hearts grow closer
as pieces show the truth
of who you are
and who they are
and how you learn to love
first the good
the bright and fun and healthy
parts exchanged
but soon, exposed, so nothing’s left
but worn and battered–
wish–they–were-not–there pieces

Quaking, wrapped in
hopeful prayers then growing joy
as we’re caught with “even this” acceptance

Oh sweet relief
this experience
of being worn but known
warm arms embracing
all your cracks and rips
and feeble, ugly ways

the miracle, the glorious one
of being loved
and loving back
And becoming real.

 

Join me on this journey of being real. Subscribe to my blog and receive my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul as a thank you. And come join me on social media-just follow the links on the right! 

Related posts:

The Lies of Too Much and Not Enough

Free to Be Me (via Mudroom)

Stop Telling Me to Be Amazing

Looking for God in the Right Places

Gina Butz expectations, faith 2 Comments

When we search in the wrong places, we miss what God is doing

photo by Pawel Janiak

There’s so much we miss if we aren’t looking for it.

One morning last week my husband told me there was a hawk in the backyard. I glanced out the kitchen window and observed nothing. Later, he came in again and asked, “Did you see the hawk?”

“No,” I replied, assuming it had flown away.

“It’s still there. It’s been there all morning.”

I looked out again, scanning the trees. No hawk. Maybe he was blending in with the trees. Erik led me upstairs to our 2nd floor deck and told me we should look with the binoculars. “Ah,” I thought, “it’s probably way back in the trees and that’s why I couldn’t see it.”

Nope. That hawk was right in the middle of our backyard, pecking away at bugs in the grass. Turns out I couldn’t see it because I wasn’t looking in the right place. I wasn’t looking hard enough.

And right there is how I miss so much of what God is doing in my life.

That hawk, on the other hand, wasn’t missing a thing. Between pecks, he hopped up on the soccer goal and stayed alert, scanning the ground. Every minute or so he jumped down with lightning speed and pulled up a frog or a worm. He was focused, and it was serving him well.

I want to be like that hawk. I don’t want to miss what God is doing because I’m not looking for it. Twitter I don’t want to hold so tightly to what I believe his goodness should look like that I miss his actual blessings. I don’t want to be someone who loses hope, who does not expect God to work, simply because he isn’t conforming to my plans.

Last spring, I spoke with a good friend about how easy it is for me to do this though. I have been in a long season of loneliness, brought on by a number of factors mostly beyond my control. While I have cried out to God to ease this pain, it seems he has been
silent on the issue.

But when I stop and look harder, I see ways that God is providing relationships for me. My life may not look like an episode of Friends (and let’s face it-whose does??), but I have people. Yes, it’s hard to grab the quality time I would love to have with them, but I am thankful for the moments God does give me. I know there are people I can call on when I am in need (whether or not I choose to call is perhaps fodder for another post). Each week I am surprised by what ends up in my calendar-a last minute serendipitous lunch with a friend, an unexpected phone call, a canceled appointment that gives me sudden time with someone else. It’s not so much that I am alone-I am simply so focused on what I think a lack of loneliness should look like that I miss what he is giving me.

That hawk, it appears, has made our backyard his home. He’s learned there’s life here for him. He’s learned where to look. He trusts that this place will provide for him.

You and I, we know where to look. Life is here, being given to us day after day. He is with us, giving us what we need, but sometimes it’s in ways we wouldn’t expect, so we miss it. Let’s pry our hands from the preconceived notions we have of how life should be so we can grab hold of what he is offering. He’s at work-we just have to search in the right places. 

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13Twitter

 

My hope is that people who come here are encouraged to live and love God and others well. If you subscribe to my blog, you can get that encouragement straight to your inbox each week, as well as my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul. Just enter your email in the box on the right. Thanks!

 

Related posts:

Looking for Jesus

Doubting in the Darkness

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith, truth 6 Comments

Don't doubt in the dark what you've seen in the light

Remember paper maps? Ah, the good old days, when we navigated ourselves from one place to another, like pioneers! I loved paging through the giant U.S. atlas we kept in our living room, imagining myself traveling unknown routes.

I remember the first time I had to make use of that atlas on my own. I was living in Mankato, Minnesota (famous for being the place Pa Ingalls took his lumber in the Little House series). I was driving home to Rochester for the weekend, then to Eau Claire, Wisconsin (my alma mater) for a party one Saturday night. I had to drive straight back to Mankato after the party to be at church Sunday morning.

mankato-map

For the visually minded – here’s what it looked like

I had never driven from Eau Claire to Mankato, but I read in my trusty map that at the border, where I normally turned south to go to Rochester, I could continue straight on highway 60 all the way to Mankato and save time. (I was disproportionately proud of myself for discerning this. Like seriously, seriously proud).

So, armed with this information, I set off in my Ford Festiva (read “glorified bumper car”) at 9 pm after the party. In the dark. In a Wisconsin winter. Deer season. Brilliant.

Sure enough, I had a near miss with a deer that left me a little shaken. Shortly after, I arrived at my fateful turn. I could turn left and take the longer, known route through Rochester, or I could follow what I’d seen on the map and plow ahead. I plowed.

The first 10 miles of that road were a winding path through dark, snowy woods. No houses, no streetlights, no civilization at all. It didn’t look anything like what I had expected. Within minutes, my mind began to run wild with thoughts like:

What if this is the wrong road? Maybe I’m driving to Canada. This is going to take forever, and I’m going to fall asleep in the car, then crash. Or what if I hit ice and go off the road? There’s no one here to help me. I’ll die alone in my car. They’ll find my body two weeks from now, gnawed by wolves (lots of potential death in these scenarios). What have I done?!?

I doubted in the dark what I had seen in the light. 

But every once in awhile, I drove past a sign that said, “Highway 60.” I was on the right road, whether it seemed like it or not.

I finally had to mentally grab hold of myself and say out loud, “Gina! You are ON highway 60! And the map said that if you stay on highway 60 you are getting to Mankato, so Just. Keep. Driving!”

And sure enough, I made it to Mankato.

I think of this story often when I navigate life. I can be so sure, when I spend time with God and his word, of what is true. I walk out confidently into the world, and then it looks anything but like what I expect. It’s harder. Darker. There are twists and turns I didn’t expect.

I can be gripped by anxiety and doubt. I question if I heard right. I wonder if the truth holds in this circumstance. I can think he’s led me astray.

When we lived in Singapore, I lived by my Singapore road guidebook. Singapore is not a driver friendly country, laid out on an easy to navigate grid. If you miss your turn, good luck-there’s no block to circle. So many times I pulled over and whipped that book out of the glove compartment to reorient myself.

This is how we need to live. We have to be people who live close to the truth about who we are and who he is. We have to keep reminding ourselves that he knows the way, he is our guide, and it’s true whether or not it looks like it’s true. Sometimes that means stopping again and again to reorient ourselves so we don’t end up wandering aimlessly or getting lost in lies. Pull over and ask for directions. It might take longer, but we’ll stay on the right track and go with confidence.

Bottom line friends: don’t doubt in the dark what you’ve seen in the light. Twitter

“But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way, who can’t see where they’re going. I’ll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take.” (Isaiah 42:16)

 

Related posts:

Just Enough Light 

When Faith Happens

 

Peace and Hope Amidst the Storm

Gina Butz faith, hope, trials 6 Comments

Finding peace in the storms of life

photo by J Scott Rakozy

For the last 24 hours, my phone has been filled with tweets about the coming hurricane in Florida. My friends and I are checking with each other to see if we’re prepared. One of them left this morning for a trip, worried about the family she’s leaving behind. Another has sent her kids to safety further north. I breathed a sigh of relief to hear that a childhood friend in Haiti is safe. We don’t know what to expect here, but we know it is coming.

It’s been a week of storms. Our daughter tried out for a developmental soccer program, one for which she’s been intentionally preparing these last few months. No one’s got more grit than this girl to press toward what she wants, yet she didn’t make the cut.

A good friend is experiencing the effects of past wounds marring a current relationship. She did what she thought was wise to avoid a storm, but it has come anyway. Another finds herself blocked in her work by factors out of her control and her faith is being tested as never before. I read in my newsfeed about unexpected divorce, the tragedy of a miscarriage, a father leaving a family far too soon.

We spent a day of prayer yesterday as a ministry, and heard reports from around the world of people persecuted for their beliefs. We spoke of the Pulse shooting, of personal struggles to make ends meet, and of fears for safety as the world becomes an increasingly more dangerous place for many.

I consider the storm swirling around our country. We watch and wonder what direction it will turn with the turbulent presidential election looming on the horizon. It all feels so huge, so beyond our control.

The storms, they just keep coming. 

With every story, my heart sinks. How much can we bear? My arms are not wide enough to encompass these people I love, to shelter them from all the storms in the world. There is so much trouble. So much heartache. So much that threatens to take away life as we know it, as we want it to be. Some of it is our own making, but some of it is just life in a fallen world.

So we feel helpless. Frightened. Discouraged. Distraught. Disappointed. Angry. This isn’t the way it was supposed to be. We want life without storms. We want sunny days and blue skies and happiness. When we don’t have it, we are so tempted to doubt his goodness and purposes.

But he never promised us life without storms. Jesus said to his disciples just before he died, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”Twitter

So herein lies our hope, friends. The storms are unavoidable. But we can take heart, because whatever comes, he has overcome the worst of it.

Now that doesn’t mean our trampoline isn’t going to end up in our trees. Or the relationship will be mended. Or the cancer will go away. Or the child will come home.

But it does mean that we do not respond as the world does. Yes, we feel the fear and sadness. But then we hope. We hope because we know that we have life beyond all this. We hope because we know that no matter what this world takes from us, it cannot take away our peace, our joy, or our salvation.

It can’t take us away from Jesus.

So in our storms, may we be people who talk about where our hope is. Our hope is in the one who is greater than the storms. He commands them, quiets them, and walks with us through them. He is our lifeboat, our anchor, our refuge. And at the end of the day, even if the storm overwhelms us, we still have him.

As one of our staff said yesterday, “When we have nothing and we have Jesus, we have everything.” Twitter Let’s rest in this today.

 

If you’re new here, stick around! If you click on My Journey above you can read more about why I write. If you need more encouragement today, check out my related posts below. And don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a post! 

Related posts:

Having Hope in a New Season

Hope in a Broken World 

To Truly Be Still

Gina Butz peace, rest 1 Comment

learning to be still when the world tells you to move

(disclaimer: I wrote this in the spring and never posted it. It’s still true though, so I pulled it out to share with you).

It’s completely quiet in my house right now. For the first time in nearly 20 years, I have had a week alone.

My husband took our two kids to Vermont this week to ski, and I opted to stay home, work, and take care of the dog. Skiing to me is an expensive exercise in trying not to kill yourself in cold weather.

Truth be told, this introvert heart jumped at the possibility of time alone. I love it. My soul can breathe again. Or it could, if I would just be still.

I’ve realized, through the past few years, that there is a big difference between being alone and being quiet.Twitter  There might not be anyone around, but I can still keep my soul from settling in to any sort of stillness. I write, I work, I clean, (just kidding, I probably don’t clean), I walk the dog, I watch TV, I read, I do a million activities with my alone time, but the real challenge for me is to actually be still.

Still enough to feel my own soul. Still enough to experience the emptiness, the sadness, the anxiety that I use all that activity to avoid. Still enough to reflect on my life and make more purposeful decisions. To maybe do less but do it with more meaning. Still enough to hear His voice. Still enough to let Him minister to me in all those emotions. Still enough to let Him guide my activities.

I know why I struggle to be still. It scares me. I’m afraid if I stop producing I stop having value. I like feeling I’ve made the most of every day. And yes, it is important to use every moment wisely. But what if the greatest wisdom for me in a given moment is to simply be?

When I do slow down, and allow myself the freedom to do nothing more than exist, my soul can rest. It can loosen its grip on the lie that I have to do anything to warrant praise. In stillness, I am reminded that all my activity is no substitute for the bread of life He offers me. It cannot feed my soul like stillness can.

So yesterday was a “just be” day. I slept in. I lingered in the Word. I was caught off guard by unexpected tears I couldn’t explain other than, “I think I just needed release.” I let them fall.

I pushed aside the “should do” and “ought to” of my never ending to do list and determined to just enjoy a non-productive day. I took deep breaths. I napped. I pursued stillness.

Be still and know. I feel like this has been the theme of so many of my posts these last few months, but it’s a hard lesson to learn in a culture that does its best to push and push us beyond our limits, that doesn’t invite us to slow down. So I will keep saying it, to myself and others.

Consider this your invitation. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to be still? What messages rise to the surface when you try to practice stillness? Is it the same “productivity=value” lie I am inclined to believe? Is it guilt about setting aside responsibility? Is it fear that your carefully crafted world will fall apart in your absence? Whatever might try to hold you back, don’t forfeit the peace, joy, strength and rest God longs to give you in the midst of a busy life.Twitter

 

If you’re struggling to slow down, you need my 8-day devotional It Is Well with My Soul, which is all about finding what our souls need to thrive. It’s yours for free when you subscribe to my blog by entering your email on the right. Wow, that sounded totally like a commercial. Sorry about that, but really I’d love for you to join me on the journey. Invite your friends to come as well! 

Related posts:

Why We Fear Sinking (and Why We Must Do It) guest post at On Leading Well 

Cease Striving