Soldier On, Friends

Gina Butz courage, faith, trials 0 Comments

Soldier on, friends: fighting the good fight when the battle is strong

There is a constant battle waging for our souls, and I for one sometimes grow weary of fighting it.

There are days I battle discouragement, pessimism, lies, apathy, and it would be the easiest thing to let them sideline me. I know there’s truth that cuts down all those negative emotions, but it take energy to fight my way back to it. It takes time, and intentionality, and faith.

It’s a tiring battle. Every day we have to take up our cross and follow. Every day we have to start again, knowing that there will be arrows of accusation and condemnation from the enemy. There will be lies we’re tempted to believe about ourselves and others. Every day we have to fight our way back to the truth. We have to remember who we are and whose we are.

But friends, I get it.

It’s easier to lay down our weapons and surrender.

It’s easier to wallow in complaining and negativity than it is to take up gratitude, no matter how much we have to sift through to find the gold.

It’s easier to hole up with Netflix and ice cream hoping the battle will cease than it is to do the hard work of dragging those lies into the light.

It’s easier to stay in isolation than it is to invite others to speak truth into our darkness.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite books, Hind’s Feet on High Places. In it, the protagonist, Much Afraid, is called to the High Places by the Good Shepherd. What she hoped would be a joyous journey with Him is marred by her relatives with names like Resentment, Bitterness, and Pride, who constantly call to her along the way. They cause her to doubt and fear and wonder if she hasn’t chosen the wrong path.

She has to cover her ears and turn away from their voices. She has to hold doggedly to the promises the Good Shepherd has made to her, however much they might not feel true at the moment.

So do we.

I wish I could tattoo all His promises across my arms so they sink into my soul and take up permanent residence there.

I wish I was not such a leaky vessel when it comes to the truth about Him and me.

I wish I never found myself in those places where I realize I have listened to the wrong voices and strayed away from that solid ground in Him.

I wish fighting was not part of the Christian life, but it is. We are meant to fight hard against the enemy, and we are meant to be victorious.

Are you fighting the good fight? Fighting is hard and tiring but it’s worth it.Twitter

There is truth to be claimed.

There is joy that is ours for the taking.

There is peace offered to us.

There is solid ground on which to rest.

There is victory to be had.

Yes, there is much that will threaten to knock us off that rock of truth, but there is One who wants to hold us there. He is greater than our enemy. He gives us what we need for the battle.

So soldier on, friends. Take every thought captive. Fight hard for what is yours. Cling to the truth that combats the lies you’re tempted to believe. Lift your eyes to the hills. Listen to your commander’s voice. Press on to take hold of that for which He took hold of you.

We don’t get to claim truth once and stay there. We fight to keep claiming the ground that’s ours. The more we do, the more we win.

 

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This Kind of Jesus

Gina Butz faith 0 Comments

What kind of Jesus do you know?

photo by Greyson Joraleson

When I worked in campus ministry, I had a student insist to me that Jesus was white, because she’d “seen the pictures.”

Yeah. I’ve seen the pictures too. Jesus always looks so serene and other worldly, like in that one where He’s standing outside the door in a halo of sunlight. I get the feeling that if I were to ask that Jesus what He’s thinking about, He’d say something like, “Heaven” and I’d be all, “Oh” because I was thinking about chocolate, and then feel like maybe He and I couldn’t relate very well.

But a few years ago I watched The Bible on The History Channel. It was a great series, even if Noah had a Scottish accent and Moses seemed a little unhinged, and Satan looked like a cross between Obama and Voldemort. What I liked the most about it was Jesus.

When Jesus was with Peter in the boat, He just seemed so, well, human. He needed help getting into the boat. He sat casually and looked amused at Peter’s lack of faith. He spoke earnestly to him, and with conviction. He looked at Peter like you would look at someone you just really like.

Throughout the series, I watched Jesus’ face with fascination. I saw His joy when He was in the midst of friends. He was delighted with children. He was compassionate toward even the guard who came to arrest Him. His face filled with sadness and tenderness as He was betrayed by a kiss. He was human.

And then He swirled his hand around in the water and brought tons of fish to the boat and reminded me, “Oh yeah, this guy’s God.” He walked on water, He healed lepers, He gave the religious leaders looks that penetrated to their souls. When asked, “Are you the son of God?” He answered, “I am” and I thought, “These men stood in the presence of God and they didn’t know it.”

God with skin on. It’s such a gift. Yes, that was just a TV show, but the fact is that He was human for a time, and He did feel all the feels. He knows what it’s like to live among people. He knows what it’s like to be us.

I can relate to a Jesus like that. That’s the kind of Jesus I want to know. I can imagine him, as I go through my days, responding to me. I think He would laugh with me. He would cry when I’m hurt. He would speak words of conviction with kindness and tenderness. He would raise my head when I’m weary. He’d high five me when I’m having a great moment. He would tell me that he likes chocolate too.

And because of Easter, because of the resurrection, there is nothing to keep us from experiencing a relationship with that God, the one who knows all that we go through, who felt it with us, who still feels it with us. He is not someone who stands at a distance. He wants to walk through life side by side, doing life with us. Do you know that Jesus?

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Moana and the Power of Grit

Gina Butz courage, trials 2 Comments

Moana and the power of grit

photo by Oliver and Ben Pritchard Barrett

If there’s one thing I’d like to say about myself by the end of this year, it’s this: I’m grittier than I was.

When I say grit, I’m talking about courage and resolve, showing up and staying in it for the long haul, doing the hard things that get you places you thought you couldn’t go.

I’ve learned, in the last year, that I am not a naturally gritty person. I like safety. I like comfort. I like staying in the known places where I’m doing well.

The problem is, not much happens in those safe, comfortable places.

You know who has grit? Moana. I’m in love with this new character from Disney, because she is a great picture of the rewards of being gritty.

Moana lives on an island, where she is destined to be the next leader. Their island is slowing dying, food is scarce. The people are getting desperate.

Moana suggests they go beyond the reef to look for more fish, but her father tells her, “There’s nothing beyond our reef but storms and rough seas. As long as we stay on our very safe island, we’ll be fine.” See, he tried to go beyond the reef before and found nothing but heartache and an unforgiving ocean.

Moana tries to stay as her father asks, but the desire to save her people, and the call on her life to be the one to help them compels her to go.

Throughout the movie, we see her waver between doubt and courage, resolve and giving up. In the end, (spoiler alert) her perseverance pays off.

We all have a safe island where we could stay. And we all have a way God is calling us to live out who we are, asking us to venture into new waters. He calls us to places that test our resolve, places of potential failure, but also great reward.

For me, writing has been that call onto the water. It’s been a challenging and anxiety ridden ride at times, full of temptation to compare myself to others, wonder if I have what it takes, and be discouraged. I have tried to be courageous and put myself out there, but often I have wanted to give up and walk away, back to my safe island. Heck, I feel that right now, today, as I write this.

When we are attempting to do something that calls us beyond our comfort zone, it’s tough. We get tired. There’s heartache and failure. Sometimes it feels like the world is against us. Our dreams can seem just out of reach. We doubt it’s worth it.

The question is, “Will we keep going?”

It takes grit. Leaving the island takes grit. Staying the course takes grit.

But what’s the alternative? Our worlds get smaller, until we are stuck on our islands. We are safe, but we aren’t living. We are comfortable, but we accomplish little. We miss the call.

So what does it take for us to leave the island, to stay gritty?

In my experience, it’s a combination of being desperate enough to leave where we are, and a clear vision of where we want to be. It’s the conviction that where we are is not where we want to be in the end, and where we would like to land is worth the risk and the effort. It’s staying laser focused on that whenever we are ready to throw in the towel.

It’s also the conviction that this is what God has asked us to do. And if He has asked us to do it, He will equip us for it. He doesn’t promise it will be easy, but He promises He will be with us. Grit takes faith, in ourselves, yes, but even more so in the One who called us.

I don’t know what God is calling you to right now. Maybe it’s starting that ministry that’s been gnawing at your heart. Maybe it’s fighting for a relationship you would rather leave. Maybe it’s that book you’ve always wanted to write, or the job you’re not sure you’re qualified for. Maybe it’s literally leaving this land and venturing across the sea to a new place. Whatever it is, it’s worth the risk.

Stop staring at the edge of the water. Go. Stay the course. Be gritty.

 

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A Willing Sacrifice

Gina Butz expectations, grace 4 Comments

what keeps you from a willing sacrifice?

photo by Ben White

I stood scrubbing the dishes with gritted teeth. This was my kids’ job, and they had failed to do it before bed. This was the job I had just asked my husband to come help do, and while he had verbally committed, he was still sitting on the couch watching YouTube. So there I was, alone, doing a job that was not mine, and I did not want to do. Yes, a sacrifice of my time and energy, but willing? Anything but.

I too was tired after a long day of meetings and driving kids. I wanted to relax. A small part of me knew this was an opportunity to serve my family with a joyful heart. The rest of me wanted them to see my service and feel guilty, or show up too late to help so I could feel more justified in my self-pity.

Not my finest moment.

Is it sacrifice if it isn’t willing? After all, I still gave. I still served. But I walked away with a heart tinged with bitterness, in need of forgiveness. Making that a practice is a sure way to harden me to the people I say I’m serving.

I’ve wondered, since that night, what it takes for me to sacrifice with a willing heart, even when it is challenging.

I know what gets in the way.

Pride. And pride can take so many forms.

Sometimes it looks like using serving others to gain approval. It happens when the giving of my time and energy seems like a worthy transaction to earn the good will of others. It feels willing, but if the response of others is tepid, my pride will hunt for more. What seems like sacrifice is nothing more than using others to prove my worth. 

Sometimes it looks like being willing to carry others’ burdens, but denying others the opportunity to carry mine. It stems from the lie that what I offer is all people want from me, not my heart, not my desires, not my needs. Pride whispers that I am only as good as what I do, so I must give.

And still other times, pride says I am better than you because of my giving. It shows up as self-righteousness, stubborn obligation. I give because it is expected, because I outwardly fit the model of Christian service, while inwardly I stew over the dinner dishes.

But a willing sacrifice? Sacrifice means I have to give up something I value for the sake of others. Willing equates to ready, eager, prepared. To be a willing sacrifice I must walk away from self, and lay down the pride that gets in my way.

In Philippians chapter 2, Paul paints a picture of humility, asking us to be like Christ as he emptied himself and became human. Humility bids us to empty our souls of this focus on self.Twitter  It requires us to die.

But there’s a difference between dying to self and shutting down our hearts.

In dying to self, I own when it is hard to sacrifice, when it feels like too much, when I have no more to give. Like Christ in the garden, I lay bare my weary heart and my desire to step away from the task.

When I die to self, I acknowledge that my motives can be selfish and self-serving. I call out pride where it exists, and turn my eyes upward. I choose to walk the road for His sake, and no one else’s. Only then am I unencumbered and free to serve with joy.

I think back to that night at the sink, and I wonder how I could have done it differently. I imagine stopping for just a minute to let myself feel my humanity. I picture giving myself space to acknowledge my fatigue, my reluctance, my desire to do anything else, as all valid.

I wish I had taken my angry, messy heart to God, confessing-let’s call it what it was-my hatred toward my family in that moment. I needed to spill out the prideful attitude that set me above them. God wanted to empty me of self-righteousness, my attempt to make a martyr of myself, so that I could move toward my family with an open heart.

And I wish I had simply done it for God; not my family, not for recognition or justification. I wish I had let that moment be a holy gift back to God, done out of love for Him alone, from the low ground He calls us to walk.

Humility leads to a willing sacrifice. When our giving is tangled up with pride, we are bound to the responses of others. But when our sacrifice is for Him, we walk freely.

 

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What I’m Learning about Loneliness

Gina Butz identity, trials 2 Comments

What I'm learning about loneliness

photo by Jean Garber

It’s time for me to admit something I wish were not true: in this season of life, loneliness has been a frequent companion of mine.

If it were up to me, my life would be a constant episode of Friends or Cheers or Seinfield-living in the assurance that I belong to a tight-knit group of people whose doors are always open to me, and who are seemingly always available. Sure, I’m an introvert, but I want to know that someone’s there if I need them.

Perhaps my expectations are a wee high.

But we all want to be known, to belong, to be pursued, to be loved. Loneliness feels like a stamp of disapproval, like you somehow missed the invitation to the party.

Whenever I have encountered loneliness in my life, I have begged God to take it away. This time around, I feel Him asking me to linger in it a little longer, because loneliness has something to teach me.

This is what I am learning about loneliness:

It is not an indictment. I have remained silent about being lonely because it feels sometimes like a judgment; there must be a reason I’m lonely. Like maybe I’m really unpleasant to be around and no one’s telling me (although I’m confident enough to doubt this is the case. I like me. I can’t be the only one). In the void, the enemy will speak shame to the lonely, keeping us locked in silence.

Sometimes loneliness just is. It’s not the result of doing something wrong, or something wrong with you. It’s just a character in this chapter of the story, and God’s writing a good story for each of us.

There is a difference between loneliness and being alone. Several weeks ago, my husband went on his first long trip in awhile. I was achingly lonely, even though I interacted with plenty of people. Last week, he was gone again for another week, but I felt content to be by myself, breathing in the silence and enjoying more time to think.

You can be alone and not lonely. And you can be surrounded by people and feel terribly lonely. It’s good to recognize the difference.

Lots of people are lonely. Sometimes I wonder how many of us sit in loneliness, wishing someone would reach out. Imagine all the people who could be finding each other if only we would stop being silent about our loneliness. But again, shame wants us to believe we are the only ones.

The lonely ones are probably the most unexpected. My guess is most leaders are lonely. Think of our pastors, our bosses, the famous men and women we admire from a distance.

You know what that distance does? It isolates. The pressure to fit an image, the way position or status makes it hard to relate to others-they make it a challenge for many to find people who relate to them as peers. They might need companionship the most.

Loneliness pulls back the veil. One of the most frightening aspects of loneliness is that it exposes what we hide in our busy activity. It shows how much we hunger for companionship, what we most deeply desire, and how easily our souls settle for lesser things.

It is an invitation to solitude and silence. Sometimes I shy away from solitude and silence because they feel too much like loneliness. But loneliness is becoming an invitation into these very practices that are so necessary for my soul. Here, loneliness can become not only a teacher, but a friend in itself, leading me to places where God will meet me.

In the allegory Hind’s Feet on High Places, the protagonist, Much Afraid, is given two companions for her journey: Sorrow and Suffering. She is loathe to take their hands, but the more she does, the more strength they give her.

Loneliness is another unwanted companion for many of us, but as we take its hand, we may learn it is not to be feared as much as we believe. Rather, it is a place where we can meet God in our deepest hunger and desire, where He can teach us.

 

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On Learning to Be Quick to Call for Help

Gina Butz dependence on God, faith 0 Comments

Do you call on God for help?

photo by Pavan Trikutam

“Ring! Ring!”

These words were often heard in our house when our children were younger, usually accompanied by giggles, peppered with a little desperation.

They were the distress call from our daughter, translating to, “Daddy – my big brother’s playing with me and he’s getting a little too rough and left to my own devices I’ll probably retaliate in a way that I’ll regret, or at least he will. Save me!”

You can see how we needed a code word to avoid her having to scream all that.

It started as a simple conflict resolution skill – if it’s getting past “this is fun” into “he’s sitting on my head and it hurts,” she called out, “Ring! Ring!” and she knew daddy would come to her rescue.

Initially, her “Ring! Ring!” cries were a little frantic and uncertain. She was used to having to stand her own ground with her brother when they wrestled, and she didn’t know if she would be rescued. After awhile, she realized that daddy really would come readily when she called.

Not only would he come, but he would scoop her up and whisk her away, and what was distressing transformed to joy. He was her knight in shining armor. I think she secretly hoped for a chance to call. She loved it when daddy showed up.

Whenever I think of her “Ring! Ring” I am reminded of my heavenly Father. I have always been a fiercely independent, “thanks, but I’ve got this” kind of girl when it comes to life. I am often so convinced that I can handle life on my own that when it comes to the places where I can’t, I forget that my Father is so able and willing to respond to my “Ring! Ring!”

I’m not talking about the kind of faith that uses God as a last resort, or sees Him as only a lifeline when we’re in trouble. I want my “Ring! Ring!” to more and more change from the hesitant, questioning cries that mark young faith, to confident, joyful expectation that cries out in awareness that our God is never far away; a faith that does not trust in our own ways, our own strength, but immediately recognizes our helplessness and His great power and love.

Last night as I went to bed, the weight of the details of life hung heavy. Between work and writing and parenting and impending visitors and a soon to be traveling husband, I was tempted to be anxious and wonder if I could make it all happen.

I was reminded in that moment that our Father longs to intervene. He wants to take those burdens. In exchange, He wants to give us the peace, energy, wisdom and power to do what He has called us to do.

So this morning when I woke up, I called for help. And God came to my rescue, reminding me that He’s got today. He’s got me. He’s got this. He’s got us. So call, friends.

“The Lord your God is with you; He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

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It’s All in How You Look at It

Gina Butz gratitude, perspective, trials 0 Comments

Are you keeping the right perspective on your life?

photo by Leon Seierlein

So I live in my car. I mean not really, but it feels like it sometimes. It’s not unusual for me to spend 3-4 hours driving on a given day. And suffice to say it’s not my favorite activity.

Lately, though, my perspective on my mobile prison has been changing. I’m coming to appreciate this time. After all, usually it means I’ve got kids in the car-not just mine but others. I am privy to conversations they have with one another, about subjects I would otherwise not know. Other times it’s just me and my own kids, talking, laughing, observing, and just existing together. It might be the only time of the day I have their undivided attention, and they mine.

This driving time is also a forced time of solitude. I do some of my best thinking, blog post and book brainstorming, praying, and, naturally, just talking to myself, in the car. I can’t multi-task in here (truth be told, I am writing this post in my car. Yep, I’ve just given up trying to exist in my house). I have to slow down and just be.

Someday I won’t have to spend this much time driving. And I will miss that time with my kids, eavesdropping on their lives. I will miss the silence it affords me to actually hear myself think. I will have to carve out other time for prayer and pondering. I will need to find other ways to be unhurried.

So I could look at all these hours as wasted, or I could see how God is redeeming this time. I could write them off as an inconvenience or I could be thankful for what it brings to my life. It’s all in how I look at it.

This is true of so many aspects of my life. I despise cooking (is there a stronger word than despise? I would use it), but I’m thankful I have people for whom to cook. Cooking reminds me that I don’t have to be the best at something in order to still be a blessing.

I’m not a fan of how much work our house requires, but boy am I glad we have one. I wish there were a way I could clean my house and have it stay that way, but the cleaning humbles me and gives me an opportunity to bless the ones I love.

I would gladly never look another receipt, budget, or anything else related to our finances again. But when I do, I am reminded that we are so very blessed to have what we need, and more.

I wish I didn’t have the responsibility of feeding and walking a dog, but I know how much I would miss her company. She slows me down and forces me to get out into nature. She literally helps me stop and smell the flowers.

Working with people is hard, but what a blessing to have meaningful work. The problems that arise are an opportunity to move toward others with truth and love. The challenges keep me dependent on God.

I would love a struggle free life, but the trials are what keep me returning to Him. They highlight my humanity and His divinity, and remind me that I always have a place to go for what I need.

What’s the thing in your life you wish you didn’t have to do? What’s the activity that asks more than you feel like you can give? What road would you rather not walk?

Maybe it’s changing diapers or grocery shopping or homework or conflict management at work or driving all over kingdom come. Maybe it’s something much more wearying and painful.

Whatever it is, none of it is wasted. Someday we will look back and see the blessing in it, God’s hand at work, how it changed us for good.

So why wait? Why not look now for the blessing? Why not choose to see how it can be used for good? It might be a challenge, like panning for gold. But it’s there. God redeems it all. He uses it all. It’s all in how we look at it.  

 

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Redefining Success

Gina Butz expectations, identity 2 Comments

What does success really look like?

photo by Edu Lauton

It’s no secret to people who know me that I like to be successful. I tend to shy away from activities if I know I can’t do them well. And by well I mean better than anyone else (ugh-it sounds worse outside of my head). Average is Gina’s F.

This kind of thinking brings to mind the story of the talents from Matthew 25. One servant receives five talents, another two, and another one. Those with five and two make the most of what they have, investing them wisely and doubling what they have. But the servant with one talent does nothing with it. He wastes what he has been given.

I’d like to think that I have five talents, nay, ten talents. Oh what I could do with ten talents. But in some situations, I realize I might only have two. Maybe even just the one. That shouldn’t make a difference, but it can to me. I allow what I think I have to influence how much I will put myself out there. I become more focused on how using these talents will make me look than on being a good steward of them. I get distracted by comparing my talents with the talents of others. I think more about what they can do for me, than what I am doing with them for Him.

Take writing, for example. The more I am exposed to successful writers, the easier it is for me to doubt that what I write is worth putting out there. Am I successful if I don’t have the same following as them? Am I good enough if my posts aren’t wildly popular? Should I even bother? I see the success of others, and it’s tempting to think that if I can’t do that, I should just give up.

I need to redefine success.

Because according to this story, success is not about how much you have, how much people recognize what you offer, even what an impact you make. Success is being faithful and obedient with what he has given youTwitter , whether it’s a little or a lot.

So being successful as a writer is not about the number of likes and followers and retweets. It’s about listening to God’s voice and sharing whatever words He gives me because He asked me to share them.

And being successful as a parent is not about our kids’ achievements. It’s about believing that God has given us responsibility and resources to pour into our kids, claiming grace for what we lack, and leaving the results to God.

And being successful in our work isn’t about attaining more financial security or that corner office, but using the gifts He has given us to the best of our abilities in whatever space God has called us to work.

And being successful in life isn’t about creating the perfect amazing outward life, but about walking the long and dusty road with Him day in and day out, taking each next step as He leads regardless of who sees it.

In all these activities, our responsibility begins and ends with faithfulness and obedience. What He does with what we offer is up to Him. Whether He brings great fruit and influence and world change, or whether it falls on deaf ears and closed eyes, we have been successful if we show up.

So how have you been looking for success in your life? And what would it look like to simply be faithful and obedient today?

 

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Don’t Forget to Breathe

Gina Butz anxiety, dependence on God, faith, grace, prayer, rest 0 Comments

don't forget to breathe

photo by Jake Givens

In the quiet of a dimly lit room, standing unsteadily on a foam mat, wondering if everyone behind me was looking at my form (they probably weren’t), I tried to focus. Arms up, down to prayer, bend over, lift halfway, down again, now back up and reach . . . and oh yeah, don’t forget to breathe.

It seems like the lamest command one human could give another, “Don’t forget to breathe.” We humans breathe on average 17,000+ times per day involuntarily. I’ve done it for almost 44 years. That’s, like . . . ok I’m not even going to pretend I do math, but it’s a lot of breathing, right? I should have the hang of it by now.

And yet. And yet every time our sweet yoga guide said it, I realized I wasn’t breathing. So focused on the action that I forgot to inhale and exhale.

When I did breathe, my body would relax. I could sink deeper. I became more aware of everything I was doing. I felt the places that were tight, that needed more attention.

Our instructor pointed out that the Jewish name for God-Yahweh-was meant to be breathed. It’s the only consonants in the Hebrew alphabet that are not articulated with the lips and tongue. So as you breathe in and out, you can say that name of Yahweh. So that is what we practiced. Yah-weh.

A way of breathing that reminds us who is with us and what He offers. A way of breathing that calls us to slow down, lean in, be aware that the very breath of God is in me.

So I’ve been trying to practice this, in the moments when life feels a little rushed, too overwhelming, too hard. I’m trying to remember to breathe.

Don’t forget to breathe . . . 
when that guy in front of us is driving 40 in a 55 and there’s no possibility of passing . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in patience and peace and the knowledge that we will get there eventually. Then we breathe out grace toward those who slow us down when we want to be fast.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
when we ask our children to do something and we can see from their faces the objections forming in their heads before they’re even words . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in time to speak to the heart, not that face. Then we breathe out words that love and invite.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
when one more person presents one more need for us to meet . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in the space we need to question if this yes is for us or not. Then we breathe out an honest, humble answer that offers the best for everyone.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
when our best laid plans fall to pieces . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in the grace we need. Then we breathe out a good laugh at the idea that we were ever in control in the first place.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
when anxiety grips our hearts and warns us to step away from the brave paths God’s calling us to take . . . Yah-weh . . .we breathe in his peace, his promise that He’s the one who brought us this far and He won’t let go now. Then we breathe out determination that says we will keep walking this way because He is with us.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
when the pressure to be all things to everyone threatens to weigh us down . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in our humanity and let ourselves off the hook. Then we breathe out the tension as we remember that we are not the Saviors of the world.

Don’t forget to breathe . . .
at the end of the day when we realize we’ve made it . . . Yah-weh . . . we breathe in the joy and the blessings. Then we breathe out gratitude and worship to the One who gives it all to us. He is always with us, closer than our own breath.

Practice this Yah-weh breath with me. It can slow us down, make us conscious of the areas in our lives that need our attention, and bring consciousness of His presence in our lives.

Don’t forget to breathe today, friends.

 

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You Are Loved

Gina Butz identity, loved 0 Comments

you are loved

photo by Mona Eendra

How was everyone’s Valentine’s Day? Mine was less than stellar. In the morning I woke up feeling off, and by afternoon I had a fever, aches, a head that felt like it was going to explode, and what sounded like a case of tuberculosis. All this added up to making me the lamest Valentine’s date ever. We spent the evening eating Tijuana Flats in bed watching videos on our phones. Just how everyone dreams Valentine’s Day will be.

Tis the season to talk about love, think about love, hope for love, cherish love. But I can’t help but think how many people, even those of us who are married, even those who have deep relationships with others, long for something more.

We long to be loved. Our hearts ache for a love that is solid, never-ending, secure. We want to be fully known and at the same time deeply loved for all our good, bad, and even ugly.

Oh yes, please even for the ugly. Please tell us it’s possible to be consistently loved even at our worst, so that we can stop hiding our less-than parts behind closed doors and be fully ourselves instead.

Tell us it’s possible that there’s someone from whom we never have to fear rejection, abandonment, for whom we are never just too much, too hard to love.

I’m here to say today: it’s possible. It’s more than possible. It’s true. That is how we are loved. As I thought about what I wanted to share this week, every part of my being wants to tell you this truth:

You are loved. Period. The end. No ifs, ands or buts. You are deeply, without hesitation, loved, with an all-encompassing love.

How do I know? Because the whole of scripture tells me it’s true. The Bible is a love story, friends.Twitter It’s one long epic tale of the hero who stole into enemy territory under cover of darkness to rescue the ones He loves, because the thought of eternity without us was unacceptable to Him. We were worth everything. We are worth everything.

He first loved us. That’s important to remember. He doesn’t love us because, or when, or if. He just loves us, with a love that is unshakeable, unchanging, unconditional.

I can’t think of a better way to phrase it than how Henri Nouwen put it in Life of the Beloved, “My only desire is to make these words reverberate in your being, ‘You are the beloved.'”Twitter

Seriously, if I have one prayer for all of us today, it is that we would live loved. We would stop wandering, searching for lesser loves to satisfy our hungry souls. We would stop doubting, stop believing the lie that there’s something we can do to get us voted off His island. We would stop listening to the voices that tell us to prove our worth, and we would just soak in this truth today:

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

So maybe your Valentine’s Day was a bust. Maybe loneliness gnaws at the corners of your life and causes you to question your value. Maybe you’re feeling let down by people in your life. Maybe you’re feeling the sting of rejection. We’re all hungry for just a little more love.

So let me say it again: You are loved. May this thought echo off the walls of your hearts today. Repeat it to yourself until it becomes the place where you live. He loves you. 

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