"Disgusting" and "Dumbest" are two key words in this post. Please join me for this message discussing the lasting effects of what we say. Please be aware: the example is truly disgusting. Nevertheless, it's totally worth the read!
There are tons of good ideas that are never put into practice. Many different factors can be the cause. Ones that I’ve experienced personally are: lack of direction, self-doubt, and good intentions. The last one listed may throw you for a loop, because there is a lot of good that can come from good intentions. But as I’m discussing in the book I’m writing, good intentions by itself can cause much harm and damage. There needs to be more than a good intention if we’re going to actually accomplish something of value, as we’ll see in this post.
There’s a lot to learn from runners. Some of which was illustrated for me this past Friday during Jaron’s first cross-country meet. Before the official run, the team got familiar with the track. They both walked and ran the course, giving them a mental approach in how to tackle it for the run.
I, myself, have never been in an official “run,” unless my treadmill programs and occasional outside run with Brandon count for anything. But my experience with physical exertion led me to pick up on a few things that relate to our family morning devotionals.
For years I had the desire to have a consistent time for family devotionals. (Key word here is consistent. We’d find the time here and there, but it was more there than here if you know what I mean).
Countless families have spoke of their family devotional time over the years, but it hit me when we were in….are you ready for it?....dun dun dunnn…..you guessed it—small group! I told ya we’d make it back for another treasured nugget from attending small group, or life group or Sunday school or whatever we may call it-- or as my high school geometry teacher would put it, “whatever floats your boat.” (I just loved that lady!)
Years and years ago, in our small group class, our friend Dayna shared how her family had their own little service in their living room one night a week growing up. They got into the Word of God, they had worship, they shared needs and they prayed. How incredible is that?! Sign me up! We're going to do that with our family!
Only we didn't.
Through the years I kept thinking it'd pan out. I envisioned the season Brandon was out of engineering school-- then we'd be home together in the evenings and could have what Dayna's family had. Well, before we knew it, we had another baby, then I was in nursing school-- rarely home for quality family time. We juggled. We juggled goals, educations and careers. We juggled dance recitals, horse riding lessons, soccer practice, basketball practice, baseball practice, birthday parties and school activities and yes, church activities too.
The opportunity for consistent family devotionals was not happening. Nope. An open door of time never presented. So a couple of years ago we created one.
We had to let go of what we thought family devotional time should look like. We evaluated what would work for our family and we did it.
This is how it looks in our house. At 7:45am we grab our Bibles, sit at either the table or in the living room, read a small bit and pray.
Why is this so important? While we may have a solid daily quiet time with the Lord, we can’t assume our kids will. Think of how long it took for you to get to the place of such commitment. When it comes to establishing a daily devotional time, we need to realize that our kids may need some spiritual spoon-feeding. In their concrete thinking ways, they don’t even know to tell you they’re spiritually hungry. Just assume they are and feed them…daily.
What do we pray? The Word of God is alive and active so we pray what we read over our children each morning. We pray for the challenges they may face, for the opportunities they may have to show love and kindness, we pray for their teachers, friends and fellow classmates. This is also the time we pray as a family for the needs of others-- from lost dogs to friends with cancer, we bring it in the morning.
Let me tell you. Once the commitment is made, everything, I mean everything will come in opposition to that time. There are mornings we haven't moved as efficiently, or maybe are trying to multi-task too much. Our allotted fifteen minutes dwindles. So here's a couple different things we've done.
We set the timer. If we only have seven minutes, we set the timer so we are sure to leave on time and we take the seven minutes. Other times we don’t even have that, so we grab our Bibles and read a little in the car and pray on the way. Occasionally, we’ve had to condense it even more, grabbing just one scripture to discuss and having prayer.
Friends, the Lord knows our hearts. So many times we can't give Him what we think we should so we end up giving nothing. Just give something. Start somewhere. Who knows, maybe it'll end up looking like what Dayna's family had, but you'll never know until you start.
So how in the world does this relate to a runner?
#1 Have a Game Plan. Remember how Jaron got to familiarize himself with his course before he ran it? That gave him a game plan of how to approach it and how to pace himself. We need a game plan for our family devotional time. Explore what would be the best approach for you. Carve out what time you can. This is going to look different for so many of us. Develop a plan. God will honor it.
#2 Let Others Motivate You. When Jaron ran Friday, the other runners helped him improve his time! He said he passed seven people during the run. With each person he passed he wondered if he could pass another. It was his motivation to keep going and it resulted in improvement. That's what Dayna did for our family. While we've not developed a time reflective of the one she had growing up, we did develop one. If it weren't for her sharing so specifically and so personally what it meant to her growing up, I don't know that we'd have hung on to the intention for so long. We finally made something happen. And remember, something is better than nothing. Maybe my children will further build upon what we’re doing now and do even more for their family devotional time with their kids!
#3 Just Do It (I'm not sure it's even legal for me to say that-- so for the sake of covering my fanny- let's just tip our hat to Nike right about now). This is where we get back to the good intentions. We need more than mere good intention. We need commitment. When we’re committed, we’ve resolved to do something. If it’s a commitment then it’s strong, determined and unwavering. Sometimes we look at the course and think it’s too difficult; possibly too many hills and too far to the finish line. But once you are going you realize how doable it is and how great it feels each time you finish. There’s only a feeling of accomplishment after a good run. It never feels wasted. It feels good. The same goes with those family devotions. Just start the run!
Psalm 92:2 NLT It is good to proclaim Your unfailing love in the morning, Your faithfulness in the evening,
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It’s an exciting season in our home. When I say “season," I’m talking season ten of The Voice. There is rarely an evening during the week our family is home together; therefore, we have marathon viewings of the show over the weekend. We’re somewhat new fans of the show. We’ve watched it from time-to-time, but last season we were blown away with the blind auditions. Barrett Baber sang one of my favorites, “Angel Eyes” by The Jeff Healey Band. But you know what had us captivated from the get-go, Jordan Smith’s rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier.” His story and message touched us as deeply as his vocals. We were tuned in to the very last episode when he was announced the winner.
Here we are now, back to snatching some time to snuggle on the sofa and watch our singing show. We’ve enjoyed seeing the unique artistic expression delivered in singing original hit songs. The contestants are quite talented in making a song their own, while keeping with the aspects audiences love most about the song. They can’t change it too much or we wouldn’t connect with it. And if they didn’t change it enough, we’d find it unoriginal. It’s a balancing act; one that appears to make them thrive.
Their performances demonstrate just how many different versions can be made from just one song. And that makes me realize how very much we are like a song.
A pleasant sound fell on my ears last fall when my friend and I were driving in the car. With a belt of laughter she exclaimed, “Heathe, you are like one big exclamation mark!” I loved that description. Some have said, “loud.” Some are subtler saying my “voice carries.” And yes, I’ve been informed that some have determined I talk too much.
At times I’ve allowed this feedback to soak in, trying to grow from it. It’s all in the balance, like those artists balancing originality with nostalgia. The desire is to grow into the best version of myself. Because you know what? Just like a song, we have different versions of ourselves.
It’s a conversation I had with one of the kids recently. We discussed a few different points when considering what makes us the best version of ourselves.
First, we are uniquely made. We love Psalm 139 imagining how we were knit together in our mother’s womb. We find comfort knowing the Lord is familiar with all our ways; we have security knowing He goes before us and follows us and that His hand of blessing is on our head. When we’re sharpening ourselves to be better, let us start with the One who made us.
One of our children has made the statement, “I’m just trying to find myself.” Honestly, it irritated me. I know it’s normal. I know those are thoughts we’ve all expressed in our quest for personal identity. But there’s a misconception in it. The world implies you’ll find yourself if you venture into a variety of places, trying an assortment of things. Yes, I’m being vague. I’ll allow you to fill in the “places” and “things.” The possibilities are innumerable. The point is, we’re not going to find our true self wrapped up in a package under some tree in the Wild Blue Yonder. Finding ourselves is found in seeking the One who made us. As we seek the Lord, He reveals who He designed us to be--- the best version at that.
Secondly, we have to be mindful of the company we keep. We’ve witnessed what is mentioned in I Corinthians 15:33, bad company corrupting good character. Many times we take this scripture and pair it with II Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
A great Word to direct us in the relationships we form. But remember, there is more to building close relationships than labeling someone as a believer. There’s been a lot of characteristics I’ve seen in the church that I know doesn’t make our Father proud. Yes, some of them even coming from yours truly.
I remember a close friend who was a great person, and loved the Lord. However, she was really negative. She had frequent complaints about her husband and her in-laws. After some time, I found similar critical thoughts crossing my mind. God was super gracious to reveal that my friendship with her wasn’t bringing out the best version of myself.
Finally, on the thought of friendship, we need a pride.
Last year my heart was greatly encouraged by reading Lisa Bevere’s Lioness Arising. It’s a book speaking to the strength of women and the importance of women in the lives of one another. God is so good to give us family, friends and a church to groom us through the journey of life.
Lisa informs us that lionesses groom each other’s hard to reach areas, the head and neck. She says, “Because we belong to Jesus, we are clean. But even so, in the course of a day, our feet can get dirty, and sometimes, depending on where we’ve been or what we’ve done or worn, our feet can even get stinky.” She connects this to Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13 saying, “the foot washing symbolizes how we can refresh and restore each other, especially when the paths we tread get us dirty.”
The point is---we need one another. Allow me to share a final thought of Lisa’s with you, “friendships and churches without connection and interaction will not groom you for God’s purpose.”
God intends to use us to strengthen, encourage and uplift one another. Let me tell you, I’ve been in some miry clay this past year. I’ve had some mountaintop moments accompanied by as many valley low heartaches. How would I have pressed through without the connections and interactions the Lord provided to groom me from my special relationships?
Three things to keep in mind: you are uniquely made, seek the Lord to lead you as He designed you; be mindful of the company you keep exerting caution around negative emotion; have your people, we all need restored and refreshed from time-to-time.
It makes for a beautiful picture and a beautiful sound….
the best version of you!
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[Lioness Arising, Chapter 7 - Lisa Bevere]