Tag Archive | intention

Be Available

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” Mark 5:30

 

woman driving a car and looking at watch

©DepositPhotos/Syda_Productions

I have a long list of things I want to do. I have a long list of things others would like me to do. I have a long list of things I should do. And, of course, I long list of things I have to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lists. I am, after all a list maker. I like to write it all down and check it off so that I know I’ve really accomplished something each day.

When my children were young and at home, my list consisted more of “have to’s” than “want to’s.” Choices seemed easier just because there weren’t really that many. But as my girls have grown up and have become more independent, I have more time on my hands.

There was a season when time was what I wanted. I could sit and read, garden, take a nap, all the fun and relaxing things that didn’t seem to happen often enough with children. But as seasons have changed, I’ve realized that they may not need me in the same ways, they still need me … and so do others.

Our relationships matter not because requirements and expectations matter, but because it’s how we know we matter. What I do can make a difference in the life of someone else. This all sounds nice doesn’t it? But there are a few things we need to deal with and understand for us to really be willing to be available to others.

  1. It’s going to take some time. Jesus was on His way to see and help one person when another person came to Him. There will be interruptions. Now, I’m most likely not going to be stopped as I walk down the street, but I might get a phone call or text message that requires some immediate attention in order to really meet the need of the person reaching out. If I’m going to be available I’m going to have to stop and push pause on my list so I can answer or reply in the most timely manner possible.
  2. It’s going to take some discipline. And if I am going to answer or reply, maybe even show up when I can, I’m going to need to be aware of the time. Jesus was available in meeting the need of the woman, but He didn’t stay too long. He didn’t change the plans He has already made to go somewhere else. There are times when urgent matters need to be worked through in a timely matter so that you can get on with the other things that are also important. Discipline may also call for us to not over-schedule ourselves. Every time you are in a hurry rushing from one thing to the next, you are less likely to stop for someone else in the process. We miss divine appointments when we see the list or the clock before the person.
  3. It’s going to take some energy. Jesus noticed that power went out from Him when the woman touched His cloak. People take energy. We have to be willing to exert some energy. People need us to be intentionally present, not just sitting back and passively participating in the relationship. Jesus was always going off alone for time with His Father. He was filled and refreshed so He had what He needed for others. How we care for our relationship with God will directly impact our ability to care for our relationships with others.
  4. It’s going to get personal. Jesus stopped and asked, “Who?” You can easily do something for someone as another check box on your list. But the “who” behind the check mark is really what it’s all about. There will be quick, brief encounters with people. Names might not even be exchanged. But I wonder, should they be? Should we thank someone by name, notice them by name, and take a moment to step into their story in a more personal way? Who we are matters. If it’s not personal, what is it?

Something to Consider…

I’ve often thought of my flexible schedule as a positive aspect of my ability to be available, but what I’ve done is let it disrupt my ability to be disciplined. Overall I end up being less effective. How can discipline and flexibility work together to create space to be available for others when needed?

There are times when I think of people and the first thought is, “They are so much work!” What I mean is they are draining. They suck the energy right out of me. The truth is that I’m not prepared to give people my best. And if I’m at my best, then I can give them something better as well. What activities or behaviors increase your energy and ability to be effective and which decrease it? What activities or habits do you need to change so you can be at your best in order to give others your best?

How often does the “who” matter in determining your willingness to stop and be available? Jesus came for the entire world, each individual “who.” How can you let His love be the goal regardless of the “who?”

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The Reality of Sacrifice

© DepositPhotos/ elenathewise

© DepositPhotos/ elenathewise

“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: ‘You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business.'” Acts 19:23-25 (NIV)

Sacrifice in the name of Jesus Christ is a choice.

In the United States, most people live a comfortable and convenient life. We see sacrifice as giving up television or Facebook for a period of time. Maybe we do without cable or satellite and only have 15 disappointing channels to choose from.

Maybe we see sacrifice as contentment in the not having. “I can’t afford something so I am willing to sacrifice my desire or longing for the thing I want.” Our willingness to accept what is for what isn’t can be a sacrifice of our own will for God’s. But in order for this to be true, we have to believe that God has a will that is worth sacrificing for.

What? Of course God’s will is worth sacrificing for you say.

But I ask, how do you know? How do we know it to be true? How do we see it lived out by Christians in this world?

I hear about boycotts all the time against companies who contribute to organizations that go against Christian values, at least according to some Christians. Maybe the company has a religious foundation other than that of Christ and the funds they receive go to further their message. Can we really be expected to give up products based on the beliefs and values of others? Can we really be expected to be the moral police of the world?

A while back I found out that Susan G. Komen contributed money to Planned Parenthood. I could no longer in good conscience contribute to the organization. I am not against breast cancer research or awareness. I do not wish or hope for people to get breast cancer and I am not insensitive to the suffering that those with breast cancer endure. I do contribute to other organizations working on cancer treatments and I do pray for organizations to use their resources wisely in their ongoing efforts to effectively and quickly treat cancer.

But finding a cure to cancer should not come on the backs of innocent children who have no voice, no choice and whose lives are ended too soon by the choice of another. This is one area where I stand firmly in my convictions. As I learn of other organizations who also contribution to abortion clinics, I hope to stand just as firm.

You see, not contributing to SGK is not really a sacrifice. I lose nothing because of that choice.

Am I willing to give up my favorite food, soft drink, coffee or activity because at the root of it lies funding for the murder of unborn babies? Even this is shallow in context. But…

Am I willing to give up the cure for my disease so others may live? Am I willing to give up my livelihood for what I believe Jesus Christ stands for and what He holds me accountable for in my lifetime? Am I willing to live without what everyone else has by choice so that my conscience can be clear before Christ on the day of judgement? Does it matter? Or am I content to say Jesus will forgive me anyway?

It sounds so cheap. Cheap grace. Contentment in sin. Contentment in complacency.

© DepositPhotos/ michaeljung

© DepositPhotos/ michaeljung

I’ve recently seen a number of articles addressing the use of child slaves in the making of chocolate. Is it true? How far-reaching is it? Does every piece of chocolate make its start on the back of a slave? And if it does, am I willing to give up chocolate? Do I have to give up every food that has chocolate as an ingredient as well? Is it just too difficult? Are there just too many uncertainties? Is it just too inconvenient? Would too many others put up a fuss?

When Paul was in Ephesus, the people were so convicted by the Spirit that they were willing to sacrifice. They sacrificed so greatly that it was felt by those whose businesses profited from the ungodly practices. Demetrius was not only concerned about his own business but that the god he worshiped would be discredited.

What god would be discredited if the abortion business was completely wiped out?

What god would be discredited if child slavery was no longer a profitable business?

What would you need to sacrifice in order to discredit the gods of this world? Or is that not your concern? Is that beyond your willingness to sacrifice for the will of God?

What grieves your heart because it grieves God’s? What would it take for that grievance to be made right in this world? What would you need to sacrifice in order to contribute to God’s will becoming reality?

Something to consider…

Sacrifice is not just about giving up your personal desires or contentment. Sacrifice serves others.

Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself to serve you. His love for us could only be made known through His willingness to sacrifice His own human will for that of God’s. What is God calling you to sacrifice, truly sacrifice, so that His love can be made known and so that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven?

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

What new thing is  God calling you to do out of worship for Him? How is God growing you in your relationship with Him? Is God asking you to sacrifice to serve Him and others in a greater way? Do you celebrate the fullness of all God has done when you come to Him in worship? Christmas is the beginning of God’s plan coming to fruition. It may not be realized until Jesus dies on the cross and is raised to new life, but today we have the gift of a baby. God has come to dwell with and save His people.

PCH Front Cover

 

 

 

 

 

Visit www.marikeisling.com to check out other studies available.

Something New

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

Lately, I’ve been struggling in the area of discipline. Well, truth be told, I’ve been struggling for a long, long time. Most people who know me would never know or probably believe this to be true. I get things done on time, I appear to be organized and I carry a lot of information around in my head.

Honestly though, I procrastinate. And when I procrastinate, I lose control of my schedule.

I recently took a personality test and one of the statements made about me in my results was that if I say I will do something, I will. People know that and they count on it. I had to laugh a little when I read it because in the sixth grade, when we went around the room and had to say something about ourselves that made us unique, this was the very thing I said about myself. “If I say I will do something, I will.”

The problem I find is that I’m the one I cheat when I procrastinate. Because I feel such a deep commitment to others, an accountability to follow through, I will easily let go of the things I know I should do and have even said to myself that I would do. I don’t feel the same accountability to myself that I do others.

And so I lack discipline. Complete discipline. True discipline.

And worse, I cheat God because sometimes those things I need to do for myself are things He wants me to do for myself. They are things that He wants me to do for Him simply because He says so. They are things that may make a difference somewhere else along the line. As I take time to invest in myself, I’m investing in my future with Him, becoming who He created me to be.

I tend to make decisions based on what’s easy in the moment, convenient for my “rushed” schedule, or seems to be too much work and could interfere with commitments to others. I hold myself more accountable to people than to God.

But what God has been showing me lately, offering me, is a new way of doing things.

A new way to see things.

A new way to make decisions.

A new way to live.

With Him.

In Him.

When God sent Jesus as a babe in the manger born of a virgin, He was doing something new. He was making a new way to Himself.

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:31-32a

And,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As well as,

(In Christ) “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore…” Ephesians 4:22-25a

Therefore.

We don’t simply add Jesus to our way of doing things. We stop doing what we did before we knew Him and we start doing what He shows us to do. We repent, change our thinking, and do what He moves us to do.

I think of life with Christ as more of “T” intersection than a fork in the road. There is a path you can clearly stay on, the one going straight ahead, or you can choose to go a whole new direction. You don’t veer one way or another; you intentionally choose a different path.

And you can’t take a little of this path and a little of that path and fudge your way. That doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it and I don’t recommend it. It will drive you crazy, maybe literally.

But instead, there is a choice to make: Do I stay on the road I’m on or do I choose a new way?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the paths of the world will intersect with your new path many, many times and each time, you will have to choose. Will you do what’s easy, convenient and expected or will you choose to be set apart in Christ, doing what’s hard, requiring effort and may even go against the grain of everyone around you? Will you give up what you’ve always done and who you’ve always said you were (who others say you are) and let Jesus renew, restore and redefine who you are in Him.

What new thing is God doing in your life? What new thing is God asking you to do in your relationship with Him? How might this new thing display a heart set on and committed to Him, to world that needs to know Him?

God remembered His people and did something new. Now, it’s your turn.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

PCH Front Cover

Summer Days, Winter Nights

conceptI’m sitting here on this beautiful summer day thinking about Christmas. Why? Because that’s just how fast time seems to pass.

Life is busy. In Minnesota, summers are busier. We have three, maybe four months to enjoy the warm temps, warm water, and not have to layer up just to get the mail. We cram weekends “up north” into our schedules, do everything we can to get to “the lake.” In some ways normal life seems to stop and our outdoor summer life kicks in. Now, don’t get me wrong. We like our winters, too. Just not that many of us like them as much as summer.

I lived in southern California for 18 short months and it wasn’t like that there. Summer or school year, so much of it seemed the same. There seemed to be a natural flow from one time of the year to the next with no dramatic shifts. I love the seasons of Minnesota, but there was something quite peaceful about our So Cal life.

So as summer begins to draw to an end (August begins this weekend, school the end of the month) and our summer thinking turns to fall activities, winter will be here before we know it. The changing of the seasons works that way. Different times in our lives distinctly marked out by the weather.

And if we’re not careful, we let our lives be directed and guided by what’s going on around us rather than by Who is in us. We let our actions be determined by the season we are in, rather than by the One we belong to.

Christmas is one such time when the ways of the world can quickly overshadow what we say is truly important to us. We make decisions because of what’s expected rather than because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We act as if this holiday is all about us when others don’t respond to or hold the holiday in the same regard as we do whether they are friends, family or complete strangers.

We forget that it’s all about Christ. We act in a way that doesn’t accurately represent who He is to a lost world. We expect others to conform to our way of thinking when we ourselves, those who claim to know Christ, have not conformed to His way of thinking. We have higher expectations of those who don’t know Christ than we have for ourselves.

Jesus had something to say about this:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'” Luke 11:46

And He says something about Himself:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can’t expect a world to come to us to find Jesus if we are doing all the same things they are. We can’t expect a world to come to know Jesus if we make it hard for them see and know His gentle and humble heart.

So what’s the answer?

We keep Christ at the center of our hearts, lives and activities. We find our joy, peace and strength in Him. And we remember that He came as a gentle and humble baby, not for His own benefit, but for ours and for others.

Our hearts need to be open to His leading at all times, but it seems like we need to be more aware of what’s truly in our hearts when the spotlight shines on us more brightly…like at Christmas. What will your heart tell others about Jesus? What will others learn about Jesus because of your words and actions? Choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to prepare your heart for the coming Christ so that the world may know and believe.

Something to Consider…

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Being intentional in our relationship with Jesus is necessary at all times. It’s easy to think that just because we are involved in ministry, work for or go to school in a Christian environment, or we are in a season that is focused on Jesus, we will have a heart set on Him in all we do. The world creeps in and we can be easily distracted .

What steps will you take this Christmas to be intentional in your relationship with Jesus? He is gentle and His burden is light. Help others know Him this way.

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

A Wise Leader (Part 1)

© Depositphotos.com/ robertprzybysz

© Depositphotos.com/
robertprzybysz

This is a multi-part blog based on my experience of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback.

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

I’m involved in a two-year leadership program at my church. It’s been both challenging and rewarding as we learn about leadership characteristics, church history and movements, and ultimately, what it means to be a Christ follower leading with a servant’s heart. We also break into smaller discipleship groups and talk specifically about what God is doing in our lives, how He’s teaching, loving and caring for us, as well as using us to show His love and compassion to others. Each week we set ourselves aside and soak up what the speaker has to say, what God wants us to hear and how we can move more freely in what He wants us to do. It’s truly a great opportunity to come alongside others who want to be living fully in God’s presence specifically in an area of leadership, wherever that may be.

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

A few weeks ago we heard a talk about feedback versus criticism (delivered by my wonderful husband, Craig, by the way). I admit this has been a very difficult place for me. I hear through the lens of criticism most of the time. I’ve realized over the last two years that I do not trust many people and even those I trust most, I am still hesitant with in certain situations and with certain topics. I don’t expect others to think the best of me. I also expect to be sacrificed for the sake of others.

God’s love, and the way we are to love each other, is a sacrificial love. It’s a love that gives, serves and even dies for another. But this sacrificial love requires a willingness on the part of the one sacrificing. It is a choice to put yourself in front of an issue and take a stand understanding the risk versus someone taking a step back or no step at all and putting you out in front to take the brunt of the problem.

What I’ve come to understand and am learning to accept is that God is my protection regardless if I’m “sacrificed” by my own choice or the decision of others. Regardless of what comes at me or what I’m thrown into, God has my back. He loves me unconditionally and I am safe, accepted, protected, and loved simply because I trust Him to do so. He is the One through whom all blessings flow, all good things come and He will never leave me to figure things out on my own. He’s in it with me. I just need to trust and obey.

So, back to the point of my message … feedback and criticism.

We were tasked with sending out a review to people who are over, under and next to us. In other words, those who we answer to in our work or volunteering, those we work or serve alongside and those who answer to us in some role or have experienced us as leaders. This can include at work, at church, in ministry, volunteering, family and even friends. (i.e., my husband and I are part of a small group and we’ve organized many functions together. They know how I operate in a group setting working together to accomplish a common goal.)

After I sent the survey, the first thing I did was make a list of every negative thing people could say so that nothing would surprise me. This way, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad to actually hear what a failure I’ve been. The next thing was to go through the list of rated questions and rate myself. I don’t know that I would actually recommend doing either of these things, but it’s just the truth of what I did at the time.

We received our responses this week. In my next blogs I’d like to share a few things I learned about myself and others through this process. For now, I wonder if you’d be willing to consider a few questions yourself.

Something to Consider…

  1. Do you understand the difference between feedback and criticism? Here is a simple definition of each:

Criticism – to find or point out fault

Feedback – to give evaluative or corrective information

Criticism tells you what you did wrong. Feedback helps you move forward. In The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell addresses this topic. I highly encourage you to check out this book if you are interested in growing as a leader.

  1. How well do you do at giving and receiving feedback? Do you dread hearing what others have to say about your quality of work or your ability to respond and interact with others? Or do you welcome counsel and advice about how to improve your skills both practically and relationally?
  2. How might God want to grow you in this area? How might God want to use you to help others grow in this area?

 

Follow Me

© Depositphotos.com/ rachwal

© Depositphotos.com/
rachwal

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9

Prior to this, Matthew was following the Roman government and other tax collectors. He was hated and reviled by the Jewish people. And yet, Jesus, a Rabbi, called Matthew to follow Him. In other words, He called him to stop doing what he was doing and start doing something new. Matthew would have to give up what he was pursuing in his following and pursue what Jesus was doing. It didn’t take but a moment for him to decide to take Jesus up on His offer. He walked away from it all.

Following isn’t mindlessly going where everyone else is going. In this case, it’s an intentional decision to go somewhere and do something very specific. There is an intentional effort to learn and do what someone else already knows and is doing. We learn what we pay attention to. We learn what we see, hear and experience.

Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

There is a benefit to giving careful consideration to our actions, relationships and who we pay attention to and learn from.

Paul in writing to the Philippians, Thessalonians, Corinthians and others says, “Imitate me.” Do what I do, follow my example and put into practice what you hear me say and watch me do. Why? Because I follow Christ. He is my example.

Paul also tells Timothy that he is to be an example.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

There are plenty of people who are in the spotlight and are considered role models and examples regardless of whether or not they want to be one. Some take it seriously, others just assume it’s not their issue.

As a follower of Christ, you are to follow the example of Jesus and those who knew Him. These examples are recorded in the Bible. We also follow the examples of those who have followed the followers of Jesus, and those who have followed the followers of the followers of the followers…

Something to Consider…

So who do you choose to follow and why? Whose example do you imitate? Have you given it much thought? Take an inventory of who influences and affects your decisions, words and actions. Do they help you follow Jesus or lead you away from Him?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also an example to others. Do you know who is following you? Ask God to show you any thoughts, behaviors or words that don’t honor Him. Ask Him to grow your understanding of the importance of demonstrating the true character of Christ with others.

Choose today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. He is the role model worth imitating.

Homework…it’s not just for kids

IMG_2064Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

I came home one day from running errands to find my daughter sitting in the kitchen diligently working on her school work. I don’t remember the last time I had to ask her if she had homework or if it was complete. Even when she doesn’t enjoy the subject, she knows the homework is necessary. My older daughter was not quite so driven to do her homework, but has learned the importance of it and the reward of not waiting until the last-minute.

For those who know me, they would say I love homework. They would probably leave it there and assume it’s true as a whole, but they would be wrong. I really didn’t enjoy school work and still don’t enjoy doing research in general. I also don’t strive to learn so I can simply say I know and understand this thing or that. I haven’t always read the Bible and when I first started, I didn’t understand much of it. I admit, I often fell asleep.

But now I love reading God’s Word and “homework” that teaches me the ways of God so I can do the things of God. I have participated in many Bible studies over the past ten years and have even written and lead a few of them. I always encourage and provide ways to do homework, additional study so everyone can dig into God’s Word at any time. Homework gives us a way to be more intentional with our time and about our study.

How do you know if what you believe God is revealing to you is true? Do you know that the devil likes to reveal things to you as well? He’s very sly and smooth in his approach and he can take something completely outside of the ways of God, mix it with Scripture and make it look pleasing, make it feel good and right and make you think you deserve it. All the while he’s leading you away from God rather than closer to Him.

“Jesus answered,’It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”‘” Matthew 4:4 (NIV)

Jesus knew God’s Word, not because He was God but because He learned it just like every other Jewish boy. When the devil came to tempt Him, He didn’t wonder what God would say or have Him do. He was able to respond immediately with the truth of God’s Word and defeat the devil even in midst of His physical, mental and emotional weakness. Because of the work He had already done, He was still spiritually strong.

We are so very fortunate to have the Bible, God’s Word, so we can know the truth of God ways. The truth is if you are going to be intentional about reading God’s Word, then you will be responsible for doing what it says because now you know the truth. It’s easy to claim ignorance or simply go by your feelings if you don’t pick up His Word. But once you do, there are no more excuses.

Jesus calls us to be like little children. Children are like sponges sopping up whatever they see and hear. They are constantly learning, sometimes intentionally, but often through what they experience.

What experience do you provide for yourself? As a child of God, as a maturing follower of Christ, do you take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him through His Word? Do you eagerly seek out His answers in the midst of the difficulties you face? Do you rejoice in the good and amazing things He has already done trusting that He is not finished yet?

Homework, when it comes to God’s work, is an intentional time of letting God’s Spirit work in us. We are sitting down and saying, “God, I know there are things in your Word that you specifically want me to know today, right now in this moment. Reveal them to me. As I seek you, you promise to be found. When I ask, you promise to answer. Lord, your Word is rich and I am poor. It is nourishment for this hungry soul. Feed me for I am needy in this world.”

Something to Consider…

Do you enjoy reading the Bible? Do you read the Bible regularly? What keeps you from it or makes it difficult for you? Ask God to help you understand and delight in His Word.

Are you uncertain you can trust what the Bible says? Does it seem to contradict what others say? All of God’s Word is true. God is knowable and completely trustworthy. Earnestly desire to know the truth about God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you.