Getting Results Without Sacrifice and Effort

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So many of us hear people talking about having a deep relationship with God, one so close you can nearly hear the heartbeat of God. We long deeply for that kind of an intimate relationship, but our lives are tangled – tangled in the crazy, busy, rush of life. We live in a culture that is always on the go, a culture that is always talking but never listening. Publishing companies get rich on devotional materials that promise us that we can “have a deep relationship with God in only 10 minutes a day”, because that is what we long for, but our lives are crammed so full. It seems we never have enough time to actually develop a deep, personal relationship. Or maybe some of us did have time and had a very close walk with God in the past, but growing up and living a busy life has slowly started to choke it out.
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I’ve been reading through Chronicles in my personal devotions, and lately certain verses have been popping out at me. Verses about why different kings did or didn’t follow the Lord. The first verse that particularly got me thinking was a verse about king Rehoboam. 2 Chronicles 12:14 says, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.” I find it very sobering that God chose to put that verse in his word for us. Rehoboam did evil, not because God hardened his heart, not because he had a rebellious heart, or because he fell into some great sin, no, king Rehoboam lived an evil life because he didn’t prepare his heart to seek the Lord. The word ‘prepare’ is a verb. It means “to put in proper condition or readiness”. It’s not something we just are, or suddenly have dropped in our lap, it’s a constant action.
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Imagine with me for a moment that every morning, at 7am, you bring your dog out of the house so it can run around the yard for a few minutes and do it’s business. Each morning as you head out, your overly happy and energetic neighbor also bounces out his door with a mile-long smile on his face, donning his shorts and running shoes. He shoots you an enthusiastic wave and proceeds to sprint down the road for about 5 minutes. Right as he almost disappears out of sight, he turns around and sprints the 5 minutes back and disappears into his house with kiddish, giddy excitement.  You watch this happen, morning after morning with great curiosity. Finally one afternoon you see him out working in his yard and your curiosity gets the better of you. You walk over there and say, “Hi Mr. Thomas, I hope you’re having a good day. I have a question for you: every single morning I see you out here, running for just a few minutes out and back. What exactly do you do it for?” He flashes you one of his happy smiles and says, “Oh! I’m running a marathon next month so I run every morning for 10 minutes. I know it isn’t much, but I’m just too busy to practice for more than that.” You politely tell him you wish him the best at his marathon, but go away thinking your neighbor must be totally crazy to think he’s going to run a marathon after only training for 10 minutes every morning.
We would think Mr. Thomas had extremely unreasonable ideas, but really, isn’t that how a lot of us seem to treat our relationships with the Lord? We want the result without the sacrifice and effort. The truth is, you will never develop a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord by speed reading a few verses and hurriedly praying a few quick prayers for Aunt Mildred’s sore arm before you throw yourself back into the chaos of life. Your relationship with God, just like anything else in life, will take time and effort. It is not an exception.
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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to truly develop a deep relationship with God in a crazy, busy world, full of crazy, busy people (me) that seem to never have time. I’m not writing this because I’ve somehow achieved it. No, I’m writing this because I’ve failed over and over in this area and God has had to pick me up off the ground with skinned up knees and bandage my wounds and say, “Go and prepare your heart to truly seek me; go and truly put your relationship with me as your greatest priority.” 2 Chronicles 20:2-3 says: “Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea…and Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” Every single moment of everyday there are things coming against us. Our response should be to set ourselves to seek the Lord and prepare our hearts.
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Will you join me in taking time to really examine our lives and see if we have, and are, preparing our hearts to seek God? Are we living it out as a verb in our lives everyday? If busyness is holding you back, then you need to sit down and figure out what has to go.  Because as a wise friend of mine once told me, “If you’re too busy for a deep relationship with God, you’re too busy!” Great relationships never just happen, we have to be intentional about them. For me, it is was giving up Instagram (my favorite social media) for a few weeks to spend that extra time focusing on my relationship with God and where he wants me to be.
We’re fighting a battle; we’re running a marathon. It is real and the most important thing in our lives. May we truly prepare our hearts and give God time. Let’s quit our few minute sprints every morning and let God stretch us and challenge us a little more each day ’til the thing we hear clearest in our lives is the heartbeat of our Savior! Only then will we truly be equipped to run this marathon of life as He calls us too!
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The Most Beautiful Woman I Know…

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I was asked a question a few years ago that I didn’t have an answer for. 

 
 She chattered on to me about a lady she said was the most beautiful lady she knew. She suddenly stopped, turned to me, and asked,  “who is the most beautiful woman you know?” I stood there drawing a blank; I’d never really tried to figure that out. I told her I’d rarely ever met a woman I didn’t think was beautiful, and hadn’t really sat around trying to figure out which one I thought was the most beautiful. She looked at me a bit surprised, then continued her excited chatter. 
 
Even though that conversation was a few years ago, I never forgot it. Over the last few months I’ve thought about that conversation a lot and now have an answer for her.
 
Dear Girl,
She has eyes so big, bright, and cheery they can light up a room. Her smiles are so big and freely given, everyone around her can’t help but smile back. Her face is radiant and kindness exudes from every pore of her being. When she smiles, it’s as if the whole world stops to smile.
 She does everything with gracefulness and poise. She is not demanding, yet her demeanor inspires great respect. In her presence, guys turn to gentlemen, opening doors for her and treating her with care and respect like a woman ought to  be treated. When men act like gentlemen these days, sometimes ladies are offended and think they consider them weak and powerless, but she does not. She treats men with great regard, respect and dignity.
  It is with the utmost confidence and peace, she walks through life. Not with pride and confidence in herself, but the greatest confidence that the maker of the King of kings and creator of the world walks beside her, every single step of the way! She knows she needs fear nothing, with Him at her side.
 One might think that because of her great happiness, confidence, and peace, she has led a carefree life; free from bruises caused by trials and storms. But quite the contrary. Those bright and beautiful eyes that I envy have shed more tears than could be counted! Her beautiful, kind, and tender heart, has been smashed and shattered many times with grief and sorrow! But she let her savior use that to make her heart softer and more keenly aware of others pain,  instead of growing heart with bitterness.  Her contagious smile that some dare to wish they had, has been born from sorrow and heartache, that led her to find the truly lasting joy and peace that can be found in having a personal and intimate relationship with our Savior.
Yes, she is a beautiful lady, who once people have met, they rarely ever forget her!
That, my dear girl, is the long in coming answer to your question. I could write for hours about her, just as you could chatter for hours about the most beautiful woman you knew. But hopefully you got a glimpse of this truly beautiful lady. Oh, and did I mention, soft white curls frame her face. The most beautiful lady I know is 86.
   Love, the girl you chattered so long to.
                       -Joanna
P.S. Remember
“Who can find a virtuous women? For her price is far above rubies.”
Proverbs 31:10
” Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” Proverbs 31:25-26