The Power within Us

huge waveBy Carey Helmink

I am in the process of reading Timothy Keller’s book, King’s Cross,  a study of the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mark as told in his gospel. A few nights ago, I read the story of Jesus calming the storm and have not been able to get it out of my mind. Though this passage is incredibly familiar, let’s try for a moment to actually put ourselves in the sandals of the disciples as we read the story again.

“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus work up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”   Mark 4:35-41

Listen to Keller’s description of the scene:  “Jesus woke up, and two amazing things happened. The first was his words themselves, a command of utter simplicity. He didn’t brace himself, roll up his sleeves, and raise a wand. There were no incantations. He said: Quiet! Be still! That’s it. To a hurricane, Jesus simply says, Quiet! Be still! – just as you would talk to an unruly child.

The more astonishing thing is that the storm obeyed like a compliant child. . . .Have you ever seen water that is smooth as glass, no waves at all?. . . if you’ve ever gone on an ocean cruise or lived on the shore, you know that even when the winds stop and a storm ends, the waves keep pounding for hours afterward. Yet when Jesus said, Quiet! Be still! Not only did the winds die down but the water instantly went dead calm.”

It has literally blown me out of the water to think about and imagine this scenario – to try to put myself in the disciples’ place – to think about the power that God displayed that day – but to think of it not only in the context of nature but also in the context of my own life.

Keller continues:  “Before Jesus calms the storm, they’re afraid – but after Jesus calms the storm, they’re terrified. Why? Before Jesus was awakened, Mark says, the boat was nearly swamped. . . . The disciples . . . knew the boat was just seconds from being totally filled and they would die. They woke Jesus and said, “Don’t you care if we drown?” This picture goes to our hearts, because everyone who’s ever tried to live a life of faith in this world has felt like this sometimes. Everything is going wrong, you’re sinking, and God seems to be asleep, absent or unaware. If you loved us, the disciples were saying, you wouldn’t let us go through this. . . . Jesus calmed the storm, and then he responded to them. Did he say, I can understand how you felt? No, he asked, “Why are you so afraid?” Can you imagine what the disciples must have been thinking? What do you mean, why are we afraid? We were afraid we were going to drown. We were afraid you didn’t love us, because if you loved us, you wouldn’t let these things happen to us. But Jesus’ question to them has behind it this thought: Your premise is wrong. You should have known better. I do allow people I love to go through storms. You had no reason to panic.”

Why were the disciples so terrified? Because this God was so powerful he could command nature – which also makes him someone they cannot control and that is scary. Obviously the disciples would come to understand that although they could not predict what Jesus might do or what he might allow, they knew he loved them because he laid down his life for them.

I Chronicles 29:11-12 says this:

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

The Old Testament is filled with references to God’s incredible power, but in the New Testament we see examples of not only the power of Jesus, but also of his power demonstrated in the lives of his people. The power that calmed the sea is now living within us as believers.

Psalms 68:35 says:

God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.

I’m amazed to read through the book of Acts and see how the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in people’s lives. These new believers were never described as “nice” people. Sometimes I think that is the loftiest goal that we have as Christians.  (At my funeral, please don’t let anyone stand up and say that I was “nice.” I’m doubting that my family would say that anyway.)

The believers in the book of Acts were brave and strong and bold. His same power is available to us as believers today. That power is there to help us through our struggles and the storms in life, but it is also available so we can help and encourage others.

What would it look like for us to grasp that concept in even a very small way in our lives? Sisters, we have been not been given a spirit of timidity but one of power and love and self-control. May it be so.

 

The Window of Friendship

DSCN0286They call themselves the Berean Babes and on Tuesday Morning they shared their story. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say.

Laura: Two years ago, an Equip Her class leader put five women together at a table and assigned them a table leader. That was how it all started . . .

As they began to get acquainted around that table, they found out these things about each other:

  • Two were retired missionary wives
  • Two were widows
  • One had a husband facing the uncertainty of retirement
  • One was in the process of placing her husband in a memory-loss facility
  • One had a husband with serious health issues who was also at the beginning stages of memory loss
  • Two were dealing with macular degeneration of the eye
  • Five were mothers of adult children with many, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren
  • One did not have biological children but has helped raise 4 and continues to have an impact on their lives
  • All are from different church backgrounds: Methodist, Baptist, CMA, Presbyterian, Assembly of God
  • All love Jesus and have been walking with Him for years

Only God knew how much the very souls of these 6 women needed each other . . . and how they would impact each other’s lives. Let’s hear from them and learn how God has revealed His awesome character through the window of Friendship.

Claudine:   I have to admit I didn’t necessarily want to be in a group that first day, and I certainly did not want to be the table leader. To be truthful, I’m not even sure I wanted to be there at all. I guess I was in a sort of spiritual funk. But God . . . My heavenly Father knew what I needed.

Through the friendships of these 5 women, I have seen again and again that God really does know how and who and when to put lives together “for such a time as this” for His glory and our good.

Laura has told you a little about some of the circumstances in our lives. But there is no way to really tell you how we have grown into a supportive, caring, kind, patient, spirited, fun-loving group of very, very diverse gals. And DIVERSE we are. That’s where God’s humor comes in!

God knew that day what I needed and what I didn’t need.

I didn’t need more Bible studies, more prayer, more accountability, more agendas or to-do lists. I didn’t need to try harder and work more. I simply needed some friends who would accept me just as I am–warts and all.

We are all at that place in our lives where there is no comparing or competing or second guessing or judging. We don’t have to be afraid of saying the wrong thing. We aren’t out to fix each other. We are what we are, and it’s not going to change . . . not at our ages. We laugh a lot. Have lots of fun. Some of our times together are spontaneous and some are planned. We are available to each other, but not demanding or smothering. It’s a SAFE place.

That’s what God is like. He’s loving and kind and so patient. He knows our weaknesses and strengths. He accepts us as we are. And He cares. Oh, how he cares. He is always available but never forces His way on us. I see the character of God in so many ways. I see it in my friends.

I am so thankful to Berean and our leadership for providing this connecting point. And, yes, I am out of my spiritual funk!

Anne:  Fellowship with other Christian women is a wonderful gift from God who is the center of it all. In between our Gideon study and our Children of the Day study, our group has enjoyed monthly get-togethers outside of our Tuesday Mornings. Our times together include brunches and food, laughter and tears, wonderful fellowship and the sharing of prayer.

One day I called Kay’s house and said to her husband, “Hi, this is Anne, one of the Babes. How are you and Kay doing today?” I think he was a little surprised, but after talking to Kay and hearing their situation, I was able to send prayers heaven-ward for them.

In November, I became the third widow in our group of 6, and I am enthusiastic about becoming as given to the Lord as Claudine and Pat are. You see, I am freer now to spend time with the Lord in prayer, study, and worship. I have more time to exercise my calling.

In spite of the obstacles many of us are facing, these women are trusting in the Lord and persevering in the faith. They do not complain or grumble. They walk the walk. These women anchor me.DSCN0291

We have fun. We smile a lot. And one thing I’ve noticed in our class is that we are the table our teacher, Kathy Bowman, has to shush most often.

These five women are my Forever Sisters in the Lord. They compel me to grow deeper in my love and service to Christ, my Savior and King.

Nancy:  Ours has been a life with lots of moves—lots of new situations—lots of new people to love and be loved by in return, to share life and pray with, but also to be sharpened, encouraged, and rebuked. It has been no different in our coming to Berean. God has placed me in a group with 5 other women who have already re-enforced the character of God in my life.

There is Claudine, who with her bare-bones honesty has inspired me to be open and to search the scripture to see “whether those things are so.”

There is Pat, who being the practical, observant woman she is, has taught me the graces of being on time and standing tall. And I don’t resent that! Pat is a woman of prayer. I admire her a lot.

There is Lois with whom I have shared many of life’s lessons. Even though we have served on opposite sides of the world, lessons such as adjusting to a new culture and language, developing close relationships without family, and making do in all kinds of circumstances have bonded our relationship. Lois is a woman of courage and determination

Then there is Anne, the life of our group. She is the fun-loving one, always bringing laughter into our midst. She sums up the characteristic of joy to our Berean Babes.

Lastly, there is Kay. Besides being near my size, Kay is a dependable friend. She is very faithful and loyal.

These ladies all love the Lord and display the many different sides of the character of God.

In many other circles, I am the oldest—oldest child, oldest grandchild, oldest of the cousins; but in this group, I am the youngest! As you can see, I have much to learn from these wonderful women.

Kay:  I love these ladies in my small group. For starters, to quote Barbara Johnson, we are all in that age between “estrogen and death.” And what a group to go through this stage of life with. I once read the God doesn’t give us the friends we want. He gives us the friends we need. And believe me, I need this bunch.

C.S. Lewis had this to say about friendship:

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one!’”

Though we all have varied backgrounds and different personalities, we have found much to relate to with each other. Many of us have gone through some of the same things, so we can sympathize, offer suggestions, pray for and simply listen to each other.

Recently, Ann’s husband and my husband were seriously ill in the hospital at the same time. My husband John recovered and returned to his earthly home, while Ann’s husband Noble went to his heavenly eternal home. To paraphrase Galatians 6:2—True friends carry us, when we can’t carry ourselves.”

Even Jesus knew the importance of having friends. His disciples were more than followers. They were his friends. He ate with them, traveled with them, laughed with them and discussed spiritual matters with them. Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus. He knows how much we need our friends and on the cross He proved Himself to be our truest friend of all.

I am so grateful to God for these wonderful friends he has brought into my life.

Lois:  We moved from Indiana to Lincoln in May of 2013. No need to go into all the details that necessitated that move except to say it was a hard decision and a huge move. It meant leaving everything familiar and landing in everything unfamiliar—except for my precious daughter and her family who live here.

I wasn’t able to get involved with a ladies’ bible study at my church, Northpointe Community Church, because they meet in the evening, so my daughter got me hooked up with your study here.

From the start, I felt like I had landed on a soft pillow. I had instant rapport with these ladies. I felt like I didn’t have to explain what I was experiencing with my husband and his dementia issues. They understood. Their support was palpable. I was home. When I tell my kids what I have found in this group of friends, I can almost hear their collective sigh of relief. How, apart from God, could Mom find a group of friends like this in such a short time?

I have also found the encouragement to “finish well.” I’m not washed up yet, but I am on the other end of the life cycle with the desire to finish strong. I have wonderful examples of that in this group and together we can do it!

I am experiencing God’s purpose for friendship in this group of ladies whom I cherish.

Pat:  Sometimes God gives us little “cameo” surprises that unexpectedly bless us when we look back and think, “God did that, didn’t He?” Then there are those rare times when we know immediately, “Wow! God did that!” That’s what I see with our little group. He just sovereignly brought us together, dumped a bucket-full of grace on us and said, “Now you all just enjoy this experience. Relish your relationships with each other and with me.”

How unfathomable are His ways. How wise. He knew just what we needed at this particular time in our lives. Some of us needed friends who understood the loss one feels when we find ourselves as “ONE” when for 50, 60 or even 70 years we had been “TWO.” How do we fit in our new role? Others of us needed friends who understood the pain of watching our husband’s mind wander off into a world where we can’t follow.

God demonstrates His tenderheartedness and comfort through women who will pray for each other when they say they will. These women petition our Heavenly Father so we can still “sing for joy” no matter what our circumstances.

There is a conviction between us that in His sovereign will there is still purpose for our lives—even now, today—because He has a plan for each of us that will bring glory to Him to the end. How gracious of Him to give us new bonding friendships at this time of our lives.

To be together—whether here or at lunch or coffee—is just fun. He has given us the joy of lightheartedness and laughter that has surprised us.

God has chosen to love us through these wonderful friendships and I am so grateful. You just never know what may result from going to a Women’s Bible Study!

Laura:

Please God, Reveal to us through friends something of your heart; something of what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes; something about ourselves that needs evaluating—a thought, a feeling, an attitude.

Enlarge our hearts as we learn about the journey of one who becomes a friend . . . her stories, her struggles, her joys, her sorrows, her walk with You.

May some of the LIGHT from our friend’s life spill into the window of our soul, and may we see Your face as we look into hers . . . she is your daughter and image bearer.

Help us to hear Your words that you are speaking through friendship.

Thank You for precious friends and the true gift of friendship.

Amen.

Art: A Window to the Soul

janfaris1As Shereen mentioned last week, we will be having the opportunity this semester to meet some of our women and learn how God speaks to them through a window in their souls. This week we had the privilege of meeting Jan Faris. Here are a few highlights of her interview with Shereen.

Shereen:  When did you begin to notice that artwork brought JOY in your life?

Jan: My love for art began in kindergarten. I would run straight to the big easel with huge white sheets of paper and begin painting. I remember being restricted at times because that’s all I wanted to do. I can remember painting mountains, trees, sky, water and always a bright yellow sun.

In 1st & 2nd grade I was allowed to draw birthday cakes on the blackboard with colored chalk (still one of my favorite mediums).  Later in life I learned that God had blessed my aunts and uncles and some cousins with the same ability.

In high school there were no art classes, but I remember doodling faces of people. I had no college training, but I learned to paint from the “Foster Art Books” and later took lessons from many different artists in Lincoln.

Shereen: When did you begin to understand there was a connection between the love of art and  your relationship with God?

Jan: I feel God led me to a teacher who was a believer and a wonderful portrait artist.  She said, “You have a God-given talent, and I can teach you everything you need to know in one month.”  I had never considered my love of art as being God-given before that.  I stayed in her teaching for six months just because I enjoyed our Christian fellowship and I loved her so much.  I still thank God for her, after 33 years.

After that, I did many portraits and other paintings, some commissioned, until we lost our only son in 1987. Then I had to help on the farm until 2001 when we moved to Lincoln.

Shereen: So, after setting aside your painting and drawing for a while, what spurred that desire again?

Jan: In 2005 I saw a cute stuffed bear representing the armor of God and wondered if I teddy bearcould still draw. I could. God never withholds good things from us. I’ve made copies of this picture for all my grandchildren.

This bear represents the words of Ephesians 6: 13-17:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

cross paintingAnother picture that means a lot to me is this picture of the cross which I made for my son’s tombstone. It is also on my husband’s tombstone, the one he and I will share together someday.

The following verses have been my two most leaned-on and loved verses of scripture. I would like to share them with you.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  Romans 8:28-29  (NIV)

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10  (NIV)

I want to honor and glorify God with every painting I do!  He has been my rock since I was 15 years old (63 years).

Windows of the Soul

window-viewElizabeth Barrett Browning wrote,

Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes; the rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.

It’s one thing to see with our eyes. Some of what we see also stirs our emotions causing us to feel profoundly. Deeper still, the things of God speak to a place within us that only God knows … we call that our soul.

When we come together on Tuesday mornings, we open God’s Word to understand the things of God. Who is HE? …

  • what did He say?
  • how did He act?
  • what brings Him joy or sadness?
  • how does He love us?
  • and how can we love Him back?

The answers are in God’s Word, but we need to read and absorb it ourselves.

Isaiah 55:10-11 reminds us,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desireand without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

When we know God’s Word, continue to discover what He is like, learn the good news of Jesus and respond to His love for us – our thirsty souls are watered. Truth sinks down into our lives. We grow in faith.

Once we see Him, our hearts are stirred, and God can speak deeply into our souls.

In his book, “Windows of the Soul,” Ken Gire encourages us to catch glimpses of God all around us.

“We reach for God in many ways. Through our sculptures and our scriptures. Through our pictures and our prayers. Through our writing and our worship. And through them He reaches for us.

These are windows of the soul.

In a sense, it is something like spiritual discipline for the spiritually undisciplined. In another sense, it is the most rigorous of disciplines – the discipline of awareness.  For we must always be looking and listening if we are to see the windows and hear what is being spoken to us through them.”’

A spiritual discipline for the undisciplined … that’s for me!

I hope it’s for you as well. In the coming weeks you’ll hear from women in our group about how God speaks to them through a window of their soul. I’m looking forward to that! I also hope it stirs your heart to notice a window where God may be revealing something to you.

Pause and reflect with us on this video: 

A video like that reminds me of all the ways earth is crammed with heaven.

Where did you see heaven in that video?

  • The rhythm of the seas and the rolling clouds?
  • Perhaps the creativity and skill that goes into building skyscrapers and cities?
  • Did you see heaven in the many people walking along the Great Wall of China?
  • Was the echo of heaven in the mountain streams?
  • How about the background music or the video itself?

All of those places, yes? But I imagine ONE of those places was a burning bush of God’s presence to you … that’s where God speaks most deeply to you.  That’s the window of your soul.

Our Immutable God

i am the lordBy Carey Helmink

As I began thinking and praying about our time together and what characteristic of God’s character I wanted to focus on, the word that kept coming to my mind was immutable. It’s possible that living with a seminary-trained pastor influenced that, but more likely it is the Lord’s sense of humor. He and I both know I am not that smart, so that’s a pretty big word for me to deal with. But in all honesty, the definition is pretty simple and very clear. It means “unchanging over time” or “unable to be changed.”

Think about some of the changes we have seen in our lifetimes.

There have been changes in the environment, massive changes in technology in just a few decades, changes in the state of the world and the state of “our” world here in the United States after 9/11 with the onslaught of terrorism. And then think about the changes in your personal life in the last 10 years or even in the last few months. In the past few years our family has had graduations from high school and college, weddings, and the births of our darling granddaughters. We’ve also had the changes that affect a family due to deployments, divorce, and death.

But it’s not just circumstances that change. People change. The person I married many years ago is not the person I’m married to today, and he would say the same thing about me. My dad changed in significant ways in the 18 months before he died. My children are not the same people they were in junior high – thank the Lord – and neither am I.

In our ever-changing world we desperately need the stability of something or, more specifically, Someone that never changes.

James 1:17 (NLT) says:

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

I loved looking at how other translations interpreted that last sentence:

  • With whom is no variableness;
  • With whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning;
  • In whose character there is no change at all;
  • He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing;
  • With whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration;
  • In whom there is no inconsistency or shifting shadow;
  • With whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency.

Hebrews 6:16-20a (NLT) says:

Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Incredible. God has given both his promise and his oath and they are both unchangeable. He is our refuge and an anchor for our wavering souls.

So, the next time changes start to overwhelm your soul, remember your immutable God.

A Sure and Steadfast Hope

photo credits: pol sifter/flicker.com

photo credits: pol sifter/flicker.com

By Stacey Kuszak

I talked with several women last week at the brunch and asked them how their Christmas was. The overwhelming response was “Iʼm glad itʼs over.” Carey alluded to this last week, but we arrive in the New Year exhausted, donʼt we?

What is it about the end of December that leaves us feeling like we are over it? Maybe we are weary from all of the holiday hoopla . . . maybe we are discouraged that the year didnʼt go as we had hoped . . .  maybe we are stuck.

But what promise does January hold that canʼt be found in December? I admit I am of the camp that loves to buy a new calendar, a squeaky clean journal and new pens to sit down and plan and dream about my year. As a new calendar year stretches out before us, I think what most of us feel is hope. For a brief moment in time our calendars are blank, our thoughts are new, and anything seems possible. We can change . . . we can do better . . .  we feel empowered. Right? We are hopeful.

Iʼm sure if I went around the room this morning each of you could tell me something you are hoping for. It would run the gamut from the usual New Yearʼs resolutions to those of you hoping for freedom . . . a cure . . . healing. Perhaps you are hoping someone in your family would come home. Maybe you are hoping for answers. Or, are you longing for direction?

Our souls yearn for hope. And actually, Godʼs Word has a lot to say about it.

Hebrews 6:18-19 says this:

We who have taken refuge (in Christ) have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have is an anchor of the soul. A hope both sure and steadfast.

This hope God gives us, we are instructed to grab onto. We are supposed to take it and hold on. Have you ever wondered why? Perhaps God knows the bumps and curves coming our way. Maybe He knows the sheer speed with which we will race through this year. Of course He knows exactly when and where we will need this hope of His, so He says come, take it, and hold on.

I love the picture of His hope being an anchor for my soul. If Iʼm being honest, I can get carried away in my own hope. My own hopes and dreams can keep me awake at night. And, if left unchecked, I can float away into fear.

Lately Iʼve been thinking a lot about my son who is a senior. He will leave for college in the fall. The past six months have been full of hoping and dreaming, for him and with him, about what his next stage of life will be. But, if Iʼm not careful, that type of hoping
can change into fear as I start worrying about all the little things a mother worries about when her son goes off to college.

Yet, Godʼs hope anchors me. I picture myself slowly floating away from Him and His hope for me, then suddenly the anchor pulls tight and He brings me back close to His heart and His hope.

The passage in Hebrews ends describing Godʼs hope as sure and steadfast. His hope is a sure thing. Itʼs not the wishful- thinking- of- the -world type of hope. It is steadfast, loyal, firmly fixed and immovable. Think about what you can do with a hope like that!

The exciting thing about Godʼs hope is itʼs not just available in January, and itʼs not dependent on our abilities and strength. This hope is built on the unchanging God and His trustworthiness. Itʼs not some far flung hope based on our own success or failure. Itʼs an anchored hope–a hope of peace, wholeness, and holiness.

My heartʼs desire is that our Tuesday mornings together would be full of this kind of hope. I pray our worship and study and prayer would anchor us to this God of hope.

  • That we could bring our hopes and dreams to Him and align them with His hope.
  • That each week we would be encouraged to hold on to this hope.
  • That we would leave here hope-full–filled to the brim with what our souls crave.

Romans 15:13 says,

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can live hope-filled lives. We can have a hope-filled year. Letʼs believe it. Letʼs live it.

Will you pray with me? God, all of the women sitting here in this room are hoping for something. I know some women here sit quietly, afraid to hope. Some are plain worn out from their own hoping. God, will you bring us a fresh season of hope? Will you anchor us in your hope and keep us from drifting off course? God, your kingdom is full of hope. May we experience it today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff?

Tues AM brunch1It’s always good to be back to routine . . . especially when that routine includes Tuesday Morning Equip Her. The first Tuesday back is always very special, not only because of the beautiful decorations and the delicious food, but also the sweet chance to worship with all of you. I’m so thankful for Carey and the rest of the worship team and the way they lead us with authenticity and transparency. Here’s what Carey had to share.

By Carey Helmink

I don’t know why it is always so shocking to me that another year is off and running. It seems so redundant to say it, but it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the years go by. I am 55 (well, I will be 56 this year, but I’m in denial that I am that close to 60 – so, let’s just say that I’m 55 and leave it at that – for good) and there are days when it feels like I just graduated from high school . . .

And then there are days when my 76-year-old mother could probably outrun me, so there you go.

I used to be one for New Year’s resolutions. I loved starting the new year with fresh goals and the hopes that by year’s end I would have lost weight, had whiter teeth, read my bible every day (and had an extended prayer time), been more organized and a better steward of my time and money—all good goals without a doubt.

But the opening to 2015 has felt a little different to me.

To be honest, I started this year pretty exhausted. As many of you know, I lost my precious dad in November and it has been a rough couple of months. I have not had the energy – physical or mental – to make resolutions. But I have thought quite a bit about life and what matters and what I want my life to look like from here on out. So I have made one SMALL resolution for this year.

I’m sure you have heard the saying – “Don’t sweat the small stuff” – but actually, that is exactly what I intend to do this year. I want to care about the little things because that is where life is lived . . . that’s where character is formed. The small decisions are the ones that determine the ultimate course of my life.

Listen to these familiar words from Luke 16:10:  “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  Jesus had just told a parable that deals primarily with finances when he spoke these words,  but I can’t help thinking that principle is pretty universal.

Some of you are like me, in that, you have followed Jesus for a very long time. If I’m honest, I have to admit to you that if I’m not careful, I can find myself just going through the motions. For example, the desire of my heart is to lead worship from a place of authenticity, but I have done this long enough that it would be very difficult for you to know if I’m doing that or not. That is very frightening to me. If I don’t live intentionally through the moment-by-moment, everyday choices I make, I can pull off this Christianity thing and the people around me would never know if I’m sincere or not.

But I would know. And more importantly, God would know.

So let me challenge you to think about the “small” areas of your life.

Are there things you do or say that are sinful, but you excuse them because that’s just your personality? Do you get on Facebook intending to stay for a few minutes and an hour later . . . ? Oh, and related to social media, do you feel discontent with your life because your friend’s lives seem so much more exciting or “perfect”? Maybe you and your husband agree on a certain amount of spending money each month but because you do the grocery shopping you can fudge on that a bit. Do you tell people you will pray for them, but never give it a second thought? Do your children hear you say things about other people that affect their opinion of them as well – coaches, teachers, pastors? Maybe you intended to read your bible last night but that rerun of Modern Family was calling your name . . .

I feel like I just confessed some of my many “little” sins . . .

Dear friends, please hear me when I say that my intention is not to make you (or me) feel guilty. Not at all. But to remind you (and me) that a life of joy and peace and character and influence doesn’t happen in the big moments of life. It happens in the small decisions we make over and over through the day. It happens as we take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: “Whatever you do, do well. For when you go to the grave, there will be no work or planning or knowledge or wisdom.”

When we knew for sure that we were going to lose my dad, my mom said, “I can’t do this. I don’t know how to do this without your dad.” My brother and I told her, “You can. It’s going to suck. There are going to be really hard days, but all you have to worry about is the next thing. Do the next thing.” And she is. It’s so hard, but she’s doing it. She’s making the next small decision in front of her and trying to honor God with her life.

You and I can too. What is the next decision you have to make? Be intentional. Choose wisely. Ask for the Lord’s help. And next year at this time – maybe we won’t need to make a resolution.

 “Lord, I need you. Oh I need you. Every hour I need you. My one defense, my righteousness – Oh God, how I need you.”