How God Spoke This Weekend

 

It is Saturday afternoon as I write this, and I am sitting on a dock in eastern Ontario, watching six geese fight it out on a lake. The air is filled with the sounds of birds, and the crystal clear lake seems to be smiling at me. All is peaceful.

And yet my heart was not peaceful for the last week. I know I have written about this before, but I struggle so much between the two extremes of wanting to rest and wanting to work. At times I go on a working jag, and I spend all my free time writing and fixing my blog or setting up Facebook or planning my next speaking campaign.

Other days I just want nothing more than to knit and think up new things to put in my crockpot.

I was having some of those latter days last week. I have been traveling so much this spring that it is wearing on me, and I found myself saying to God, “Can’t I just stay home? Can’t you let me off the hook sometimes?”

Of course, God just smiled, because it wasn’t Him who overcommitted me to so many engagements this spring; that was my own folly and my own pride.

And last Friday I pulled up my bootstraps and got myself in my car as I drove two hours to a retreat where 150 women were awaiting me, excited.

As soon as I arrived I felt convicted. These women were so excited to be together, and for me it seemed like more time away from my family, when I just wanted to knit. And to top it all off, I had forgotten one of the four knitting needles necessary to knit the pair of socks I’m working on at home. So I couldn’t even knit in my downtime to relax.

But the first thing that happened as I arrived was we were each asked to take a “blessing”–an inspirational thought printed out. I chose one, and it said,

I have given each of you a gift, for you to use to bless others. Go and bless those I give to you.

I smiled. I had been saying to God, “is it necessary for me to speak? Do I really make a difference? Is this really what you want me to spend my time on?” And He said a big, loud, “Yes!”

I had a wonderful feedback from the weekend, and the idyllic setting helped me to just quiet my heart. I spoke Friday night, and Saturday morning, and Saturday night, and Sunday morning, yet I had all Saturday afternoon to rest and think and pray and type.

It’s Saturday now, though this post won’t be up until Monday. And again I am struck by God talking to me about purpose. I told the women this morning, as I have mentioned on this blog before, that the two big lies that our culture believes are, “You deserve to be happy“, and “you would be happy if you just tried a little harder.” And even though I know these things are lies, I tend to fall into them. I tend to think that the purpose of life is for me to relax and have fun, and hence work interferes with my purpose.

But work is our purpose. I am not saying htat we all need to be superwomen, but there is a balance, isn’t there? Our lives should mean something. We are put on this earth to get to know God, to learn to serve Him, and to introduce others to Him. There is great joy in that. Everything else is secondary. Part of getting to know God, of course, is also learning to abide in His rest, to appreciate quiet moments, to find joy in solitude. It is not that we need to be super busy all the time. And yet getting to know God also involves finding what we were created to do.

For whatever reason, and I don’t mean this in a proud way, I was created to communicate truths about God to people. I feel hopelessly inadequate for the task. I do not spend two hours in contemplation everyday. There are days when my prayer life is rather abysmal. And yet God still pushes me out there, and He still does wonderful things through me–or perhaps I should say despite me.

Others of us have been chosen for different things. I am in awe of some of the mom blogs I read, and the creativity some of you have, especially with large families. You know how to love, and live, and cook, and find joy. Others of you are just so organized, and you teach the world and lead by example. Some of you are born teachers, or born nurses, or whatever it may be.

Don’t take that for granted. Don’t think “I’m only doing this until retirement,” and then I can rest, or “I’m only going to be this buys until the kids grow, and hten I can calm down.” Perhaps your life will be less busy, but don’t ever let it be less meaningful.

I think we believe too much that we work hard now in order to rest–as if resting is the goal of life. We would be happier and more at peace, I think, if we took periodic rest now so that we could know God, feel God, and thus be energized to live for Him, not just now, but forever. We are not to work ourselves out of work; we are to rest enough that we can focus on God and continue to work, in whatever capacity He calls us, until we go home.

So I will keep asking God to make more more excited about work, and to help me take the rest I need when the opportunity presents itself. And I will stop telling myself that my goal in life is to have limitless time to go on vacation and knit. Knitting is wonderful, but I can do that while I work. If only I remember my needles.

What about you? Do you struggle with getting motivated to work? Let me know so I don’t feel like the only lazy one!

Second Guessing Yourself About Hearing God

'praying' photo (c) 2009, Ronald Repolona - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I recently read an article where the author was arguing that often it’s only when looking back that she can see how God had faithfully led her, and I agree. She says:

It’s usually easier for me to see in hindsight that God was guiding me. Is that the way it works for you? I find it’s like climbing a steep cliff. I feel the strained muscles, the shortness of breath, the sweat on my brow. Then I pause, turn, and look back.

The view fills me with astonishment. Oh, I can see where he was with me, how he guided me and protected me. How surely he watched over my steps! What dangers he led me around! There were hints of his voice, which I saw dimly then, but now they sparkle like jeweled lakes in the light of the alpine sun.

I’m like that, too. It’s not always as I’m walking forward that I hear God. It’s often when I take time to stop and think and then I see how He was telling me things.

That’s often the case with my writing. I’ll pray and pray and ask God to show me something I should talk about in a book, and nothing will come. And then one day, I’ll sit down and a book proposal will flow right out of me, and I’ll wonder where it came from. And then I look back and I can see all the different people He put into my life, the radio snippets I heard, the newspaper articles that got me thinking, and the Bible passages that held me captive that started my thinking in a certain direction. But it’s not until afterwards that it all comes together.

I think we misunderstand what God’s voice is supposed to sound like. There are a few times in my life when I have actually heard God speak to me. They were very specific things at very important junctures in my life. But there were 3 times in total when I heard specific words. Other than that, God gently guides us in all sorts of ways.

So often we’re waiting for a thunderbolt, and we feel paralyzed until it comes. But I think we need to walk forward in faith, knowing that God will steer us.

When our son was sick, my husband agonized about certain medical decisions we might be forced to make. What if we had to choose between surgery and just letting him go (if surgery would be horrific for him, and likely have little impact?) Should we put him on the heart transplant list? What should we do? He didn’t want to do the wrong thing, and he was so desperately trying to hear God.

Bolton Cliffs Climbing (Sep. '08)Image by found_drama via Flickr

Our minister took us aside and said very firmly to Keith, “If God has a specific path He wants you to take, who is most invested in you figuring that out? God or you?”

“God,” Keith admitted.

“Then don’t you think He’s big enough to show you when the time is right?”

That minister was right. If God has something specific He wants you to do, He will show you. What we need to do, I think, are two things:

1. Walk forward, as much as we can, in His Spirit. Read the Word, do what we know is right, and pray.

2. Take some time to listen and think. Let God guide you. Take some time to look back over the last few weeks or months and see where you have already been. Look around you. Open your eyes. Don’t let life pass you by so quickly.

God does speak, and He does lead us, but often we miss it because it doesn’t usually do it audibly. He does it gently, and unless we take those times to look, we’ll miss the wonder of what has happened in our lives.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble hearing God’s voice. I think He wants you to press ahead anyway, and if you need to make a U-turn, He’ll tell you. Just make sure you always have time to listen and look. That’s when you’ll see the patterns of what He is already doing and where He is already leading, which we often miss in the busy-ness of our lives.

 

How to Look Beyond What is Obvious

'Behind the curtain' photo (c) 2006, erikhallander - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I was reading my Bible this week and a couple of things struck me all at once. Too often, I think, we rely on our eyes–our logic, what we see, what we think–to make decisions, rather than relying on God.

Exhibit A. Joshua, back in Joshua 9, makes a big mistake. The Gibeonites, who live in the land that is supposed to belong to Israel, are scared. They’ve seen other tribes nearby destroyed by Israel and their God. So they make it look like they live a long way away, and come to Joshua, and ask for a guarantee of peace. Joshua, it says in verse 15, “did not ask direction from the Lord.” Instead, he relied on his eyes. These guys had a convincing story. It added up. There was no reason to doubt them.

Except that they were lying.

Exhibit B. Solomon, writing in Proverbs 5, is telling men to stay away from loose women. He says this, “for the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” Now, personally, I’m not tempted by loose women. But we can take the analogy to apply to us wives and moms, too!

And add the two together, and it’s obvious that we can do the wrong thing because either: our decision looks logical; or our decision is very attractive.

In other words, we can’t rely on our brains or our desires to always tell us what the right thing is. Sometimes our brains are rather smart, and I’m not saying we should disregard them altogether. And quite often what our heart wants to do is also the right thing. Just because we want something doesn’t make it wrong.

But before we make any major decision, these passages tell me, we need to go to God, and not assume that we have within us all the capacity for making the right decisions. We don’t.

I see this so often in marriages. Many women feel, it doesn’t make any logical sense to stay with my husband. Or obviously, using logic, I am right and he is wrong. Or perhaps it’s with parenting: I know this school would be the best one for my child because it’s a Christian school. Or with working: it makes no sense to quit now because I’m about to get a raise, and we really need the money.

We’re using our brain power, and not God, to make those decisions. We have to go to Him first.

I get that. I really do. But here’s my problem: how do you hear God afterwards? Once you’ve asked Him, how do you know which way you should go?

Well, first, I think the episode in Joshua 9 is a rare one. Obviously we can’t always depend upon our logic, but that doesn’t mean that logic is usually wrong. So I think that if we are about to make a really bad decision, and we go to God, it’s incumbent upon Him to let us know. And He will. If you pray, you’ll get a sense of it. He’ll use someone else to give you a word of wisdom. You’ll sense a sign. After all, if He really doesn’t want you to do something, it’s in His best interests that you figure that out, right? So He isn’t going to torture you about it.

That being said, though, we do need to spend more time in prayer, both to hear God, and for a simple renewal of our minds. Why does a loose woman seem so enticing (not to me, but to Solomon)? Because the person hasn’t handed his heart over to God recently. And when we stop going to God, we squeeze Him out.

Look at that article I commented on earlier this week that denigrated stay at home moms. They didn’t mean to; they were just using the logical position of our society: work is good, and day care is good, and parents aren’t enough. But that position, while it may be widely believed, is not right. Similarly to another post this week about that meme in movies that says that every woman just needs to have sex to get over bumps in her life. We know it’s not true, but it’s all around us, and part of us, I think, buys into it.

And that’s why we can’t rely on logic. Our logic is tainted by the society we live in. We need to be renewed by God, and that means talking to Him, reading His word, taking time just to listen, and surrounding ourselves with friends who are also engaged in the same pursuit. Do that, and it’s unlikely you’ll make a really bad decision. Rely on yourself, and you probably will!

 

Do You Struggle with Your Calling?

We all want a calling in life. We want to know our purpose. We want to know that we’re on the right road. We search for affirmation that this is what we’re supposed to do. And I think we do that the harder the road is that we’re on.

For instance, if you stay home with your kids, and you gave up work to do so, you may think God called you there. You may be sure God called you there. But then, as the months and years go by, and you find yourself tired, you constantly second guess yourself. If this really what I’m supposed to be doing? Is there somewhere else God wants me? Am I really making a difference? Have you ever been there?

It’s hard, especially if money is tight. Are you just doing what you want to do, or are you doing what God wanted you to do?

And it’s true in whatever place we find ourselves. I used to second guess myself about homeschooling all the time. I don’t so much anymore, but I certainly did. When we started homeschooling, we felt a definite call. Keith and I both did, and the first few years were great. But then I’d have days where I just couldn’t get anything done of my real life, because homeschooling was there. So I’d have a writing deadline, or a speaking engagement, and I would be so stressed. And we’d wonder if I was really supposed to be doing all of this. Or there would be days when the girls would fight, or when Katie would refuse to do her work (quite a frequent occurrence for her when she was younger), and I’d wonder if someone else could teach them better. How could we be called to homeschooling if things were going so badly?

In retrospect I can see how wonderful it’s been for our family, and how educationally beneficial (they’re both about two years ahead now), but it doesn’t always feel that way in the midst of it. And when you’re frustrated, and you’re tired, and things aren’t going the way you envisioned, you start to wonder if maybe you misread God.

I certainly felt that way all last week. I was getting ready for a really big speaking engagement I had over the weekend, where I spoke at an Ontario-wide retreat for the Salvation Army women’s division. Several hundred women were there, and it was stressful getting ready. I still had to homeschool. I still had to make dinner. I hate it when I’m too busy to do regular housework things, because then I feel like I’m letting down my family. I still had responsibilities at church that weren’t getting done well. And it was hard.

I was probably feeling as low as I have in a long time in regards to my calling to be a speaker/writer. I just didn’t have the time and energy for my family, and I figured something had to give. Something wasn’t right.

Then I went and had probably the most blessed weekend speaking I have ever had. The response on Sunday was amazing. People dealt with some really difficult strongholds in their lives. I had more positive confirmation about speaking than I ever have. It was truly amazing.

And it reminded me that we can’t rely on what we’re feeling in the moment to determine what our calling is. If you feel a calling on your life from God, write it down. Write down the moment you heard it. Write down what you heard. Write down how you know. And then, when times get rough, go back to it. I think we base our idea of our calling too much on the day-to-day feelings. After all, just because we’re called to something doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. In fact, the more important thing we’re called to, probably the harder it will be. You have to take time, I think, every year, just to get away with God, even for a few hours, and wrestle with Him about His vision for your life. Do it at a time when you’re not depressed or anything. And then just listen.

If you don’t feel peace on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do. Sometimes it’s just real life, and life can be hard. I think we have this mistaken idea that if we’re in the middle of God’s calling, life will be easy, we will always feel peace, and we will always see success. It’s not true. So don’t second guess yourself. Instead, plan for specific times to hear from God during the year, and really listen. Otherwise we’ll just be like that boat it talks about in the book of James, tossed to and fro with every wave.

Life is tough. Whatever you are called to is likely going to be tough. So don’t despair! Just look for God’s strength everyday, and remember:

There is always time in the day to accomplish God’s priorities for that day.

So don’t fret, don’t worry, and don’t despair!

Hearing God's Voice

'Morning swim in Banyuls-sur-mer' photo (c) 2010, FrenchSelfCatering.com - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I’m speaking tonight south of Ottawa at a great church, and I’m quite excited about it. I’m using a relatively new talk, and here’s the basic gist:

There is always enough time in the day to do what God wants you to do today. So there’s no point in feeling guilty for leaving things undone!

The trick is to figure out what God’s priorities are. And to do that, you have to listen to Him.

So how do you do that? That’s a hard one. Some people, I think, have the gift of meditation, and I don’t mean some far east mysticism thing. I mean, they have the gift of sitting quietly and meditating on His word. I know several women like that, and they often get visions or something really neat that God intended just for them.

I’m not like that. I find it very difficult to sit still for any length of time. It’s a discipline I have to develop. But we can listen without necessarily being still all the time. Really quickly (because I don’t have a lot of time for a long post), here are some thoughts on this that I’ve had:

1. We need to spend some time quietly each day before God. Journalling is good during part of this, to record what you’re feeling/thinking/hearing, but we also just need to be still.

2. We need to read His Word everyday. We just do. It helps us to think the right way, to be reminded and convicted of specific things, and to see life with a new perspective.

But often we think that the only time we hear God is in these “holy” times. Realistically, though, for most people this is just a few minutes of their day, half an hour if you’re lucky. What about the rest of the day? The more important question, I think, is figuring out how to hear Him in the rest of the day, too.

And I think that comes from “practicing the presence of God”, as Tozer said. We have to practice talking to Him throughout the day, and not only at appointed times. We have to take everything to God in prayer. Keep the lines of communication open.

Train yourself to talk to Him maybe while you’re doing the dishes, or driving doing errands. Every so often, turn off the radio and TV so that you can have some silence (even if the kids are noisy in the background).

Get rid of things that can drown out His voice, like questionable movies or TV shows, or too much time on the internet. I find that when I spend more time talking to people, and less time watching movies, I hear His voice more.

Participate in creative things, not just busy things. Our God is a creative God, and when we are also creative, I think we touch Him in unique ways. So have fun cooking something new, crochet something, paint something, build something. When we make something beautiful, we’re engaging in something that God also does. And it gives you a chance to keep your mind in that direction. So often we spend our time in things that are not creative (like TV or video games). I think the more we do things that God also does, the more we train our brains to hear His voice.

Participate in service. Pray for missions. Think and research how you will give your charity money. Have people over for dinner. Help a friend. God is also a God of service, and the more we participate in what He does, the more we begin to be shaped by Him.

Think about it this way: if you were to be Jesus’ apprentice, what would you do? You would pray, sure. But you would also surround yourself with friends. You would talk to people. You would go to weddings. You would help people. You would build tables and chairs. You would learn Scripture.

I think sometimes we compartmentalize too much, and think that the only time we can hear God’s voice is when we’re specifically praying. That’s not true. We need that time, absolutely. After all, Jesus took it. But let’s not assume that that is the only time we meet with God during the day. Let’s learn how to listen to His voice in other pursuits, too, and we just may find that figuring out what He has planned for our day is much easier!

Dreaming New Dreams revisited

It’s not often that I really, really like my columns, but last week’s came out of somewhere deep in my heart. And I received so many emails on it, and I wanted to share some of those with you.

Basically, the column talked about how sometimes our lives go in very different directions than we planned, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve failed. It means that we’re called to something different.

Interestingly, a retired man I know made the comment that it’s easier to say that at 40 than at 70. At 70 you have a lot of regrets.

I think that’s sad, but I don’t think it’s inevitable. When you’re a Christian, you have this feeling that God is leading you. You know it. And if God is leading you, then there aren’t regrets. Without God, how do you ever judge if what you did was right?

Then I received lots of emails from moms. Here’s one:

Sheila, I just had to let you know how much I enjoyed last weekends’ column, Dreaming New Dreams. You hit the nail right on the head when you wrote, “I think what we miss is that we are not the same people who dreamed them”.

So true!!! I am a mom of three who works very part time hours, and at two jobs, one of which gets lots of chuckles and laughs from people when I tell them what I do. I used to be almost “embarrassed” about what I did…. until I read your article. I work part time for the city and am in charge of all bar sales at our local sports centre. I also work part time serving food.

It’s not glamorous, but the most important thing to me is being home with my children. I don’t want them in daycare and I don’t want them home alone. I took hotel and tourism admin. at college and my dream was to work in a big hotel and have some fancy title….and like you, be downtown Toronto amongst all the skyscrapers.

I went to school there and did my placement right downtown, and boy, I had some big dreams! Well, there are no big hotels here and no fancy titles either. But it’s just as well because my kids are the most important thing in my life, and I have built my life around that. Your column really, really helped me realize that what I am doing IS right…and that what’s important is that I am happy with what I’m doing. Even though “cafeteria lady” doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “Chief Executive Officer”, it allows my children to call me “mom who is always home when we are”. (and knows everything they’re doing at every single hour of the day!!!) And it allows me to concentrate on my marriage too. I am able to look after myself and be there for my family. I couldn’t do that if I was doing what I had dreamed of so many years ago!

Isn’t that good? This woman gets it! What matters most is our relationships with our kids and families, not our jobs.

I received a bunch of other emails I’m not at liberty to share, but let me just say as an encouragement to you all:
Your legacy is not what you do at your workplace; it is the difference you make in the lives of those God has given you. So cherish your family. They are irreplaceable!

Marley and Me: Restlessness vs. Peace

This weekend, over two nights, my husband and I watched Marley & Me. Cute movie, not stupendous or anything, but good enough. It gets better towards the ending.

Of course, my husband was only watching the movie because he was hoping to spend quality time with me so that we would do something OTHER than watch a movie, and it was a LOOONG movie. By the end Keith was saying to himself, “Die, already, dog. Just die!” Because really, the dog did take a long time to go.

But the point wasn’t the dog. The point of the movie, which is based on a true story, was one man’s search for peace and happiness.

Throughout the show he makes all the right choices. He marries; he gets a good job; he tries hard at that job to support his family; he has children. Of course, he gets a dog. But despite making these right choices he’s restless. He always feels that the grass is greener on the other side.

I’m not saying he wanted to have an affair; that never entered the movie at all. It’s just that when the normal problems come with life, they drag him down. When the babies are young and difficult, and his wife is hormonal and difficult, he wonders if this is really what he wanted. And he wonders that throughout the movie. He ends up quitting his job as a columnist because what he really wanted was to be a reporter. So he becomes a reporter.

But once he takes that job something inside him changes. He understands that it’s not about what you want or dream about; it’s about what you are. And he is a columnist. He is a father. He is a husband. And by the end of the movie he’s made peace with that.

It’s funny, because on the same evening we also watched Karate Kid with the kids. I’m not sure it was the best move; too much teenage dating for my taste compared to what we’re trying to teach our kids, but a good movie nonetheless. (There is swearing, if you don’t remember, so think before showing it to your own). But I’m reminded about how many movies in the 80s depicted broken families and the ugly side of life. No matter how much we complain about Hollywood these days, there are movies that depict the nuclear family in a good way, and this is one of them.

Anyway, the point that I took home, and that I want to talk about, is this idea that we can make all the right choices for all the right reasons and still not feel peace. Have you ever been there? You know kids were part of the plan. You know that you’re supposed to be married. But you’re restless. I spend my life being restless (though more about my vocation than about my kids).

Some people are more prone to restlessness than others. And restlessness is not necessarily a bad thing, or a sin, or something that you need to be ashamed of. Some of us are idea people, and our heads are filled with all the other things we could, or even should, be doing. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t called here, or aren’t satisfied with what we have. It’s just that we can’t shut off that part of our brain which keeps seeing different things to spend our energy on. And there’s only so much time in the day, so we’re forever feeling like failures. This isn’t what we were meant to do.

But maybe it is. All that dreaming isn’t a waste; there may be times when you can fulfill some of those plans. For right now, though, we have to look and say, “is this where I’m supposed to be?”. It may not be part of the plan I had for my life. Maybe I thought I’d be further ahead by now. Maybe I thought I’d be married differently, or have more (or fewer!) kids. Maybe I thought I’d live somewhere else, have my own house, be financially stable. But it doesn’t matter what you thought. The point is, for right now, is this where you’re supposed to be? Is this what you’re supposed to be doing?

God doesn’t measure your life by how much you lived up to your plans. He measures your life by whether you’re living for Him in the little things. And what I’ve had to do to turn off those voices is not just take it a day at a time, but an hour at a time, and ask God, “is this what You want me to do for this hour?” And I’m starting to realize that it is.

You see, I have dreams that I should have written another book this year, or started back up at my radio program, or done more for Africa. And I feel restless about these things. But when I start going to God and saying, “Okay, Lord, for this hour, what should I be doing?”, and I realize I should be putting dinner in the crockpot, or teaching my kids math, or even taking some time to knit, then it’s quite clear I didn’t have time to write that book. And that’s okay. I don’t need to be restless.

I can dream, and maybe those dreams will come to fruition one day. But I need to find my peace here, and I can’t do that unless I’m going to God and keeping up with Him about His priorities on a day to day, hour by hour basis. It may sound anal, always asking God, “is this it? Is this it?” But if I don’t, I waste time. And I also feel unsatisfied. When I stay in contact, I spend my time better, and I’m more at peace with my choices.

Peace doesn’t automatically come from making the right choices. It only comes when we learn to live, day by day, within the parameters of those choices. And for that, I think, we need God.

Difference Between Discipline and Dedication

Every now and then I go on a rampage on how I just need more discipline.

I can see all kinds of areas of my life which would be more productive and effective if I did things better. I need more discipline in my homeschool. I need to make healthier snacks. I need to spend more time in prayer. I need to jog more.

You know the drill.

But I also know that’s not God’s voice. God, I don’t believe, is up in heaven saying, “You should just try a little harder.” No, God is calling us to a relationship with Him.

Self-control and discipline are fruits of the spirit. We are called, for instance, to abstain from gluttony, and sexual excess, and drunkenness, and laziness. We are called to abstain from excess of any kind.

But that doesn’t mean that self-control can be the goal for our lives. I don’t think you can pursue self-control any more than you can pursue any others of the fruits of the Spirit, like love or joy. Can you pursue joy and be joyful? No. But you can pursue God.

And I think that’s the point. The reason I sometimes feel out of whack is not because my schedule is wrong or I’m not trying hard enough. It’s because I don’t have enough time in prayer.

Look at Jesus. He was disciplined. He was effective. But He didn’t have a schedule which said that He was going to spend this much time on one thing, and then this much time on something else. You get the feeling that He didn’t have much of an agenda. Instead, He spend a lot of time in prayer, and then went where God moved.

I am not saying we shouldn’t have schedules. I think they’re necessary for many things, including responsible homeschooling and homemaking, and I even some free organizational charts you can download here!

What I am saying is that my problem is not so much with discipline as it is with dedication. I need to be more dedicated to God, because I believe that if I spend more time just in prayer, I will be led more by Him. I will be able to hear His voice. I will waste less time, I will be more effective with what I do have, and I will not feel that I have wasted my day if I haven’t reached my goals, because I will know I have reached God’s goals.

Rick Warren once said that there is enough time in the day to do everything God wants you to do today, and I think that is so true. If there are too many things on your plate, and you can’t possibly get them all done, then realize that God knows that. He doesn’t want you to get them all done. But the ones He does want you to concentrate on He does give you time for.

The trick is to be able to hear His voice. And that means spending more time in prayer. I am very disciplined at blogging, and having my shower, and making my bed. I’m not disciplined at listening enough to God. I don’t want to add something else to my “to-do” list, but I don’t think prayer is actually adding to a to-do list. I think it’s subtracting. Because the more we pray, the more our priorities are clarified, and our spirit is renewed.

But prayer isn’t spending five minutes listing all the things that we need. It has to be an interaction with God that we take some time with. I believe that God speaks the deepest when we have spent the time and energy to listen. So that’s my new spring and summer goal. I’m going to pray, instead of surfing all kinds of blogs. I’m not going to be more disciplined and try harder; I’m simply going to be more dedicated to Him.

What do you think? How do you hear His voice? And do you struggle with feeling like you should “try harder”? How do you reconcile that? Let’s get the conversation going!

Struggling with Feeling God's Love

'woman jogging' photo (c) 2011, kevin ryder - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/This has been the week that I’ve been telling you a bit more about myself, since it’s occurred to me that many of you read my blog and don’t really know who I am.

So I thought it might be a good time to share what God’s been showing me lately, too.

I have always struggled with the idea that God accepts me just as I am. I guess I can see so many things wrong with me that to say that God loves despite that seems arrogant. Obviously He loves me, but He must look down and see all that other stuff, and be disappointed in me.

I know that’s not true; I’m just trying to tell you what I think.

One of the issues that I’ve had, along the same lines, is really hearing God speak to me. There are specific times in my life when I have heard God’s voice, and I talk about those things when I give my testimony. But to assume that God is talking to me at other times might seem presumptuous.

Again, I know this isn’t true, but it’s something I struggle with.

So this week I had a very interesting experience. I had been struggling with my speaking ministry. I really believe that a speaker should try to lead women into an encounter with God; that we should issue a challenge, and take people somewhere. I don’t think we should just entertain, or say something interesting. Not that we shouldn’t be entertaining; I try very hard to use humour, as you can see in this video. But the goal is to take people to a deeper level with God.

For various reasons I was struggling with this, because it seems that most conferences in Canada hire big-name American authors to speak, whose goals don’t seem the same as mine all the time. This week I was questioning whether my approach was right.

In the middle of this I took a jog, and I decided to listen to a podcast of a sermon by Helen Roseveare, a medical missionary to Zaire that I admire so much. In her sermon, she used three Bible references: Romans 8:29, Philippians 3:10, and Hebrews 12:1,2. Anyone who has listened to me speak very much will know that each of those verses is the main verse for my three main talks.

I had that sermon recorded to listen to for a month, but I hadn’t gotten around to it until that day, when this was what I was struggling with. And I do believe God wanted to tell me something through that. He said, “I am with you in what you do. Keep at it, and I will bring the fruit.” And I felt so much better!

I had a dream later that night. I was at a seminar and Jesus Himself was there. He was only going to give that one seminar, and my whole family, including my mother, was so excited. I wasn’t. I was crying. I was hurting. And I thought to myself, “If Jesus really is as good as He says He is, then all I want him to do is to look at me at some point this morning and tell me, ‘I know you’re lonely, but I do love you.’” I didn’t think that was so much to ask.

And He didn’t. He talked to everybody but me. But I didn’t wake up depressed. Instead, I felt so relieved, because I felt like God was trying to reveal to me the root of some of my restlessness lately.

I may know He loves me on different levels, but He wants to take me deeper. And I still have a works based view of God: that if I’m not doing all I can, God’s going to be disappointed. Instead, I think He wants to tell me that He loves me, and He has planted me here, and I don’t need to be afraid.

These aren’t things I didn’t know. But I may have known them in my head, and I may have known them in my heart, but it seems like each year God wants to open a different part of my heart and show it to me anew. And it’s really neat.

So let me ask you: what do you struggle with? Do you struggle with perfectionism? Do you struggle with knowing God’s voice? Do you struggle with feeling His pleasure? I’d love to get a discussion going!