Earlier this week, Lucas and I took a little walk after we dropped the girls to school. His little legs meant the pace was much slower than I'd naturally go - so I had to adjust my step somewhat, and as we ambled along he became fascinated with all the little flowers growing alongside the path. He would bend down and pick himself a daisy and carry on. He did this countless times. But I began to notice something - as he approached a new patch of flowers, he would look at what he had in his hands and decide whether to hold on to it, or whether to let it go and pick up something new. Not once did he try to hold on to multiple flowers - he seemed to instinctively recognise what his chubby little fingers were capable of carrying.
And as I watched him, I felt the whisper of the Holy Spirit telling me that I could learn a lot from my lil' guy.
Sometimes we push ourselves too hard and too fast. We place expectations on ourselves that even God is not asking of us. And because of this, we can miss the beauty, the gifts that He has for us along the way.
Sometimes we just want to try and have it all at once. We want to keep picking up, but we don't want to put anything down.
This whole year has been a lesson for me in slowing down - in learning to embrace rest and create margin. Some of it has been forced upon me - continued sleep deprivation has meant that I just don't have my normal capacity. I have had to learn to adjust my step and slow the pace. But much of it has been very deliberate. A conscious decision to re-evaluate what matters and to ask God what He might want to say to me. To seek His priorities for this season of my life and to consider what He wants me to put down and to pick up.
And with this slowing down; with this adjusting of the internal position of my heart, I have had a deeper revelation of just how much God values relationship with His children. Of how much He longs for me to just come and sit at His feet - for me to give Him my attention, but also to allow Him to give me His.
Christ's words to Mary have taken on new and fresh meaning for me:
There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."
Jesus cannot be taken from us. No matter what we find ourselves walking through; no matter what we have to choose to let go of - or even what we might feel has been plucked from our hands - He remains. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us and He is for us.
I don't know what your year has held, but I imagine it has been much like mine - filled with things you're celebrating, marked by things that have grieved and disappointed you. It has been made up of a little extraordinary, and a lot of being faithful in the ordinary and every day. And He has been with you through all of it. You might not have always felt like it, but He has never left your side. And He never will.
Because just as He cannot be taken from you, you cannot be taken from Him.
My sheep respond as they hear My voice; I know them intimately, and they follow Me. I give them a life that is unceasing, and death will not have the last word. Nothing or no one can steal them from My hand.
The Creator of the Universe holds you in His hand. He knows you intimately. And His heart is that you would allow Him to lead you in ways that fill you with His life.
So as we race towards Christmas and the end of another year, don't be afraid to slow the pace; to take a little amble and survey the landscape of your life. Be confident that God has good things prepared and waiting for you in every stage and season of your life - but to pick them up, you might have to be prepared to release the things that belong to another chapter; to relax your tight grip and open your hand to receive the treasures that He is holding out to you right now.
Enjoy picking up the daisies along the way!
Live today with purpose,
P.S. Don't forget the Christmas devotional starts this Monday - join us as we capture the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us.
Dreams are funny things - sometimes they feel like a seed of hope within us, other days they can feel heavy. Distant and seemingly out of reach they fill us with despair.
I can't help but wonder if the latter was how Joseph felt.
When he was betrayed by his brothers
When he was sold first to the Ishamelites and then to Potiphar - traded like an object
When he was falsely accused - set up on an attempted rape charge
When he was wrongly imprisoned
When he was overlooked and forgotten by those he helped - left to languish in prison for another two years
Did the dreams that had once filled him with so much excitement, feel lost and hopeless? Did they feel like a reminder of a different lifetime, of a time when he was loved and highly favoured? Were they yet another disappointment; a taunt of what could have been?
We know the end of his story, but at the time Joseph had no idea how it would all turn out. He was just a seventeen year old boy who'd had the rug pulled out from under him. As you read about everything he endured, one thing is clear though - he never lost sight of who he knew God to be.
When he was propositioned, he refused to sin against God
When those around him needed wisdom, he looked to God as the source
When he was praised, he kept giving God the credit and the glory
Where others saw destruction and suffering, he saw the purposes of God woven throughout his life
In all the uncertainties of his life, God was enough for Joseph. He let God be bigger than what he didn't understand. And this posture of trust enabled Joseph to experience the blessing, the favour, the presence of God in every season and situation. It was evident to all that whether slave or Pharoah's right-hand man; whether imprisoned or free, that God was with him.
...the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden.
And He wants to be with us too, because the favour, the presence of God is meant to be experienced in any and every season. It is not only intended to be manifest in our lives when everything is going well, but also in the hard times - in the seasons and places that don't make sense. When our dreams and destiny feel opposed.
Joseph's awareness of God with him transformed his experiences and enabled him to become fruitful in the very place of his suffering. It caused him to see purpose in his pain. And as he served the interests of others; as he diligently and honourably managed their affairs; as he interpreted their dreams, God revived his own.
Over twenty years had passed since his brothers had sold him, and when they bowed before him in the time of famine seeking grain - Joseph remembered his dreams about them (Gen. 42:9). And I can't help but wonder as he remembered the sheaves of grain bowed before him, if he also reinterpreted what he'd been shown as a young man. Dreams begin like a seed - and often only time reveals their true nature and extent.
In his youthful enthusiasm, Joseph had recounted his family bowing before him - his focus had been that they were honouring him. But the years have changed him, and as his family come to him in a time of need - as they bow before him - I think he realises that he had been elevated not to be honoured, but to serve. That he had been given position and power for purpose - to be a source of provision for those in need.
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
Joseph was intended not just to receive honour - but to give it; to preserve the life and dignity of those around him. But sometimes, God has to shape us before he can allow our dreams to take shape. He knows what needs to be cultivated in the soil of our hearts for the desires that He has planted within us to reach maturity - to realise their true nature and extent. God took Joseph on a journey not to break him or to rob him, but to prepare him. To ready him for what he had planned for him.
As I write this, I am seeing God unfold some long-held dreams of my own - dreams that I cried out for in another season that I now see I needed to be shaped to carry. But I am also laying down the form that I thought some of the deepest desires of my heart should take. I am choosing to not allow disappointment to weigh heavy, but to trust like Joseph did in the hard places, so that I too can declare, "...you intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." (Gen. 50:20). I am choosing to believe that one day I will be able to look back on the things that have brought pain in my own journey and reinterpret their place and meaning in my life; that I will see dreams revived and understand them as He intended them.
What dreams, what desires of your heart is God asking you to trust Him with today?
Live today with purpose,
Something profound happened to me as I restudied Galatians and wrote the Set Free devotional series, I was undone just a little more by the wonder of His grace, and ever since, I've found myself feeling rather weepy - not my usual state I assure you! I'm weepy over happy things. Weepy because His grace is so incredible. Weepy over my hard and broken places; weepy over the things that feel so far from what He has promised me - but not because I feel helpless, more because I sense that His grace will amaze me in those very places.
I thought that when I finished writing Set Free, that the weeping would finish too. But it didn't - in fact, even as I sit to write this post I can feel the tears pricking at my eyes! I started to think that maybe my tears were not at all spiritual, but just the result of having not slept much for the last 14 months (Lucas is still learning that sleep is a beautiful thing!). But as I encountered others having similar experiences, I felt the Holy Spirit say that it is a season for softening hearts so that we can be the good soil that produces the thirty, the sixty, even the hundred-fold crop that Jesus spoke of.
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us the parable of the sower - of a farmer who scatters his seed and how it fell in different places. Where it fell determined its fruitfulness. Some fell on the path, and before it could have a chance to grow, the birds came along and ate it up. Jesus said that this is the person who hears, but doesn't understand what he has heard. Because of this the enemy is able to come and steal that word from him. Then some fell in rocky places where the soil was shallow - so while it grew, it did not last because it had not been able to put down roots that would sustain its growth. And then there was the seed that fell among the thorns - the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of riches - which choked it out, and made it unfruitful.
There was only one place that the seed fell where it could actually produce a crop - and that was on the good soil. Matthew tells us that the good soil is the person who not only hears, but understands; Mark tells us that it is the one who hears the word and accepts it (4:20), and Luke's gospel adds that it is the one who hears the word and retains it - persevering with it to produce a crop (8:15).
But not just any crop. Jesus said:
...the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty, thirty times what was sown.
Good soil produces a crop that far exceeds what was sown. Good soil multiplies what it receives because it is characterised by understanding; by accepting and retaining the word, and by patiently persevering until the harvest is realised. These characteristics create an environment where God's Word and God's promises can flourish.
We often think of this parable in terms of categories of people and how they respond to the gospel. But it also relates to the soil of our hearts - how we receive God's Word, God's promises for our lives. There are some words that fall on good soil, but within the same person there can be other words that are unfruitful because in that particular area we lack understanding or perseverance.
As I meditated on this parable, I began to ask myself a series of questions:
Is there any word from God that I need to ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand so that the enemy can't rob me of that promise?
Is there anywhere in my life that I am not putting down roots? Anywhere that I am allowing trouble to dislodge my roots and make me lose sight of what God has spoken?
What promises from God is worry destroying in my life?
What promises is God asking me to accept - to receive and believe as true, and to therefore retain - to hold fast, keep in my possession and in my memory?
I realised as I answered these questions that there were things God had, and was speaking to me, that I needed to get into agreement with and keep in the forefront of my mind. There were words that I had initially received with joy as Jesus described in Matthew 13:20, that I risked relinquishing because of the obstacles I was encountering.
This is the journey of faith - to hold tightly to what God has spoken when life opposes it. To choose to see what He sees and not be deterred when we face delay. And as we recall what has been spoken over our lives, Peter wisely tells us that we must not forget this one thing:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise as some understand slowness. He is patient with you...
God's timetable is not the same as ours, but we can always trust that His heart is for us to be fruitful - and that He is faithful to keep His promises. But just as where the seed fell determined its fruitfulness, where God's Word falls in our hearts will determine what it produces in us and through us.
What word from God, what promise is He asking you to accept today? Deliberately take it up - give thanks for it, delight in it and look forward to the harvest from it!
Live today with purpose,
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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