By Cindy Martin –
I find myself wrestling with a new twist on an old issue. I posed a couple of questions to God a while back, “What do You really want me to be doing with my life? How should I actually be spending my time here on earth?”
After seeking His heart on a day I’d set aside to ponder these questions with Him, His answer was clear … well, sort of. His inaudible, but unmistakable response to my query was, “Be available.”
What does “be available” actually look like? That day, I was at a crossroads, asking God which of the many possibilities before me He wanted me to pursue and He asked me to BE available. Notice that He didn’t ask me to “do available”, but rather to “be available.”
Herein lies the struggle – the age-old struggle – how do we do that? How do we live in the tension between being and doing? After all, the incessant doer in me knows that things still need to get done. Yet my heart knows there is more to it.
Ecclesiastes 3:9-11 articulates some of my frustration but also brings some clarity to the issue. It reads: “What do people really get for all their hard work? I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (NLT).
Work was God’s idea and His gift to us. ‘Doing’ and ‘being’ both originated with Him. The fact that God “planted eternity in the human heart” means that our spirits know that we were created for something more than mere physical labor and existence. But because we can never understand all that God is up to in our lives, we spend a lot time ‘doing’ in an effort to figure out ‘being’.
I’m learning that ‘being’ is not the cessation of activity so you can engage in monk-style meditation but rather making space in my mind and in my schedule for Him to have full access to my undivided attention.
Sometimes, this takes an intentional choice on our part to shorten the ‘to-do’ list and lengthen the ‘stop doing list’. Other times, it’s quieting our minds so that we can hear the answers He’s already providing.
Prayer: “Lord, show me how to make time in my mind and schedule so I can unpack and truly experience the life that You have designed just for me.”
Quote: The more time I spend “being” with God, the more He informs my “doing”.
By Cindy Martin –
Despite our culture’s drive to do more things faster, we still seem to spend more time waiting than we’d like. We wait for red lights to turn green, slow grocery checkout lines to move along and our turn in the tech. support phone queue. If I’m honest, I’m quite impatient, and just writing about these scenarios arouses feelings of frustration within me.
While all these petty annoyances act as hurdles in my personal race through life, perhaps the hardest thing to wait for is God to answer my prayers. Beyond the usual angst that comes with waiting for most things, I sometimes wrestle with feelings of guilt or insecurity as I think, “I shouldn’t feel so anxious while I’m waiting, I should trust and not worry, but how do I do that? Should I be doing more? Have I done too much?” Nagging questions, what ifs and second guessing can create a toxic cocktail in my mental blender that seemingly whirs and spins without end!
A question that I have often asked is, “What does trusting God look like with skin on it? What am I actually doing while I’m trusting and waiting and waiting and……?” Some dear friends of mine introduced me to the concept of worshipping while you wait. It is based on an account in scripture where those carrying the Ark of the Covenant would take a couple of steps and then stop to worship “the Lord God”, take a few more steps and again stop to worship “the Lord Most High.”
At first it didn’t seem all that transformational, but as I’ve chosen to worship God for His character and ability to meet me in my time of need, in addition to declaring my dependency on His all knowing and all loving ways, I have been transformed in my spirit and my perspective. I no longer feel the need to beg God to hear my prayers or offer Him suggestions on how to answer them! Rather, worshipping while I wait for His answer allows me to bring my requests to Him and then frees me to trust His plan for myself and those I love.
Far from trite or cliche, worshipping while I wait has deepened my walk with God and let me experience what it means to live with my heart at rest. Yay, God!
Scripture: “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy” (Psalm 116:1 NLT).
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, You are so worthy of our praise. Grant us grace to worship You as we wait for Your answers to our prayers. I am so grateful for the freedom worshipping You brings to our hearts and minds.”
By Cindy Martin –
Hawaiians are indeed a humble people. My husband and I had opportunity to experience their gracious and hospitable spirit on our recent trip to three of their gorgeous islands. The trip was a fulfillment of a dream of ours to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in Hawaii. It was glorious – a steady stream of brilliant sunshine, dazzling sunsets over the ocean, lush green foliage accentuated with cascading colors and exhilarating aromas, plenty of new adventures and all the mango and pineapple that we could eat!
One of our new adventures was to try boogie boarding. Wearing our matching mango-colored Monkskin shirts to protect from sunburn and boogie board rash, we waded out into waist-deep waters, ready to ‘catch a wave’. Let’s just say the wave caught us! I had just turned to listen to what my husband was saying and the next thing we knew our legs were tangled up in each others’ under the water, our boogie boards had left without us and we came up gurgling salt water and gasping for air. The ponytail that I thought I had anchored at the back of my head was now dripping into my left ear! Once we were able to gain our footing (much closer to shore), we laughed uncontrollably at ourselves.
I had just commented earlier that day that you sure could tell who the tourists were. My words had been in response to all the mismatched and clashing Hawaiian print shirts and shorts we’d seen, along with the big wide brimmed hats and heavily sun screened faces. We now felt like the obvious tourists and were experiencing a little Hawaiian humility of our own!
Despite our initial ineptness, we did manage to get in a number of good runs; enjoying the pure bliss of skimming across the top of the water at what seemed like warp speed. Our form was not perfect by any means – in fact I finished off the day with a full face-plant in the sand, complete with a scratched up chin and skinned upper lip! Still we had so much fun and I am not soon to forget the very practical object lesson I learned that day. “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 RSV).
Prayer: “Thank You Lord for the gifts of fun and recreation. Thank You too for joining us in our fun and creating teachable moments in the midst of it all.”
“First pride, then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG).
By Cindy Martin –
On a recent trip to church my two teenagers were having a rather innocuous verbal squabble. I had a mountain of difficult issues that were racing through my mind so I rationalized that they were old enough to work this out on their own. Besides, I needed time to think my own thoughts. I had all but tuned out their conversation until I heard my daughter’s witty response to what was undoubtedly one of her brother’s taunts.
“Jesus loves you, but I’m struggling.”
What? I thought I missed something so I asked her to repeat herself and she did, “Jesus loves you, but I’m struggling.” Her response came so calmly and in such a matter-of-fact tone of voice that when her words penetrated my otherwise overloaded thought processes, I began to laugh out loud. By the time I arrived at church, there was a lightness in my heart that hadn’t been there when we left home.
I’ve chuckled to myself several times since then, and it’s caused me to reflect on the importance of humor, especially when life overwhelms with hard things. Scripture shows the value of humor and its impact on our physical, emotional and spiritual health. Proverbs 15:13 tells us, “A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day” (MSG). Two verses later in Proverbs 15:15 we read, “A miserable heart means a miserable life; a cheerful heart fills the day with song” (MSG).
It’s easy to get overly focused especially when we feel like we’re drowning in the demands of our lives. Still, I believe God would instruct us to not always take this life so seriously, particularly during seasons of intense stress and strain. The old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine” finds its roots in scripture and sometimes I believe that is exactly what the Great Physician would prescribe.
Scripture: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, help me to rest in Your ability to take care for the happenings of my life so I can take time to stop and enjoy the life You gave me.”
By Cindy Martin –
As a high school Bible teacher at one of the Christian schools in our city, I was asked to prepare a lesson on “Participatory Redemption” for the “Bible 20” students headed to Guatemala over spring break. The more I researched the topic the more apparent it became that understanding this concept would not only be very useful for these students, it would be equally (if not more) relevant to our everyday lives here in North America. The notion that we as Christians, get to participate in God’s redemptive plan here on earth is not breaking news. However, that our goal should not be to work for God but rather work with God in accomplishing that plan is surprisingly uncommon. Unfortunately the prevailing church mindset is one of perpetual performance despite the fact that their statement of faith may fully endorse salvation by grace alone.
Let’s look for a moment at the difference between working for God and working with God. When we work for God, we play the starring role in a results-focused environment designed to demonstrate to ourselves and others how committed we are to God. When we work with God we take time to discern where He is already working, surrender our role and agenda to Him, and then obey His leadings and promptings, leaving the results in His hands. It becomes God’s honor that is at stake, not ours.
In the former we initiate, motivate and sometimes even manipulate. In the latter we reflect, connect and respect. Working for God makes us responsible not only for the outcome but also for the sustaining energy and perspective along the way. So, if we need to be in control of everything then all we can ever have is what we can manufacture, and that leaves no room for what God can do. Working with God frees us to respond to the people and circumstances He’s already prepared.
The more I reflect on these truths, the more I’m asking myself the same questions I’m asking the students – how does this change my interactions at home? at school? at the mall? How might this shift in my thinking affect my demeanor, my responses and my priorities? Hmm, all this by simply replacing one preposition with another? A seemingly subtle difference for sure, but scripture promises, and history affirms, that such an exchange will have lingering and profound effects.
Scripture: “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (Galatians 5:25 NLT).
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, grant us grace and strength to not stressfully strive ahead of You or disobediently lag behind You. In Your mercy, show us how to match our strides with Yours.”