Taking a Vacation from God?

Baseball. Barbecues. Bathing Suits. Are you ready for a summer vacation? 

How about a vacation from God?

That sounds irreligious to say, but let’s be honest. It’s tempting to have that mindset during Summertime.

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Bible gets dusty.
Prayer life shrinks.
Selfies by the pool take priority over acts of service.

After all, the Salvation Army only rings the bell during the Christmas season, so people less fortunate than me must be having fun too, right?

It’s not just individuals who hit pause on spiritual growth.

Churches—at least the ones in my area—are less active after Memorial Day. Other than a Family Camp or Vacation Bible School, the church calendar has a lot of white space.

Women’s Bible studies take a summer break. So do children’s Awana clubs. Small community groups within a church, that meet weekly in homes, are on hiatus.

Even church attendance and tithing is lower during summer. For even if a family has a staycation instead of going out of town, who wants to wait until Sunday afternoon to go on a hike or swim in the lake?

It’s not like God’s a killjoy. The Bible mentions festivities and God’s mandate for people to celebrate life.

Didn’t Jesus say, “the Sabbath was made for man.” We’re meant to rest at least one day out of the week. So why not set aside two weeks of vacation or three months of recreation?

Have I struck a nerve, yet? I hope you know I’m playing devil’s advocate.

I’m also NOT trying to guilt anyone or tell people how to spend their summer. I’m right there with other red-blooded Americans—weaving warm memories with my loved ones this summer.

However, conviction tugged my heart when I put on my sunscreen.

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Summer break from school and normal routines are no excuse to ignore the Lord. I still need to seek God’s presence through His Word and prayer. I need to put on the armor of Christ as faithfully as my sunscreen.

I need to, but I also WANT to spend time with the Lord this summer because He doesn’t take a vacation from me.

He is ever present. And He longs to have a relationship with each of us that isn’t one-sided or confined to nine months of the year.

So why would I consider a sabbatical from the One who loves me with an everlasting love, and redeemed my soul?

The Bibles says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always!”

Always. Even in this… good ole Summertime.

 

Photos:www.JennyWredePhotography.com

 

Is There Any Excuse?

Being ill with the crud is like having an uninvited houseguest who refuses to leave—quite the pain. For over a week, I’ve lived as a couch potato. My allies are a box of tissues, hot tea, Vics cough drops, and my Downton Abbey DVDs.

I try reading my Bible, but my foggy brain doesn’t comprehend much. And my nasal, hoarse prayers seem to fall flat. Thank God for His grace that covers everything—even my congested head. I wasn’t always so merciful towards myself.

Years ago, whenever I’d get derailed from seeking the Lord due to life’s circumstances, or spiritual sloth, I’d wallow in guilt or justify myself with pithy excuses.

What I failed to see was that my frothy view of God kept me from pursuing Him for the sheer joy of being with Him. Still, I kept waiting for that perfect season when life would be perfect or slow down so I could spend quality time with my Lord. 

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Then I met Loretta who told me, “To the degree we want God, we’ll seek Him.”

Her words banished my excuses.  I asked myself, “To what degree am I seeking God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Either my relationship with Him is a priority…or not.”

Granted there are times of illness and grief when we can barely lift our heads. God meets us there and His grace is sufficient. But making time for the Lord is a necessary discipline if we’re to fully experience God’s presence and hear His voice.

If we’re not intentional about our relationship with the Lord, it isn’t going to magically happen.

We make time for the things we truly want to do.

I learned that truth when I homeschooled my children. I knew the value of consistent exercise to stay healthy, but I complained I didn’t have time. If only I was a woman of leisure…

And then my husband’s job took us to London for two months and our family lived in a hotel with maid service. Other than caring for my children and having fun, there were no other demands. The hotel had a free gym and I was free to exercise. Excuse me, but I never saw the inside of that gym.

We make time for things we want to do which includes seeking God.

Is the Lord someone we love and long to know? Or a nodding acquaintance we meet on Sunday mornings? Perhaps we only call on Him when we’re in trouble like a 9-1-1 emergency call.

Remember, to the degree we want God we’ll seek Him even in this….

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Photo: www.JennyWredePhotography.com

Seeking God isn’t Fast Food

He stood in front of the open refrigerator. Scanned the shelves of cold food.

Perhaps if he waited long enough, the sandwich meat would read his mind. Then it could squeeze past the slab of bacon, open the deli drawer, and wave, “Here I am!”

Only, he was starving so he hollered, “I thought you bought turkey meat?”

“Did you search in the deli drawer?”

“Ohhhhh, there it is!”

This is not the first time this has happened—particularly when several males were living here—which leads me to believe….

Men bring home the bacon, but they’re often helpless when it comes to finding it—at least in my house.

You’d think our refrigerator was a giant, black hole. Food gets lost. Sometimes it turns green to get our attention. And still the men in my life, stand there, staring into the cold abyss.

No doubt, I have the same blank expression on my face when I open the car hood and look at the thingamabobs. Which leads me to my point—albeit not humorous.

Not everything is in plain view. If we’re not searching, we can’t expect to find it.

God says, “If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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Seek God.

Once He’s found….continually seek Him.

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face alwaysSearch for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him.…” (Psalm 105:4)

When I served as a jail chaplain, women inmates learned that Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10).

As we searched the scriptures, they’d put their faith in Christ and declare, “I’m a new person since I found Jesus.”

When they left jail, some of them returned to their old habits and landed back in jail—frustrated.

Addictions are difficult to overcome especially when the person’s environment and peers don’t change. However, the inmates admitted they had stopped seeking Jesus.

I’m no different. My life flounders when I stop seeking the Lord and rely, instead, on my own strength, wisdom, and ability to love others.

Seeking God requires effort. We can’t idly wait for God to show Himself. He says, “Seek Me with all your heart.”

Spiritual disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, one-on-one discipleship, and corporate worship are the means of seeking the Lord.

But seeking Him is more than a means of meeting our personal needs.

God wants to be wanted. He doesn’t want a passive, fast food relationship.

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Instead of consuming daily devotions as we gulp a cup of coffee and hurry out the door….

We’re invited to “meet with God” in His Word. Pause in the busyness to pray so we can hear His voice and be led by His Spirit.

Christ paid for that privilege when He died on the cross and purchased us with His blood.

Why on earth would anyone settle for less?

 

How a Blue Jay Convicted Me

They come. The Blue Jays, Woodpeckers, Finches.

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In a drought-ridden land where the color brown defines much of the landscape, birds flock to my man-made waterfall and birdbaths.

Desperate for water but wary of me, they keep their distance. They don’t know my intentions are good.

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Meanwhile, I recline in my patio chair, praying to the God who weaved me in my mother’s womb.

I know His intentions are good. However, without a healthy “fear of the Lord,” I’m prone to act cavalier. Other times demanding.

Lord, could you, would you? And while you’re at it, why don’t you….help, fix, cure, resolve….this and that!

I assume God is listening; that He wants to meet my needs and more.

The same way I enjoy providing Premium Sunflower Seeds for my feathered friends. To my delight, they keep returning even if it’s not for me. No ruffled feathers here.

But I wonder how the Lord feels when my prayer life resembles a Toby Keith song, “I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I, wanna talk about number one.”

woman-825154__180Would anyone watching me from a bird’s eye view find me…..

  • Returning to God because I need something.
  • My prayers filled with petitions instead of praise.
  • My intentions purely self-seeking rather than pure.

I cringe to think audacity trumps humility when it comes to my attitude towards……

~A holy God whose grace prevents me from receving what I really deserve.

~A faithful God who loves me even when I keep my distance.

~A patient God who longs for me to return and spend time with Him.

Even in this moment, a Blue Jay perches on the edge of my waterfall. He bends down and fills his beak with the cool water rushing over the moss-covered stones. His head tilts backward as he swallows.

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Satisfied, he flies away.

I reach for my water bottle to quench my own thirst because I love the Lord, but I see myself….

Swooping in and out of prayer when I see fit.

And I’m convicted.

Would I pray as often if I could only praise God instead of dictating what I think He needs to do?

How would you answer that question?

Photos: Pixabay

Is God Watching From a Distance?

In church, I sang the words “Our God is greater, our God is stronger,” without conviction.

If God were greater and stronger than any other, wouldn’t I see more victory in Christian lives?

More joy, more answered prayer?

Perhaps Bette Midler’s lyrics are right. Perhaps “God is watching us from a distance.” 

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Because when I’m watching someone from a distance…and I see people in the news fleeing from persecution or weeping after a natural disaster….

I empathize, but I don’t feel their pain.

Not like I do in person. Otherwise, I’d be compelled to act more often. Pray. Donate money. Assist them.

Which is why I sometimes feel like God is watching from a distance. Lord, can you see me from up there? Listen to me. Do something now!

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I tried to ignore Satan’s insinuation that God was far away. But my problems took centerstage on the altar instead of the Cross.

“Lord, I know worship is about you, but if I could taste victory in this particular area then I’d be able to praise you. Experience joy again.”

During the next song, I closed my eyes to meditate on the Lord’s faithfulness in my life. I wanted to praise Him in the storm instead of waiting for the clouds to pass.

Perhaps I’d been watching God from a distance.

Giving Him my daily, one-way dictation. Telling God what He should do to make life better. Problems solved. Joy regained. Make it snappy.

Rather than be still in God’s presence for Him alone. Obeying His Word because I love Him.

“Lord, I’ve spent too much time looking at Me and Mine this past week. Forgive me. Only You can satisfy my heart. I know this because I’ve experienced the…

  • Joy of Your presence. 
  • Joy not based on answered prayer. 
  • Joy of Your salvation.

Weight lifted from my shoulders when I agreed to stop fixing everyone’s problems, and fix my eyes back on the Lord. 

Trusting Him to work out everything for good in my life and theirs. (Romans 8:28, 29)

God watches His children, but He is fully present. For His Spirit dwells within each believer.

God not only sees our felt needs, He knows our true needs which includes our never-ending need to abide (or remain) in Christ. (John 15) To illustrate abiding, Jesus used the visual of a branch attached to a vine in order to bear fruit.

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 Abiding in Christ means it’s possible to have an ever-present relationship with the Almighty God. Some of that fruit is joy.

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11)

Joyful, even in this…

Moment when God may seem far away and slow to the rescue.