How to Add Life to that Thing You Do

AlarmI recently had the pleasure of attending the Breathe Writers Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. If there is one thing a good writers conference will do for me, it is motivating me to find my creative rhythm. By this I mean, finding a structured time, ideally each day, when I can write.

Since returning from my conference I have found that 6:00 am is my sweet spot. The house is quiet. No one is after me. I can sit alone and think, write, create.

Getting up early is not my nature, and yet, somehow, there’s life in it. It’s like coffee, only better. When my kids get up and my writing time ends, I get on with the rest of my day. But as I make breakfast, make beds, make little minds turn around our homeschooling table, I feeling giddy, nourished, and deeply satisfied.

At first I thought it was a fluke, the natural response to the first real writing time I’d had in weeks, but as the days linked up and I kept going with my 6:00 am appointments, my happiness phenomena kept happening. Life kept filling my bones and everything seemed good, and perfect, and new.

A few days after my conference, I stumbled upon a podcast by Ransomed Heart Ministries about creativity and our relationship with God. As I listened, the men on this podcast, Craig McConell and Allen Arnold put into words what I was experiencing during my early morning writing times. Quoting one of Allen’s blog posts Craig said,

“God’s primary desire is not that we write about him, or even for him, it’s that we write with him.”

Of course, I thought. That’s it. When I sit down to write, whether it’s at 6:00 in the morning, 2:00 in the afternoon, or 10:00 at night. Whether I’m in a room full of people or a quiet corner of my house, in these times of creative of solitude, I am never alone. I am always with God.

The giddiness, nourishment, and deep satisfaction doesn’t come from the writing. It comes from being with God.

There’s no other way to explain it. On Tuesday I picked up my Bible and read, purely because I wanted to, for the first time in weeks. On Wednesday I longed for community, for fellowship with a friend. On Thursday I felt like Ann Voskamp, crazy grateful for golden leaves, yellow school buses, and sticky fingerprints on my window.

All of it came from being with God. From starting my day with Him. From sitting on my couch, typing out words in the presence of my King. It is simple, it is sacred, and somehow feels like the most honest prayer I’ve know.

Later in the podcast Allen describes the work we do as a little boy playing with blocks. As the boy plays, his father watches and asks if he can come build blocks with him. “No thanks,” the boy says. “I’m doing fine by myself.” Allen explains that this is what we do with God when we fail or refuse to invite Him in, when our work or our creating is done while He sits across the room.

When we do our work or our creating with God, we experience life and we experience freedom.

For me this means all the worrying I do about building a platform, creating a following, and finding a publisher fades into a deeper purpose of building, creating, and finding intimacy with God. I don’t have to worry; I just have to be me. I just have to do the work I love with Him by my side.

It’s kind of a game changer.

This post I’m writing may not be a hit. My book may never get published. I might be an obscure writer who never knows fame or success. But in the end, my biggest fan is the creator of the universe, the greatest hero of all time. He’s in the trenches with me. Every word I write is shared with God, and if nothing ever comes of it, that’s okay, because we did it together. It came from Him.

This is enough. I am enough. His presence in my life, by my side, in my work, is always, always, more than enough.

So that thing you do? Go do it. Find your rhythm. Create your masterpiece. Do the work He’s given you.

And build your blocks with God.

To listen to the podcast mentioned in this post please visit: http://www.ransomedheart.com/podcast/creativity-and-story-part-1

Red Hot Faith Interview with Cindy Bultema

Cindy Bultema

Cindy Bultema, Author & Speaker

Last week I hosted a Red Hot Faith giveaway in my post, “Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something!” The winners of the drawing are Theresa and Stephanie. Congrats, ladies! Your copy of Cindy Bultema’s Red Hot Faith Bible study will be on its way soon.

In celebration of Cindy’s recent RHF release I asked Cindy a few questions about her own RHF journey. Her answers are full of wisdom and encouragement. I hope you enjoy this Q&A as much as I did and, seeing how this is just a taste, I hope you’ll check out Red Hot Faith Lessons from a Lukewarm Church to learn about what it means to “Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something!”

1) Cindy, tell us a little bit about Red Hot Faith:

Red Hot Faith is an exciting journey to the lukewarm church of Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22. Through eight power-packed sessions, including video teachings, discussion questions, memory verses, and more, we’ll unpack God’s Word together to discover how to turn up the heat, fuel the fire of our faith, and strengthen our relationship with God.

If you are tired of being pulled into a lackluster, lukewarm routine of life that keeps you from experiencing God’s best – this Bible study is for you!

2) Where did your ideas for RHF come from? What inspired you to create this study?

One warm summer day I was on a prayer walk with my mentor Mary. During our time together Mary prayed, “Oh Lord, raise up a generation of women who are red-hot for You!” I thought, “Yes, God, sign me up!” I desperately want a life that has purpose, passion, spark, and meaning! I want red-hot faith!

But unfortunately, my reality: most days I feel caught up in the whirlpool of life.

After a week filled with trips to the store, waiting at Walgreen’s, and drop-offs to the dry cleaners, I barely have energy to change my kids’ sheets, much less change the world.

But Mary’s prayer really stuck with me, and I spent the next year digging into God’s Word, trying to learn everything I could about letting go of lukewarm living, and instead experiencing Red Hot Faith!

3) What are a few specific ways you seek to live with RHF?

One of the greatest ways to ignite a sizzling faith life is time spent with God through His Word. I am very intentional about devoting time to read the Bible, pray, and invite God into every area of my life. Now I need to be honest, as a busy mom with four kids, sometimes this is easier said than done. Some days my “quiet time” might be in the carpool lane or shower, but I really do believe it’s in His presence that our faith becomes red hot!

I also look for ways in the midst of my every day, ordinary life to put my faith in action. Even if it as simple as sending a quick encouraging text, greeting the store clerk by name, or walking next door to spend time chatting with my neighbor – I don’t want my life to be caught up in the “kingdom of me.” Instead, I want my faith life to impact those around me.

4) Tell us what you hope your readers/viewers will take away from RHF:

I hope this study will change the reader’s perception of Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:15 when He says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”

You see, the city of Laodicea had two sister cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was known for its therapeutic, healing hot springs. Colossae was known for its cold refreshing streams. Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm and useless. I used to think “hot” was “for Jesus,” and “cold” was “against Jesus.” In other words, “be hot” or “for Jesus,” or “be cold” or “against Jesus,” just don’t sit on the fence and be lukewarm.

Now that I’ve traveled to the ancient ruins and studied this passage in great detail, I don’t think that’s what this passage is communicating. Instead, I believe Christ is saying, I wish you were therapeutic and healing (like the hot water of Hierapolis) or refreshing and invigorating (like the cold water of Colossae.)

Be hot, be cold, but be something! Church members, be of some use!

5) Why is RHF important? How do you see it impacting your life and the lives of others?

Red Hot Faith is significant because our lives are meant to be fruitful and effective, not self- absorbed and useless. When we understand Christ’s firm words to the lukewarm church, hopefully His rebuke will motivate us to “be of some use” in the midst of our every day, ordinary lives. When our focus moves from saying, “God, what about me?” to “God, use me!” – the adventure really begins!

6) What’s the #1 thing God has taught you through your RHF journey?

While we were filming the Bible study, we visited a gold refinery at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It was incredible to watch gold refiner Ayhan Usta in action. I was awed by the extreme heat and intensity of the refiner’s fire. However, I also noted how Ayhan’s eye was always on the fire, monitoring not only the high temperature, but the fire’s strength and the timing. And no matter the circumstances, the refiner never leaves the scene.

In the midst of this Bible study journey, I experienced many faith tests and often felt like I was in the “refiner’s fire.” What I discovered was without the testing, refining, and purifying, we would    never know our full endurance level, nor would we grow in our Christ-like character. It’s seasons of struggles and sufferings that strengthen our faith, so we will be useful to God and others.

The #1 thing God taught me: sometimes it’s in the fire that our faith becomes red-hot.

 7) What’s the #1 thing you hope to teach others through RHF?

My hope is every person going through the Red Hot Faith Bible study would remember “Lukewarm is not our norm!” Jesus came so we could experience a full, abundant, purposeful faith life (John 10:10). Today. Not someday— when we get to heaven, when we lose weight, when the kids get older, or when we know more Bible verses—but today. Christ is warmly inviting us to open the door and invite Him into every area of our life. (Yes, every part!)

Bultema Red Hot Faith Cover Image8) When will RHF be available to purchase? Where/how can we get it?

Red Hot Faith was nationally released in early July of this year. The easiest way to purchase it is from Discovery House Publishers at www.dhp.org, although you’ll also find it at Amazon and Christianbook.com.

9) Will there be any opportunities this year to hear you share the RHF message in person?

Yes! One of the highlights of the Red Hot Faith release is visiting women’s gatherings and sharing Red Hot Faith Lesson 1: “Live.” I also often share Red Hot Faith as a weekend retreat or one day conference. You can find a complete list of upcoming events at www.cindybultema.com. I would love to meet some of your blog readers at a Red Hot Faith event!

10)  What’s next for your ministry and for RHF? Any sneak peeks you’re willing to share with us?

I am enjoying this season of encouraging, equipping and praying for others as they journey through Red Hot Faith. Of course, I’m also praying about what God might have next. I’m thankful to have a few invitations out there, but I want to make sure it’s what God wants. I’ll keep you posted!

“Be Hot! Be Cold! Be Something” (Plus Giveaway)

Bultema Red Hot Faith Cover ImageMy love for college basketball started when I was twelve years old. While all my friends were losing their heads and their hearts to the latest boy-band, (was it New Kids on the Block?), I lost my head and heart to the North Carolina Tarheels.

To prove my love for my team I wore a UNC t-shirt every day for an entire year. I sent homemade birthday cards to every player on the team. And I never, I mean NEVER, missed a game. Just to be safe I recorded most of them, and I saved every magazine or newspaper article I could find.

In time, I mellowed out (a little.) But it was this same crazed enthusiasm that sparked a thread of text messages between my dad and me.

Me: It seems like everything these days in college basketball is driven by networks, and programs, and money. It’s going to ruin everything good about the game…I should blog about this.

Dad: You should.

Me: It’s a little outside my realm but still full of passion!

Dad: Passion is your realm.

Passion is your realm. These words, coming from my dad, warmed my heart and got me thinking.

It seems to me that when it comes to things like college basketball, NFL football, and Sherlock Holmes (my personal TV obsession) we, as a culture, have no problem feeling and expressing our passion. We jump from our couches and cheer when our team scores the winning goal. We light up Facebook and Twitter when drama strikes the characters of our favorite TV shows, movies, or novels. Did you see what happened to ???

But when it comes to our faith or our walk with God, what of passion then?

Cindy Bultema

Author & Speaker, Cindy Bultema

Last summer I had the joy of hearing speaker and author, Cindy Bultema give a fascinating presentation on her latest Bible study series titled, Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Lukewarm Church. Based on God’s message to the church of Laodicea found in Revelation 3:14-22, Cindy’s teaching encourages readers and listeners to, “Be hot, be cold, be something!”

According to Cindy, and her studies of Revelation, the ancient city of Laodicea was surrounded by two other cities, Hierapolis and Colosse. Because of their unique water sources each of these cities had a different type of water supply.

While the city of Hierapolis was known for its warm, therapeutic waters, the city of Colosse was known for its refreshing, cold water. The city of Laodicea had no natural water source and was therefore dependent on the water flow of its neighboring cities. Unlike the waters of Hierapolis and Colosse, Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm and virtually useless.

Think about it. Consider what it feels like to take a steaming hot shower when you’re sick or a drink of ice-cold water when you’re incredibly thirsty. Now consider how it would feel to do either of these things with tepid, lukewarm water…yuck! The level of usefulness and satisfaction is just not the same.

So it was with the church of Laodicea. When God looked at this church he found its people had become lukewarm in their faith. They had allowed themselves to be neither therapeutic nor refreshing. They were stale, tepid and good for nothing.

Yikes! I don’t know about you, but this is not what I want God to find when He looks at me. I want Him to find me useful for His kingdom. I want to be a therapeutic or refreshing glimpse of God and His love. I want to be passionate with my faith and the hope I have in Him.

When Cindy urges her readers and listeners to “be hot, be cold, be something,” this is exactly what she means. And this is exactly what God was saying to the church of Laodicea, “Be passionate! Be of use!”

Be like hot water. Be comforting, therapeutic and healing to hearts that are hurting and broken.

Be like cold water. Be refreshing, invigorating and thirst quenching to souls that are parched and dry.

But don’t be lukewarm. Don’t be tepid, stale or useless to a world that needs you.

Live in the realm of passion and let that passion be for your faith. Let that passion be for the hurting world around you and the glimpse of God only you can give.

Enjoy the thrill of your favorite sports team. Get lost in Sherlock Holmes. But don’t let your passion end there. Don’t be Red Hot for these things, yet lukewarm for the things of God.

Be hot! Be cold! Be something!

Be passionate for the One who went to the cross to express His passion for you.

The Red Hot excitement doesn’t end here! Cindy and her publishing team have graciously provided me with two copies of her Bible study, Red Hot Faith: Lessons from a Luke Warm Church to GIVEAWAY to two lucky readers. Each Bible study includes an 8 Session DVD, Leader’s guide and Participant guide. To enter for your chance to win simply leave a comment below or post a comment to my Facebook link. Drawing will be held next Sunday and winners will be announced on Wednesday, Sept. 3rd.

Cindy’s Bible study is on sale now at Discovery House Publishers, Amazon and your local bookstore. Also be sure to check out www.cindybultema.com for Cindy’s blog, links, and updates.

For When Life Seems Out of Focus…

TypingI have a love-hate relationship with August. I love the last days of summer and all the charm they bring. But at the same time I always feel anxious for summer to end and for fall to begin with all its glory.

If you know me well, you know I love the fall but it’s more than just the season. It’s the routine. The rhythm. The chance to re-adjust, re-calculate, re-focus.

This year I feel the need to re-focus not just in my family life but also in my writing.

A question went through my mind this week that I simply can’t ignore. Am I a blogger who writes or a writer who blogs?

It may seem like there’s not much difference between these two statements, after all, writers write. What does it matter where and how my time is spent?

Work In ProgressBut for me it does matter. As you may or may not know I’m in the middle of writing a book. It’s a story that means the world to me. I’m passionate about it. I long to share it with you.

And while I LOVE this blog and you, my readers, I’ve come the realization that it’s become a bit of a hog. Week in, week out, it hogs my writing time. It steals my focus. It keeps my book simmering away on the back burner.

Bottom line: In my heart I know I am first and foremost a writer, an author, not a blogger.

So what does this mean? Not much, really. I love this blog and I love each of you far too much to quit. But I do think it’s time to make an adjustment.

My goal is to make my book, not my blog, the priority of my writing time. You’ll still see my posts on a weekly(ish) basis, but I’m giving myself freedom and grace for there to be sometimes a little bit more and sometimes a little bit less.

As is always the case I know I’m not alone. Whether you’re a writer, a mom, a teacher, a nurse… whatever it is you do, life comes with seasons, and with each new season we’re given a gift.

With each new season we’re given a moment to pause, to think and reflect. To ask God, and family, and friends for guidance. We’re given a chance to collect our bearings, to change what needs to change, to keep what needs keeping.

Whenever I do this, whenever these moments come, a line from one of my favorite movies, The Patriot rings true in my mind. When Benjamin Martin becomes discouraged and is tempted to forsake his fight for freedom his son, Gabriel, reminds him to “stay the course.”

And that’s what I find the Still, Small Voice reminding me to do now. Stay the course. Finish the book. Loosen the grip on the blog.

And trust.

Trust in whose you are. (God’s)

Trust In what you are. (Capable, loved, and extraordinary)

Trust in what you’re not. (Perfect, super-human or Martha Stewart)

And trust in the work you’ve been called to do. The kingdom work worth fighting for.

Why The Work You Do Really Does Matter

Last week I wrote about the guilt I sometimes feel when I decide to take time away from my family to pursue my love for writing.

A few days after I posted this blog, I received the following comment from a friend of mine:

“Thanks for writing, Jennifer. Many thoughts were stirred tonight as I read a lot of your writings. I haven’t allowed myself to dream in a really long time…still not quite there but it is more positive than it has been in a long time.”

I’m new to the world of blogging, and this comment and the encouragement it brought me spoke volumes to my heart.

There are so many days in which I question whether or not what I’m doing with my writing really matters at all. In addition to the guilt I sometimes feel, this question is yet another way that Satan plagues me and whispers lies.

When I think of my friend and the kind words she sent in response to my post, I think of her story. I can’t claim to know all that she has been through, but I know her road has been long and hard, and I can understand why it’s been difficult to dream and pursue the things that make her heart sing.

Knowing that God has used me and my writing to stir her heart means the world to me. It affirms what my heart knows to be true, that my work matters. Even when the lies and questions try hard to convince otherwise, my writing matters. It matters to me, it matters to God, and it matters to others as well.

A few months ago I read the The Shack by William P. Young. One of my favorite quotes from this story is “Love always leaves a significant mark.”

This quote has stayed with me. I remember it at times when love comes hard, when I don’t feel like doing the loving thing. I remember it too, when the love I give isn’t received, when hearts are stubborn and loving hurts. And I remember it when I write, when the work I do for me and for God doesn’t seem to make sense or have any value at all.

If love is in my writing, it will make a mark. A significant one.

Sometimes I have the pleasure of knowing the ways in which my writing has left a mark on the heart of someone else. Other times I’m left to wonder, but always I trust.

If God has given me the will to write and I am faithful to obey His call, love will seep through the words and pages and leave a mark of its own.

The same is true for you. Whatever it is you do, if love is at the heart of it, it will leave a significant mark. And what are these marks really, but the fingerprints of God?

…A Message from the Achieves

Wow! I don’t know about you but I needed these words this week. I hope they encouraged your heart the way they encouraged mine. I am currently getting ready to head to Grand Rapids, MI this week for the Festival of Faith in Writing. (Think, Spring Break for Writers.) I will be back soon with fresh posts for you.

In the meantime, be sure to visit Wednesday’s post for a chance to enter my Loving and Listing Giveaway. You won’t want to miss it. A winner will be announced when I return.