For When It All Starts Coming Undone

Running ShoesA few weeks ago while shopping I heard Lady Antebellum’s country hit Run To You played throughout the store. I found myself singing along to this song I’ve always liked but never really thought about.

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you” (Run To You chorus)

These words, this song, they made me think of Jesus. I love when a song does that.

I recently wrote a post about my struggle with anxiety and my compulsion for sugary treats and online shopping. After writing this post I realized it’s in times of stress and fatigue that these struggles become real to me.

Isn’t it always true? That you can turn up the heat and find out who and what you turn to.

I run to sugar and shopping.

I run to my husband.

I run to my friends.

But God? Jesus? I’m sad to say He’s not the first place go. In desperate moments of loss, hurt, or strife I cry to Him, of course I do. I beg Him for help, comfort, and rescue.

But in the day to day, in the worrisome hiccups and squabbles, it seems so much easier, so much more gratifying to pick up the phone and text my best friend. To eat a handful of M&Ms or buy those cute shoes.

But God wants more than my frantic pleas. He wants all of me, my whole heart. He wants me to run to Him when my kids are driving me crazy. When my husband and I can’t stop fighting. When I’m tired, discouraged, and stressed.

When this world spins fast and disaster strikes He wants to be my One, my Only.

So often in times of trouble we turn to the people and the things that can do nothing. All the while resisting the only One who can do anything and everything.

So what does running to Him look like? For me it looks like worship, and solace, and thanksgiving.

It’s a playlist of songs that take me right to the heart of His comfort, His favor, His love. It’s listening to this playlist while getting dressed or cooking dinner instead of other voices, other noise.

It’s prayers whispered in the heat of the moment. In those times I don’t feel like praying. It’s grabbing my prayer journal or taking a walk, a quiet moment just me and God.

It’s filling my heart with the good things He gives me. Scribbling down words of thanks, writing time, a cup of coffee with a good and godly friend. It’s treasure troves of scripture pinned throughout the house. A breath of fresh air from a book that inspires, a sticky-note glimpse of His truth.

And isn’t it also true? That any of these things can become idols, and any of our idols can become conduits of His love.

The difference is who and what we’re running too. 

When the heat turns up, turn to Him.

 Run to Him.

 Only Him.

 Just run.

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!

When All You Want is the Blessing…

On Easter morning my girls woke up early and rushed downstairs. The Easter bunny, (AKA: Mommy), had done it’s work and two brightly colored bags full of blue and yellow tissue sat gleaming in our living room.

Chris and I followed, eager to watch their excitement. “Hold on,” I said. “I forgot my camera.”

As I ran back upstairs in search of my phone, Tenley, my two-year-old, continued to plow through the tissue that filled her bag.

“Stop, Tenley, just wait a minute,” Chris said.

Failing to understand the simplicity behind her daddy’s instruction, Tenley burst into tears and proceeded to throw a temper tantrum. (The classic, two-year-old kind.)

“Tenley…” Chris said again.

But Tenley wasn’t having it. She wanted that present. She wanted to tear through that tissue. She didn’t understand that if she would just stop and wait for a minute the blessing would soon be hers.

“Got it,” I said with my camera in hand. Seeing Tenley’s tears I asked what happened.

By this time Tenley had stopped crying and was sitting on the couch next to Chris. “Instead of opening her present,” Chris said, “Tenley is sitting here with me until she is willing to calm down and talk to about the tantrum she threw.

“Tenley,” he said. “Are you ready to talk to daddy?”

“Nope,” Tenley said with a shake of her head that was equal parts cute and defiant.

“Okay,” Chris said. “No present until you’re ready to talk to daddy.”

Aletheia, my five-year-old opened her present. Tenley watched and eventually moved from her spot on the couch to her sister’s side.

“Tenley,” Chris said again. “Are you ready to talk to daddy.”

“Nope.”

We went about our morning routine. The girls played. I fixed breakfast. Chris took a shower. Eventually timecame for the girls to get dressed. As I ushered them upstairs Chris offered Tenley one last chance to open her present before our family left for church.

“Tenley,” he said. “Are you ready to talk to daddy?” This time her response was different. Nodding her head she ran with open arms and climbed onto his lap. Chris held her tight and explained why he had asked her to stop opening her present. Tenley said she was sorry for throwing a temper tantrum and peace was restored between them.

“You may open your present now,” Chris said as Aletheia brought Tenley her bag. I grabbed my camera and we all watched as Tenley, tore open her present. Squeals of delight echoed through the living room as she reveled in the joy of her surprise, in the excitement of opening her gift, in the blessing that was all for her.

Later as I thought about the morning’s events I realized that Tenley’s behavior over her Easter basket was not unlike my own.

How many times has God asked me to experience relationship with Him before receiving a blessing?

How many times has God set aside a blessing for me yet asked me to wait?

Every day, blessings I don’t even realize are sitting there, waiting for me, if I would just come to my Father, curl up in His lap and talk to Him…be with Him…center my life on Him.

Peace

Joy

Adventure

Beauty

Romance

Wisdom

Forgiveness

Freedom

They can all be mine, and more besides, if I would but come and tie my heart to Him.

Other times the blessing I desire is obvious but for whatever reason, God says, “Wait.”

“But I don’t want to wait,” I say as I reach for the brightly colored tissue paper. As I throw my own temper tantrum. (The classic, grown-up, thirty-two-year-old kind.)

“You want to talk about it?” God says.

“Nope.”

“Are you ready to obey, to do what I’ve asked you to do in order to receive your blessing?”

“Nope.”

“Okay then, we’ll wait. When you’re ready, I’ll be here and so will your blessing.”

As a parent I want my children to be happy. But even more than that I want them to be healthy and whole both inside and out. I know that happiness without wholeness is really not happiness but a temporary coping device that will eventually result in a heart that is empty and longing for something real and lasting.

If I can see this in my children as an earthly parent how much more can God see this in us? Yes, God wants us to be happy but what He wants even more is for us to be transformed. He wants to refine us so we can experience His goodness to the fullest extent. He wants our hearts to be whole and healthy so that whatever happiness we experience can begin and end with Him.

He longs to bless us. Sometimes His blessings come freely, and sometimes they come through a process of waiting, of trial, of obedience. Either way, they always come, first and foremost, through relationship with Him.

Is there a blessing in your life that you long for? Are you willing to wait? Obey? Curl into His lap and talk?

Are there daily blessings you’re missing simply because you won’t slow down, because you won’t make time to come and sit with the Father?

The blessing is there. It’s waiting for you and so is your heavenly Dad.

Talk to Him. Spend time with Him. Let Him be your prize.

And all manner of blessing will follow.

The Fullest Life

Bible“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

If you were to look into my guest room last weekend you would have found a chair piled high with little-girl clothes.

I’m sad to say that if you had dug beneath this pile of dresses, t-shirts, and shorts left over from summer, you would have unearthed my Bible, my current devotional book, and my journal.

As you can probably guess, this wasn’t just a pile of clothes. This was a picture of my week. Focused on the task of getting my family’s closets ready for fall and winter, I allowed other things, important things, to fall by the wayside, my Bible and devotions included.

I told myself I could handle this, a week away from God. I told myself I’d be okay; I wouldn’t melt down this time, as I have so many times before when I’ve tried the same stunt. Yet come Sunday, I stood before that pile of clothes ragged and frayed, and I knew that, once again, I’d bought into the lie.

The lie that says I can make it on my own. The lie that says my heart can go days and days without connecting with God and get along just fine.

Will I ever learn?

Have you ever noticed that when you buy into a lie it will always lead to another? This is how Satan weaves his web, and on this Sunday morning I was stuck.

I was stuck in defeat and discouragement. I was stuck in the mindset that no matter what I do, I will never succeed at being a devoted follower of Christ, a wife, a mother, a homemaker, and a writer.

My work on our closets was perfect proof. True, my closets were neat and organized and ready for fall. But what of my heart? What good could come when I succeed in one area yet fail in three others?

How do I make time for all the things my heart feels called to? Will I ever manage, juggle, succeed in each facet, each role? How do you take a full life and make it truly full?

Remember the one thing needed…

He’s spoken these words before and it’s a lesson I must learn again. Of Mary and Martha and the choice that is ever before me.

I’m not going to pretend to know the answers. What I do know, what I’m learning, is that trying to do all the right, and worthy, and important things that I feel called to do, without making space and time for God, is madness.

No matter how many times I try. No matter how many different combinations and attempts I make, the equation doesn’t work without Him.

It’s just that simple. Trying to build a marriage, a family, a writing life, without Him as the foundation results in nothing but a house of cards. A pile of rubble. A mountain of clothes atop the one thing that matters.

Sweet friends, perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you’re striving, day after day, to make it on your own, to wear all the hats, to operate apart from time spent with God. Not because you want to, but because you feel there are so many things screaming for your attention. You struggle to know how and when to make all the pieces of your life fit together. And you’re tired, and weary, and flailing.

Whatever God is doing in your life today, might I urge you to lay your foundation on Him? To remember the one thing needed?

Satan’s web is big and sprawling, but God’s web is bigger still. Woven with strings of grace and love, God’s web will hold all the pieces in peace. It will hold all that is in you, and around you, together.  

No one wants you to succeed more than God. And no one wants to be an intimate part of your life, your challenges, your pursuits, your failures, and your successes more than Him.

Why not make this the day? The day you break free from Satan’s web. The day that you dig beneath the rubble and uncover the life He intends for you. A life spent with Him. A life of purpose and peace. A life lived to the full.