|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 22, 2018 at 9:35 AM||comments (0)|
“Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
How’s that for an introduction? Makes you just want to jump right into some good reading doesn’t it? But wait a minute, maybe it does? Perhaps, as you read these introductory words penned by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes, you find your heart resonating with his sad but often true assessment.
If we’re honest with ourselves, each one of us goes through seasons of life where we can completely identify with the meaninglessness that Solomon writes about. Times when we ask, “What’s the point?” “Is that all there is?” You know the times I’m talking about. Times when what we’re striving to accomplish or attain to seems for naught; even as we serve the Lord. Rather than giving us the satisfaction we so desperately long for we feel defeated, disappointed, and depressed.
This time of year the weather can have as much to do with our sense of despondency as anything. We can’t get outside as often as we’d like to. Winter flu bugs limit us. Lack of sunshine depletes our source of vitamin D. Instead of getting out and doing something, our defeated selves remain indoors and watch the perfect lives of others flutter by on Facebook. If that describes you, I understand. And perhaps like me, on this dismal winter’s day, you need to be reminded of what makes you feel alive. Below are some questions I’ve asked myself from time to time. My hope is that as you ask yourself these same questions it will get your heart beating again.
Years ago my husband bought me a small plaque that said, “Let what you love be what you do.” It’s now displayed in a place of prominence in my home office—as a heart-monitor, so to speak. What kind of work makes your heart beat? For me, I’m thankful my work comes in the form of exactly what I love to do; speaking hope, truth, and life into hearts—straight from the heart. It may not be your occupation but it could be a hobby, ministry or some other means of enjoyment and fulfillment. Whatever it is, make sure to set aside time in your week to do what you love. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3: 23-24, NIV).
Sometimes in our state of meaninglessness we lose sight of the things that once made us happy. Opportunity then becomes obligation. We begin to take life too seriously and lose our carefree sense of “fun-ness”. We need to remember that God, after all, created us for His own good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). So, go ahead! Watch a comedy. Play a game. Have a long bath or extra-long shower. Find a good book and curl up with it in a comfortable chair with a hot drink. Call an old friend. Call a new one! Create a new recipe. Invite someone into your home. Tap into your creative side. Give yourself permission to have fun in what you do!
In a society that is prone to make withdrawals it’s important to surround ourselves with people who will make investments in our lives, especially if you’re in a care-giving role. In order to keep our blood flowing, we need input as much as output. There’s a reason why there are so many “one another’s” listed in God’s Word. We need people who will encourage us (Hebrews 10:24-25), pray for us (James 5:16), and offer mutual love and affection (Romans 12:10). As an aside, if you haven’t hung out with a new believer lately, try that out for cardiac care. There’s nothing that gets my heart beating more than new believers! They’re exciting! They’re inquisitive. They challenge me to think beyond the obvious. They offer a fresh dose of excitement when I feel I’m losing my spiritual zeal (Romans 12:11).
Perhaps it’s solitude. If so, make sure you set aside regular time for yourself to recharge. If you’re energized by being with people, make sure you incorporate social times in your weekly schedule. Recognize the difference between an adrenalin boost and genuine inner strengthening. Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, make sure you include some time daily with the Lord and in His Word. It’s the oxygen in our blood cells. He provides us with all the nutrients we need to keep our hearts healthy. “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart" (Psalm 19:8, NIV).
Often when we’re feeling down our tendency is to compare our weaknesses with others’s strengths. Bad move! God hasn’t given us gifts to compete with but to complete with. He’s given you weaknesses so that you depend upon Him and appreciate the strengths and gifts of others. Conversely, He has blessed you with strength to use for His glory as you come alongside others to help in their areas of weakness. We, as individual parts, are the body of Christ! (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). If you don’t know what your strengths are ask someone who knows you well. After all, there’s nothing like exercising your spiritual gifts in the body of Christ for some good cardio.
You were made to please God in a way that is unique for you. Eric Liddel, the Olympian runner said, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” What is that for you? When do you feel God’s pleasure? Is it an instrument you play? Is it visiting a seniors’ residence or working with children? Typically the things that make you feel most alive are the things you’re gifted at. It’s a part of your personalized DNA by God’s design. Once you find your niche, you’ll experience the freedom that goes with being all God created you to be.
King Solomon had been-there-done-that in every aspect of life; work, education, leisure, relationships, wealth, pleasure and success. And in the end, his final conclusion was that there is absolutely nothing that can fully satisfy us here on earth—apart from God. He gives us true meaning and purpose. He is the source of life (John 1:4). In fact, He is our life (Deuteronomy 30:20; Colossians 3:4)! Let His life flow through you. And before you know it, your heart will be beating again.
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on January 20, 2018 at 8:55 AM||comments (0)|
You’ve likely heard the saying, ‘Bloom where you’re planted’.
I learned the importance of this principle years ago in our first church pastorate through the testimony of a young girl. I distinctly remember the impression that the Lord left on my heart through this girl’s testimony. After a yearlong excursion overseas as a part of her extended education, she shared with our congregation that, sadly, she spent the first half of her year homesick, complaining, moping, and missing everyone and everything from back home. However, half way through the year the Lord got a hold of her heart and she realized that if she didn’t gather herself and make the best of the rest of her time, she’d completely miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
At that time, my husband and I were seeking God’s will discerning leaving our first and long-time place of ministry to explore another part of God’s vineyard. It was as exciting as it was petrifying! Thankfully, I duly noted the words of my young friend. I knew that wherever the Lord led us I’d better make the best of it from the moment I set foot on the soil if I wanted to experience all He had in store for me.
You see, our tendency when we’re entering new territory is to cling to the past, to fall back into old patterns, crave the familiar and that which we found our sense of security and well-being in.
We tend to be like the children of Israel as they considered the daunting Promised Land ahead of them. Although they were told that it was flowing with milk and honey, all they could see were the giants in the land! Instead of taking the risk toward “new” and “different” fear kept them captive and craving those good ol’ leaks and onions. Did they realize they were yearning to go back to slavery?!
Several years and a few more ministry moves later, here I am at this same place again. I listen once more to the wise advice of a teenager, which echoes in my heart—to bloom where I’m planted. As always, it’s been a very scriptural journey. My prayer on this leg of my journey has been based upon Psalm 107:35-3—to reap a fruitful harvest as my husband and I serve the Lord in this new community. So, it’s no surprise that just for emphasis, the Lord, in His often humorous way of answering my prayer, has planted me in none other than ‘Blossom Park’. No joke! I almost choked when I saw the road sign welcoming me to my new neighbourhood!
So what does it mean to bloom where we’re planted? While I won’t claim to have perfected it, experience has taught me a few pointers that you might find helpful as you work towards blooming where you’re planted:
As I plant myself here in Blossom Park, the desire of my heart is to bloom where I’m planted. I want to be a pleasing aroma of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15). I want people I meet to see Jesus in me. I want people to identify the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 2:20). I want to produce fruit that will last into eternity (John 15:1-20). I want to extend the hope of new life that comes with spring in a world that lives in hopeless and perpetual winter. I want to make the most of every opportunity (Col 4:5) as I serve in my new corner of the Lord’s vineyard.
The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus it will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the LORD, The majesty of our God. (Is. 35:1-2, NASB).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on December 12, 2017 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Have you ever moved?
Being in pastoral ministry such as we are, my husband and I have made several moves. In fact, as we speak, I’m in the process of packing up our Levitical tent one more time in order to take on our fifth pastorate in thirty-five years. I have to say, it’s always a little unsettling for this heart of mine.
I resonate with the quote, “A transition period is a period between two transition periods.” Ain’t that the truth? Life on this earth is one big transition period. It’s constantly changing.Thankfully amid life’s changes, the steadfast love of the Lord never changes (Lam. 3:22-23). He steadies our hearts as He calls us to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58) as we trust in and serve Him. But that’s no easy feat.
If you’re familiar at all with moving, you’ll know that with it come significant changes. Changes one might not consider unless one has moved. Ministry transitions are more than a simple change of address. They require acclimatizing and orienting oneself to a whole new church family, in a completely different city, in an entirely new community, in a new neighborhood that demands searching out things like a new grocery store, a new shopping mall, new health professionals, and other amenities such as: vets, schools, a new hairdresser, and hopefully a new massage therapist to help work out all the changes taking place!
Three years after the biggest transition of our lives—when my 19-year-old son made the transition to his heavenly home—we made a move to our present place of ministry. That was five-and-a-half years ago. Since then we’ve helped move our oldest daughter into her next chapter of life; resulting in more changes that have included the addition of a new son-in-law and two grandsons (the most recent addition being only a few short weeks ago). This past spring we helped all of our children make significant moves and transitions. And now it’s our turn again. That’s a lot of transition over a short period!
The most difficult part of this particular transition tugging on my heart strings is that we’re leaving our two youngest children behind.It’s one thing for your children to leave the nest. That’s God’s intent. But to leave them behind is a different story.I can tell you, that is no easy task for this mother’s heart. You can be sure that the Lord and I have had many a wrestling match over this over the past several months. And as always, He wins.His Word reminds me that I have to be willing to leave mother, father, brother, sister, and even my children to follow Him. Luke 14:25-27 is one of those passages.Regardless, and perhaps as you can imagine, my heart is craving a hefty dose of steadying in these “boxing days”.Therefore, I am taking close note of the new address the Lord has found for me. It won’t be the first time that He’s used my house address to speak life, truth, and hope into this heart of mine.
And it shouldn’t surprise me that as I’ve sought to follow the Father’s heartbeat, He’s led me into the heart of the Nation, to Ottawa—the Nation’s capital as a matter of fact. And, as always, the Lord has seen fit to give me a scripture passage to remind me of His ongoing faithfulness. And in this particular move, His ability to steady this heart of mine as I committedly, resolutely, and steadfastly serve Him.
“My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth” (Psalm 108:1-5).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on July 29, 2017 at 11:45 PM||comments (27)|
Years ago I found myself struggling with something that I just assumed was as simple as that—a struggle. I was facing circumstances in my life that I wanted to be different. There’s nothing wrong with that, right? If only my circumstances would change, then I’d be happy! Now that was a problem.
I shared my struggle with a very close friend who, in turn, called me out on it. She told me that what I was actually struggling with was not, in fact, a mere struggle but an ugly attitude called discontentment. Ouch! Then she said something that landed squarely on this heart of mine. “You’ll never be content where you’re going until you’re content with where you are.”
My friend’s words hit their mark. I gave some humble thought and consideration to them before taking them to my prayer closet for further exploration. Although it was hard to face the truth, my friend was absolutely right! And as I allowed this simple truth to move in and penetrate my heart, it became evident that the Lord wanted me to tuck it away for safe keeping. Not only for that moment in time but for years to come. (Of course, the Author of my heart knew that I’d have to face the same kind of struggle over and over again in a variety of situations and circumstances down the road.)
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, contentment is: feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation. Oxford Dictionary defines it as: A state of happiness and satisfaction.
For the record, contentment does NOT mean complacency. We can be content with “what is” while still desiring more of what God has to offer us. However, He wants us to first find absolute joy and contentment in Him—void of people, places, position, or possessions.
So then, what is at the root of discontentment? And why do we struggle with it so? (Notice, I’m including each of you in this equation knowing full-well that it’s something we all struggle with from time to time.)
I don’t know about you, but what stirs my discontentment in many cases is wrong focus. Focusing on and comparing myself, my gifts, my resources, my abilities, my looks, my problems, my possessions, my relationships, and my circumstances with what others have or what others are doing or what others think or approve of. And as I have personally committed and recommitted various situations to the Lord over the years (twice on Sundays) I can see how discontentment not only feeds, but breeds: anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, self-pity, and so many other hungry beasts. (By way of warning, and speaking from personal experience, social media can breed this wrong focus.)
When we give in to discontentment we begin to listen to lies such as: I’d be content if only…
If only I could be married.
If only I was able to bear children.
If only I could be rid of that person or this situation that’s causing me so much trouble.
If only I had more money, more time, more energy, or more freedom.
If only I lived in a different place, a bigger place, a prettier place.
If only I was retired.
Meanwhile, if only we realized that by focusing on and consuming ourselves with those things we don’t have, or circumstances we want to be different we miss out on blessings that are right in front of us. Our prayer closet becomes overwhelmingly consumed by what shouldn’t be in there in the first place! And in turn, we are robbed of the joy and happiness and fulfillment that Jesus intended.
If only we were content!
What are some situations you’re facing that is breeding discontentment in your heart? Why not take some time to commit them to the Lord right now? Take it from my friend; you’ll never be content where you’re going until you’re content where you are.
Straight from a Contented Heart,
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength…And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:12, 13, &19).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on July 29, 2017 at 11:40 PM||comments (0)|
Ever played God? Let me rephrase that? Have you ever gone beyond simply letting your requests be made known to Him, like we read in Philippians 4:6-7, and told Him how He should be conducting a matter? Instructing Him on how to be God? (Is. 40:13, Rom. 11:34, 1 Cor. 2:16).
You know the matter I’m referring to. It’s the one that fills every corner of your prayer closet. It’s that all-consuming request that keeps you awake at night, welcomes you to breakfast first thing in the morning, and keeps your adrenalin pumping, your heart racing, your head pounding, and your blood pressure escalating throughout every moment of every day. It’s the matter that your best friend anticipates and braces herself/himself for every time you speak with one another. It’s the prayer request that is so all-consuming that you have no room in your mental or emotional space for anything else, much less any room for the Lord to enter into the conversation about it? Yeah. That one.
Furthermore, how do you respond when the Lord does enter the conversation? What if He doesn’t seem to see things the way you do? What if His response is not what you want to hear on the matter?
I’ve come face-to-face with this all-consuming dilemma as recently as today! And I have to admit, it’s as much of a challenge today as it was when I first learned it—eight years ago when my son, Ben battled leukemia.
The antidote I discovered is found in the account of Jesus’ late arrival to prevent his friend Lazarus’ death (John 11:1-47). I speak further about it in my book, Dancing in the Rain. It’s in the context of a brief conversation between Jesus and one of Lazarus’ two sisters. A woman I’ve grown to know and love. This conversation took place between Jesus and Martha. And it holds a powerful truth worth sharing.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Martha obviously believed in Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. She believed God was able. She knew He could have prevented her brother’s death. She just didn’t quite comprehend why He hadn’t. And no doubt the matter consumed her. But thankfully she had a change of heart. Or perhaps it was more of a change of mind—a surrender. She uses two simple, life-changing, perspective-renewing, mind-transforming words that indicate this heart surrender: “Even now.”
Like Martha, during the year my son was sick my fervent and all-consuming prayer was that God would heal him. However, the Lord used Martha to show me the balance between believing that God could heal Ben but—even if He didn’t—still be worthy of my faith in Him. Surrender: a “not my will but Thine be done” moment. And that changes everything.
The fact is God can do anything He wants to do. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord (Jer. 32:17). And, in fact, over and over again we read that with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37; 18:27). It’s a truth that those listed in Hebrews 11’s Great Hall of Faith knew and trusted in although “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance (Heb. 11:13).” It’s a truth that Martha obviously believed in and one that I’ll never forget. But one I need to be reminded of often. As Steven Curtis Chapman so well puts it in one of his songs, “God is God and I am not.” Hmm. A profound truth isn’t it?
I don’t know what that all-consuming prayer request of yours is. But let me assure you that even if God doesn’t change your circumstances, He can certainly change your perspective as you simply let Him be God; surrendering your will in exchange for His—even now.
…but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12:2b).
MercyMe – Even If (Official Lyric Video) – YouTube
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on June 8, 2017 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
I took a walk one day recently. It wasn’t just any old walk. It was a walk where I saw things I hadn’t seen or noticed before, or at least not for a very long time. It was a walk abounding with exciting sights and sounds. It was a walk full of rich adventure and awe inspiring new discoveries. It was spectacular. There were paths to explore, treasures to find, and wonders to behold. It was a walk I experienced while holding the hand of my twenty month old grandson, Seth.
We were blessed to host Seth and his mom (my daughter, Natalie) in Ontario for a week-and-a-half while they awaited entry into their new home. Our son-in-law, Josh was starting a new job and therefore, remained in Manitoba with his parents. Given that most of my time with Seth takes place over Skype, I treasured every earthly moment I had with him for what translated into moments of heavenly bliss.
Everything from morning snuggles, to “Paw Patrol” viewing, to intense hockey tournaments, to park tours, and of course no day would be complete without nightly bath time fun. As wonderful as every moment we shared was, perhaps my most treasured moments were spent in the forest behind our house. The forest became “our” place. There in the forest something magical happened. The first time we ventured out alone into our nature’s nook, Seth, who typically bounded ahead, suddenly surprised me by reaching up and tenderly placing his tiny hand in mine. Side-by-side we walked in silence along the wood-chipped strewn pathway.
Experiencing God’s creation in a state of childlike wonder brought me to my knees—quite literally—as I would crouch down beside Seth and we’d strategically stop, look, and listen to all the sensations around us. It was if the Lord Himself was putting a pause on the special moments we shared—just the two of us; giving us opportunity to touch a butterfly that had landed gingerly on the limb of a bush. Chasing a red-breasted robin and giggling with delight as it kept just far enough ahead of us to tease. Reaching up to grab hold and shake a flowering apple tree branch while the pale pink and white blossoms fell; adorning us with a delicate veil and filling our nostrils with aromatic fragrance. Savoring flowers to bring home to Mommy. Galloping like horses along a wooden bridge as if a castle awaited us on the other side. Standing on a wooden dock and taking in the essence of spring under the vast open blue skies. Taking full advantage of a prime opportunity to throw stones and listen for the Ker-plunk as they free fell into the water. Spotting a mother mallard with her eight ducklings and pointing his finger to make sure I saw them too. Discovering a forlorn tree house tucked away from the path under a canopy of vines and broken limbs. In hushed silence, listening intently to the rustling leaves and chirping birds (silence being yet another miracle from a two-year-old standpoint).
Seth’s childlike wonderment awoke something in my heart that can be easily forgotten as we grow into adulthood. Seeing this piece of Eden through the eyes of Seth filled my mind with more wonder than I can express and more joy than my heart can contain.
Much like when my own four children were young, I found myself soaking in the pleasure he was experiencing. Capturing irreversible memories in my heart and tucking away moments for easy access into years to come that will otherwise be quickly dissolved into the next.
As I opened my heart’s treasure box to store each memory I couldn’t help but think of King Solomon. He had been-there-done-that in every aspect of life. To the degree that he lost the wonder of it all. Everything became meaninglessness and vanity of vanities. Because there was nothing new under the sun, everything became futile, worthless, unexciting, boring. How sad is that?
Lord, may I never lose the wonder of it all. May I forever be reminded of that glorious day when I took a walk.
Have you lost your sense of wonder? Why don’t you consider taking a walk with a toddler today?
The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on June 8, 2017 at 9:05 AM||comments (0)|
I realize this is not the season to be asking the following question. But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? You know—the one who didn’t quite fit in with the status-quo? Does your heart ache like mine when Rudolph’s own parents hide him away—ashamed, embarrassed? Does it pang something deep within you when you see his public humiliation? Do you feel his pain when he and his small band of misfit friends eventually find themselves on the Island of Misfit Toys—all longing to belong somewhere with someone who understands them and loves them scars and all? Perhaps some of you can identify with these misfits more than you’re willing to admit.
I remember, like yesterday, that misfit feeling. In fact, I could take you to the exact spot on the schoolyard tarmac where, for the first time in my life, I felt rejected—like I didn’t belong. I can picture the faces and rhyme off the names of the so-called friends of mine who gathered in a tight-knit circle in the middle of the playground—excluding me from their reindeer games. No doubt you have your own sad tales of misfit stories to tell.
Although the writer of Hebrews tells us we’re all foreigners and strangers on this earth (Hebrews 11:13). While Jesus Himself said that He was not of this world and neither is anyone who would follow after Him (John 17:16). And as much as we know that ultimately those who love Jesus belong to Him will never quite fit in here, it doesn’t disqualify any of us from the need to belong somewhere, somehow, to someone.
I’ve most recently discovered a place where I belong. I found it through a weekly ladies Bible study group in association with Bible Study Fellowship. And what a group it is! Next to my time alone with the Lord exploring His Word through scripturally-guided, thought-provoking, and soul-searching questions, my favourite part of this particular Bible study is the time we spend in our small group discussion. There’s never a dull moment as we draw our Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) and God’s Word sharpens our spiritual axes. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword”, (Hebrews 4:12).
Not only does God’s Word sharpen our spiritual senses, so too does the fellowship we experience: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Week by week, I can hardly wait for us to share the many ways the Lord has shown up in each of our lives; things He’s taught us, ways He’s tested us, questions He’s challenged us with, how He’s used us, discoveries He’s uncovered within us, circumstances He’s bestowed upon us, truths He’s entrusted to us. My soul is ignited, my mind is challenged and my heart is stimulated as God breathes His life into our midst.
Tears, laughter, heartaches, joys, struggles, challenges, victories, confessions, words of encouragement and more are all contributing factors to the bond that has grown between us. In the afterglow of our time together God often gives me the privilege of a more intimate peek into some of the hearts of these women through one-on-one conversation. I leave each week feeling spiritually charged, personally encouraged, socially refreshed, mentally fortified, emotionally exhilarated—spurred on to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24).
Phew! That’s a lot of good stuff taking place in a two hour period!
The thing is, void of their nametags, I have no clue really who any of these women are! Although we meet in the church where my pastor-husband and I serve, none of them attend our church. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what church they attend. While some basic information leaks out from time to time, we really don’t know each other at all!
We’re all a bunch of misfits! If the Apostle Peter were here, he’d describe us as a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), and yet somehow I belong with them. Women, like me, on a spiritual journey. Women hungry for truth in their innermost being (Psalm 51:6). Women who are sincerely excited about what God’s doing in their lives. Women with whom there is a mutual affection, a common understanding and passionate love for God’s Word and how it applies to our lives (Romans 12:10). Like-minded women after God’s own heart (Philippians 2:2; 1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). This is the environment in which I thrive! It’s not a Bible study I attend. It’s a place I belong!
How about you? Where do you belong? What does belonging look like to you? What kind of environment do you thrive in? What gets your spiritual battery charged? What kinds of people encourage you in your walk with the Lord and sharpen your spiritual senses?
Why don’t you take some time today and:
“…consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on March 15, 2017 at 2:10 PM||comments (0)|
We all need purpose, don’t we? Purpose is what gives us a reason to wake up every morning. Purpose gives us energy and zest for life, significance and meaning. For some, purpose is found in accomplishing tasks and making “to do” lists. While for others, like me, it’s found in perhaps less tangible and more heart-impressionable ways. It’s the being rather than the doing that ignites something deep within me. There’s something that charges my battery when I find heart-connections that resonate with my soul.
Having opportunity to speak truth, hope, encouragement, and inspiration into a solitary life over a cup of coffee, through an email, over the phone, from a speaking platform or as a result of my writing gives me utmost fulfilment. I find purpose by engaging in meaningful conversations that go beyond standing in the church foyer discussing what a person’s having for dinner. It’s feeling like somehow I’ve made a difference in a person’s life. Ultimately, purpose comes from being where God wants me to be, doing what He’s gifted me to do and finding a true sense of joy in doing it. It’s living in the moment. It’s relishing and finding pleasure not only in those things that put a smile on others’ faces, but on the heart of God—for His glory and good pleasure! (Philippians 2:13). I learned these principles from the best—right within my own family!
Purpose was never more clearly defined for me than it was through my son, Ben the year he battled leukemia. Over the course of that year Ben initiated several “purpose-driven” conversations. The first one took place one day as we drove our hour-long trek to the cancer treatment centre. Out of the blue, he said, “Mom, let’s just say I’m gone in a year.” Likely noticing my sudden struggle to keep the car on the road he quickly went on. “I’m not saying I’m going to be gone. I’m just saying if I’m gone. The reason I don’t think I’ll be gone is that I don’t feel that I’ve accomplished God’s purpose for my life yet.”
After giving myself a couple of minutes to re-calibrate our route, reign in my emotions, and allow my thoughts to register, I spoke. The first indication that my words were God-given was that Ben agreed with them! (LOL) To be honest, my response even shocked me! I told him that I wasn’t confident that any one of us is born to fulfill a singular purpose. But rather, God gives us each and every day to live purposefully.
I could almost see the steam rising as Ben’s thoughts percolated. As his ideas were formulated they spilled out of him. Things like signing up for a computer course as soon as we got home and taking piano lessons. And what did I think of him doing some Webcam Bible studies with the youth group he could no longer be part of due to his compromised immunity. From that moment on, Ben chose to live his life purposefully—right until his death a year later. To the extent that in his final weeks of life he and his dad used the hospital white board to write a list of things he wanted to do, people he wanted to see, and things he wanted to say before he died. He spent significant time writing notes to those he loved. He hosted a group of friends and asked them questions pertaining to the future he knew he wouldn’t be a part of. He planned his funeral including downloading songs he wanted played. Perhaps one of the most purposeful things he did took place ten days before he died. He shared a powerful, ten-minute, hope-filled message with our church family that is now posted on YouTube
The purposeful attitude that Ben took on inspired what eventually became the subtitle of my first book, The Ben Ripple, Choosing to Live through Loss with Purpose. And then formed the base for my second book, Dancing in the Rain, as me and my family were left to follow in Ben’s footsteps and choose life and find purpose each and every day through our unfathomable grief. Challenging? You better believe it!
The bottom line is that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. However, sometimes it takes a life-altering experience to shake up our priorities and wake us up to see the things that matter most to find true purpose and meaning in life. When the end draws near, things become clear. We are all terminal. Death is imminent for all of us. However, the question is not how you and I will face death, but rather, how we’ll choose to live our lives with purpose for the time we have left? Feel free to start today!
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 24, 2017 at 12:55 AM||comments (0)|
Many of us in the Christian circle have heard and can perhaps even recite Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” But do you know for sure? Can you say it like you mean it? In other words, are you absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God truly has plans for you that won’t harm you and, in fact, will prosper and provide you with a hope and a future?
Although I’ve claimed this verse personally and have spoken this message with conviction, from a speaking platform several times, every now and again I’m challenged to put it to the test in a fresh, updated, new and improved kind of way. The challenge usually comes in the form of a pursuit to consider, a decision to make, or a risk to take that requires not only a step, but a leap of faith in order to grow more deeply in a trust relationship with the Lord. And I’m forced to put what I’m preaching into practice.
After taking the necessary time to consider the Lord’s invitation wooing me into a world beyond my comfort zone and I take into account the ways things could unfold I finally, but tentatively surrender my will to the One who holds my future, the Keeper of my heart. However, I don’t submit without a fight first.
“What ifs” take up residence in this heart of mine. “Don’t touch that.” and “That’s mine!” escape my heart’s doors as the Lord begins moving furniture around in the living space of my heart. While He places lamps in all the dark corners to illuminate and bring clarity, resistance stands in His way. The next thing I know an unwelcome houseguest called “fear”, who with no regard for my heart’s well-being, tromps through its sacred places, closing the blinds, locking the doors, sealing all the exits, unraveling my peace, tossing truths aside and replacing them with doubts that cramp the living quarters of my vulnerable heart.
As the walls of my heart close in, self-inflicting thoughts assault me and shame overshadows my faith. Ghosts of my past appear out of nowhere impaling me to everything that once was. My age and the stage of life become excuses that restrict my freedom. My hurts, shattered dreams, and disappointments restrain me. And in those moments I begin holding on more tightly to things I deem important, asking what God is asking me to surrender at His feet or put on the altar of sacrifice this time. It’s usually then that the verse from Jeremiah echoes through the chambers of my heart. And the still small voice of the Spirit of God speaks. “Lisa, do you trust me?”
The thing is I do. And I have. With my ministry, my marriage, my children and with my life! However, I’ve lived enough life to have my trust tested. I also know that living in submission to my Heavenly Father’s will doesn’t necessarily mean a care and pain-free existence!
I recently came across a quotable quote by C.S. Lewis that puts words to the fear I’m describing. Lewis says, “We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
Ain’t that the truth? The fact is, in every situation in my life, God’s faithfulness and His loving mercy have led me, His rod and His staff have comforted me. He has guarded my heart and mind with His incomprehensible peace. In His presence I have found unspeakable joy! So my heart can say a resounding, “Yes!” He has a plan for my life. A plan to prosper me, not to harm me. A plan for a hope and a future! I simply need to trust Him with my life, regardless of how painful it is. His plans are always for my good! And ultimately, that good is to make me more like Him!
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me...I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.(John 14:1 & 27 NLT)
|Posted by Lisa Elliott on February 23, 2017 at 1:05 PM||comments (0)|
Waiting is challenging isn’t it? It’s especially problematic if your spiritual gift, like mine, is impatience. But in reality, most of our life is spent waiting. In fact, statistics tell us that on average a person will spend an estimated 45-62 minutes waiting every day. If you do the math, that means that if you live to the age of seventy, you will have spent up to three years of your life waiting!
Think about it, we spend countless hours waiting our turn, waiting in traffic, waiting for the light to turn green, waiting for appointments, waiting for certain circumstances in our lives to be over, waiting for direction. Some of us are waiting to get pregnant. Some are waiting for their prodigal to return. Others are waiting for test results or pending news. In some cases, we’re waiting for things that may never come!
We find ourselves waiting for the next season of our lives as if somehow the next one will be better than the one we’re in! Even when it comes to the seasons in a year, we can’t wait for Christmas. Once it’s behind us, we can’t wait for spring. Then we can’t wait for the warmth of summer. And when the summer heat hits, we can’t wait for cooler weather again.
My grandfather used to say, “As a rule man’s a fool. When it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.” Isn’t that the truth?
When my kids were little, I couldn’t wait for them to get back to school in the fall so that I could reclaim my territory and gain back a semblance of routine. Now that they’re grown, there are days when I can’t wait simply because if I do, I’ll forget what I was about to do! Most days I can’t wait to get to heaven!
So why are we in such a hurry? What is it that we are waiting for? Is there something we should or could be doing as we wait? Rather than wait? Why wait at all?
The fact is no one likes to wait. But sometimes that’s exactly what God wants us to do. And in fact, it’s what He requires us to do. Isaiah 40:31 says, “…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV) Some versions replace “wait” with “trust”. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we find it so challenging to wait? Because to do so, means to relinquish our control over circumstances in our lives—realizing that most circumstances are completely beyond our control. And who doesn’t want control?
God is more interested in the process than the product. Paul reminds us that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus (Philippians 1:6). And He’s apparently in no hurry to produce it!
So in the meantime—where we all live—hanging in the balance between where we are and where we’re going, like Jesus, we need to set joy before us and consider Him who endured the cross. Because in exchange for our weariness, God gives us His strength to endure and as we fix our gaze upon Him, He renews our perspective. And when we find that, there is nothing better. Take it from me, it’s worth the wait!
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).