June 1st Can Be Your January 1st

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

Colossians 3:2

Raise your hand if the month of May has been crazy busy. I know if you are a parent of school age children or a teacher then you are raising both hands. End of the year award ceremonies, parties, graduations, field trips, or moving out of your (or your child’s) college dorm or apartment only to soon be moving back in to another one in a couple of months can run us ragged. ‘Tis the season! But you can use this to your advantage, if you will look at it as a fresh re-start.

The end of the school year and the beginning of summer, even if you aren’t a teacher, parent of students or a student yourself, can be a new season. This is a good thing. Really, it is.

The year may be the same, but we can approach the summer months with the same sense of hopefulness and focus. By this time our New Year’s resolutions may have passed away, (RIP gym membership), and maybe some of them needed to go. Now is an opportunity to re-assess and focus again on what truly matters most to us.

However, unlike the new year which forces us to think of resolutions and new beginnings, once the summer months begin we can let the days speed on past. Before we know it, vacation has ended, it’s time to get back into that routine. Don’t let the summer state of mind throw you off track, instead “set your mind on things above.”

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a

Jesus invites us to come to Him, and to find rest in Him. In John 15, Jesus teaches us that God, the Father is the vinedresser. The vinedresser cultivates or prunes the grapevines. Our heavenly Father is carefully and purposefully cultivating our lives to bring a harvest of fruit. Our lives are meant to bring Him glory. Yes, pruning can be painful, but it is necessary. On my rose bush, I cut off the dead or dying roses so that it can make way for new buds resulting in more beautiful roses to enjoy.

Has God been lopping off dead stuff from your life over the past several months? Has He brought into the light of His grace areas of your character that need changing by the power of His Holy Spirit? Thank Him for it. Thank Him for all of the painful, difficult circumstances even if you don’t see the beautiful new growth yet. Thank Him for His discipline because He loves you.

Jesus is the true vine, our true foundation, and we are the branches. Jesus tells us that we must abide in Him because apart from Him we can do nothing. We will not produce fruit if we are not attached to the vine. A branch lying on the ground not attached to the vine will quickly wither and die. Looking back over the past several months, do you see fruit growing? Or are you stagnant? Maybe you are off trying to bear fruit in your own strength. You will not succeed and you will eventually wither, burnout and find yourself giving up. Don’t give up. Look up.

How I am setting my mind on things above

We need to be present in our most important relationship. Ann Boyd in her latest blog post, “How to Plan Your Summer Growth,” offers up some ideas for looking back. Why look back? Ann says, ” During the academic year, life can hurtle past at such a breakneck pace that we don’t have time to fully absorb experiences as they come, but there is time now to reflect and consider intense moments with care.”

Look at June 1st as an opportunity to abide, re-evaluate, take a breath, and realign ourselves back to God’s purposes. I am taking a few pointers from Ann Boyd, reflecting back and asking the questions she poses. If this list overwhelms you, then just choose one question:

  • “What positive, joyful moments can you remember from this year?
  • What painful, embarrassing, or grievous moments can you remember from this year?
  • Consider jotting down a few notes about these memorable events. As emotions arise, present them to the Lord. He may have an invitation for you through them, or you might like to just hold them before him.
  • Do you recall any helpful actions, patterns, or habits that you built into your life this year? Make note of those — and good job, you!
  • Do you recall any unhelpful or destructive actions, patterns, or habits that arose in your life this year? Pause with these and ask the Lord what next step he might have for you in those.”

Screen Time

There are a couple of ways that I will share with you of how I am putting these principles into action. First, I am putting down my phone more. I have an iPhone which has a great little tool in Settings called “Screen Time.” I have put daily time limits on social media, and I have disabled almost all my apps (excluding texting and phone calls in case of emergency) after 8:00 p.m. This allows my brain to settle down for the night so I can sleep better, and it also allows my heart to get a break from over consumption of social media. Do I cheat sometimes? Yes, I confess that I do. That is how addicting it has become in my life.

Little by little

I have a home project that I have been procrastinating and it remains to be completed. This has been a drain on my soul, but small steps are powerful. I have taken this goal and broke it down into small doable steps. Every week I have written down one step that I can accomplish, and by the end of the summer this project will be completed. Doesn’t seem very spiritual to you? Whatever we do, we do it all to the glory of God.

Delighting myself in the Lord

Just the other day, as I was writing out my to-do list for the next day, a thought popped into my mind, “I need to sit out on my front porch in the morning.” I knew that I needed to just get away with Jesus. It was the weekend, so I took advantage before my day started off to get alone, sit on the front porch in my favorite chair and look out at creation. No other agenda. When was the last time you stopped everything to appreciate the beauty of God? Make time.

Summer is here

The choice is yours. Will you spend this summer as you have every other summer? Or will you slow down, take a few moments to pray a simple prayer and “seek first the kingdom of God”? He knows that what you need more than anything is Him. Everything else will line up as it should when we first put God above all. Don’t get overwhelmed, if you are then you are missing the point. Start with one thing.

And take heart, you can still have a do-over.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17

These are just a few of the ways I am positioning my life to abide in Jesus. What is one way that you are being intentional? Also, if this has encouraged you, as I pray that it has, then let me know by commenting or contacting me through email (click on “Contacts” at the Menu above). I would love to hear from you!

Add To Your Faith…

The month of May is at mid-point, meaning that the lazy, crazy days of summer are just around the bend. Before you take off with your sunscreen and sunglasses, let me offer some resources to help you nurture your faith and stir your heart to keep those eyes focused during the not-so-structured summer months.

A little light reading…

Really light in that this book is only 96 pages in length, but not light in the topic or the impact it will have in your relationship with the Lord.

The author and seminary professor, Donald S. Whitney, addresses the problems that prevent us from praying, such as why our minds wander, or our prayer lives are just flat out boring.

He then offers practical answers that you can put in place, and will put into practice. I am confident of that! He will guide you and give you a system for praying through the Psalms, praying through other genres of the Bible, such as narrative accounts or letters to the churches. In essence, you will walk away equipped, encouraged and your prayer life with the Lord will be forever changed.

For me the challenge in prayer came when I was a new Christian, and someone taught me to pray the acrostic, ACTS (Adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication). Unfortunately, this tied me up into a legalistic routine. Praying the Bible, God’s words back to Him, is an intimate, powerful conversation. I find myself praising God more which was a struggle for me.

Summer is a great opportunity for extended times of prayer. Read this book.

Creating habits that stick…

Meet my new friend, Kat Lee, of Hello Mornings: God + Plan + Move. She delightfully helps to lighten the load and guilt to help you begin your day off in a positive direction. Her plan is simple, which is what I love. This is what I have tweeked into my own thing, and it is so easy that it doesn’t make sense that it really works for me. I set my alarm to wake up at the same time everyday. I get up, wash my face (helps me to wake up), and drink a glass of water (before my coffee). Wake – Wash – Water. Those three easy steps set me up to accomplish more. After that comes my Bible reading and praying, but those three little things create focus for me. Check out her ideas and create a plan for you. (Please note that I am a morning person, so if you are not then you might hate me for this.)

But hey, it’s almost summer! You can choose to go with the flow and tuck this away until August when reality starts to creep back in!

One more thing, here’s an interesting article from her newsletter, from the author of Atomic Habits, James Clear.

I love this podcast…

The Journeywomen Podcast, hosted by Hunter Beless is for women living to glorify God. In Episode 84, The Local Church with Susan Hunt, Hunter and Susan discuss the importance of the local body of Christ for every Christian. If you are struggling with finding a church where you belong, are very skeptical about church, or maybe you need a better understanding, this is the one to give a listen. It is a beautiful thing! As Christ followers and members of His body, we are obligated to one another in love. This episode is also a model of a younger woman sharing insights with an older woman. Susan Hunt has been around a long time in women’s ministry. There is a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, and Hunter skillfully interviews, asking some great questions!

You will be blessed!

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Peter 1:5-8