Why You Should Not Compare Your Story to Someone Else’s Quote

There’s something about seeing David Brainerd quotes posted online that makes me smile. Not a discrediting smile (I love his quotes!), but a sympathetic smile.

Brainerd’s journals have moved me profoundly. In fact, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd is the only autobiography I remember setting down mid-reading—not just once or twice, but almost every time I pick it up—moved to fervent prayer. His heart for God freely (and rawly) expressed in those pages, which he believed no one would read as he penned them, is that real and that convicting.

I smile, however, when I see his quotes because his journal was often so contradictory. Like some of us, he encountered extreme highs and lows. But the posted quotes rarely even hint of the contradictions Brainerd lived with.

Take for instance, this quote: Continue reading

4 Gifts You Lose When You’re Stressed Out

A week ago today, I did something I should do more often—turned notifications off on my phone, drove to an area with no cell reception, hiked to the bottom of a canyon, and sat for two and a half hours with a good book.

For the first fifteen to thirty minutes of reading, I surprised myself at how often I reached to check my phone, even though my notifications were turned off and I didn’t even have cell service. Definitely not a habit I’m proud of.

About thirty minutes in, I was reaching for my phone for a different reason—to take pictures to share online.

Finally, as the connection-detox ran its course, I let my phone sit unnoticed on the rock beside me as I simply sat and absorbed my surroundings. I didn’t post any pictures that day, but I did leave wonderfully renewed and less stressed than I had let myself be for quite some time.

The next day, while sitting at my desk at work, it occurred to me that stress steals from us some of God’s most valuable gifts—gifts I had hardly noticed were absent forty-eight hours prior, but realized now what a treasure they are. I jotted four down. Continue reading

Thoughts for Whole-Hearted Christians on Off Days

Is it just me, or do you sometimes have an “off day” too?

As much as I want to wake up every day ready to take the world on and, by the end of the day, have a completed to-do list, all with actions that truly made a difference for eternity, no less; that’s just not the way it always happens.

Years ago, I read a quote by Jim Elliot about not doing life by half measures: “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.”

That quote resonated with me, as does Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

I don’t want to live by half-measures. I don’t want to just go through motions. I want to give my all from my soul.  Continue reading

Surprising Cries from a Thirsty Heart

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For years, I’ve read through the book of Psalms every month. It got so that the day of the month became synonymous with me for the first few words of, or a verse from, a corresponding Psalm.

But this year, wanting to mix up my reading a bit, I took a break from Psalms for a few months. It’s hard, though, to leave such a well of worship, so I’m back to reading through Psalms monthly. (I’ve include the schedule I use at the bottom of this post.)

As I reentered the daily intake of Psalms, what surprised me anew was the intensity of David’s emotions. Whether it was in his longings for God, adoration of God, cries of fear, resolve to praise, or any other expression of his heart, he articulated them with acute intensity. Continue reading

Doing Faith: 7 Ways Faith Acts in Real Life

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You and I both know that faith is more than a feeling. It’s action. Steps. Moving forward. Progress.

Wait…is it all that?

And are all of those so easily defined without feelings? After all, how do you know if you’re making progress? And what if it takes more faith to wait than to act?

I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that faith and feelings get pretty tangled in our hearts. And that sometimes we don’t really do faith at all; we are content to simply feel faith without changing our actions.

So what does doing faith look like, with or without feelings?

Think of the great faith heroes of the Bible and history. I’m pretty sure Abraham wasn’t “feeling faith” as he climbed Mount Moriah with Isaac. And I’m going to guess that Gladys Aylward wasn’t “feeling faith” as she led one hundred children across Communist territory while she was burning with fever.

Not only is faith more than a feeling, but it isn’t defined by feelings. Will you read that sentence again?

Faith isn’t defined by feelings, and they aren’t required for it to be faith. 

So if faith isn’t a feeling, what is it? Or more specifically, what does it do? Continue reading

Attempting Your Impossible

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I grew up reading about people who did truly great things for God. Built orphanages by faith. Rescued children from the jaws of torture and death. Cut through jungles and defied wild animals to carry the gospel to more villages.

I always thought maybe I would do something kind of like that. Something great.

I remember hearing sermons about living for a cause greater than yourself and attempting something so great that unless God was in it, it would fail.

I thought I’d like to do something like that. Something so great that it was actually impossible. Continue reading

7 Ways You Could Give More to Missions

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One of the most memorable moments of my trip to the Philippines last January was sitting in on a young adults Sunday school class at Bethany Baptist Church in Makati. (I took the picture above from the upstairs balcony of this church.)

The text for the lesson was 2 Corinthians 8 about the Macedonian churches who, out of their poverty, were motivated and enabled by the grace of God to give joyfully to the advancement of the gospel.

In the morning church service, that church—comprised of Filipino Christians from the greater Manila area—gave three offerings. I am not exaggerating. The final offering was for five families in the church who were going through times of financial trial due to sickness or deaths in the family. When the pastor announced the amount of that offering (as he had announced the two previous offerings), I was amazed and humbled at the generosity of these Christians. Continue reading

6 Gifts God Gives in the Wilderness

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Sometimes I imagine a conversation between an Israelite woman and a foreign guest in the Promised Land. The Israelite woman (whom we’ll call Sarah) was among those who spent four decades in the wilderness, and her new companion (we’ll call her Fatima) has recently trekked the same territory. They are eager to swap stories and compare experiences:

Sarah: Remember the sandstorms?

Fatima: Yeah, there’s nothing like being sand-blasted by hot, wind-driven sand. We had some days we couldn’t journey at all until the wind died down.

Sarah: Exactly. We had to watch for when the cloud or the pillar of fire moved from over the tabernacle.

Fatima: What? (She gives a suspicious glance and wonders if Sarah is okay.) We didn’t have a tabernacle. And we definitely didn’t have pillar of fire with us.

Sarah: That’s too bad. I mean, there were days I wanted to go forward when we couldn’t and days I wanted to stay when we had to move, but all in all, I was thankful for God’s presence with us.

Fatima: And you say this…this presence was in a pillar of fire? Continue reading

13 Ways to Break Out of Self Focus (When Your Whole Life Is Already Built around Serving Others)

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Perhaps you’ve heard that one of the best ways to overcome an inward focus (and the discouragement and depression that it can bring) is to serve others.

This is good advice. But what if your entire life is already built around serving others?

Let’s say that you’re a mother or a teacher or a caregiver or you serve in ministry…and practically everything you do is already either serving someone else or structured around the times and ways you serve.

And let’s say you’re finding yourself overwhelmed, and your emotions are turning in on you.

How is adding one more act of service supposed to feel like anything less than an extra burden? How is baking cookies for your neighbor, for instance, going to feel like anything other than one more thing to do for one more person?

And if baking cookies won’t help, what can you do to break out that self focus?

Here are thirteen ideas: Continue reading

Common Souls, Uncommon Courage, Predictable Grace

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It was Hudson Taylor who famously said, “God is not looking for men of great faith, only some common souls like you or me…willing to trust in His great faithfulness.”

If you want a front-row seat to a modern-day example of that quote, you need to pick up the newly-released autobiography by Dr. Edgar Feghaly, Forward in the Face of Fear: My Life for Christ in the Muslim World.

I first read this during the pre-publication editorial process, but only after two of my coworkers had already read it. They described stories to me that were over-the-top unbelievable. When they told me they had barely scratched the surface in what they had relayed and that the book was full of such stories, I held private doubts. Continue reading