Evaluating Priorities (Part 1)

I used to wake up in the morning and try not to sigh.

The routine of the week was forecasted to look a lot like the routine of last week, which resembled the one before that. There were always jobs to do around the house–dishes, cleaning, laundry, food prep, bills, emails, keeping my son alive, etc.

evaluating priorities 2Each task felt like one more rock to dig out of the ditch I was walking down. Some moments I would peek above the edge and see the flowers poking up out of the ground, the trees blossoming, and the clouds dancing patterns in the sky. (I’d remind myself that life was filled with an abundance of blessings if I looked for them, right?)

But most of the time I was digging out the rocks, face so close to the dirt that washing the dishes seemed like a cruel joke as they magically reappeared by the sink, caked with tomato sauce.

Looking for More Rocks
But the worst part was finishing my tasks and feeling like I needed to be looking for more rocks to dig out.

An event needed baked goods?
Someone needed a babysitter?
An elderly person wanted visits?

And what about people’s spiritual needs?
Who did I need to tell about Jesus?
How could I find them?
Should I be jumping on a plane to share the gospel somewhere?

I’d feel guilty if I ignored the ideas that ran through my head.
The crisis pregnancy center could probably use supplies.
We should probably have more people over for dinner.

Having my “free” moments taken up by those thoughts zapped my motivation for my other responsibilities. It felt like a never-ending cycle of “have to’s,” “should’s,” and “ought-to’s.”

A number of people gave me a hand outside of the ditch of discouragement, and two women offered me tools to stay out.

Evaluating Priorities
My mentor Natalie helped me to step back and take a look at my priorities. Just making a list forced me past all the “ought-to” thoughts that filled my mind. My list looked like this:

1. My relationship with God
2. Husband
3. Baby Isaiah
4. Family and friends

Once I figured out what was most important, I was able to see how all the other “good things” I thought of could be preventing me from serving the people God has put directly into my life.

A Ministry of Prayer
When I started asking God to show me how to spend my time, I realized I could trust Him to lead me in blessing others and being a part of His kingdom work.

MEDION DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the ways God showed me how to reach out to others was through prayer. Even if I couldn’t be a part of physically meeting a need, I could always lift that person before God, asking for Him to work and acknowledging His sovereign care over the situation. I started to even do that with the tragedies I heard about in the news, praying that God would use the situation to draw people to Himself and to show people their need for the gospel.

God also led me to send notes and emails to encourage those serving in our community or involved in overseas ministry. And when I did interact with people in person, I started asking God for the courage to speak truth and life while listening to them.

The Body of Christ
In my quest to please God (and people, if I’m honest), I’d forgotten about the beautiful Body of Christ. In Romans 12:4-5 it says:

“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

It’s not up to me to try to do all the prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading and showing mercy. And that’s only the list from Romans 12!

When I admire the wonderful things God is doing through other people, I have two options:
1. Feel guilty that I’m not being used in that way
2. Praise the Father like crazy for using people like us to accomplish His plans and purposes.

evaluating priorities 5The daily tasks will always need to be done, (even if I don’t feel “gifted” to wash dishes). I can still do all the little chores for God’s glory, but how cool is it that God has given each of us unique ways to serve Him? Let’s look for ways we can praise Him as we do our piece and see others do theirs in the mosaic of God’s redemption masterpiece.

Next week, I’ll share about the second tool that has helped me stay out of the ditch of discouragement. But until then, I’d love to hear about anything God has used to pull you out of the guilt-laden “ought-to” trap.

When Serving God Doesn’t Look Like I Imagined

When Serving God Doesn't Look Like I Imagined

Do you believe God has the power to answer your desire to serve Him?

A couple summers ago, Christopher and I stayed at one of those pay-by-the-week sketchy hotels. We were taking a class to learn about Islam and reaching out to Muslims, both in America and overseas. We spent each day listening to lectures and discussing what loving Muslims would look like. Part of our “homework” in the evenings was to meet Muslims (who made up a large population of the city in Michigan) and look for opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations.

That sounded like a good idea in theory, but my body had other plans. Being close to the 6 month mark in my pregnancy, I felt more and more back pain and fatigue. We were supposed to write down our hours spent “reaching out,” and I despaired. Christopher would go out with his guy classmates after supper, and I’d spend most evenings alone in the hotel room.

A few days into our training, we asked to change to a room with a bed that felt less like a hammock. The cleaning lady who helped us move was a talkative young woman from Jordan who was taking college classes in the city. The following Saturday we didn’t have lectures, so we were in the room when she came by to clean. The next twenty minutes were filled with a discussion about heaven, Jesus, and the love of God, while she changed sheets, piled towels, and wiped down counters. Christopher pointed her to some passages in an Arabic Bible, and she kept reading well past the place he’d pointed to, her melodious Arabic interrupted by her exclamations of surprise. Even though I hadn’t gone out of the hotel room, God brought an opportunity literally knocking on my door.

When I graduated from college, I had a picture in my mind of what it would look like to impact the world for Jesus. For some reason, comforting a baby struggling to take a nap or keeping the house clean hadn’t made it into that picture.

Over the next months, as we sensed God’s redirection from moving overseas to reaching out to others State-side, I again struggled with the desire to follow God’s command to make disciples. How was I supposed to do that when caring for my family seemed to take so much time and my primary place was inside the four walls of our apartment? Was I letting God down? Would conjuring up “good things to do” ease my conscience?

My mentor Natalie patiently listened to this cascade of thoughts and quietly asked, “Do you think God has the power to answer your desire to serve in a way that’s pleasing to Him?”

I was speechless. Wasn’t it my job to come up with awesome ways to bring Him glory?

She helped me to step back and ask, “What exactly should my priority be in my spiritual life?”

I knew I wanted to serve God. So where was it all supposed to start?

It begins with drawing near to Him. Period.

If my focus is on how I can know, love, and experience our God in a deeper way, ministry and the rest of life can flow out of that.

It sounds simple, but many of my thoughts get stuck in old patterns. In those times of doubt and feeling like I’m not “doing enough,” a prayer I have adopted is, “Lord, today would you help me set aside feelings of condemnation (guilt over sin that Jesus has paid for) and instead listen for your conviction and leading?

Galatians 5:1 says, For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Let’s embrace our glorious Savior today and live in the freedom He died to give us!