Scrolling through life – Are we living distracted by screens or focused on life?

Living distracted by screens?

I sat behind this family. A pre-teenish aged girl, head down except for brief moments coming up for air, or rather, back into real life. Head back down.

Scroll.

Scroll.

Scroll.

I struggled to disengage following her phone habits. Her distraction from life around us was totally distracting me. The thing is, this is the norm for many teens today. But let’s be fair. The struggle is real for us adults as well.

When she engaged in real life, she complained to her parents about being bored. When she was bored, she picked up her phone.

Scroll.

She bounced from one social media platform to the next.

This isn’t unique to this girl. It’s all of us. It’s me too.

How often do I reach for my phone out of boredom, looking for that next hit of entertainment or distraction?

How often do I reach for my phone for the high of escape?

When I don’t feel like listening to one more complaint or argument, I pick it up.

Scroll.

When I feel awkward waiting for a friend to meet me, I pick it up.

Scroll.

We watched an entire family sitting at a table at a restaurant never looking up until the food arrived. 2 parents, 4 kids – scrolling through life. Missing the life of each other right before their eyes.

What stories went untold? What laughs never broke free? What impact or influence never passed one to another?

Real life vs fake offering

So much life missed trying to stay up on the fake life a screen offers.

We are missing the best and accepting the counterfeit.

This is nothing new.

‘When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”’

Exodus 32:1

They were tired of waiting, so they reached for the counterfeit.

They chose fake over real. They chose immediate gratification over lifelong satisfaction.

The very next verse shocks me.

‘Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’

Exodus 32:2-5

Aaron so quickly went along with the people and not only joined the masses but led them in their rebellious desires.

We do too.

We know we are trading real life, real connection for the false idol. Yet, we follow. We accept what never satisfies.

As we scroll through life, we are indulging our flesh. We indulge our desire to be entertained. We’ve created our modern day golden calf. We worship at the altar of our screens.

We have a choice to make.

These screens we scroll through will never give us what we truly crave. It’s like eating a diet of candy. Over time we will become sick.

I believe at various times God brings us enlightenment and we have a choice in what to do. We can continue down a path or make corrections.

When we find our scroll is invading our life, maybe a break is what is needed.  A fast in order to refocus our attention and reclaim the moments we’ve been missing.

Focused on Life?

There have been moments that happened I’ve looked back on and thought, “If I’d been buried in a screen, I would’ve miss that completely.” At the same time, I know for a fact I’ve missed countless moments as I’ve lived distracted by the scroll of my phone. I’ll never know what I missed. But I have a choice in each moment to claim it or let it pass.

I want to live a life full of beautiful moments. I want to have relationships that can stand the test of time and life. I want to create memories we can talk about around the table in 20 years.

Living an intentional life means looking ahead at what we desire and choosing today the steps we need to take in order to arrive.

It’s looking ahead and deciding what we want our Thanksgiving table in 20 years to look like and realizing it takes action today to achieve that. Meaningful relationships and moments take nurturing.

Intentional living is living life on purpose rather than scrolling through life mindlessly.

What are we nurturing today?

If you’ve followed along here for some time you know I’m passionate about guarding our families from screen intrusions. When I started writing online my goal was to encourage others to live an intentional life. Ironically, this was before screens were at play. It didn’t take long for screens to begin to dominate in homes and I’m determined to keep preaching this message.

The first post I wrote on this subject circulated into millions of homes. I received messages from parents who felt alone in their desire to raise children who could live with heads up and eyes ahead focused on life. They realized they aren’t alone. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here A Letter to My Sons – The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics.

You can can find other posts I’ve written on this topic by clicking here.

And if you aren’t subscribed to receive posts via email, click here. I rarely post more than once a week and promise never to spam you. I count it a privilege to encourage and inspire you to live an intentional life.

 

 

 

 

 

When time management means learning to become less productive

Work Hard, Rest Well

I’m a doer, a worker. I love efficiency and productivity. I thrive on accomplishing tasks and seeing my tangible, physical progress. The problem is I work better than I rest. The second problem is that I’m rarely satisfied that my work is complete. I set high bars and expectations and can always “do more”. But for a human being, that is chasing something with no finish line in sight.

Perfection isn’t reality. At some point I must choose ‘good enough’ and be satisfied.

God’s Model For Work

I love how God looked at His work, found satisfaction, then rested.

 

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

Genesis 1:31-2:2

My nature in my work is to simply keep moving forward. I rarely stop, assess, find satisfaction, and rest. Instead, I complete, I plan, I analyze, I re-assess, I work harder, I complete, I move harder and faster. And when I rest, my mind isn’t really at rest. So is it really a rest? Likely not.

When a strength swings to a weakness

When I was a CPA, my boss frequently commended me for my efficiency and productivity. I could knock out some work. That was great for billable hours. But that very strength in my previous career can be downright detrimental to my relationships without careful attention.

Without being mindful of this bent in me, I can mark off my to-do list and miss my most important task of the day – loving and serving the ones right in front of my eyes. Loving them in the ways they receive it, not the way I receive. Not with acts of service, but maybe with quality time or a gift.

Without intentionality to my time, I can complete a long list of chores, yet miss the invitation to conversations waiting on the tips of tongues.

Without planned stops in my day, I may set myself up to be perceived as too busy for anyone to “bother” me.

A little experiment in productivity

I keep a to-do list like most of us. My problem is that I have no problem adding as the day marches on. If I complete everything, I keep working and adding. Then I find myself believing I can never get anything done when in reality, I got more done than I needed to.

I listened to a podcast about tracking time. It was geared towards people who find they waste too much time. Initially, I tossed the idea aside of tracking my time.

I did an experiment one day.

I set timers and wrote down everything I did all day long. At the end of the day I was simply amazed. I honestly found myself unable to believe I really did all I did that day.

The results

Here’s the part I want you to pay attention to. If I had not written all that down, I would have beat myself up over all the things that didn’t get done. I would have focused on the things I planned to do that I was unable to get around to. Things added more than likely as the day moved forward.

We tend to focus on the negatives quicker than the positive. And we can be so harsh to our own selves.

And this is where I felt God drawing my attention. He wanted me to notice how hard I was to myself, how unkind I spoke to myself inside my own head.

He showed me this towards the end of this little experiment of tracking my time. Day one went so well, I tried it a 2nd day. I didn’t want to learn to become more productive. I wanted to learn to be more satisfied in what I’d done and stop trying to do more than is necessary. The reason? I want to enjoy this life with these people in this little pocket of time we’ve been given.

I don’t want to be known when I’m gone as the most productive person they’d ever known. I want to be known for how Jesus shined through my life. I want to be known for how God was glorified in me as I found satisfaction in Him and the life I’ve been given.

On the 2nd day of the experiment, I noticed my thoughts regarding my time. It was always in the negative. Rarely satisfied that I’d done the best I could do, now it was time to rest.

Where I’m headed

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of you. How I’m “supposed” to write in such a way that helps you solve your problems, but I rarely write from that perspective. Instead, I process my life with you right here. Aren’t you lucky 🙂

I find myself in a place, I find what’s a struggle and what’s a help. I don’t always have a solution, but I can share what I’m finding along the path.

The first step in making changes is simply noticing where the problem is. For me, the problem isn’t that I’m a productive person. It’s that I don’t allow myself the freedom to rest free of guilt and I don’t stop and find satisfaction in the work completed.

God shows us this model in His creation. He said it was very good each day. At the end of 6 days, He was satisfied. On the 7th day, He rested.

If the God of the universe can work, find satisfaction, and rest, then we as humans can follow His footsteps.

What a God we serve.

Time is a gift not a dictator.

Time is precious. It’s a gift. Rather than fighting the clock and running myself into the ground exhausted, maybe it’s time I open my hands and surrender the time to the Lord. Time doesn’t get to be the boss of me unless I allow it. I’m choosing to see each day as the gift it is.

“Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”

Psalm 90:12

The possible missing link connecting your desire to your reality

 

“The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.”

Proverbs 13:4

Our desires aren’t enough

When I was pregnant with my first son, I planned to have a natural childbirth, free of any kind of pain medication. I told the doctor my plan and she nodded along. “Well, there’s always epidural available if you change your mind.”

My desire was one thing. My direction toward that desire looked completely different.

I did nothing to prepare for my plan. I took no natural childbirth classes. I read little on the subject. The day I went into labor, I went in with only my desire but nothing to prepare me for what was required to stick to the plan.

When the doctor entered the room to check me, she instructed the nurses to begin pitocin. Had I researched at all about natural childbirth, I would’ve declined. My contractions became a level of pain I thought could kill me from sheer pain. The doctor later laughed that she had tickets to the symphony and needed this baby delivered so she could make the performance.

Well, my plan didn’t stick for long. I quickly begged for an epidural. We had our baby, but I felt so disappointed that I hadn’t known enough in advance to prepare better to stay the course.

Initially, I wanted to blame the doctor, or the pitocin, or the slow labor. In the end, I realized all the places I wanted to place my blame were mere roadblocks, but they could have been overcome if I’d prepared myself better.

I think we can all relate to having desires for something, yet finding we don’t really do anything to help us achieve those desires. We often lack the discipline necessary to turn those desires into a reality.

Desire is easy. Discipline isn’t.

Discipline is often the missing link connecting our desires to our realities.

That is where the friction lies. Do we desire it enough to create the discipline necessary to achieve it?

Is fear of failure holding us back? This is a big one for me honestly. There are certain areas I feel I have failed in so often that I don’t have the energy to get up and try again. If I knew I’d succeed, I’d surely find the energy to try again. This is how I know it’s my fear holding me down.

On my second child to be born, I ditched the desire for natural childbirth. I’d determined it was too hard and decided it wasn’t for me.

Fast forward to my third child. I saw others having natural childbirth. If they could, why couldn’t I? I began to take notice of what they did different than I’d done.

If we want a different outcome, we need different action steps

  • They were in a community with like-minded people.
  • They became students, eager to learn
  • They “trained” their bodies in preparation
  • They found accountability
  • They invested money if necessary

I’d done nothing of these sorts my first attempt.

I decided on my third child, if it were within my abilities and decisions, I would stick to the plan. This time I did what I watched others doing who were successful to their desires.

I joined online communities and listened to their conversations. I took in all their tips and tricks. I took better care of my body in preparation for the task ahead. I read actual books on the subject.

But here was the kicker for me.

I hired a doula. I’d never heard that word before I joined a group of like-minded people. This came at a time in our life when finances were not just tight, but we truly had no wiggle room.

I still remember the cost of that doula. I don’t know what they cost now, but 11 years ago I spent $400 to have someone coach me through labor.

Could I have done it without spending that money? Possibly. But for me personally, when I spend money on something it holds me accountable to something higher. I don’t like waste and am very conscious of the money I spend.

To me that $400 was an investment not a spend.

I was investing in my deep desire to have this child with no pain medication.

When it was over, she was worth every bit of that $400. On this side of it, I know for sure I would have asked for the epidural had she not been with me. If it were Steve and I on our own, we’d have been screaming for the doctors to relieve me of the pain. I know me and my small pain threshold.

My point is not to encourage you to spend money. However, at times we have to determine what it will take to turn our desires into the discipline necessary to reach our goals.

Sometimes our desires are for things that seem out of our control. Maybe they are to some extent, but there is always some discipline we can create to walk us closer to reaching that desire.

Do we desire friends? Do we feel lonely? That might feel like it’s a desire we can’t do anything about. It may take time to find friends, but we can become disciplined in being a friend first. We can place ourselves near like-minded people, we can join groups and communities, we can develop our skills in communicating. There’s always steps we can take to move us in the direction we want to go.

It takes discipline. And that is the point many people give up.

Yet, God calls us to be disciplined people.

 

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:7

Maybe today is the day to get honest with yourself. To rise up to owning those desires and making new actions steps toward the reality. Daily disciplines. One small step at a time. Don’t focus too much on the overwhelming task. Just look at the habit you can create today to move you one step closer. Then practice that habit every day.

 

 

 

 

Be Very Careful the Words You Speak – It’s Life and Death

Power of Words

If we realized the power of our words and thoughts, we’d be much more careful in the choosing of them.

What we think and believe impacts how we live and the person we become. What we speak shapes our future.

I cringe when I hear adults speak of their future teens negatively. Statements such as, “I dread the rebellious teenage years.”

Who said they’d be rebellious?

Or “Well, I know one day my teen won’t want to be around me.”

Yeah? Says who?

Why would we say these things?

I desire to create an environment my kids want to be around. I want to love them well and enjoy them. We are in the teenage years now and this is by far my very favorite season. I speak this out to my teens, telling them how fun they are to be around, how much they make me laugh.

Why would we speak fear-driven thoughts? Why would we plant these seed thoughts in our children? They are listening and absorbing. They will absolutely rise to what’s expected of them.

Speak life.

Speak power and authority.

Speak destiny.

Speak God’s Word and promises.

At some point I noticed the trace of a trait in one of my sons I wanted him to notice and build on.

He is confident in who he is. He’s not easily persuaded and he’s ok not looking like the world around him. I wanted him to see how strong of a character trait this is.

Kids and teens are drowning in a lack of identity and a strive to fit in with the rest of their friends.

“I see in you such a strength. You really know who you are in Christ. And because of this, you don’t have to try to fit in with others or be tempted to take part in what they do because you know who you are.”

It was a passing comment honestly. I spoke it in truth, but it was a glimmer I want to glisten and shine over time.

Weeks later I overheard a conversation of his. He explained to someone that he isn’t persuaded to follow others because he knows who he is in Christ.

I stopped. I stood overwhelmed at the power my spoken words held in his thoughts and beliefs about who he is.

Pray

Lord, may we choose our words wisely. May we speak life into and over our kids, our families, and ourselves. May our words be seasoned with salt. May we reflect your love and your truth in everything we speak. May we cast out fear thoughts and lies spoken from the depths of darkness. May we walk in the light You’ve shown.

Words and Stories I’ll Never Forget

10 years ago I sat in a doctor’s office. He said something I’ll never forget. “In all my years as a doctor, I’ve learned something about fear. In many of my patients with cancer I’ve found their biggest fear in life was getting cancer.”

He went on to talk to me about fear. He wasn’t really talking about cancer. Nor am I. And I’m not making any kind of health statements at all. Please hear me on this.

I’m simply sharing a statement he made that impacted how I decided that day to think. The point he made is the power of our thoughts and our mind to impact our future.

If we fear something, often we actually live into that very fear. Again, please don’t misunderstand. I’m speaking about fear and the grip and influence it CAN have. I’m not at all saying that all of our sicknesses and diseases came because we thought them into being.

Fear Not

God has not given us a spirit of fear. Fear is straight from hell.

Years after this comment from my doctor, I listened to a Ted Talk on the power of our thoughts. He told a story of a patient told he was dying of terminal cancer. He was given 3 months to live. 3 months later he died. The autopsy revealed he had no cancer. He was told he was dying. He believed he was dying. He died in 3 months. This story has never left me.

Over the last year, God has brought my way more information, more books, more conversations, more sermons on the power of our minds than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. I don’t believe that is a coincidence.

Recently, one very dear to me confessed a deep fear of cancer in their future. They’ve never had a scare, but it surrounds us. Because years ago God brought people and conversations into my life on this very thing, I knew how to talk to this person. We began casting out fear knowing it’s not from God. We began praying God’s Word claiming a sound mind.

It’s Our Choice

I’m choosing to speak life, think life, live in God’s light.

Will bad things happen still? Yes. Will sickness and death happen despite our happy thoughts? Yes.

Am I saying we just think and talk happy and nothing bad happens? For sure, not. Not at all.

We live in a fallen world. Sickness, death, sadness will be all around us. One day every tear will be wiped away. That is our hope.

We can choose to speak words of life, hope, goodness, and love.

When we see the hint of godliness in our kids, let’s speak it out loud to them. When we see them encourage a friend to tell the truth rather than lie, speak that out to them. “You are a young man who walks in truth and honesty. I love that about you.”

When we see them wake up to their alarm on their own, we can say, “I love your initiative and self-discipline to wake up and handle your business on your own. I can’t wait to see how that serves you well in the future.”

When we see them walk away from a sibling argument, we can say, “I noticed you exercised self control over your tongue. Thank you for being a person who seeks peace.”

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

Lord, equip us to use our tongues wisely. Guard our minds from believing lies or listening to the voice of fear, which is not your voice. Make us attentive to You. Speak life into us that we may be so filled by You that You flow out of us to all around us. Amen.

P.S.

Have you read Switch on Your Brain by Dr. Caroline Leaf? It’s an excellent read I highly recommend. She combines the science of the brain with the Creator of our minds. It’s fascinating and unlike many books of its type, it’s not written over our abilities to process the information shared. She also has a fantastic podcast I love listening to. It’s short and impactful each episode.

P.S.S

If you are looking to experience God in fresh and intimate ways, I invite you to grab your copy of Illuminate today. It’s 14 days of devotions centered on who God says He is.

Illuminate will give you a practical way to learn to switch your focus and stop giving more attention to fear than to the One who says ‘fear not’.

If you are tired of living by fear, anxiety, and worry, Illuminate will be a sweet balm to your soul. It’s available in 2 formats: Ebook and Audio (with pdf download).

Here’s what some are saying:

ebook devotional

Get the ebook version here.

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Here’s how you can simply abide in Him – and a free gift for you

 

Free Gift!

I’m giving away my favorite day from Illuminate. Yours for free. I hope you enjoy!

You will be able to download the pdf as well as audio. Simply enter your email address below and it will automatically give you the links.

Let’s Illuminate

If you are new around here, welcome! In case you don’t know, Illuminate is a 14 day devotion, available in ebook as well as audio versions, focused on who God is.

What God does flows from who He is.

To walk in confident assurance, we must know His character, who He is as revealed in His Word.

Illuminate is for

  • the one who wants a more intimate relationship with God.
  • the one who feels stuck in their faith.
  • the one who needs a heart revival or a fresh touch from God.
  • those of us who are tired of seeing our fears, anxieties, and problems as bigger than our God.
  • the one ready to see God with fresh eyes.

 

 

My Thoughts on a New York Times article Raising Children Without the Concept of Sin

“My religious fundamentalist childhood was built around the fear of sin. My daughters don’t even know the word.”

This is the sentence that made me open an article from a news source I never read.

‘As my 9-year-old daughter watched them pass, her forehead knitted, and then she looked up at me with solemn hazel eyes.

“Mama, what is sin?” she asked.

The merriment of the fair receded and I stared at her, my brain spinning with the magnitude of her question. By failing to teach my child the meaning of the word sin, had I somehow failed to give her a moral foundation?

Sin. That tiny word still makes me cringe with residual fear. Fear of being judged unworthy. Fear of the eternal torture of hell. Fear of my father’s belt.”‘

This is an excerpt from The New York Times article, Raising Children Without the Concept of Sin.

As I read the author’s words, I wanted to reach through the screen and pull her close, hug her, and whisper, “You are known and loved.”

Honestly, without love at the core of everything, we can become focused more on issues than people. If I’m honest, I can lose sight of the people behind the issues they stand upon. We are surrounded by broken hearts in need of truth wrapped in love.

Our life experiences become a filter through which we see life. Had I been raised in the same environment described in this article, I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same way about God and sin.

“God was a megaphone bleating in my head: “You’re bad, you’re bad, you’re bad!” I had recurring nightmares of malevolent winds tornado-ing through my bedroom — a metaphor, I now realize, for an invisible and vindictive god.”

Note the little ‘g’ use for God.

Oh, the deception of the enemy on this precious child of God. Raised in a home that didn’t know God yet used Him as a form of fear and punishment. And what’s a child to do?

Our natural inclination is to project our earthly father onto our Heavenly Father.

No matter how good or heinous our earthly father is, that’s not God. One man in all humanity is a picture of God. Jesus.

Perfect, spotless, righteous, kind, just, loving, tender, merciful. He alone is the only one who can give us a picture of the Father.

“At 17, after being caught “fornicating” with my high school boyfriend, I was sent to a Christian reform school where children were beaten in the name of God. It was there that I learned that religion has nothing to do with goodness and there’s a strong link between zealotry and hypocrisy.”

I agree with her statement. Religion has nothing to do with goodness. The “religious” killed Jesus. Christianity is not a religion. It’s a relationship.

“I lost my faith by fits and starts.”

“Religious brainwashing imposed from infancy is hard to shake, and I continued to confuse “Christian” with “trustworthy” and “moral.”

Again I agree, religious brainwashing is hard to shake. So much evil has been birthed in the name of religion.

Because someone proclaims to be a christian doesn’t make it so. At the same time, I have done and said things that misrepresent Christianity.

“When my husband and I contemplated having children, I wondered how I’d teach them right from wrong without a church. I toyed with the idea of dropping them off at a Sunday school, where they could ingest bite-sized chunks of morality in catchy songs and coloring books. But my husband — Catholic by culture, atheist by intellect — wanted nothing to do with organized religion.”

Implanted deep in the heart of every human is a hunger and thirst for truth, goodness, and love. We were all created in the image of God with a heart designed to love Him and long for Him. That’s why we spend our lives searching for meaning and significance. When we finally encounter the God of the universe, we find our place. Right in His arms, the ones outstretched toward us since the beginning of time.

“As a girl, my focus was on gaining admittance to heaven. Now I believe that this life is the only life we’ll know; this planet, our only existence. I am no longer motivated by fear of an unproven hell, but by real-world concerns about injustice and inequality.”

God, too, is concerned with real-world concerns and injustice. So much so that He sent His only Son to the cross on our behalf. To right the wrongs and defeat evil and death once and for all.

You know, I was once a girl focused on working my way to heaven too. I worked my entire life to be good enough. That was an impossible feat. At various points I’d throw my hands up and say, “It’s just too hard.” And I’d go my own way. At 23 I had an encounter with God. A switch flipped in my brain shining light on the darkness that surrounded my false beliefs of living a perfectly holy life to work my way to God.

I remember saying, “That’s it, God! I get it now. It IS impossible for me to be good enough to make my way to heaven. That’s why you sent Jesus to die in my place.” A lifetime of the knowledge right before my very eyes that I never understood.

It was a word I’d never understood, used in church circles by “good” people. Grace. What in the world did it mean? I thought I knew, but until that light bulb moment, that word lived in the dark of my understanding.

This life isn’t the only life we’ll know. If so, what would be the point of it all? If it simply just ends and goes away. Why? There must be more. There is more.

The author refers to an unproven hell, choosing instead to place her faith in her unproven belief that this life is all we’ll know. Both beliefs require a level of faith. She didn’t lose her faith. She simply took her once faith in a God and placed it her own ideas and thoughts.

But I don’t fault her. The one I fault -Satan. The one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The one who is out fighting for souls. To blind the people into believing heaven and hell isn’t real is to win them to the darkness. A forever eternity void of all hope.

“I gazed into Davia’s upturned face and felt a rush of love and happiness. I had raised her without sin.”

None of us are born without a knowledge of sin in our souls. We all know. Deep down we know. While her daughter might not know the term and definition, inside she knows.

“An explanation of sin could wait.”

It was the closing sentence that caught my breath. “An explanation of sin could wait.” It can’t wait. We aren’t promised our next breath. We don’t know the time or day that will be our last moment on this earth. And when we depart, life continues after. The choice is ours. Will we choose heaven or hell? The choosing happens now in this life. Once we depart this life, it’s too late.

This New York Times article reflects the real beliefs of thousands and thousands of people. Would you join me today in praying for the ones who have believed the enemy’s lies? Let’s ask God to intersect our lives with these people who need to hear that God is not an invisible, vindictive God. Let’s wrap them in love and pour into them out of the overflow He’s poured into us.

Time is fleeting.

 

Ready to go deeper with God? To push back the dark? Illuminate is a 14 day devotion to help you focus on who God is as revealed by His Word. It’s the only way to counter the lies of this world- to know Him, His voice, His character. He loves you like crazy.

 

 

Breaking & building habits – Word before the worLd

I continue to take a look at the habits in my life. The thing about bad habits is how they can sometimes form with such little effort and feel so difficult to break. Yet, the ones most beneficial to us take considerable energy to develop and we break with ease.

I listened to a sermon series by Craig Groeschel titled Habits. He shared that by Valentine’s Day, 92% of people have quit their New Year’s goals and resolutions.

I wrote a post in case you missed it titled 6 steps to fail proof goals and habits.

Apparently, I live and write in themes. You know that about me by now I think.

A Slip of Habit

Over the last several months I’ve felt my morning quiet times becoming stale.

“Staleness is an indication of something out of joint with God.”

Oswald Chamber, My Utmost For His Highest

I’ve not heard God with the same clarity. I’ve approached my time with Him like any other ordinary task, something to be checked off a long to-do list.

As I listened to this full series, I began to think about my morning habits. In the past nothing came before the Lord and my time with Him. But now, I reach for my phone to see what time it is. I brush my teeth and scan my phone to see what I missed while I slept. I walk to to the coffee pot, I scan Instagram. Are there notifications or messages I missed in the night?

I pour my coffee, grab my Bible, pick up my phone and respond to messages, scroll for a minute, decide what I need to post, think about my day. Then I see the time. Where did all that time go? My quiet time is nearing an end without me giving my fullness to listening to God. So, I quickly open my Bible, pray, read, journal, and basically squeeze God into the tiny space left over after checking in with the world first.

It’s a habit I’ve created unintentionally.

The exact opposite of how I’ve always treated and protected this time and space.

“Guard jealously your relationship to God.”

Oswald Chamber, My Utmost For His Highest

I’ve been placing the world before the Word.

It starts with a decision

I knew what needed to be done.

I made a decision that God would receive my all in time. God would get the very first of my time, energy, and focus. He will receive my first and best.

When we make a decision to step back on the right path, it won’t come easy. The enemy is there distracting. So we fight.

The morning following my decision to break this habit, my eyes opened and I saw His Word first thing on my pillowcase. It was the reminder I needed about the decision I made.

Word before world.

I read the verse on my pillow and repeated over and over again, “Word before world.” I prayed before stepping out of my bed. “Lord give me strength to give you my first fruit time and energy and focus today. Set my feet on your path. I surrender.”

Surrendering the old

Before I can create a new habit, I must surrender the old. I open my hands and raise them to Him.

Surrender. The word God gave me for 2019. The word I didn’t seek or ask for. In His mercy He delivered anyway.

The world brings distraction and chaos and worry. His Word brings peace, love, and comfort.

What have I been doing to my soul?

With each step of my morning quiet time, I realized how firmly rooted this bad habit had grown. I had to force my mind back to Him. My hand wanted to reach for my phone so I put it in another room so I couldn’t cheat and pick it back up.

It wasn’t easy, which showed me this is a fight worth waging. I already knew that though.

Do you know what happened that morning? I received a fresh word from God. I received clarity on some worries I’ve been holding. My mind felt more stable and calm.

My King never left. He was there speaking all along. I’d just filled my eyes and ears with sounds and images that shut Him out.

The enemy steals in the stealthiest ways. Therefore, we guard. We protect. We choose. We aren’t victims of our habits. We own our choices. It’s not easy, but in His strength we can break the habits needing breaking and create the habits waiting to move in their place.

I once heard a sermon about the idols in our lives. He said when we discover an idol and decide to remove it, we must replace it with something good. Otherwise, that empty spot will find something eventually. Well, he said it better than that, but you get the picture.

We have the power to choose.

Here’s the steps I’m taking.

  • Place my phone in the bathroom at night rather than my nightstand.
  • I use my watch to tell me the time (what an antiquated idea. Ha!)
  • I look at my pillow and remember to pray and start in the Word.
  • I pray before getting out of bed to set my mind and heart on Him.
  • I preset the coffee pot the night before.
  • I have all my Bible study materials ready in my spot before going to bed.
  • When my quiet time is up, I check my phone. But I have to walk to another room to get it.

Just little tweaks and changes to help me stay the course.


Maybe you are like me and need visual reminders to fix your gaze on Jesus first thing in the morning.

Maybe you’d like to break your habit of checking in with the world with the first of your day via Facebook, Instagram, the news, email, whatever the source may be.

Maybe you are like me and you are tired of starting your day from a place of anxiety, worry, and fear and you are ready to claim the peace He promises if we seek Him first.

If you could use help in this area, I have one small tool that is helping me. Scripture pillowcases.

It’s the trigger I need to force my mind back to the decision I’ve made to start in the Word. I see His Word with the first and last of my day now. I pray that verse as I literally rest on His Word. Then I get up renewed by His strength, ready to stay focused on creating new, better habits.

You can see the full collection on my shop page right here. Do you want a custom verse? I do that too.

 

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Let’s keep marching towards our most intentional year ever!!