Dating God: Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Date #3: Coffee Date

Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Coffee dates. A luxury I savor as much as a chai tea latte. Though they require some schedule juggling—deadlines wait for no one—the schedule contortions merit the pain. Time with friends refreshes my spirit. It gets me out of my home office where the walls can close in, my only companions wear fur, and they shed it freely through the house. The writing life often proves a lonely one.

Scripture brims with times Jesus spent in fellowship with others. Wine flowed at the wedding in Cana. Cool water washed the dust from His throat at the well in Samaria. Roasted lamb, dates, perhaps pistachios for those weekday dinners in the homes of Zacchaeus, Matthew, and, of course, Mary and Martha. Food and fellowship pair well.

Your date with God this week involves a trip to your favorite coffee shop:

  • Bring a journal and something to write with.
  • Grab your beverage of choice. (And a snack. Chocolate?)
  • Get comfy.
  • If Jesus were sitting across the table (and He is), what would you talk about? Your marriage? The kids? Career goals? Dreams?
  • What spiritual questions would you pose?
  • Are you frustrated about something? Spill it.
  • Do you need clarity? Direction? Ask.

John 15:15 (NIV) reads, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

For kicks: What would Jesus get at Starbucks and why?

Leave your response in the comment box. Best response earns a coffee mug!

Workout of the Week: Meeting Jesus at Starbucks

Memory Verse:  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15 NIV).”

Meditation Passage: Luke 10:38-42

Just Do It: Schedule your coffee date.

Dating God: Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

Date #2: Come With Me and Escape

Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

In Mark 6:30-32, Jesus called the disciples for a getaway. Remember those? Getaways? You and your sweetheart. Time alone. No interruptions. No responsibilities.

Getting away with God has some challenges.

Even Jesus had to search for a quiet spot, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35 NIV).”

Just getting quiet is hard. Texts ding and tweets chirp. The kids bang on the door. Once we find a quiet spot, our brain goes AWOL. Our thoughts wander. We remember things we need to do. How are we supposed to focus on God?

Here’s the plan for your date this week:

  • Schedule your date.
  • Choose a quiet place.
  • Take pen and paper. When you think of something you need to do, jot it down then put it aside.
  • Tap your imagination. Visualize your favorite getaway.
  • Put Jesus into the scene. Where will you go? What will you do?

For me, Jesus and I always seem to end up walking a stretch of beach in Galveston. Hand in hand. Toes in the surf. Screeching sea gulls overhead. The wind in my face and the smell of salt and sea deep in my lungs. Here, silence is comfortable and the need to talk doesn’t press. We can just be.

Plan your getaway and go.

Workout of the Week: Use Your Imagination to Anchor Your Thoughts

Memory Verse: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35 NIV

Meditation Passage: Mark 6:30-32

Just Do It: Plan your getaway and go.

Dating God

Take a Walk

Romancing the Rock

February points us toward chocolate, Valentines, and love, so this month, our training centers on dating God. Jesus gave this warning to the church of Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first (Rev. 2:4 NIV).” We do well to heed this one, because we live the biggest love triangle of all time.

The two competing lovers? Jesus and Satan.

An easy choice, right? Yet Satan excels in keeping us from our True Love. Our calendars are stacked with commitments, none of them bad, but time with God gets cut short or postponed until it disappears altogether—and Satan savors another win.

But don’t be fooled, he’s really not that into us. It’s all about him. The cry of his heart is me, me, me. Though his valentines look appealing, they reek of death. Like a soda can drained of its sweetness, we’re disposable.

And Satan is all about that.

My training challenge for us this February is to schedule four dates with our True Love.

Date #1: Take a walk.

When my husband and I dated, we often took walks together. Today, that walk requires a lot more effort. I speed walk. He strolls. I think as I walk. He talks. As you plan your walk with God, consider this:

  • Coordinate: Coordinate schedules. Get it on the calendar.
  • Compromise: Adjust your walking speed to His.
  • Contribute: By all means, talk, but listen too. Literally. What do you hear? Look around. Is He trying to show you something?

God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Both Enoch and Noah were commended for walking with God. Let’s slow down and focus on our first love. Walk, don’t run, and we’ll romance our way through February.

Workout of the Week: Date #1 Walk with God

Memory Verse: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Rev. 2:4 (NIV)

Meditation Passage: Genesis 5:22-24

Just Do It: Schedule your walk.

Refusing to Love, It’s Unbearable

Refusing to Love, It's Unbearable

Refusing to love? This quote from the author of A Wrinkle in Time stopped me.

Like a tiny gift that gets lost behind the larger packages and is only found when the brittle Christmas tree is hauled away, I knew I had discovered something special.

So, let’s unwrap it.

Refusal: Refusal implies a choice. An act of will. A decision to reject something or someone.

“. . . few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 NIV

To Love: Why would anyone refuse to love? Satan. Sin. Scars.

Satan: Satan refuses to love because God is love. Love is God’s very essence. Satan has chosen self. His refusal to love not only manifests in hate, but also in indifference. And every manifestation causes pain.

“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.” John 8:44

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy . . .” John 10:10

Sin: Our brokenness affects our want-to, our able-to, and our will-do.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” Romans 7:21

Scars: Personal wounds can lead us to refuse to love because we fear getting hurt again or because we’d rather get revenge. Both handicap us in the long run.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:3

Unbearable: To refuse to love can

  • Isolate us
  • Injure others
  • Ignore needs

We are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and are designed to love as He does.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” 1 John 2:9-11

So, are you?

Refusing.

To love.

It’s a choice, you know.

And to choose otherwise will prove simply unbearable.

“Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?” Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’ ” Luke 20:17-18

Workout of the Week: Refusing to Love, It’s Unbearable

Memory Verse: but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Meditation Passage: 1 John 2:9-11

Just Do It: Love one another.

Sweat the Small Stuff: Dealing With Sin

Sweat the Small Stuff: Dealing With Sin

Hannah More spoke of dealing with sin. Specifically, small ones. Those little faults we brush off until they grow into big problems.

Like algebra concepts, small sins build on one another. Give them room, and soon, they think they own the place. Hence, Scripture’s warning to not give the enemy even a foothold (Eph. 4:27).

Hannah More wrote an essay, “On the Comparatively Small Faults and Virtues,” in which she lists faults like procrastination, indecision, idleness, vanity, irritability (Ouch!), and triflings (wasting time). In dealing with sin, she challenged readers to look at the opposite virtues and cultivate them. And as Adam found, cultivation is sweaty business, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food . . .” (Gen. 3:19).

Here are some of the small faults I battle:

  • Taking offense easily
  • Withholding ______
  • Needing to be right

When I line up the corresponding virtues, I get this list:

  • Grace, mercy, and a forgiving spirit
  • Generosity
  • Humility and self-control

More stated,

Double! That’s quite a return on investment. So, are you ready?

  • Write down your small faults.
  • What are the corresponding virtues?
  • What action can you take to cultivate those virtues?
  • Choose one.
  • Start sweating.

Be intentional about dealing with sin. Something is going to grow. Cultivate virtue and sweat the small stuff.

Because babies, and vices, don’t stay small.

Workout of the Week: Sweat the Small Stuff

Memory Verse: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7

Meditation Passage: Galatians 6:7-10

Just Do It: Start sweating.

Know Before You Go

Know Before You Go

“Be still, and know that I am God; . . .” Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

Just the facts.

That’s what I want.

For God to spell it out, step by step, where to go, what to do, with whom, the end result, and all the whys behind it tied neatly with a bow.

God, instead, puts relationship first. Since He knows us so well, the discovery becomes ours: who He is, who we are, and who we can be in Him. Scroll through the Old Testament and we find a lengthy list of names for God. Spend a few moments with each name, and we find a circumstance where a person looked for a to-do list, but came away with a new Who:

  • Hagar, the willful servant who overstepped her boundaries, discovered the God Who Sees Me, in spite of her sin (Genesis 16:13).
  • Moses, the runaway prince turned shepherd, found I Am Who I Am, his true God and King and regained his calling (Exodus 3:14).
  • The once self-sufficient Abraham realized God was the LORD Who Provides (Genesis 22:13-14).

Did instructions follow? Often.

Yet before instruction, God gave revelation.

Why?

Because God’s not interested in employees. He wants sons and daughters willing to work alongside their Father.

Someone who’s willing to feed the Spirit’s flame rather than setting the thermostat on auto.

So, before you seek His will, sit at His feet. Know before you go.

Workout of the Week: Know Before You Go

Memory Verse: “Be still, and know that I am God; . . .” Psalm 46:10a

Meditation Passage: Psalm 46

Just Do It: Know before you go.

Instant, It’s Not the Norm

Instant, It's Not the Norm

Instant goose bumps.

Instant answers.

Instant change.

The exception, not the rule in Scripture.

What’s a lot more normal?

Perserverance.

Noah spent 100 years digging out splinters, shaking sawdust from his feet, and pleading with lost neighbors as he built the ark (Genesis 6-7 NIV).

Abraham and Sarah endured twenty-five years of negative pregnancy tests before the pickle and ice cream cravings prior to Isaac’s birth, though Zechariah and Elizabeth waited even longer for John the Baptist (Genesis 12:4; 21:5; Luke 1:5-7).

The Israelites scraped clay out from under their toenails for hundreds of years before their deliverance from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:40-41).

Let’s train for perseverance this week. Here’s a handful of verses for your workouts. Consider meditating on one each day:

  • Romans 5:2-5 “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7 “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
  • James 1:4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
  • Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
  • 2 Peter 1:5-8 “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.”

Is there a time and place for the instant? Sure. Water turning into wine. The healing of the woman with the issue of blood. Jesus’ transfiguration.

Yet, even the resurrection took three days, so let’s not ground our faith on the instant. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He can and does work instantly, but even Jesus waits for God the Father to give the nod for His own return.

Celebrate the instant when it comes, but let’s be prepared to persevere when God calls us to travel the longer road.

Workout of the Week: Instant, It’s Not the Norm

Memory Verse: James 1:4  “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Meditation Passage: Choose one of the verses above.

Just Do It: Prepare to persevere.

Out of Balance—and Good With It

Out of Balance and Good With It

My feet dig into the cedar mulch of life’s playground as I struggle to master the seesaw of calling. Work on one end, relationships on the other. One soars, the other plummets. Thud.

Yet, balance leaves me motionless, feet dangling in midair, mouth dry as the 60 Minutes theme plays in my head.

Then God brings this verse to mind, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . .” Colossians 3:23 (NIV).

God’s word to me? Don’t strive for balance.

Shocking, I know.

God wants me to go hard after the thing before me. Family, school, writing, the dog, me time? Each will take its turn in due course. With God’s guidance, I will accomplish the right tasks at the right time. My part? Give one hundred percent to whatever I do (be it dishes, devotionals, or dissertations) without feeling guilty about the other responsibilities waiting in line. Work at one with all my heart, then put that task aside and leave it.

No, really. Leave it.

Due to health issues with my mother-in-law, our son, and a variety of friends, my husband and I spent October to December in hospital rooms. Pumpkins sat on my porch well into December and our tree didn’t go up until the Monday before Christmas.

Balance? Nonexistent, but God placed us where we were needed. The world kept turning. Christmas came and went. And while most of my to-do list stalled, God’s peace flowed and His will was accomplished.

So how about it? Will you trust God with the calendar, with the to-do list, with the next five minutes? Whatever He gives you to do, work at it with all your heart, ‘cause remember, you’re working for Him.

Workout of the Week: Unbalanced—and Good With It

Memory Verse: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . .” Colossians 3:23 (NIV).

Meditation Passage: Colossians 3:15-17

Just Do It: One thing at a time.

Don’t Feed the Wolves: Letting the Enemy Go Hungry

Caribou Piece: Part 2

Don't Feed the Wolves

Today’s post, Part 2, continues our discussion from last week of a recent class assignment: Visit a museum, choose a piece of art, and write on it. Carl Rungius titled this painting Caribou’s Death Struggle. Last week, we focused on the battle between brothers. The two caribou battle to the death, but inadvertently lock horns. The victor is trapped and now faces death himself. This week, I want to point you toward the other figures in the painting. Dark ones lurk in the background, waiting for the victor to weaken. The real enemy doesn’t lift a finger. The caribou take themselves out. The wolves and vultures simply wait for a free meal.

The flesh and our inability to control it can make us an easy meal for the evil one. Refusing to master a particular sin, ignoring God’s voice, or giving in to impulse or appetite can make us easy pickings for the demonic forces.

Timothy’s second letter (2 Timothy 1:7) reads, “ For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” God expects us to practice the principles of this verse—despite the fact that culture runs counter to it. Fleshly choices have spiritual consequences, whether the choice centers on one Christmas cookie too many, one-upping the sibling that irks you, or one too many charges on the credit card.

So, enjoy the holidays. Love fiercely. Give generously. Choose wisely.

But let the enemy go hungry this winter.

Workout of the Week: Let the Enemy Go Hungry

Memory Verse: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Meditation Passage: Genesis 4:6 “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’”

Just Do It: Don’t feed the wolves.

Battles Between Brothers: A Not-So-Civil War

Caribou Piece: Part 1

 

Battles Between Brothers

Today’s post stems from a recent class assignment: Visit a museum, choose a piece of art, and write on it. Carl Rungius titled this work Caribou’s Death Struggle. The two caribou battle to the death, but inadvertently lock horns. Trapped, the victor faces death himself.

When I saw this painting, I immediately thought of Galatians 5:15 (NIV), “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Holidays bring a great deal of stress with them, especially if you have a fun family, as in dysfunctional. Times that should be celebratory can end in hurt and anger. Let’s see what we can learn from these two caribou.

First, the fight. What caused it? A battle for territory? Possessions? A challenge of leadership? We don’t know. What we do know is that brother battled brother. They should have been on the same side.

Don’t they—and we—struggle enough without fighting each other?

I don’t see this battle as part of God’s intended order.

Not for His caribou.

Certainly not for man.

What’s to be gained from a fight?

The satisfaction of being right? Having the last word? Self-defense?

James 4:1-2 (NIV) reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

Yet, look at what’s to be gained from not engaging in the fight.

Grace. Humility. Brotherhood.

And—we live.

As we head into the holiday season, may this piece challenge us to show patience, mercy, and grace to those relatives who try to lock horns with us.

Workout of the Week: Not-So-Civil War

Memory Verse: Galatians 5:15 (NIV) “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

Meditation Passage: James 4:1-2 (NIV) reads, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.”

Just Do It: Disengage.