Before You Get Up, Lay Down

Before I make my coffee, before I plan my day, before I check my phone, even before I get out of bed, I talk to God.

Before I get up, I lay down. Not literally. But I lay down my day before the Lord. I ask him to have his will in my life and to guide my day. I ask him to make me more like him. I ask him to strengthen me for whatever lies ahead. I ask for diligence and patience and kindness. I ask for favor.

It only takes a minute or so, but this minute helps me to ground myself and focus for the day. It helps me to recognize where my strength comes from. You don’t have to wake up at 4:30 am, light candles and spend hours on a calming morning routine. You can if you want! But I find giving God these first few minutes every day sets my day off in the right direction.

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When He Saved Me

As I reflect this Easter Sunday, I think of the goodness of God in my life. I sing on the praise team at my church and it’s not uncommon for people to come up to talk about worship after the service.

I’ve been asked more than once how I have so much energy during worship. I usually credit it to caffeine and the Holy Spirit, both of which help. But the main reason I have so much “energy” is because of my gratitude for all God has done.

Have you ever seen a video of a lottery winner? They are usually screaming, crying, or jumping in disbelief. Why? Because they know they’re lives are about to radically change.

Every opportunity I have to lift up the name of Jesus, I do it with everything in me because I remember when he saved me.

I remember how I rejected him for years. I remember how I pretended I didn’t need him. I remember how despite the truth that I ignored and disrespected him, he still reached down and pulled me out of the pit.

When he saved me, my life changed radically; and like the lottery winner, whenever I think about that change, I celebrate.

Teach Them the Language

“In those days also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people.”

‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭13:23-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I read this verse last week in my studying. I was reading about how Nehemiah helped orchestrate the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its walls after the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The people of Israel had been separated from their homes. They had married foreign people, which God had instructed them not to do so they wouldn’t be drawn away from him. 

As a result, their children were unable to speak the native language of the Israelites. As believers, we have a native language: Faith. I wonder if we are teaching our children that language.

My mother in law once said, “The kingdom of God has a language: Faith. If you can’t speak it, it’s going to be very hard to operate in God’s kingdom.”

When I went to Mexico a few years ago, I mostly stayed at a resort where English was spoken. But when I did go into the city, I needed to know the language. Luckily, I grew up in Texas, so I knew enough to get by. 

Unfortunately, this is the situation for many believers. They grew up in a home where they caught pieces of the language of faith, but because it wasn’t intentionally taught to them, they only know enough to get by. 

Jesus didn’t call us to just get by. He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! (John 10:10). We have to be intentional about instructing our children about the things of God. We have to teach them not just how to pray, but why we pray. Children will do what they see. 

Every morning, my son is up before most of us in the house. I wish I had his energy! He usually goes downstairs with my husband who also wakes up early to read and study the Bible. He had the habit of grabbing his tablet and headphones and just watching something until it was time to get moving for the day.

While we are not opposed to him being on his tablet in the morning, my husband and I decided it wasn’t the best way to start his day. Recently, he’s started beginning his day by reading his Bible before getting on his tablet. 

It’s not a punishment or a requirement we’re forcing him to do. We want him to see it as encouragement to start the day with time with God. That before anything else happens in the day, it’s important to see what God may want to speak to you.

Let your children see you worship, pray, and read your Bible. Teach them the importance of giving, serving and fasting. It is our responsibility to teach them the language of faith before they enter the world so that they can operate abundantly in God’s kingdom.

Don’t Forget the Main Ingredient

Last night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, finishing our evening coffee we have every night together when he gets home from work.

It wasn’t a busy day, but the kids and I had run some errands in the afternoon, so I didn’t really make plans for dinner. I figured I’d make tacos because we all love them and they’re fairly easy, but I didn’t have any ground beef.

As I neared the end of my coffee, I told him I didn’t have a plan for dinner so we were going to pick up food. I told him that I was going to make tacos, but didn’t have any meat.

“Isn’t that the main ingredient you need to make tacos!” he laughed, almost spitting out his coffee. WE both laughed and then ordered a pizza.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing a message for my women’s event at church. Today as I gathered what I needed for my message, I sat back to make sure I had everything. Notes, check. Bible, check. Clothes ready, check.

I felt ready to go. Then I remembered I was forgetting the main ingredient. I paused and dropped down to my knees.

Lord, will you be with me tonight? Will you fill my mouth with your words? Will you meet us as we gather and meet the needs of your women?”

What started as a quick, almost forgotten prayer, turned into hours of prayer and praise and worship. I almost forgot the main ingredient that would ensure that no matter who did or didn’t show up for the service, God would be there.

Have you ever made something and forgot an ingredient or used the wrong ingredient? Missing an ingredient can ruin an entire meal. Leaving out prayer and worship can ruin even weeks worth of preparation and planning.

No amount of preparation or planning can replace the presence of God. Make room for him and invite him into everything you do.

LEGO and Let God

My son and I often build LEGO projects together and honestly, I think I enjoy it more than he does. It never fails that once we approach around the 75% completed mark, he ditches me to start playing with some of the completed characters and weapons. I really don’t mind since he builds much slower than me and now I can have the rest all to my self!

But during the time that we ARE working as a team, I have the task of finding the pieces for the page we’re on. While he is putting together one section, I’m able to look further along the page and collect all of the pieces he needs for the section coming up. While putting together an intricate Ironman Hulkbuster build, he noticed that as soon as he was done with one section, I already had his next pieces waiting. “Wow! You always have everything ready so fast!”, he told me.

What he doesn’t realize is that while he’s focusing on his job (building the current section), I am already planning for what’s coming next. He just has to trust that I’ll have his pieces ready when he needs them.

This is exactly what faith allows us to do. All we have to do is work on our current assignment while we trust that God is preparing what we need next, for exactly when we need it. It’s easy to get stressed out about the future and wonder if what you’re hoping for will pan out. But faith helps us to remember that even if we don’t see it, God has a plan already figured out!

Do you find it difficult to trust God for your future? Honestly, at times I do. I have to remind myself frequently not to worry and trust God in every detail of my life. One passage of scripture in Matthew always helps to strengthen my faith and remind me of God’s faithfulness when I begin to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the future.

In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus tells us not to worry about our lives. Let me be clear: he never says not to plan for life. In fact, the book of Proverbs encourages us to be prepared for life. But worry and preparation are two different things.

Worry and anxiety will cause you to stress about things outside of your control. Preparation is careful planning for circumstances we know will happen eventually so by making a plan, we can eliminate unnecessary stress when they do happen.

So often we worry about things that God has already pulled the pieces out for. We just don’t see Him do it! Our future spouse, our children’s college, our retirement plans, we can trust God to meet these needs. Jesus tells us to “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”(Matthew 6:26 ESV).

God provides for the birds every day and I’m more important to him than a sparrow! A sparrow can’t share the gospel or encourage a grieving family or give to a ministry. God needs his people to be healthy, prosperous and spiritually fit so we can do his work here on earth.

The next time you feel stressed about your life or future, remember that God has already gathered all of the pieces for your life and all you need to do is stay busy on the instructions you are currently on.

Do you currently have young children at home? Focus on training them in the ways of God. Are you working at a less than ideal job? Continue to work hard as if unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17). Don’t get so bogged down in the details of the day that you feel like your assignment is a distraction. It’s all a part of God’s overall plan for you life.

If my son and I missed just one step in our LEGO build, our design would not have come together how we hoped. Psalm 37:23 says “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;”. How comforting is this? When we delight in the Lord, obey his instructions and follow his plans for us, we have a guarantee that he will guide our steps so our lives will reflect not just what we hope for, but what he’s planned for them.

An Open Book Test

Every year, my husband and I begin the year with 21 days of fasting and prayer. During these times, I’ve seen God answer prayers, give vision and direction, and speak to my heart about a specific promise or assignment. I often come off of the fast with wide eyes and high expectations for the blessings of God to flow through my life in an unprecedented way! But then I’m reminded of Jesus’ experience when he ended his fast and trust me, it’s much different than what I expect at the end of mine!

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew‬ ‭4:1-2‬ ‭ESV)‬‬

In fasting and prayer, where was he taken? He wasn’t led into the city to start “Son of God Christian Church”. He wasn’t led to write a book “How to Save Sinners and Stay Fit”. He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan (I won’t even get started on how it was the Spirit that led him there!).

While I truly believe that God has great and precious promises in store for those who call him Lord (2 Peter 1:4), we will all experience times of trials and testing. And guess what? They aren’t all from the devil!

The times when we feel tested are times when God is able to root out things in us that don’t need to be there. I homeschool my kids right now and every so often, they have tests. The tests aren’t to beat them down or make them upset. They are to show me the areas that they’ve mastered and the areas where more work is needed.

When we are tested, God can use this time to help us see the areas we have grown in or need maturity. These times cause us to rely on what we know to be true about our position in Christ, which we discover through the Word of God. And the Word of God was exactly what Jesus used during his time of testing.

Satan tried three times to tempt Jesus into worshipping him, but each time, Jesus declared what was already written in God’s Word. We cannot combat the attacks of the enemy without the Word of God. This is why he fights us so hard when we try to read the Bible! Have you ever noticed the amount of interruptions you experience when you’re trying to read the Bible (better yet, how sleepy you get?!)

It’s because our enemy knows the power that the Word of God carries. Don’t forget he lived in heaven! He’s seen the strength and power of God’s word first hand, and if he can’t have it, he will do all he can to stop you from having it! He wants to separate you from God’s word. That’s what he did to Eve in the garden.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” (Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Satan successfully employed two tricks he likes to often use to distract us: He wants us alone and he wants us to doubt God’s word. He waited until Eve was alone to attack. During times when you feel alone, that’s when Satan makes his move. He’s after the one sheep that got separated from the other 99. He’s after the young woman who has stopped coming to church regularly and has distanced herself from her friends.

Did you know that God has never been alone? I heard this from an amazing teacher, Jackie-Hill Perry. That our God is a triune God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. She said we are never more unlike God than when we isolate ourselves. Wow! Let that sink in.

Satan waited for Eve to be alone and then tried to cause her to doubt God’s instruction. And most of us know what happened next: the rest of humanity has been plagued with sin, sickness, shame, lust, lying, deceit, death and a whole slew of other problems (including pain during childbirth!) that can only be overcome by the blood of Jesus Christ. Thanks a lot, Eve!

Thankfully, like Jesus, we are never truly alone. Like our Savior, we have the Word of God and the Spirit of God to strengthen us during times of testing. Not to mention a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and Jesus Christ himself, at the right hand of God, making intercession for us! That sounds like victory to me.

Unlike many tests in school, we can take our tests with an open book! There are no sweeter words to a student than “This will be an open book test”. A wave of relief and confidence would fill the classroom instantly! Like Jesus, during times of testing, I encourage you to bury yourself in God’s Word. Memorize scriptures, familiarize yourself with stories from the Bible, listen to faith filled messages by Spirit-led teachers. Use the Word of God to sustain you and I promise, you will pass with flying colors.

Having a Full Tank

When I was younger, my mom would frequently take me and my sister on a casual ride around town. We always looked forward to these rides because it meant we were ordering lunch! I now realize they were just a tool to get us out of the house she’d just cleaned.

We would drive around for what felt like hours, and we’d ask my mom, “Are we lost?”. See, I grew up in the days before GPS. We didn’t have Siri telling us to make a left in half a mile or to continue straight (one of the most pointless directions!). We were on our own! My mom would always tell us, “As long as we have a full tank of gas, we’re never lost!”

As an adult, there have been times when I’ve felt lost. Am I going in the right direction for my children? Am I making progress towards my dreams? How do I balance life, work, and family? It’s during those times, I’m reminded of those long drives with my mom: “As long as I have a full tank of gas, I’m never lost.”

It’s when our tank begins to run low that we begin to feel anxious about the journey. When the bank account balance isn’t enough for an unplanned bill; when we suffer an unexpected loss that depletes our joy; when we can’t seem to rebuild a broken relationship. What do we do?

The same thing we do when our cars run low on gas: refuel. I’m horrible about letting my car get to “E”. The gas light pops on, but instead of filling up at the first warning, I wait until the last possible moment (my gas light goes off again after a few miles, then comes back on to give me one last chance to fill up before I’m stranded!).

Honestly, I have the same bad habit when it comes to life. I go and go and go and despite the warnings, red flags, and sputtering, I wait until the last minute to refuel. I wait until I’m snapping at my kids or I give a snarky response to someone at church.

Jesus tells us in John 3:23 that his words are spirit and they are life. Simply put, they are the fuel we need to continue day after day. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert when God provided manna every morning for them. The Israelites asked, “What is it?” which is what manna means. They weren’t sure what it was but they knew it would sustain them. They knew it would give them strength for the tasks of the day.

I’m not sure why we, as believers, allow ourselves to run down when His word has never been more available to us. Sometimes I feel like this unlimited access to every version of the Bible ever written, hundreds of reading plans to choose from, and thousands upon thousands of sermons online can be overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong: I’m thankful for the accessibility that technology has provided when it comes to studying God’s word. But sometimes I end up spending more time searching for content than just sitting in communion (#thatsaword).

I’m striving to live out the words from the prayer Jesus taught his disciples: “give us today our daily bread”. I need fresh fuel every day. I need direction for what I might encounter in the day that I am in and how to handle it. I don’t want to wait until I’m running on fumes and barely make it to my destination.

I don’t want to look up and see that I’ve been driving in the wrong direction for the last 5 miles. I want to be on the path that God has set out for me and enjoy the ride, knowing, that being full of the Spirit of God, I am never lost.