by Jennifer Osborn
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
I’m one of those types of people that fights the notion of a being defined as either an introvert or an extrovert. Can there be a term called “middlevert”?
I love being around people of the same passion, who push me to the place of discovery and inspiration. When those moments happen, I am screaming inside “those are my peeps!” Like-minded folks reaffirm the path and calling God has put me on and actually fuels me to devise new ways of applying myself. There is nothing like it.
But I also find that if I’m around people too much, I become moody and frustrated. I need my alone time, or rather my “me” time to methodically unravel, to paint and write and play as it were. I know my play times are really about processing creativity. Introspection is a happy place for me.
The thing about passions -- whether you process them alone or with others -- is that if the fire of that burns too long without being fed, it will become a destructive force. Visionaries, parents, entrepreneurs, and creatives tend to push beyond the normal human boundaries because of their love of what they are building.
I know when I stop working on those things that I love, I wrestle with guilt as a result. The nagging voice in my head tells me at 9:00 at night, I can get one more thing done, or send out one more email. Mind you, these are about things I love. Well, okay, there are a few things I don’t actually love, but need to be done.
But am I being spiritually healthy?
I know that answer before I even ask it. It’s a resounding “no”.
While I play with the notion of being a middlevert, what I’ve come to understand is that the times of alone to play and rest are exactly what God calls us to for our well being. We are not called to run head long into non-stop work with no rest even when we love it. I see leaders who are heralded and praised for their drive to push to take more ground without regrouping or “restocking” the supplies of self or in others who are below them.
Resting feels contrary to the intuitive nature for more.
It’s much like taking a toy from a toddler who is falling asleep while playing with it. You slowly try to extricate it from their grasp while they doze off, only to find they jerk awake and cry with anxiety at the removal. But you have the perspective to know they need to sleep.
When we see the examples of Jesus, he was constantly going off by himself, away from the crowds and resting and connecting with God. When he worked, it was powerful, and when he rested he operated from the very command to stop.
I know I’m learning that lesson. But I also realize the very real struggle that surrounds me from the external forces that I keep going -- that I add one more hour of work, that I answer one more email, that I actually blur the lines of start and stop.
I sacrifice sleep.
I blow past set boundaries.
I succumb to the demand for more around me.
But God is calling me to rest. Not just calling me, but commanding me. Isn’t it an interesting thing that the call to rest was so important it was an actual command and not a suggestion? To paraphrase God, “You might really work hard six days, but that seventh day is a day in which I want you to put down your toy and rest.” God had to command us to do it because in our very human nature that drives us to accomplish more and more we wouldn’t stop until we collapse.
So what is your toy that you refuse to let down? Is it your job? The demands from your boss? Your kid’s overbooked schedules? The new business you are trying to start? Whatever it is it can either rule you or you will rule it.
I’m committed to disappoint a few people in order to refresh. I want to be found right in the center of God’s rest as he has commanded me to do. As a leader, I want to model that to those under my watch as well.
So today, I challenge you to start making hard lines of “rest” for yourself in your hectic schedules.
Take time to journal what is it that drives you to the point of no rest. Ask the Holy Spirit into that conversation and begin to build your boundaries of stop and start.
Join me in being an middlevert. :)
Jennifer Osborn is the director of communications for My 31 Sisters, Founder of Conversations of Hope, artist and teacher. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @jenosborn89.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
John 15: 5-6
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
I'm sitting here on my porch steps staring at long green succulent stalks of plants that should have an array of colorful blooms, yet is merely...green. They appear healthy but have no flowers on them.
Where are the blooms?
I did some research and found from “The Spruce” some top reasons why a flowering plant won’t bloom. The site suggest the plants need fertilizers, they were pruned at the wrong time, they are too young (new plant), they need sun, or it they have suffered some winter damage.
I can’t help but think of our spiritual life like that.
We have a source of nourishment that comes from our relationship with God that prunes us, fertilizes us, bathes us in sonshine and grows us to maturity, if we but abide in the branch.
But what do you do in when you find you’ve suffered damage from a spiritual winter?
My winter typically comes from circumstances that don’t work out like I hoped, trials that I can’t navigate on my own, or difficult people that seem one thing but act quiet another. Those things can leave me bending over under the weight. I find I’m left living in the tension of “God’s promises are true” and “I am so frustrated because this is hard”. Those two realities can hold hands most of the time, but when they don’t, I find myself fighting off the damage.
If I’m not intentional I can become frustrated and break myself off of the vine, the one and only place I can thrive and bloom. Oh I might look green and healthy on the outside, but the places where I should display color and beauty only blends into blandness. After all, I am a branch and can’t be a healthy plant on my own. I was made to bloom. When I can’t, there’s a problem.
I’m so glad that God bears all the responsibility to feed me as a branch. But in return, I bear the responsibility to be plugged into him as a vine. That connection has to be built on trust, no matter what appears to be going on around me. If I don’t, I won’t bloom like I was made to do.
Habakkuk understood that what happens around us does not mean God is not at work, nor does it mean good isn’t coming as a result. We have to lean in and deliberately trust that he has it and that he will eventually put us in a place of safety.
Friends, are you pulling away from the vine or running towards it? Have you recognized a lack of blooming due to trials and winter damage? Do what you need to, trust him, bathe in the sonshine and be fed from your heavenly father. It’s so worth it.
John 1:11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
As of late I’ve been experiencing rejection, and I don’t just mean in the context of query letter to agents, I mean being hemmed in by rejection on all sides.
From friends, family, trusted allies.
It seems to follow me. I’m not good enough, or wise enough or talented enough. I fall short over and over again no matter how hard I try. I honestly don’t believe in the credo that if you just work long and hard enough you’ll make it and people will accept you and you’ll find the elusive success. It doesn’t always work, because people disappoint -- over and over again. In their frailties and flaws, they will reject you and disappoint you and will never see you like God sees you.
And I’m here to say, it’s okay. I’m actually saying it with a sincere smile. God is growing me in the most perfect way possible. A way that is born out of rejection and heartache -- a way that will strengthen your very spiritual life to iron.
One day while I was driving home after one of a myriad of rejections, I angrily asked God why? Why? Why was it I was only experiencing rejection and not acceptance and success? My anger burned hot and there were some tears. But God gently spoke to me that he is building me to be the kind of person he wants me to be and that kind of person can only become that way through walking the same path of rejection that Jesus walked. Sure he had his 12 friends around him, but in the end, when he was facing the most extreme thing ever, they all ran away.
I was also reminded about Joseph and how he was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. I’m sure he had plenty of bitter tears as he endured it. But in the end, God used that rejection in the most spectacular great way imaginable.
Truth be told, I could wallow and be angry about these things, but in the end I know that God is using them for my good. We see and feel rejection, but God gives us acceptance and lets nothing about our lives and experiences go to waste.
It’s in rejection that God shows us our validation only comes from him. If the world’s rejection doesn’t matter then neither will its praise and we will operate from the true source of our identity.
So, I’ll admit it. I am a reject of the world, but an accepted child of God and that is more than enough for me.
Verses to hang your hope on:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1 NIV
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NIV
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely
by Lysa TerKeurst
Dealing With The Rejection and Praise of Man
By: Bob Sorge
Apply and consider
What areas of your life do you feel the most rejection? Are you processing under God’s watchful eye or are you processing it under your own criticism? Make a plan to counter at least one lie that is told to you through rejection. Write the truth on a card and when you feel tempted to speak lies back to yourself, reach for the card.
"As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni [son of my trouble]. BUT his father named him Benjamin [son of my right hand]."
Growing up I felt pretty sure I knew who I was. My mentally ill father told me constantly how he saw me. He had a vicious side to him and the verbal abuse was unrelenting and only one of the ways in which he tormented us. If we did anything he didn’t like (which was often) we were just like our mother whom he hated. If we did something he liked, we were just like him. It was confusing and painful. A child will internalize it and just like their name, it becomes who they are. I grew up thinking I was less than and unworthy, a sentiment that followed me well into adulthood.
However, God stepped into my path and said “but”.
Rachel may have called Ben a curse and blamed her innocent child for her own death, but Jacob stepped in and changed the narrative. I love that he had experienced his own moment of renaming by God from Jacob to Israel in the prior verses. So, identity was not lost on him. He probably took that small bundle of kicking joy, kissed his tiny head and said “no”, he was the “son of his right hand”. The right hand has lots of significance in Jewish culture and in biblical references. It signifies blessing, inheritance, strength and favor. In essence Jacob, or rather Israel, had a moment of clarity and gave Ben what he needed, a new name, a new identity. Not a curse, but a blessing.
It’s the same with us.
….And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate.
O my friends, we are not accidents, we are not unredeemable and we are not set in our broken ways. It’s a subtle lie that the enemy wants us to believe to keep us from what God wants to do in our lives.
God longs to rename us into his identity. He wants us to stop telling ourselves what the world and even our own parents pronounce over us and change it to what he says about us. I am no longer the daughter of a monster, but the daughter of the king. He remade me and said I was to be at his right hand. Isn’t that awesome?
“God, please help me see that my identity is not what others tell me it is, I’m not broken, unusable and cursed, but I am made whole in you, I am a vessel that you will use and you bless me. Help me to see I am your child and no one else’s. Amen”.
Go, be Benjamin!
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in
weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that
Christ’s power may rest on me.
Okay, even I’ll admit that my reaction to the title of this blog hits me square in the gut.
Weakness is cool? Really? Can I put that in the “not” category?
We are a nation of doing things, better, faster, stronger. Even the number one New Year’s
resolution is “getting fit” or stronger as it were. We value strength, we celebrate it and
most times we are envious of those who seem to have it. It’s in books, commercials and
TV shows. When was the last time the hero of the story was what we consider a wimp?
It’s not something we celebrate.
We see the desire for being personally strong in our bodies, in our minds, and our
emotions. Let’s face it, we want everyone to perceive us as rock solid in everything. We
feverishly cover the cracks of any frailties when they leach out.
Yet, God says something very interesting to Paul in the second letter to the Corinthian
church. He shared something vital that defies the notion of what it is to be strong.
When Paul asked God to deliver him from a weakness, or a thorn in the flesh, God’s
response was straightforward. Paul’s weakness was the conduit for God’s power.
Scholars don’t really know exactly what the thorn was, some speculate it was weak
eyesight, yet others think it was his guilt of the actions in his past, while even others say
it was the persecution around him from the Jewish leaders of his time that stymied him.
Whatever it was, it remained, unchanged. Yet, it was to be the primary way in which God
Our weakness = God’s strength. Pretty remarkable. Yet, something I don’t really want to
hear. I don’t want to struggle with a weakness.
I want to be the triumphant woman made of steel, able to leap pettiness in a single bound.
To crush emotional frailties with my amazing intellect. To be the one that everyone looks
at and admires because of the sheer might of my will. I do not want to be labeled weak,
broken or flawed. Admittedly, I hide those cracks in my armor. I don’t put them out
there because I want to be the perfect woman who has every aspect of my life under
control. But I don’t and I suspect you don’t either.
My reactions to my weaknesses are typically self-loathing or condemnation. The internal
dialogue has me chiding myself when I mess up or can’t handle something like I think I
should. Yet, we are to boast in our shortcomings because God is going to show up there.
It’s hard to think about putting our “ugly” out there, but we should be willing to expose it.
I’m not saying it’s a free pass to just keep indulging in it, but to let down the wall around
it and letting God into it. I’m also not saying to stop a stranger on the street and tell them
your most intimate details. Yikes! A trusted friend is a great place to start.
But, before you run the other way, let me encourage you in all of this. God loves our
frailties, our brokenness and our messiness, where we don’t know how to overcome
something, BECAUSE, he wants to be the one to infuse us with his power in that thing
that undoes us. Really, he is the only one who can. We have to be willing to invite him
into that very uneasy space of the things we can’t seem to get a grip on.
He not only wants to give us power in it, he wants to give his perfect power. And
sometimes the only way for him to work is to get us out of the way. Too many times I
find ways to do something without ever seeking God in it. If I feel strong or capable in
something I tend to forget to seek God in it because I feel like I have it all under control.
I get in the way of God by not going to him first.
So, stop beating yourself up in your broken moments or weakness. That part of yourself
is the part that God is the closest to and he wants to work through it.
A broken pot can be mended by the potter. Sometimes he mends the crack, sometimes he
God, please help me to stop beating myself up over my weakness or confirming I am
“less than” in my own head. Come into this place and act according to your promise
that you want your perfect power in my weakness. Help me to trust you with it and
rejoice that you have it all under control. To that end, take away my own self-judgment
about the inability to overcome and teach me to seek you in it and to be honest outwardly
about my weakness, flaws, and broken places. Use them to your glory. Amen
(AND NO not two arm pits... :) )
Genesis 37:23 - 24
23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they strip Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colors that was on him;
24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
2 Sam 23:20
20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.
Pits are scary things. Steep walls, no way out. It is a suffocating trap that gives me cold sweats.
Pit walls remind me of some steeps embankments of crumbly sandstone that surround creeks in Southeastern Kentucky. If you fall over that ledge you are essentially trapped until you can find a lower part to climb up.
The two situations remind me of two different approaches to pits. Joseph was thrown down one by his brothers in an effort to get rid of him, although I can give Ruben a pass because he meant to rescue him. And then there is Benaiah, who jumped down into a pit that had a lion in it. Pretty brave stuff on his part. I can see the rippling muscles of a weathered warrior as he set out to slay that fierce animal.
Two pits…two situations…and I would argue, two attitudes.
We don’t really know what Joseph was thinking, but later in his life he lamented that he knew what his brothers meant for evil (casting him into the pit) God used for good, so he must have all sorts of uncontrollable thoughts racing around his head at the time as to what his fate would be. I can bet he called to them to let him out. I bet he cried, pled, even threatening them to be pulled out. I can see him feeling around that pitch black hole, hoping for an escape. He probably even dealt with some pretty overwhelming fear. Admittedly, that is me most times when I’m in the deepest part of a metaphorical pit.
Enter Benaiah. We don’t know much about why he jumped down in that pit to slay that lion, but he did. His heart probably pounded as he was mere inches from menacing claws that could rip him in half and teeth that could eat him in a couple of bites. Not to mention his fingers were probably frozen with cold as he gripped his spear. But he stood firm and killed that lion. It doesn’t say he was hurt, but I can almost imagine him climbing out with deep claw marks on arms.
Isn’t that us? Sometimes we are in pits of the unknown or pits with a ferocious lion. We can either be afraid or we can slay the lion. I want to say I’ll be brave, but I bet I’d be more like Joseph, afraid.
Even if we are afraid, there is an important note here. God worked through that pit. It took years for the apparent reason for it to come to light, but it did eventually materialize. But there was battle after battle, but the reason did come. When the reason showed for Joseph, he was so overwhelmed he wept uncontrollably. Ever have that feeling? When the reason is revealed as to why you suffered and was put into a pit? It’s a beautiful moment where relief is so profound you are reduced to raw emotion.
God, I pray I learn to trust you more in the pit. Whether or not I’m being carried off to a figurative Egypt or facing a hungry lion on a snowy day. Help me to see you working in all things and through all things. Help me to trust no matter how afraid I get. Amen.
The room is full of people and your Father is across the room. You hear music playing, people talking, and even the rush of the traffic outside the door that is located behind you’re Father. At one point you could even hear the birds singing in the trees outside. However, you could not hear your Father. You asked him over and over to give you your answer, to the point where your throat hurt from the pain of screaming. You were telling him to speak louder, but he remained calm with a smile on his face. He replied at the same tone every time. He focused on you, not the room. He was persistent, but patient. Through the distorted room no matter how hard you tried you couldn’t hear him.
Until one day you remained calm. You sat down in a chair. You didn’t focus on the sounds and commotion around you. You focused your eyes on your Father. This time it felt as if you were the only two in the room. Instead of screaming, you whisper. You ask patiently and you waited. This time as HE answered his answer was clear and loud, but yet a whisper.
Sometimes when we ask God for an answer, we listen to hard for the answer. We listen to the people around us. We listen to our selfish wants and needs. If we only remained calm and patient we could hear our answer. God will never abandon us.
Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you
His answers may not come the way we want them to come, but if we remain faithful and our eyes fixed on him he will speak to us.
I'm thinking on the fruits of the Spirit today. Or more importantly, God is putting it on my mind.
Of course, the first thing I do is Google! Wikipedia says this, "The Fruit of the Holy Spirit is a biblical term that sums up nine attributes of a Christian life according to Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Galatians"
BUT I THINK THIS MISSES THE POINT. The fruits of the spirit are not things we strive towards, they aren't a list of attributes of a "good Christian", THEY ARE GIFTS! Cause thank goodness, if I had to do all that on my own, I’d never get it done. Seriously, I’ve spent years beating myself up on any number of those things that I’m NOT. Hello, waistline, have you met self control? Evidently not! Patience? Have you seen me try to get out of the house in the morning? Not my strong suit.
We get "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control GIFTED to us when we ask the Holy Spirit into our lives! We can ask Him to fill our tanks, to soothe our wounds, to cover us completely. Because it's not in our striving to achieve we please Him, it's in our accepting the gifts already given. So go forth my sisters, know that you can stop striving and just start accepting! YOU ARE WORTHY, YOU ARE LOVED!
I love you and so does He,
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.
2 Corinthians 1:10
“….set your hope” on Christ.
Romans 15:13 NIV
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large.
As an orphan of sorts, I grew up despising hope. Gut level, “get away from me” despise. The chaos of my house left everyone feeling like they had to be in constant survival mode, preparing yourself for the blind-sided blowup. So you learned to live with your guard up and it is exhausting.
Early on, I learned not to trust hope. Hope felt like a flimsy friend trying to pull me into a pyramid scheme. It said, “You know, if you put your money here, it will triple and you’ll be set for life”, only for me to realize I trusted Bernie Madoff.
I became the rejecter of hope. I stood back and looked at hope with its vulnerability and saw safety in pessimism. I ran headlong to safety.
Hope seemed deadly.
Hope seemed disappointing.
Hope felt bad.
Hope was terrifying.
You see, in the world, hope is setting your trust in something. If you try to hope that someone or something is going to make your life better or intervene and save you and they don’t, you become angry and bitter and begin to build walls to keep that from happening again.
You tend to learn you logically don’t want hope in your life. It’s a sad existence. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize you are actually living without hope.
But, the truth of the matter is in the hidden recesses of your mind you pant for hope, you long for hope and hunger for it like you are withering away. The dichotomy of wanting hope and rejecting the risk of reaching for it is painful. The inevitability is to simply reject hope, even though it is the very vitamin to the soul's growth.
Discarding hope is not what Jesus wants and as believers, we need to learn our hope is Jesus. It sounds like a simple enough thing to try to do, but one of the hardest that an orphan can try to learn.
As an adult believer God came in and began to deal with me over my lack of hope. I was still living the orphan mentality of survival and not in the very real and lasting hope as a child of the King. He began to speak to me that I needed to linger in his hope. Not in the surety of my bank account or career or friends. Not even in the hope of a church, but in him alone. I needed to figure out how to place my very dwelling in the center of who he is.
The bible is very clear about this too. Even though it tells us the struggles of the world are many and persecutions will come, we are to still hope. In fact, it is a command to hope. Not a happy suggestion.
Where have you set your hope? Is it squarely on the shoulders of Jesus or is it on circumstances or things around you? I challenge you to start moving your focus from the safe pessimism to the beautiful hope of Jesus. Your life will never be the same.
Jesus is hope.
No one who hopes in (God) will ever be put to shame..(Psalm 25:3)
Dear God, may the Holy Spirit come and give us the wonder of hope. Show us that our hope is only in Jesus, that it is the very nature of who he is. Let us only look to him for that and challenge us this day to focus solely him. Amen
John 10:27 New International Version
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
Proverbs 16:9 New King James Version (NKJV)
A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
Recently, I had the opportunity to learn what the video team at my church did on a weekend. They had just upgraded the video equipment and built a new room to accommodate the growing demand for the broadcast of the services.
First, I was allowed to first shadow the director in the broadcast booth. He had a large monitor that displayed every camera in the building along with the queued graphics that needed to be displayed throughout the service. His view was all encompassing and he knew where each camera was trained. Additionally, he had an outline of the service step by step, so nothing was a surprise to him.
Next, I was put on a camera. The gentleman who trained me showed me how to zoom in and out and how to pan smoothly so I didn’t jerk the view. I learned about “head space” and the optimum way to put someone in the viewfinder.
The time came to run through the service and I was assigned a camera and a number. I had to wear a headset that was buzzing with a flurry of constant commands and observations. I listen for the director to call me with orders regarding my shot. But, I wasn’t just hearing my commands but everyone else’s as well. I had to learn to not react to other’s instructions and to wait for when he called me and what he needed me to do; whether he wanted me to “pull” or “push” or to reverse. The lingo was new and the equipment was foreign, but I began to learn how to operate the camera and to listen for the voice of my director only when it applied to me. He would tell me when he liked a certain shot and conversely if he didn’t. He would also announce when I was “on” (broadcasting) to make sure I was steady with my movements. Throughout the entire service, I had to be alert and waiting for the instructions to come.
It was fast paced and a little nerve wracking but completely exciting! And it taught me about God.
You see, the director had a full view of everything going on at any given moment, unlike my myopic sight. He saw where each camera was trained and what would make the preferred view for people watching. He seamlessly transitioned shots to make the program the best it could be and I had to learn to trust the director and to not pay attention to what he was telling others to do. I only had to listen my orders and comply. After all, my lens was smaller than his ultimate view.
Isn’t that what God wants from us? He wants us to trust that he sees the whole picture and knows how to fit everything together the right way. His view is all encompassing; our view is limited. Our job is to listen for what he tells us and to obediently respond. Imagine what it would be like to watch a show where all the camera folks controlled the show and not the director, it would be mass chaos.
We can’t be concerned with how God calls others. Their journey is their own. It’s unique to them. When we cannot compare how God has called them with how he has called us because our journeys are unique and only he has the big picture.
Are you trusting the great director with your life and listening to his voice for you?
“God, please make our hearts open to hear your voice. Make us sensitive to your direction for our steps. Help us not to compare our walk with someone else’s and to completely trust you as our good father. Amen. “
Jennifer Osborn is an award-winning young adult author, and dynamic speaker and artist, having authored over ten books. Currently, she is working on her autobiography, which chronicles her harrowing journey as the daughter of mentally ill parents who came to understand her full identity in Christ.