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Tag: discipleship

There’s Always Room for One More

I come from a small family. I have one sister and no cousins. Therefore, I did not grow up going to large family reunions. By contrast, my husband has seventeen aunts and uncles and countless cousins. Family reunions in his family are loud and joyous affairs.

My introduction to this dynamic came a few months after we were engaged. His grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and I was graciously invited to attend the celebration. There was lots of food, family, friends, and stories shared from the past. Near the end of the evening, one particular story began to unfold.

My husband’s grandparents were asked to stand on the stage, as a narrator began to tell the story of their life together. As they reached the part of their marriage story where they had children together, all of their sons and daughters joined them on the stage. Then, their children got married, so all of the spouses joined them on the stage. Then, they had grandchildren and all of the grandchildren joined them on the stage. At this point, there were probably more people on the stage than there were left in the audience.

The narrator announced that their family motto was: “There’s always room for one more.” At this point, they announced our engagement and asked me to also join the family on the stage. It was a warm, welcoming feeling to be included in such a legacy story. It feels good to be welcomed into a family.

There’s always room for one more. This phrase signifies inclusion. It signifies welcome. It signifies an open door. As far as family mottos go, this is a fantastic one. Now, let’s imagine: What if this was not just a family motto, but the message of the church? What if this was the message of our small groups or Bible studies?

Jesus spent his life ministering to and teaching a group of rag-tag disciples. He seemed to collect followers wherever he went. He didn’t seem to be bothered by them. In fact, it seemed he went out of his way to find them. Jesus didn’t even send them away when they ran out of food (Matthew 14). His disciples were afraid at the lack of provision and began to worry. They wondered, will there be enough? The self-preservation instinct will always get in the way of inviting new people in. Jesus, however, took the food that was, and multiplied it, providing enough for everyone. No one was hungry and no one was sent away.

As Christ followers, we are the light of the world and a city on a hill (Matthew 5:14). It’s awfully hard to hide light on a hilltop. It serves as an advertisement to everyone for miles: there’s provision here.

At this moment in history our American culture is divided and fragmented. I wish I could say that it didn’t seem to be affecting the Christians, but it does. Social media is a war zone of differing opinions. Instead of spreading a table for everyone, often we’re guilty of spreading tables for only those who share our likeness or values.

How, as the family of Christ, can we send out the banner: there’s always room for one more? This table isn’t closed. It isn’t ugly, divisive, or hypocritical. It’s where Life and Peace can be found. All are welcome here. We are brothers. We are sisters. We are sons and daughters of the King. Come, join us!

During this season of fear and anger, let us remember: the Kingdom of God is alive and well. The Holy Spirit is in the business of bringing new people to the table. Let us join arms as a family and be ready to welcome them with open arms.

Pause: Take a deep belly breath and slowly exhale. When you’re ready, read through the above verse a few times. What stands out to you about this verse?

Renew: Take a minute to evaluate your own life. In what ways and by what people have you been made to feel welcome? How did this affect you? In what ways and at what times do you try to make others feel welcome?

Next: As we collectively navigate a pandemic and divisive election, how can we go about treating each other with honor and provide welcome to new believers? What could that look like in our churches? What could that look like in your life?

May we remember the joy of being welcomed into the family of God and share that joy with others.

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Seeking Safety

Yesterday, I had a blueberry picking date by myself. It felt like a me-date because, as a mother of four, there are few times that I am left by myself for more than an hour at a time. I brought my phone and a podcast to listen to, but instead of using my phone as a distraction, I tuned into the sounds around me instead: the voices of a family picking blueberries two rows over, a mooing cow in the pasture across the road, a church bell chiming the hours.

As I picked, I found a rhythm. Blueberry picking can be quite meditative. Reach out, grab a handful of berries, and gently drop them, plunk, plunk, into the bucket. Reach out again, plunk, plunk.

I decided to be intentional with my quiet time. “Lord,” I prayed, “I want to listen to you today. Speak, and I want to listen.”

As often happens when I pray this prayer, no audible voice followed. No Bible verses dropped into my consciousness. In fact, my thoughts continued unabated, as they often do.

As I moved down the row of bushes, I felt, more than saw, a bird fly out of the blueberry bush in front of me.

“Was that my imagination?,” I thought, “That seems like a strange place for a bird, unless… Oh! I bet there’s a nest in this bush.”

Sure enough, there, a foot above my head, was a tiny nest with three white-speckled eggs nestled inside. What an unexpected place for a bird’s nest! I quietly took a picture of it to show my boys when I got home.

As I continued picking, I soon heard another bird chirping insistently in my direction. It wasn’t a sweet, happy chirp. It was a warning chirp. I knew what that meant: another mama bird was warning me that her babies were nearby, and I was too close. I looked up into the blueberry bush before me, and right in front of my eyes was another bird’s nest. It was even smaller than the first. Inside of this nest were baby birds: newly hatched, pink, with only the beginnings of downy feathers.

What a delightful surprise! I planned on receiving blueberries and quiet time that afternoon, but was especially excited to see baby birds too.

For the mama birds, however, I don’t believe my happening upon their nests was a delightful surprise. It was the exact opposite. In building their nests, I’m sure they thought they had hit the jackpot. Building a nest in the midst of such bounty: blueberries and insects at their doorstep. By building their nests in the middle of a blueberry farm, they had managed to find food, but what they hadn’t planned on was the barrage of visitors that would descend upon their safe haven once the blueberries were ripe.

I wonder if this isn’t an allegory for our spiritual lives? Comfort and bounty bring the illusion of security. Sometimes we believe that God’s kindness and provision means living a comfortable and safe life, yet, this kind of life rarely brings spiritual growth. Learning to abide in Jesus means following Him no matter the circumstances.

Jesus came to his disciples and invited them into relationship, saying, “Follow me.” He didn’t give them the full picture of what they were signing up for. If He had, I wonder if they would have gone so willingly. No, He invited them into the mystery and adventure that comes with discipleship.

If you walk with the Lord long enough, He will no doubt call you to obedience in an area that feels uncomfortable. It may even feel unsafe. Truthfully, you could not be safer than in His will. A blueberry bush might feel safer and more beneficial than a tall tree to a small bird, who is unaware of the danger that humans will soon bring to her nest. Like those birds, we too, may seek places of safety that are actually the opposite. In following Jesus, we can know that from his omnipotent perspective, he is more aware of the dangers than we ever will be.

He never promises safety, but he does promise he will be with us. As C.S. Lewis writes in the Chronicles of Narnia, “Course he isn’t safe, but he’s good.”

As I am about to embark into new endeavors this fall, this is a good reminder for my soul. What the Lord is calling me to in the near future feels like a risk. I have wondered multiple times if I might have heard him wrong. Especially as the world has changed due to the pandemic, I’ve wondered, is this the right time to make a transition? I’ve asked God, “Are you still absolutely sure?”

The beautiful thing about following Christ is that He won’t lead you down the wrong path. You can’t step out of His will without purposefully sinning. He is a good teacher, and He doesn’t lead us halfway to the destination and then disappear. If He’s calling you to take on something that feels uncomfortable, know that He’s already ahead paving the way. He’s got your best in mind. You can trust Him.

Pause: Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Meditate on Psalm 23:3: He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (ESV).

Renew: Reflect on your spiritual journey. When has the Lord called you to act in obedience to Him? What did it cost you? What was the result? What did you learn about Him through the process?

Next: Perhaps you are right where the Lord has called you to be right now. If so, enjoy it! However, if you feel the Lord is leading you towards obedience in some area of your relationship with Him, pray about the steps He would have you take next. Ask others to pray with you.

May we learn to rest in the safety of our Savior, not the illusion of our own comfort.

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Discomfort: An Agent of Change

I spent last week at the beach. Vacation is always a welcome escape. I made no meals. I sat in the sun. I spent time with family. It was a good week. The only problem with vacation is that it always comes to an end.

The day after we returned, I found myself in a mini-depression. There was so much house and yard work to catch up on, so many bills to pay, so many appointments to schedule, so much on my to-do list at work this week. Even more than that, I felt overwhelmed with the knowledge that the coming year will bring many changes to our family, and that it was time to begin the process of enrolling our children in a new school.

The truth is, coming home from vacation meant I had to deal with all of my real-life problems again. Did you see that? I called them problems. That’s because they make me uncomfortable and cause me anxiety. By the following day, when I had a more healthy perspective again, I was thinking of them as challenges to be conquered, one by one. I made myself a to-do list for the week; I began praying about the changes and talking with my husband and began making a plan of action. Believe me, I’m still not excited about the challenges. Truthfully, they continue to cause me anxiety. Sure, I’d still rather go on vacation and forget about them, but now I am better prepared to deal with them.

That’s the way of discomfort. There are two ways to handle it: escape and avoid it, or allow it to challenge you into movement.

To be honest, I rather prefer the first way. In fact, most of the time when I find myself in a place of discomfort, my anxiety heightens, and I avoid, avoid, avoid. As a counselor, I know this as the flight part of the fight/flight scenario. If I see a challenge coming, I immediately look for the way out.

Avoidance only works for a time though. In the long run, it can make situations worse. The longer we avoid the hard things, the greater the anxiety grows. Challenges rarely disappear as we hide our heads in the sand. No, often a call to action is needed.

Which leads me to the place I am this week: making lists, praying, filling out forms, and going to necessary appointments. I would definitely rather be at the beach, but I know that as the upcoming changes occur, my anxiety will dissipate. The unknown is always uncomfortable, but in time, the unknowns will become known. I will have answers. I will have plans. Step by step, the future arrives, discomfort and all.

In our world right now, I think it is safe to say that discomfort abounds. The unknowns feel overwhelming. Opposing sides of political spectrums and race relations are leaving many feeling polarized, but what if instead of letting hard conversations and misunderstandings cause us to avoid, we allow the discomfort to move us towards change?

In my life, often the Lord uses places of tension and discomfort to bend me towards new perspectives, ideas, and life changes. Pain and discomfort open us up to new ways of thinking and living that we may have previously never considered. This is how He led me into the path of adoption. This is how He led me into the counseling profession.

Comfort is a great word to describe recliners, but cannot be the mindset of a disciple of Christ. Jesus was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, with no place to rest His head. Comfort was not His way. Not in this world, anyway. Comfort lulls us to sleep and gives us a false sense of safety. Christ calls us to follow Him, and through the toils and hardships of the narrow way He provides for our needs. That is the true calling, friends.

So, as I’m preaching to you and myself, let’s remember to listen to His still, small voice when we’re feeling uncomfortable. What is He saying? Could it be that He is leading you into it, through it? Keep following Him. He knows the way.

Pause, Renew, Next: Where are you feeling discomfort in your life? Pray about it, journal about it, search the Scriptures, talk with trusted friends or counselors in your life about it. If it is possible, make an action plan for how you want to move forward. May you be courageous, obedient, and ready to listen.

Steps of a New Believer: An Interview with Liz Bergstrom

How did your journey of faith begin? In this episode my guest, Liz Bergstrom, shares about her own road to a relationship with Jesus. She shares honestly about the struggles and hangups she faced as a new believer.

It was a joy to interview Liz. She has a lot of wisdom to offer!

“I think as a new believer you underestimate the situations you put yourself in. I think you underestimate that you’re always going to choose sin. The situations you put yourself in can make that easier or harder to do.”

In this episode, Liz offers words of encouragement for those who are mentoring new believers, as well as for those who are young in the faith themselves. She shares that vulnerability, accountability, grace, and patience were key elements to her own early faith journey.

Scripture mentioned in today’s podcast: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

If there was something you heard on this podcast that was encouraging, inspiring, or helpful, please share in the comment section below. You can also join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus!

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