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Archive for April, 2012

Recently, God has really been working on my heart with my fear of reaching out to others. It can be a scary thing to reach out to someone. It can stretch us out of our comfort zone and leave us wondering if we really can make a difference. But as my friend Jennifer found out, it can also be very rewarding.

Today I’m welcoming back Jennifer Slattery to share about a time when she was afraid, and how God worked through that experience. In this post, she’ll also be sharing more about her “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign-a project I am extremely excited about, and one I hope you’ll join with me in supporting.

Read on to find out more, and let’s welcome Jennifer!

Die to Self is Figurative-Right, Lord?

by Jennifer Slattery

I sat sandwiched between my husband and chattering daughter, forcing a smile while my insides catapulted. We were headed to El Salvador, traveling by plane, and I was ready to hurl. Passengers sauntered on, smiling as if they had no idea how many planes crashed in the past ten years. Okay, so neither did I, but I’d seen a news clip or two. Besides, percentages aside, it only took once to kill you.

They say flying gets easier the more you do it. Not true. The way I figure it, the more you fly, the higher the probability you’ll crash. It’s a statistics thing. And yes, all these thoughts raced through my head the entire flight. They reached a crescendo when darkness fell, a storm hit, and jagged lightning zipped through the night sky. At one point, the plane actually dropped. Trying to assure me, my husband said that was only because we were going through the mountains. I didn’t find his explanation helpful. Before we reached baggage claim, I told my husband I never wanted to fly again.

Sitting on the plane a week later, after spending time with sweet orphan girls, I started to think about how I might return. How could so much change in such a short time? God allowed twenty-eight giggling girls to grab hold of my heart.

It’s funny how things changed once I turned my eyes off myself and started to let God love others through me. My fears diminished and my excitement grew.

Serving has a way of doing that—of forcing one out of self-imposed misery and inviting one to be part of something bigger than one’s sel. More than that, it allows one to rise above the here and now to catch a glimpse of eternity. I’ve seen this happen again and again. When people begin to join God’s love-circle, sadness turns to joy, hopelessness turns to purpose, and isolation gives way to community. There’s no greater adventure this side of heaven, and in my opinion, there’s no better way to fully experience the love of Christ.

Jesus said He came that we may have life, and have it to the full, only first we have to surrender. But oh, what a glorious gift we get in return!

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it” Luke 9:24 (NIV).

For me, my moment of fear, once placed in God’s hands, resulted in a beautiful blessing that drastically changed the way I view the world. It enabled me to experienced God’s love on a deeper level and stirred within a passion for orphans.

What about you? I’d love to hear about a time when God pushed you to reach out, even though it was hard. Who knows, your story may encourage others to do the same! I’ve launched a “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign to encourage others to join the great adventure. My prayer is when people read about some of the big or small ways other believers are reaching out, they’ll be encouraged to do the same. Want to join me? Send your “Reach Out” story, photo, or video to jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com, and I’ll post it on my blog. You might even win something! Visit http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com/reach-out-donors/  to find out more.   

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Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the ACFW Journal, Internet Café Devotions, and Jewels of Encouragement. You can connect with her online at her devotional blog at

http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com or via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who was afraid to reach out to others. Out of that fear, she wrote a farewell letter in her heart:

Dear Compassion,

I’m afraid it’s time for me to move on. You see, I have too much to do to waste any time with you. I can’t slow down to listen to you if I want to get any work done. Besides, listening to you only brings me more misery. I have enough pain of my own, and you want me to add even more to my burdens by taking on others’ hurt? It’s much more productive to focus on my own worries and troubles.

How do I know these people even want my help? I’d probably only make things worse. What if I say the wrong thing? Reach out to them only to have them reject me in return? Or worse, draw them away from God?

No, no. I think everyone would be far better off if I just said goodbye to you, Compassion. You take me out of my comfort zone, and you make me feel things that I can do nothing about. Not everyone can make a difference. I certainly can’t. The only thing you bring me is more pain-pain that I can’t fix. It’s time for me to protect my heart.

Farewell, Compassion. I hope you understand-it’s easier on everyone this way.

 

But God wasn’t ready to give up on the girl. One day, He spoke to her through a song:

After listening to the song, the tears flowed down her face. With shame, she realized just how hard her heart had become, and she wrote a prayer pleading with God to bring compassion back into her life:

 

Help me see tragedy, and

Break me out of complacency,

So I can help the poor and needy.

 

Take away the umbrella,

So I can feel the rain,

And take away the soul’s ibuprofen,

So I can feel the pain.

 

Give me arms to hug and heal,

Give me knees that bend and kneel.

Give me a heart sensitive to your Word,

Help me set the captives free as a bird.

Give me calloused hands and skinned knees,

Oh, Father, please!

Give me tears that cry for change,

Put room in my heart, rearrange,

Break me, pour me out;

Oh, love’s what life’s about.

 

Put me in the ICU with the mom holding her son’s hand,

And place me in the impoverished land.

Let me feel the burning hunger of another,

And taste the stinging tears of my fellow brother.

Put me in the trench where the fear and blood is thick,

And in the child whose body is so sick.

Give me a heart tender and compassionate,

Oh, Lord, I want to be sent.

 

Jesus placed his feet on sinner’s land,

Accepted our hurt with an open hand.

Got his hands dirty and made a stand,

Touched and healed the leper’s hand.

Took on our sickness and pain,

Washed us anew in Heaven’s rain.

Walked into our darkness and gave us the light,

Took on our blindness and gave us sight.

Took our wounds and healed our souls,

Became broken so we became whole.

 

Became a prisoner so we could be free,

Walked through the fire with me.

Left heaven’s throne,

So I would never be alone.

 

‘Twas love that led him up to Calvary,

And ’tis love that says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

My eyes, once blind, now see-

With perfect love comes bravery.

 

God honored that girl’s prayer, and for the first time in a long while she noticed the starving children on her television, and felt the tears stream down her cheeks. She noticed the sadness hiding behind her friend’s eyes, and remembered there were many who lived in darkness, just longing for the light. Light she could share with them.

The girl began to pray more, speak out more, and even cry more. But instead of adding to her burdens, it made her feel alive and free-as if a part of her had been re-awakened. And things around her began to change.

She has more purpose in her step now, more joy within her heart. For she realized that when you are loving is when you’re truly living. And she realized what the devil had been lying to her about for years, and it was this: that she could make a difference.

Now she lives in the truth, and the truth has set her free.

Once upon a time there was a girl, and that girl was me.

 

 

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Be still, and know that I am God.        (Psalm 46:10)

I don’t know when it happened. Somehow, I became an adult.

How do I know this, you ask? If you’re wondering, it’s not because of my age. (The whopping, brand-spanking new age of twenty-one!) It’s not because someone told me I was. It’s not because I can drink or drive (not at the same time, of course) or vote or any of those things.

It’s actually much more simple than that: my life is busy.

Busy? I can hear some of you ask. Yes, busy. It’s full of responsibilities, worries, chores, and stress. I go to town to run an errand only to realize I have another errand to run after that, only to realize I have an e-mail to answer when I get home, only to realize I have a lesson for school to get done soon, then a friend to call and wish a happy birthday to, then a post to answer on Facebook, then an article to finish, and somewhere in there I should read my Bible, then a blog post to write, then assure my family that yes, I am still living, and maybe somewhere in all of that I’ll find a chance to eat.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re an adult. If not, you’re either much younger in years, or Lord bless you, you’re lying.

It’s a sad thing, but I think most of us do associate adulthood with worry and stress. I didn’t feel like an adult because I had a birthday or because someone told me I was all grown up. The moment I felt like an adult was when I realized how very busy I was, and realized that all those things that needed to get done rested on my shoulders alone.

It used to be my parents who got things done for me. It used to be that I didn’t have to worry, because they would take care of it. Now I think about things like: how do I get my career going so I can make enough money to support myself, and what day should I go to the bank, and is the gas tank full? None of that is bad. It’s a necessity; a part of growing up.

But I have to admit I miss living in the moment.

I think that’s what we can lose as adults if we’re not careful-just living and being fully present. We can be so focused on to-do lists and schedules, we lose sight of the miracles in every-day. Wasn’t it Jesus who said He came so He could give us life, and life to the full? I don’t think God wants just the mundane for His children. If anything, He came to give us joy through the mundane.

We’re not just supposed to survive. We were not created to worry ourselves to death, but to live in the midst of death.

I teach Sunday School for five-year-olds, and I also have a six-year-old niece. What those amazing kiddos continually teach me is to just slow down. To see beauty in simplicity, and to take joy out of the little things. To see wonder in a dandelion, or giggle until my sides hurt.

Slowing down and living in the moment doesn’t mean we suddenly abandon our responsibilities to the wind, but it does mean not letting our responsibilities run our lives, either. It is neither irresponsible nor reckless to simply rest.

In fact, it is encouraged many times in the Bible. After a long day of ministering, Jesus would often go off by himself to pray.

And who could forget Mary and Martha? But just in case you did between the errand-running, carpooling, and decision-making: “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:39-42.)

We don’t have to be afraid of the stillness. I think once we become adults we think we’re supposed to be busy to be responsible and productive. The quiet can suddenly become scary and unnerving. But even Jesus allowed Himself some rest.

So today, if you find yourself in a never-ending blur of activity, I ask you to consider: are you afraid of being still? Sometimes busyness can be a camouflage. Doing a lot of things can make us feel productive, but it’s not the amount of things that make that so. It’s the things we’re doing.

Don’t be afraid to slow down today. Take a little break. Smell the proverbial rose. Take something from your schedule that really isn’t necessary, and most importantly, if you haven’t been still in God’s presence for a while, go and sit at His feet. Don’t miss what Martha did.

And if you’ve forgotten how, go and spend some time with your kids. They’ll be more than happy to teach you.

I Hear Ya: When did you realize you’d become an adult? What are some things you do to slow down?

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