Let me sum up the entire Bible for you: God speaks; we need to listen.
Theologians everywhere are groaning and formatting angry letters to me right this minute because that’s a vast understatement of the whole Bible. Six words can’t begin to encapsulate thousands of years of God’s Word to humankind, they’ll say.
And they’re right. But so am I, maybe.
I don’t know about you, but I’m having a terrible time listening to God lately. I pretend to listen, but really I’m really worried about what He’s going to tell me. For example, Monday’s small group lesson was on how to open your life to the Holy Spirit’s work even when it means giving him control of everything.
Everything, did you hear me? Do you know how frightening it is to give the Holy Spirit free reign? Do you know what happens when you let it all go? You might end up writing books for a living, or moving across the world to be a missionary, or finding your house full of children. You might have to get a new job or keep the job you hate. The Holy Spirit does not prioritize based on our comfort levels, I’ve found.
As of yesterday afternoon, I’ve given up on ignoring God and I’m really trying to listen (ignoring him wasn’t working anyway) and I have a feeling we aren’t in for a move across the country or even a job change.
I think the coming change is very small.
It’s probably going to be very hard.
Changes in the heart are often the hardest, aren’t they? The changes where we move from distrust to faith, or from selfishness to generosity. Sometimes we have to learn to speak with kindness, which of course means we have to have the kindness in our hearts in the first place. We might be called to offer mercy when we’d rather retaliate, or show grace when we just aren’t in the mood.
The Holy Spirit might not be asking for a radical, obvious, adrenaline-pumping kind of change. He might be asking for a change of heart.
Thoughts? What heart-changes are the hardest for you to make?
I always have a weird reaction to Mother’s Day. Instead of basking in the glow of motherhood and my children’s adoration, I wake up fidgety and get positively cranky by nightfall. I remember all the ways I’ve failed already as a mother and I fear all the ways I’ll mess it up in the coming years.
I don’t know how my children have made it this far, honestly.
Motherhood isn’t the only place I’ve failed, of course. We can also add these things to the list:
any skill involving math
driving around garbage trucks on rural roads
running any distance without a zombie close behind
speaking in public
working at that pumpkin place
eating well (today I ate my body weight in Cheetos)
And so on, and so forth. Now aging into my late 30s, I’ve accumulated quite a list of Things I Should Not Make a Habit of Doing for Any Reason.
But is this really a bad thing? For example, I know enough to not become a carpenter, no matter how many hours of This Old House I log (my slogan could be Clemences Crooked Cottages). I am a more careful driver, thanks to nineteen years of a throbbing ankle due to the Great Garbage Truck Smashing of 1996.
All the things we stink at can really help us as we try to discern God’s next step for our lives. Of course he works through our weakness, we all know that. But there’s also a reason we’re designed the way we are, as individuals. So go ahead, make that list of Things I Ought Not Do for God.
If you’re overwhelmed about what your future holds and what God’s plans may be for you, you can at least start with this list. But don’t get too dependent on your own perception, because God really does throw a surprise in there every once in a while.
Because as much as I feel like a failure as a mother, I have two kids out there in the living room who really are thriving and will one day grow to be productive members of society, even if it’s the last thing I do. Do I feel called to start an orphanage because of my superb mothering skills? No. But I can do a decent job with the two kids I have.
What about you? What do you stink at, and will therefore strike off your list of possible ministry opportunities?
You yourselves know, dear brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not a failure… For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:1 & 4 NLT)
Happiness! Happy day! It’s May, which means my new book is available!
I’ll stop with the overuse of exclamation marks now. I apologize.
Some of you have advance copies because you’ve won contests or because you’re my mother. And a few of you contributed and got a copy, or you’re just a delightful person and I gave you one.
The rest of you might be dying for your very own copy of the new book, and I’m here to tell you all the ways to get one. Others of you might not be convinced to part with any money whatsoever to read books, but don’t worry. I’ll either convince you before this post is over or I’ll give you another clever option. Stay tuned.
Discovery House–direct from the publisher! Discovery House has been amazing to work with, and they’re a great option if you’d like to order the book without having to go into public and therefore wear real pants. No one will know your pant-situation if you order from dhp.org.
Amazon.com: Super easy, and of course you can also order a salad spinner and a hot tub while you’re there. I won’t judge.
Christianbook.com: Excellent prices, and you can order in bulk and give copies away as Christmas gifts and then con your small group into studying it together. (Hint, hint.)
Ebooks! It’s available anywhere ebooks are sold. You know, if you’d like to save the earth and use less paper or you have a small book addiction and can’t carry thirty books at one time.
Direct from the author: I do have books you can buy right off me, if you live close enough. Just give me a ring/email/smoke signal.
Some of you still aren’t convinced. You get this blog for free, why would you pay money to read my craziness? Here’s the best idea ever– go into your library and ask them to order the book for the library. And then ask to be notified as soon as it comes in. Not only do you get to read it for free– you wily, frugal person, you– everyone else in your community can read it too. Win-Win-Win!
If you’re really excited about this new project, there are a couple of ways your extra support could make a huge difference:
I’d love it if you’d review the book on Amazon and Goodreads. Reviews are IMPORTANT these days.
Share this post on your social media accounts to get the word out.
If you’re a Pinterest fanatic, please pin these quotes from the book!
I write to you this afternoon from my back yard. It’s sunny and warm enough that I’m barefoot and bare-armed, soaking up the vitamin D I’ve been lacking all winter long. My toes are tingling with the breeze as my son sits beside me in a chaise lounge, wondering out loud where the basketball disappeared to over the winter.
Chances are good I threw it away in November, because that’s sort of how I move from season to season. Or maybe it blew away in a ferocious wind from Canada in January– there are so many options. Let’s blame the wind and move along, shall we? The poor kid already thinks I throw away everything he owns.
(I sort of do.)
It’s a brand new season in my backyard and a brand new season of life in general. Everywhere I look I’m seeing signs of new life and the tension that moves us from one place to another. I had three separate discussions with people at work today about changes and how they feel and how they affect us all.
Since last week when we sold our rental house, Eric and I are furiously recalculating our next few months. We took Easter weekend off to do absolutely nothing but go to church and hang out with family. Many hours were accumulated with our butts firmly connected to our couch. We napped multiple times a day and watched a few old movies.
But that was just a break before we launch into the next phase of life, which will be…
I’m sure there’s an answer around here somewhere. I mean, we have a few of the pieces in place already. We got a few answers to long-term prayer requests last week as we signed that house away. But that resolved tension of owning two houses has now opened up more questions. How do we allocate our money? What’s next?
And to make matters even more complicated, while I sat on the couch Saturday morning, drinking my coffee and rethinking my entire life, I started making notes about a possible new book. Little ideas kept coming to mind, so finally I got up and found a notebook and started writing them down. By the end I had a ten new chapters of a book outlined and a possible title.
Where on earth did that come from? I might be a writer, but I don’t automatically assume everything that flits through my brain is an actual book to-be. I prayed about it. I hid the notebook under a pile of other people’s books. I prayed a little more. And then I waited for God to make his answer clear.
So far I’m still waiting, but I have a feeling this might end in an actual book proposal being emailed to my agent sometime soon.
Here’s the thing– I don’t have time for this new project. I barely have time to do all the things now. I can give up 1) sleeping or 2) personal hygiene. Those are my last two options. So my prayers to God have been asking him if 1) this is an actual book he’d like for me to write and 2) where on earth I’ll get the time for this. What does he want me to give up to make room for the new priorities?
If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do comes out in a few weeks here, and I’m so excited to walk through the book with you all. I’m excited to see where God takes you and what differences you make in the world as we learn to live like all those biblical examples who took a radical approach to listening to and obeying God. From Noah to Esther, from the disciples to Paul, the Bible is full of examples of people with exciting new seasons of life. Jesus is asking us to follow him– are we ready to do it?
Apparently I don’t get to take a pass on this one. I’ve already lived the book over about three times, but God’s taking us for another round. I’ll keep you updated as things progress, but I want to hear from you, too! What’s God doing in your life? What new areas of sacrifice and obedience are you finding as you step out in faith?
I am sitting in my chair in the living room, trying to remain calm and write this darn blog post. But my eyes keep darting here and there and everywhere, assessing the Christmas decorations and how long it will take me to get them put away tonight.
It’s not that I don’t love Christmas decorations, because I do, and in fact my love for them may border on the obsessive. I recently had a long conversation with a man about how Christmas lights could be strung inside a casket and run with solar power for eternity, just to give you an idea of my mental issues.
But I digress. This post isn’t about Christmas decorations or caskets. It’s about the fresh, new, clean, and pristine year that awaits us in a few days. I’m done with 2014 and ready for 2015 and these Christmas decorations clearly belong to the waning year.
2015 holds the promise of all sorts of delightful changes. We have hours, just hours, left before our tenant moves out of our rental house and on to better things for her family. She’s been a wonderful tenant and I’m glad we had a chance to work with her, but I can’t wait to be a not-landlord anymore. I can’t wait to get the house ready, put it on the market, and let some new family make memories there. I can’t wait to have only one house with one tax bill and one insurance policy.
Then my new book, If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What To Do, will be published in a few months. It needs to go through the final copy editing and typesetting, then it’s off to the printer! As the publication date draws closer we’ll be having some changes here on the blog. Our current topic of simple living and relationship building has been getting us ready for the new book, which is all about how we need to be listening to God, ready to act on what He tells us, and then– here’s where it gets tricky– actually do what He tells us.
Many of us say we want to listen to God, but we don’t know how. Or, if we do know how, sometimes our follow through is a disaster. We try, but it’s often so much harder than we thought. We come saddled with financial constraints, fears, and family issues. These things might threaten to derail our efforts, but we’re going to follow God, together. No one gets left behind on this grand adventure with God! This blog will be here to kick us all into gear.
After the house is (hopefully) sold and the book is published, the rest of the year awaits us. I’ll be working more on my novel-writing, taking care of my family, and also working at my job which has an actual paycheck. I have big plans to rip out the entire front yard and plant all new landscaping. I also need to repaint the bathroom, put a waterfall in the backyard, and also redecorate our bedroom.
What about you? Are you ready for 2015 and the fresh start it promises? What are you hoping for this year?
For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. (Romans 6:4, NLT)
I think I just accidentally applied for a job in Texas.
Don’t freak out, because I’m pretty sure God is just doing a spiritual exercise here with me. I’m pretty sure this little episode won’t actually end in selling two houses, packing up, and moving 1,000 miles away.
Because God never asks His followers to do any of that, right? God’s mostly very reasonable and only asks us to do things that make perfect sense.
Oh, wait. I can hear my friends Betsy, Abbie, and Heather laughing from here. And they’re all at least 1,000 miles from Kalamazoo, where they used to live.
Deep breath, Jessie. Take a deep breath.
Here’s the whole story. This company keeps calling the church where I work, setting up appointments to speak to the minister. Twice now something’s gone wrong and a call came an hour later than we were anticipating. After the second time, I happened to pull up their website to see if we had a time-zone miscommunication. That’s exactly what’s happening. 10:00am our time is 11:00am, their time. But I found their location from their Careers page, which is when I happened to notice they need a writer and a content editor. I left the page open on my screen out of idle curiosity; it’s not often a ministry needs to hire a full-time writer. Then I poked around their website and their founder’s thoughts exactly match some things God has been teaching me and Eric lately. We’d moved beyond coincidence to very weird.
The hair started standing up on the back of my neck.
I talked to Eric and the kids about this. The kids say, “No way. Nope, nope, nope.” Eric says, “Dallas? Why not a better place than Dallas?” Frowny faces abounded.
I had myself completely talked out of applying because it’s just impossible. The kids would be so unhappy to leave their friends and school. We grown ups would be so miserable leaving our friends and family. We have 16 years invested in our church. Eric has a good job he loves. It has benefits, bonuses, and generous amounts of vacation time. We’d be idiots to leave that. Plus also, we’re from Michigan. We’re Michiganders. I’m not exactly sure what’s going on in Texas but those people are feisty and I hear they like football.
We own a football. Sometimes the kids even toss it. That’s as close as we come.
But you know how sometimes you’ve worked yourself up onto your high horse, and you’ve debated all the options and you’re quite sure you have the solution, and then the Holy Spirit starts whispering in your ear? And maybe He starts to speak words that don’t come from human reasoning, but from God’s reasoning?
It’s always so uncomfortable.
I started to realize I’m putting the security and provision from my husband’s company before God’s security and provision. I’m determined to keep our life comfortable and easy. I’m putting my kids’ comfort above God’s possible calling. For heaven’s sake, I even put our state identity before our identity as Christ-followers.
If this isn’t all bad enough, I’ve written a book about this exact topic. It’s even titled If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do (coming in spring of 2015!). I’ve been plugging my ears for two days, hoping this all goes away. The book talks about how sometimes God calls us to things that make our family uncomfortable.
I meant our grandmothers, Lord. Sometimes Granny isn’t excited about Your plan. I didn’t know You included the kids.
The book talks about how we need to be flexible and ready to move.
I meant other people, Lord. I would like to be flexible from Kalamazoo while my husband has an excellent job.
The book talks about how Jesus didn’t come so we could spend our earthly years on the couch, cozy until we die.
But I have some extremely comfortable couches, Lord. Do you really want me to give them up? Even the one we bought for $100 at the resale shop?
I can’t very well write these things and then refuse to participate in God’s plan, so I gathered my courage and sent off the resume. I very highly doubt I have the skills this company needs, or the temperament. But I do know this– the experience was eye-opening. I’m not doing as good a job of listening to God as I thought I was.
So maybe I accidentally applied for a job in Texas, yes. But I’m quite sure I didn’t accidentally have this experience this week. What about you? What do you feel God might be calling you to next?
If any of you wants to be my followers, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. (Mark 8:34-35, NLT)
Therefore, go and make disciples of tall the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19, NLT)