Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Giving Thanks!



By Laura Busse

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 
– 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Seventeen years ago, my husband gave me a running watch for my birthday. What he intended to be a gift, I received as criticism wrapped around my wrist. A running watch. Really? Great, so he thinks I’m fat. He’s right. I’d better go jogging to jiggle off all this extra baby blubber.

To make matters worse, my husband set the watch’s alarm to sound at 3 pm because he didn’t want me to be late to a doctor’s appointment. Great! After seven years of marriage, my husband sums me up as fat and always late. Swell.

Negative, judgmental voices echoed in my head, “You could jog two hours a day, Laura and you’d still be fat. It’s no use, you’ll never be thin.”

I’ve wrestled with my weight my whole life. My dad put me on my first diet in 8th grade. He portioned and weighed my food, making me eat horrible things like Brussels sprouts. But when my dad wasn’t home, I’d fight back and sneak a big bowl of ice cream.

Why I didn’t fall into the deep, dark chasm of an eating disorder is beyond me. But what I did fall into was a pit of negativity. 

At the bottom of the pit, the same tapes of criticism and comparison played over and over in my mind.


After giving birth to three children in five years, nothing in my closet fit. I was still wearing those stretchy maternity jeans, and our baby was nine months old. How could other women pop back into their pre-pregnancy pants so quickly?

Everywhere I went, I saw skinny moms. At the grocery store, I spied a woman pushing young kids in a shopping cart looking like she’d just stepped out of Glamour Magazine. At the park, a woman lifted her child up onto a swing exposing her six-pack abs.

“Beep, beep, beep…” There it was again, that annoying 3 pm alarm. I had no idea how to change it, and the directions were long gone. Every day I’d quickly turn it off and get back to whatever I was doing. But for some reason, that afternoon in the park, when the alarm sounded, dots connected in my brain, which stopped me dead in my tracks.

Like watching a movie trailer, my mind flashed to the different places I’d been with the kids over the past several weeks at 3 pm; the library, park, grocery, and on the couch. Different places, but all with one common theme: critical, judgmental, berating thoughts were reeling through my mind. Crap!

As a third generation teacher, I knew that what I modeled to my children, they’d grow up to become. I cringed. I stared at my three young children, their minds full of wild imagination and wonder. I refused to squelch their spirits with my toxic thoughts.

What could override negativity? Gratitude.

Seventeen years ago, I started a daily practice that changed my life. When my 3 pm alarm sounded, instead of rushing to shut it off and jumping back into busyness, I looked up to God, gave Him thanks and praise, and chose to live out my faith in Jesus one day at a time. I now call this spiritual practice The 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call.

Every day, regardless of my circumstances or mood, my 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call reminds me to give God thanks when I otherwise wouldn’t think to. 

These intentional moments of gratitude have reset my mind and realigned my attitude to be more like Jesus’. 


Jesus was constantly thanking God; before He fed 5,000 people, before He raised Lazarus from the dead, and before He broke bread during the Last Supper.

Giving thanks to God every day has stirred up a fire in my heart to know Jesus more. I about fell off my chair when I discovered that Jesus died on the cross at 3 pm. All these years I’d been thanking God at the exact hour of His greatest act of love. Wow, if our salvation through faith in Jesus is not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is!

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us to rejoice, give thanks and praise Him at all times. Science is now catching up with God’s commands. In 2015, neuroscientists at the University of Southern California concluded that gratitude is associated with better mental health, increased resilience to trauma, and improves overall satisfaction of life.

I still jiggle when I jog and my husband still nudges me not to be late, but thankfully I no longer live in a pit of negativity. A daily dose of gratitude has freed me from criticism and comparison. I celebrate with friends who run marathons and I thank God for hikes with my husband. I’ve learned that God cares more about our hearts and minds than He does about the size of our jeans.

During this Thanksgiving week, I invite you to join The 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call. Discover for yourself how a daily practice of stopping, looking up and giving God thanks can ignite your faith and change your world.

We have so much to be thankful for…let’s take a moment to be reminded every day.


Laura Busse lives in Boulder, CO with her husband and three non-stop teenagers. As the founder of The 3 O'Clock Wake Up Call, she envisions a world where everyone in every nation gives thanks to God, every day at 3 pm. If you want to start getting daily 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call messages, you can either download the free mobile app (be sure to say “yes” to getting push notifications), or get text messages by texting 3PM to 313131.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hearing God

 By Rebecca Barnes

I heard God this weekend. 

Two preschoolers were talking with their parents on their way out of church Sunday. I had just stepped out of church too; barely able to see because I was crying so hard thinking about a big problem I’m working through right now. And just at that moment, the kids were talking about the Bible story they had heard. I smiled through my tears and told my husband that what they were excited about—I had written. (Kids ministry curriculum is my day job.) And that’s when I heard God. I know it was him, doing his best to reach down and dry my tears with some encouragement. My big problem may not be solvable, he seemed to be saying, but I have other areas in my life that bring me joy and fulfillment. Those kids I write for are learning some of the most important stories they’ll ever hear in their lives, stories that hopefully will come to their minds years from now and encourage them when they need a reminder that God is close.

From the beginning of the Bible to the end, that’s what God does. He tries to be close to us. That’s what his name Jehovah means: God dwells with us. He lives in heaven, but also on earth, with me. He says he’ll walk with us, write his teaching on our hearts, and live in us. (Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 31:34, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Revelation 21:3)

So, if God is so close, how come sometimes I can’t hear his voice?


When I find God silent it’s usually because he has said no and I don’t accept his answer. But sometimes it’s because I’m asking him for a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” answer to a life-altering decision, like he’s some sort of magic eight ball. He doesn’t seem to like that position. Instead, what God likes to communicate to me rarely involves life coaching. He is much more concerned about me understanding him, praising him, repenting of my mistakes to him, and yielding to his will. Of course, he also wants me to ask him for things. Usually, I’m begging. But he won’t give me everything I want. And that’s a good thing—because God knows way better.

So, if I want to hear from God I read the Scriptures all the time—until I get good at guessing what God would say. 


I listen to good Bible teachers too and talk with other believers. And sometimes, I can even hear God through my circumstances, like with the kids after church. But circumstances are tricky because when my circumstances are crap, that’s when I can find myself upset with God. I want him to change things. He can. Sometimes he does. More often, though, he just wants to be with me through them—to dwell with me.

But when you think about that—the God who made the universe, the God who sent his only son, Jesus, to die for my sins—that God is hanging out with me … that’s worth hearing. That’s what God is saying loud and clear to all of us: “I’m here.”


Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Staggering Humility



By Maggie Bartlett

I have a vivid memory of my time living in Kenya that I could never shake.

I was working for an international nonprofit whose mission is to empower communities living in extreme poverty by providing education, employment and discipleship. We primarily worked with Internally Displaced People (IDP’s), who are essentially refugees in their own country, forced to flee their home due to political violence or unrest. 

Our staff was very close to the men, women and children in this IDP camp—I still lovingly refer to them as my Kenyan family. Toward the end of my time there, my Kenyan mamas asked me and another co-worker to stay in their home for one night. It was unprecedented for two mzungus (white people) to stay in a mud hut in this village, but we happily obliged. For the next 36 hours, we lived as they did.

                                                                …

We woke up around 6:30 a.m. with four unblinking Kenyan children peering into our crib-like bed (two benches pushed together with "cushions"), curiously examining their guests. As we began to stir, Mama Grace asked: "Oh! You are done with the sleep? You are not finished?" to which I dubiously responded, "No, I think we are finished with the sleep.” 

After a slow morning of chai and toast, we met our other Kenyan mama, Mary, and walked—just the women—to church. Church was simply another home in the village composed of mud and sticks with hay concealing the dirt floor; I half expected Joseph and Mary to be cooing over baby Jesus in the corner. Mama Mary and Grace immediately informed us to bow and pray, which is when I heard it:

Lament. 

Wailing emerging from deep within women's souls...groans reinforced by such urgency…anguish-filled utterances surfacing at a mysterious pitch….gulping for air in between sobs...begging for mercy or freedom or maybe forgiveness…

"Lord hear me as I pray: pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God." -Psalm 5:1-2


The rawness of their prayers was startling. My dear friends, who emanate joy and preach great faith, were humbly bowing before the Lord, their bones, their marrow, petitioning, pleading to be heard. 

They are proud, but not arrogant. They recognize their need and dependency, yet live in hope and assuredness that God will not fail. Their humility is staggering.

                                                                  …


What I took away from that morning was their humility. I wasn’t wrong to recognize that, but I also wasn’t seeing it clearly. During my many visits to Kenya, I understood and knew these women to be joyful and hopeful, even when faced with the most unimaginable and difficult circumstances. They constantly proclaimed God’s goodness and faithfulness when they quite literally had nothing. 

We've all heard this about people living in extreme poverty: “They don’t have anything, yet are so full of joy.” Good grief, we are completely missing the point; I completely missed the point. 

It’s true. They don't have much and maintain a startling faith amid such poverty. But their ability to recognize their need for Jesus is not because their lives are free from the luxuries and privileges that we are entitled to—it’s not because they live more simply. That may be part of the story, but it's not the whole story. 

They experience God’s goodness because they approach the throne like that (see above). 


There on a floor covered in hay wet from tears is where these women found Jesus—all of him. 


They bring him every pain, every injustice, every need. They show him the truth, both sweet and ugly. They trust that he knows their agony and understands their longing. They would never be so foolish as to pretend their suffering didn’t hurt as much as it does. They would never turn to their neighbor and say: “It’s so hard, but it’s good.” 

Instead they beg for his mercy, forgiveness, and comfort; knowing he is faithful even in suffering. They fear him, worship him and find refuge in him. As we all should. This is what sustains them through unanswered prayers, hunger and thirst. Jesus. Not their simple way of living, not Westerners coming to help them, not a water filter—Jesus.

Why do we pretend everything is ok when it’s not? It is not ok because this world is not how it’s supposed to be. We sugarcoat our sadness or throw ourselves pity parties or gloss over the icky parts. Then we come to pray, but we pray with anger, coldness or fear. We’re too afraid to face our trauma, loss and hurt. Adam and Eve did this when the Lord came looking for them; they hid in shame, keenly aware of their sin and nakedness.

But we cannot continue to hide. 

Do you know where we will find peace, abundant joy and the well of mercy? At his feet. But only when we come obediently and humbly. Not in anger or out of frustration, but in raw, honest vulnerability. 

It’s Jesus that I experienced and remain startled by in my Kenyan friends. It was God’s essence in them, not the essence of joy or simplicity, but the true character and person of Christ. I encountered his beauty and radical love up close, and was forever changed by it. Because when these women allowed themselves to be stripped of everything, they were only left with him. 

...

Get on your knees, lay flat on the ground and weep. Plead. Tell him of your sorrows. Your longing. Your grief. Your dreams. Your unanswered prayers. Tell him of your anger, your bitterness, your hurt—your truth. There you will likely not find wealth or fame, health or remedies, you may not even find answers, but you will find him, in all his glory. You’ll find your Jesus, your King, your Savior and that is enough.  

“My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace. Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God.”


Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.