Are We “There” Yet?

Our family loves to travel. We sync our vacation calendar with the school schedule and take off for a getaway almost every Christmas, Spring and Summer break. With four kids, travel is expensive, and so we often drive to help keep costs down and save money for fun once we get to our destination. This of course stretches the trip travel time out considerably! Now that my kids are older it doesn’t happen as often, but when they were younger it felt like we were barely out of the driveway before we heard one of them call out from the back seat, “Are we there yet?” And then with every stop or slow down moment along the way, the question would arise again… and again… and again!

Are we there yet — that question follows us through life doesn’t it? Not just from our kids calling out from their comfy little car seats, but from our own hearts as we travel through this journey called life. We are always on the journey between where we have come from and where we are going. There are destinations and check points all along the way, and when we get to the next “there” wherever that “there” is thinking we have finally arrived; we find there is yet again another destination to look forward to. It keeps moving ahead of us. We can’t quite catch it, and we never fully arrive. As long as we are here on this earth God still has a purpose for our present moment and all future days to come and He is both using us now and preparing us for then.

There is no problem with looking ahead in anticipation. We are to live with vision for what’s to come. The challenge comes when we are so forward focused that we are missing out on what God wants us to do and the joy and contentment He wants us to live with in the here and now. I struggled with this for years when my kids were young. Recognizing raising and nurturing them is a part of my now moment of purpose was eye-opening for me.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”

Let’s be intentional about how we live right now. Every day matters, and the best thing we can do in this forward focused journey called life is to be fully alive and awake to the value of the now moment. Only when we truly see the purpose this time, this day, this minute holds for us and our ability to touch and impact the people around us right where we are, can we really make the most difference. If God already wanted us “there” we’d be “there”. Until then – let’s take a deep breath, relax, pray, trust God, and open eyes to all the value of the here and now.

Copyright © 2014 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

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Unforced Rhythms

Have you ever picked up something only to find that it is too hard to carry? I do every time I think I am strong enough to carry one of my kids up to bed. All of them, my youngest included, are too old, too big, and too tall for me to be able to handle in any graceful way. In the recent times I have had to carry them, I may have gotten them upstairs & into bed, but I was beat… worn out, breathing heavy and weary by the time I was done. I accomplished the task, but at a cost to me. Whereas David seems able to just whisk them up and walk smoothly up the stairs, place them in their beds, and come down effortlessly. You can probably look at me and tell I was not designed to carry great weight over long distances. I am not strong enough!

 Some of us can relate to seasons where we have lived our lives that way – trying to carry loads we weren’t made to carry. Maybe we buckled under the weight of trying to measure up; to be successful in the eyes of the world. Or perhaps we bent under the strain of our past hurts and injustices, because they became so much a part of our identity, we didn’t know who we would be with out them. Or maybe we toed the line; in an effort to be a “Super Christian”.

 Jesus knew we would struggle in these areas, and He wants more for our lives. He wants us to learn from his example of what a successful life living for God looks like. In Matthew 11:28 (MSG), He said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 

Come… Walk with me… Work with me… Watch how I do it…  These are all action oriented statements. Christ wants us to lead active, productive lives, but it’s action from a place of resting in Him, fueled by His grace to live a life that brings glory to God. When we surrender our lives to God in this way, He is able to accomplish more of eternal value in us and through us than we could ever do on our own; our lives are no longer about keeping score or a test of how much we can carry or accomplish in our strength, but instead our lives become a testimony of how much he can accomplish through us as we rest in Him.

 My prayer for you today is that you will lay down anything you are carrying that is ill-fitting, anything that is causing you to stay trapped in the past, or is keeping you from being able to surrender to the life God wants you to live. And in exchange for what you lay at the feet of Jesus, I pray you will embrace the life, blessings and all things he has in store for you… serving, loving, and leaving a Godly legacy. There is no greater adventure, no greater sense of fulfillment than that which comes by living a surrendered, God-fueled life!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

It is Finished

This past Friday my family and I had the opportunity to walk through Stations of the Cross, an annual Easter event our church puts on, which provides attendees an opportunity to walk through a fifteen station depiction of Jesus’ last hours on earth, to his death and resurrection. Being that this was the third year for our family to participate, I was focused on not taking it for granted. I wanted to take the time to reflect and pray; allowing God to minister to me where I am today and speak to my heart in new and fresh ways. So, I made a point to walk slowly through each station and really press in during the reflection time.

The first few stations were really, only minimally impactful for me. That all changed about midway through, when I came to the station with the standing cross with splatters of red representing Jesus’ blood, and a small cloth draped over it, representing the cloth Jesus wore at the time of his death. As I stood at the base of the cross, looking up at it; I began to picture Jesus on it, looking down at me, and I couldn’t help but wonder – If I could have been there that day, standing at his feet and looking into his eyes; what would I have seen in them? Would I have seen agony and anguish? Would I have seen a fiery, ‘Go get ‘em, Tiger’ look, something along the lines of- I’m dying for you now go and live for me?

As I pondered what his expression might have been, I saw none of those things in my mind’s eye. Instead, I saw misty eyes tenderly looking down at me full of sincere, piercing compassion – for all the heartache I have had to suffer, all the pain, for every hurt, for the affects of sin in my life – either by others or of my own choices. I began to cry. I couldn’t help but wonder how could Jesus, hanging in pain, be thinking of me; feeling compassion for my hurts and sorrow, for my pain and sin? But he did. And not only did he die thinking of me – he died thinking of you as well. Isaiah 53:4,5 says, “Surely he took up our infirmities (that’s mine and yours) and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds, we are healed.” He was thinking of you, he was thinking of me – he loves each of us that much.

And as Jesus was dying, He said the words, “It is finished.” These words ushered in at the end of His life, marked the end of us as we were, and the beginning of us as we were meant to be (L.Giglio). As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sin earns us death and separation from God; those are the wages we deserve. But Jesus willingly paid the price for our sin, and in so doing He gives us the opposite of what we deserve. For all who put their faith in Him, he gives the gift of forgiveness and right standing with him.

As we celebrate His resurrection, we celebrate not only our appreciation for Jesus’ love and grace represented on the cross; we also celebrate that when he rose again he conquered death, hell, and the grave. We celebrate that God does what he says he will do; He who promises is faithful. We celebrate that no matter how bleak things seem, we are never with out hope. We celebrate the amazing power of our God, power we have access to daily in our lives through Christ. And we celebrate the relationship we get to have with Him both now in this life, and in the life to come… there is nothing like it. And it all comes down to grace – God granting us what we can not earn and do not deserve – an amazing gift available to us all. Thank you, Jesus!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

What a Gift!!

Two weeks ago we had our Shoreline Women Collide Retreat. Friday night was spectacular. After it was over, I was wired and tired, and I stayed up a little too late after the evening ended. I had to get back to the Shoreline South building early Saturday morning, and so before I drifted off for a quick few hours of sleep, I set my alarm to be sure I’d get up on time. Saturday morning rolled around, and I did something I never do. I turned my alarm off in my sleep. I don’t even remember it going off. All I remember is waking up in a panic, realizing it was almost time for me to leave the house, and I wasn’t even out of bed yet!! Now, I am a girly girl, so I knew I was in trouble. So I quickly hopped up and got to it, only to get hit a few minutes later with texts from others already on their way saying IH 35 was at a complete standstill. The dark side of me was happy that everyone would be late also. But the more level headed side knew I just had to get there in time to be available to help set things up for Saturday to be a great day. David and I checked the routes, and I headed toward the toll road instead of IH35, which is the opposite direction I normally drive in the mornings. The toll road is east of my house, and as you know, the sun rises in the east. As I eased up to the stop sign leaving my neighborhood, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. I was captivated by the beauty of it, so many colors and textures, and I knew – this was for me – a special God touch of love as I started the day. It was like God was saying, “I am with you, and everything is going to be okay.” And, it was – I made it in plenty of time for things to run smoothly.  I didn’t do anything special that morning to earn such a display.  It was a God gift, and it made my day.

This past week, I was again reminded of God’s love and grace in a special way. I had gotten upset with David and lost my temper. I even threw my nail file at him during the heat of the moment. The next day, I felt so guilty. I asked for David’s and God’s forgiveness and felt better, but through out the day David was being so sweet, and the guilt tried to creep back in. For a minute, I went there, but then I heard a little Holy Spirit whisper, “What are you doing? You’re forgiven, all of your sins – past, present and future. Jesus bore them on the cross.” And I knew, it was for me. It was as if God was saying again, “I am here I am with you and everything is going to be alright.” Another God gift, unearned, unmerited – my burden lifted.

In each of those two situations, God’s gift of grace shined through. He didn’t pull away when I was rushing before Collide and mumbling under my breath, or when I was feeling guilty about fighting with David. He simply met me where I was in the moment; and He loved me there. Grace came to my rescue. What a gift! It reminds me of Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’

Maybe you are feeling panicked about something today, or feeling like you have messed up,  or perhaps you are feeling like you need a special God touch today; a reminder of His love and grace. My prayer for you is that you will have eyes to see his love on display in the world and people around you and ears to hear his whispers as he calls your name and speaks words of love and grace to your heart. He is for you, He is with you, and He loves you beyond measure; rest in the beauty of His love and grace today.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Eyes Wide Open

Several years ago my grandpa took David and I up in his small, single engine airplane. As we soared over the Savannah area and along the coastline of Georgia and South Carolina, he was calling out landmarks and pointing to places of beauty for us to look at and enjoy. David loved every minute of it, my grandpa loved every minute of it; while I seemed to be the only one to notice we were experiencing not just a little turbulence. With each dip and sway of the plane, and each drop in altitude, fear would grip my heart, and I was terrified that we were going to crash. I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, completely missing out on the joy of the moment and of the beauty that surrounded me.

For many of us, if we are not mindful of it, we can go through our days like that – focused on our fears, the turbulence around us, the storms of life; on all the possible what–if scenarios: what if I don’t reach my dreams, what if I get sick, what is I lose my job…. And, when we live like that, we miss out on the joy and peace we have access to at every moment, that give us the ability to enjoy the journey regardless of what life throws our way.  

 God wants us to live with peace and joy. Isaiah 26:3 says, you keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 

No matter what you are facing … I hope you won’t allow it to keep you from enjoying the blessings God has placed in your life and the beauty he’s surrounded you with. Place your concerns in His capable hands, trust him to work all things out for good,  to protect you along the way and bring you peace. For, we serve a mighty God!

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.