Filling Your Bucket

The Minnesota State Fair started last week.  The unofficial mark to the beginning of the end.

The end of the glorious season of going “up north”, going to DQ, and not going inside til neighborhood kids stop playing tag when the sun finally fades at 9:00.  Biking the lakes, going without shoes and without makeup.

photo-37

We estimate church attendance goes down by 30-40% in the summer and we get it.  We live in a state where the only month that hasn’t had snow in recorded history is July.

People in MN play hard in the summer.  There’s a concerted effort to fill up.  To fill up with family time, sunshine, hide-n-seek playing, tubing, and kayaking.  We do summer big.

And then all of a sudden it’s school time again and we’re all about busy and schedules and no margin.  And sure, there’s a part of us that craves the order, but with it comes the stress of too much stuff and too little time.  

It’s got me thinking about the rhythms of our lives.

Bill Hybels says, “As a leader, the best thing you bring to the table every day is a filled up bucket.” 

I’m thinking you could substitute “parent”, “teacher”, “”boss”, “coach”….or just “person” for “leader”.

As a person, the best thing you bring to the world every day [of the year!] is a filled up bucket.

So how do you do that?  If you think of some the different areas of your life – spiritual, physical, relational – what rhythms do you have that keep you replenished so that you don’t just deplete, deplete, deplete, and then madly try to fill up?

Continue reading

Two Questions When You’re “Off”

Last week is was sunny and cool with big, fluffy white clouds pushing each other around in the blue sky where we were staying near Windsor in Great Britain.  (The weather was a tad different the day I took this picture).

IMG_4050

I had just gotten back from a run during which I asked for directions about 492 times in tiny boroughs, at pubs, hoping to find a park. I kept getting pointed different directions.  I felt a little like I was on a perpetual rural British roundabout.

Unknown

Finally a woman said, “Well, there’s a moor down that way, but I’m afraid you’d get lost on it.”  Good bet.

I turned around and shuffle/jogged back to the hotel where I jumped into the shower and realized I’d been using body lotion instead of conditioner on my hair for the past few days. That could explain a lot.  (Don’t laugh – it could happen to you.)

DSC00104

All that to say, I’ve been a little …“off”.

Eating too much, sleeping too little, not paying attention, and getting lost.  A little out of my regular rhythm, both physically and spiritually.

When you travel (or when you have anything “extra”going on, or a sick kid, or out-of-town guests, or a project due…) it’s so easy to get knocked off-stride and out of your spiritual rhythm.

In these times I tend to get to the end of the day and think,

“Where am I?  Who am I?  And how did I get to the end of this day totally missing God?”

Two questions can make all the difference as to whether my day is purposeful and life-giving, or a blur of empty activity.

1.  Have I filled my mind with anything of the Spirit?  Have I sought the mind of God to orient myself?  Especially when I’m busy or in a new environment.

Ok, let’s be honest here.  I don’t mean reading and taking notes on a chapter of Ezekiel every day.  I mean anything.  Truly, I’ve found God can use even the tiniest morsel to feed me if I give Him a chance.  If I’m clueless, any part of Psalm 25 is a great “go to” at the beginning of the day.  Anything is something.

photo-23

If I listen to God in the morning, there’s a much better chance my ear will be attuned to Him during the ordinary stuff and relationships of my day.  I also have a different grid through which I experience life.

2.  Have I made Space to process with God what He’s been showing me about Himself and myself throughout the day?  Where have I seen God and where have I missed Him?

Space, margin, silence…whatever you want to call it, it’s become rare in our 24/7 world of more news, more activity, more noise (especially for extroverts like me who can easily be sucked into the “more”.

Like Mary, I need to say “no” to the good in order to  choose “what is better”.  Whether it’s journalling or taking a prayer walk, I may need to limit accessibility to the world in order to be accessible to Jesus, prioritizing time to reflect on His activity.

What about you?  What helps you to reorient and pay attention when you’re “off”?

Invitations and the Three Things You Need

I’m not that person.  I’m not the sell-everything-move-to-the-slums-of-Calcutta-like-Mother-Theresa person.  That’s not the invitation I’ve sensed from God.  Yet.

I’m an ordinary girl trying to follow Jesus where He’s put me and getting it wrong a lot.

But if there’s one passion I have, it’s responding to the invitations God extends, as crazy as they might seem in my ordinary world.

The thing is these invitations rarely arrive in a giant Oscar-like envelope with a red seal screaming “THIS IS IMPORTANT!  PAY ATTENTION!”

Unknown

We long for invitation, but sometimes we have to lean close because the invitation is a whisper not a shout.

Recently, Bob Goff wrote,

“Jesus won’t try to speak over the noise in our lives; love whispers so we won’t be confused about who’s doing the talking.”

Sometimes it’s a whispered invitation to stop.  And do something you’ve never done before.  Something a tiny bit scary, or uncomfortable, or potentially embarrassing.

The whispered invitation may come right in your cramped apartment, or in your dysfunctional family, or on the road to work.

The invitation might look like a Jamaican cleaning woman stranded on the side of the road needing a ride,

or an injustice that begs for a note to your congressperson,

or a kid who could use a mentor or a meal.

The other day I saw a friend of mine who responded to the quiet invitation from God to take her aging parent for a delightful afternoon tea out, giving her mom loving attention and a listening ear no matter how confused she got.

Here’s the thing though.  I believe three ingredients are needed if you’re going to respond to these gentle, holy invitations.

An eye, an ear, an hour.

An eye for those in need, an ear attuned to the whispered prompts of God, and the time to respond.

I guess maybe the fourth thing that is needed is a willingness to actually do the work of responding, but the element that I think is most often missing in our lives, the thing that prevents us from responding to God’s invitations, is lack of margin.

A mentor of mine always said, “If you’re too busy to take a pot of soup to someone in need, you’re too busy.”

I know, I know…in some seasons margin is beyond our control.  And maybe the person in need is you.  You’re the perpetual care-giver who, like Elijah after an intense season, needs to respond to the whispered invitation for a snack and a nap.*

Then do that.  Pray. Rest.  Replenish.

But whether God whispers an invitation to be part of some kingdom work, or kingdom rest today, which element is most likely to get in the way of you responding?  An eye to see the needs, an ear to heaven, the guts to respond, or the time to do it?

God, show me where You want to work today, and invite me to be a part of it.  I’m trying to pay attention.

*1st Kings 19