A dare to leave your comfort zone

A dare to leave your comfort zone

In Your Beautiful Purpose, Susie Larson writes:

“If we live in the comfort zone and make accommodations for self-preservation, that zone begins to shrink. Even what we know begins to diminish” (126).

A couple years ago, as I battled intense panic attacks, most of the world was outside my comfort zone.

  • Driving a car was out of the question.
  • Shopping prompted feelings of derealization.
  • Going to church produced anxiety and claustrophobia.
  • Sitting in a restaurant with my husband made me uneasy.
  • Venturing anywhere completely new stirred even greater panic.

I really just wanted to stay at home.

At home, I was safe. I could distract myself with kids and responsibilities, or I could escape everything with a nap or a book.

But as I sought help for the anxiety surrounding my yet-to-be-diagnosed adrenal fatigue, I learned about the dangers of living within my comfort zone. It would only make things worse. My world would grow smaller, and I would grow increasingly fearful. Just as Susie Larson says, when we “make accommodations for self-preservation, that zone begins to shrink. Even what we know begins to diminish” (126).

So I reluctantly forced myself to keep going out, to push past the discomfort and face all that was unsettling. By God’s grace I didn’t go crazy, I avoided developing more phobias, and I grew from the lessons and interactions God had for me “out there.”

This concept applies in so many areas of our lives, but most importantly, on a spiritual level:
ForHisGlory

“Consider carefully what you hear,” Jesus continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you — and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” (Mark 4:24-25)

We are made for growth, for transformation, and for others. If we make life about us and about our comforts, we will tragically miss our whole purpose for living on the earth today. (Larson 127)

Jesus said:

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

Have you become unsalty? Are you living for comfort rather than God’s passions?

There is a world out there in need of salt and light.

We tend to hide ourselves away from it or else blend into it.

But, we’re called to leave those comfort zones and be salty and luminous again.

Is God calling you to do something today?

Speak up?

Share your testimony?

Push past panic?

Make a commitment?

Make a confession?

Go where He’s leading you?

There is a lot of disturbing stuff going on in our broken world. And as Kay Warren says in Dangerous Surrender, “If we’re not disturbed by the world in which we live, we will be consumed with the trivial, the insignificant, and the temporary. We will spend our days pursuing all the wrong goals, living by the wrong measurement of success, evaluating our legacy by the wrong standard” (21).

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve been “disturbed” on some level.

But don’t just shake your head.

Take that step out of your comfort zone.

Do the next thing God is calling you to do.

Maybe it’s:

  • memorizing Scripture with your kids.
  • standing up for the abused and persecuted.
  • becoming a prayer warrior.

You probably already know what it is. If not, ask God; He knows.

I was challenged to pray this prayer this week. Will you dare to pray it too?

I want every minute of my life to count for You. Awaken me with fresh passion, fiery faith, and a renewed resolve to follow hard after You… May Your power be evident in and all around me. May Your love flow freely through me. Keep me from evil and from harm, and help me to live a life full of faith, rich in holiness. Increase my capacity to live and walk by the Spirit. Awaken Your passions within me that I might be quick to obey You. My life is in Your hands. I trust You and will follow You, Lord. Change the world through me. Amen. (Your Beautiful Purpose 133)

**How is God stretching you today?

Tired of Interruptions?

Interruptions.

I spent the first half of this week annoyed and overwhelmed by them. I’ve been wondering how God expects me to fulfill His callings on my life when life is so full of interruptions. Actually, I’ve been wrestling with that issue for a lot longer than a few days.

How am I supposed to follow the dreams God has given me, such as writing a book, for one, when the daily stuff of life (children, piano lessons, worship team, laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, interacting with the people I love) consumes all but a few measly little hours each week?

Did I misunderstand? Should I forget all about it? Am I being too nice — not telling my family and friends “no” enough? I do, by God’s grace, possess just enough sense to realize that the idea of writing a book in the name of “ministering to others” is pretty silly if I have neglected my family and missed out on countless opportunities to bless others. So what am I supposed to do?

On Wednesday, when the entire day was an interruption from my plan, (the day that I helped the kids create costumes for HCA spirit week, mailed citizenship applications for our three adopted kids, shopped for a ridiculous amount of groceries, called in the refrigerator repairman, put the groceries away, gave a piano lesson, picked up 3 kids from school, made dinner, bought a sympathy card, picked Jaden up from school — late, served dinner, went to a funeral, took the kids to Awana, played piano for choir practice and worship team, and put the kids to bed), I decided to listen to a podcast interview of Susie Larson, while tackling the sea of clean laundry that had apparently filed for citizenship on our queen-sized guest bed.

(Please forgive me for that horrifically long sentence.)

During that final “interruption,” God enabled me to sort through a lot more than just laundry.

Susie (whom I had not heard of until that day) talked about her new book; Your Beautiful Purpose: Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You.

One of her first anecdotes:

She had long toyed with the idea of writing a book. She asked the Lord again and again if it was really His idea, or just her own. He patiently, repeatedly showed her that it was indeed His calling. She asked again. And He answered again. (This I can identify with!)

Finally, she resolved to begin. She sent her kids off to school, and sat down at her computer. (I get this too. It’s not as simple as it sounds.) The only problem was that she drew a total blank.

As she stared at her computer screen, God impressed on her heart that she was to get up, cross the street and check on her neighbor. Confused, she reminded God that He had just led her to sit down to begin her book, which was not going well so far. And yet the conviction grew. She got up, crossed the street, and found her neighbor in tears, desperately in need of encouragement and prayer.

Once back at home, the words flowed.

“Interruptions” are divinely orchestrated. They are not for nothing.

Folding laundry is one of the most annoying interruptions of my life. How ironic and appropriate that God would speak so clearly to me then and there.

I had to buy a copy of Susie’s ebook. Here are some quotes from her first chapter:

“You and I have a calling on our lives. Scripture is clear. May God give you a strong sense of your kingdom-call so you can begin making life choices that line up with your divine and appointed purpose and direction.

There’s another aspect to our calling. And this part of the call is just as important, if not more so than the dream or vision we have for our lives. If we get so focused on our kingdom-call that we miss the daily call, we will be susceptible to selfish ambition, self-centeredness, and a self-important view of our role in God’s kingdom work…

Our lives are meant to intermingle with each other while tending to the tasks God gives us. Our kingdom-call matters, but we’ll lose our way if we miss the other part of our call…

… If we tend to the daily call, if Jesus has our full attention from day to day, moment to moment, He’ll get us where we need to go so that we can live out the big-picture, divinely appointed call written over our lives.

Oftentimes, those up-close acts of obedience seem completely unrelated to the overall direction of our kingdom-call. In fact, sometimes those little pit stops will seem to take us completely off track from our call. But Jesus knows what He’s doing.”

Susie explained on the podcast that there are various stages in following God’s purposes for us.

First, we are eager — begging God to let us follow His leading, feeling ready to tackle all the challenges ahead of us in this grand new adventure. Yet, it’s when we are feeling so ready that God actually holds us back. He wants us to wait for His timing and in the meanwhile, to learn some very important lessons.

About the time that God deems us ready, we suddenly see things realistically. An up-close view of the mountain that looked so glorious from a distance is rather overwhelming! Even so, it’s time to do this thing: face the challenges, do the spiritual battle.

Once we’re in the thick of things, we have to learn to stay the course. Jumping into God’s beautiful purposes for us is one thing, staying in an arena where we are constantly stretched and challenged is another. We are called to “last long, finish strong.”

(I’ll probably write more about those stages after I dive deeper into the book.)

The truth is, this is all very simple. I knew this stuff already, deep down, but as I heard Dennis Rainey say on Family Life Today, “We all suffer from spiritual amnesia.” I’m grateful to be reminded.

Of course obeying God in the moment-to-moment is going to lead us to His ultimate, beautiful purposes for me.

Of course I can trust that if He’s called me to do something, He’ll bring it about in His perfect time.

Of course I cannot leave my family, the laundry pile, and other daily ministries, become a hermit, write a fabulous book and say it was “God’s calling on my life!”

Here’s praying for the grace to live by these truths… to trust that God is in charge of every single interruption… to trust that He knows — far better than I — how to accomplish the purposes for which I’ve been created, whatever they may be.

And now my kids are home from school to interrupt me. Bye.


A link to Susie Larson’s book:
Your Beautiful Purpose

Compelled

There are voices everywhere – on blogs, on television, in Starbucks, in print, on facebook… Why should I add mine?

The mission fields of the world are overwhelming… What difference can I possibly make?

I am pretty comfortable here in my first-world environment – I’m entertained, well-fed, and enjoying indoor temperatures in the 70’s… Why can’t I just be thankful for my blessings?

Did I already “serve my time” in Haiti? Does God want more than eight years overseas from me?

For Christ’s love compels us…

he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ

and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…

(taken from 2 Corinthians 5:14-20)

I am compelled. I am one of Christ’s ambassadors.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;

and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

(Luke 12:48b)

I have been given much. So much.

Life.

Family.

Sanity.

Enough to fill a book, enough to fill a blog.

You and I know the struggles of life here in earth. We know it can be so hard. But we have also been given much. And so much more will be asked.

I know where I will spend eternity, and I know my destiny is based on God’s grace alone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But because I am saved by such amazing grace, and because God’s hand sustains me day after day, moment-by-moment, I am compelled to live for Him. To serve Him.

What can I do?

I can add my voice.

I can wrestle through confusion and cynicism to make a difference in some small way.

I can step out of my comfort zone. Not  just once, but daily.

What Can I Do

Jealousy

I am writing a book about our years in Haiti. In the process of writing, I am also reading. Today I started reading Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, who is a single missionary and adoptive mom of thirteen in Uganda. I have to admit I am almost completely jealous. As I read about the land of Uganda – the hardships and beauty, and the people – those so desperate for God’s love, I feel I’m back in Haiti.  Or I guess I wish I was back in Haiti.  Katie’s story is incredible. She is sold out to God and is full of His joy in the midst of a place most of us would be miserable in. I remember those contradictory feelings. I remember the heat and the way life was just so hard.  But I also remember feeling so fully alive… quite different from being so comfortable that I am almost numb.

I am jealous of Katie because she’s in the thick of that hard, abandoned-to-God life.  I am back in the comforts of the U.S.  I am jealous because anyone who reads her story can’t help but be in awe.  I am living such a bland life right now that if I told you about it, you couldn’t help but yawn. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m jealous of Katie because her story is in a book and thousands will read it and marvel.  And I’m ashamed to admit that I want thousands to read my story and marvel. Maybe someday they will. But I am asking myself if they will marvel for the right reasons… marvel at the right Person.

“The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked…”  My primary motivation for writing has always been to give God the glory for what He has done for us.  A nine-year long adoption process, culminating in a dramatic miracle…  It’s all about Him and giving Him glory.  Then there’s the nine years in between the beginning and the end of the story.  God kept us in the palm of His hand all that time. He deserves the glory for that too. So where do things get messed up? With my deceitful heart. When I begin to tell our stories, how quickly my mind can shift from how awesome God is to how I managed to survive such challenges. I think about how obvious my courage and perseverance will be.  Well, I don’t actually think such things – I wouldn’t dare.  I just feel such things deep underneath my more spiritual thoughts.

When I read Katie’s book, I’m convicted on so many levels.  First of all, I fight the sinful jealousy.  Then I am taken back to Haiti and the hurting people that I am no longer of any help to – do I still care? Do I pray? I am convicted about my current passions – am I really sold out to Jesus? Would I do anything He asked me to do?

And so I ask myself, What do you want from me, Lord Jesus? Show me. I really want to be used by Him. Have you ever heard someone say what a privilege it is to be used by God? How they consider it an honor to be His servant? I think it’s actually a longing that He gives us. What if part of my jealousy is actually a holy jealousy given to me by the Holy Spirit? What if, after I ask Jesus to rid my heart of the self-centered desire for attention and the praise of others, there remains a jealousy that I’m supposed to have? What if jealousy is exactly what God intends for me upon seeing the joy that is possible when I do what God wants me to do?