The Power of WOW!

When I was sixteen, I had a pen pal named David who lived in Tokoroa, New Zealand. We started writing to each other because I had picked New Zealand as my pen pal’s homeland. When I read through the list of countries I could choose from, New Zealand had just sounded so very exotic and very far away. Actually, it turned out that New Zealand was on the opposite side of the Earth from Germany, where I lived!

David and I were writing to each other for about a year when we came up with the idea that I would visit him during my next summer school break so that I could practice my English for final exams. I was so excited at the idea! I was wowed! I had never been on a plane before! Heck, I had never even left Germany before! (I know these are a lot of exclamation marks, but I was just so excited!)

After the initial excitement, and after my mother talked on the phone with his parents, many How questions came up. How would I pay for this trip? My single, working mother most certainly did not have the money. I was fortunately able in the end to earn the money by working as a tutor after school.

How would I go about booking such a flight? As it turned, I had to go not only to a travel agency (this was before you could book flights yourself online), but actually one that specialized in trips to Australia and New Zealand. There were many other How questions that arose, but luckily we found solutions to all of them. And I eventually made the trip to New Zealand in June of 1988.

I realize now, had I focused straight away on the many Hows, instead of the initial WOW!, I think I would have never dared to embark on this adventure. It turned out to be life-changing, as I ended up living there for 13 years after finishing high school.

During this week’s message, lead pastor Ben Snyder talked about the importance of wonder in our lives. Wonder is the feeling of surprise caused by something unexpected. Wonder can also be the desire to be curious to know something. In one word, Wonder is WOW! Exactly what I felt as a teenager thinking about travelling to New Zealand.

Wonder can move us from what is or what was to what could be. If we are open to wonder, then we we are open to curiosity and experiencing the unexpected. Unfortunately, as adults, we often lose our sense of wonder as familiarity breeds contempt for what is new, or sometimes fear of the new breaks our curiosity down. So the bottom line for this week is: To make room for wonder, respond with WOW! before How.

WOW! and How, of course, go together. WOW! without How is, however, just daydreaming, and conversely How without WOW! will not take you anywhere new. The power of WOW! is that it focuses on the WHO before the WHAT without any need to agree with or reject the idea that is producing the wonder.

On the other hand, the challenge of the How is that the details can kill dreams. So we have to be careful which How we are using:

Critical How – focuses on imperfections (that is never going to work).

Cynical How – believes the worst at first (we are too old, this is too expensive, I do not see how we can overcome this).

Skeptical How – is not interested (I do not give a rip, how about …no, why do we not do this instead).

Shaming How – makes you feel terrible (you are not good enough, how did you think that that was a good idea).

Instead of these negatives types of How, we should be thinking about the Practical How, which allows us to move WOW! from idea to reality.

In the coming days, we will focus on two stories from Luke 1 to illustrate how different Hows can lead to different responses when experiencing a WOW! moment. In one story, we see an angel come to Zechariah telling him that he is going to have a son. In the other story, we see an angel come to Mary and tell her that she is going to have a child. They reacted very differently to their news because of their Hows….

Questions:

When was the last time you experienced a WOW! moment? How did it make you feel and how did you respond? What kind of How do you use most often in response to a WOW!

 

Next Steps:

Read the stories of Zechariah and Mary in Luke 1 and compare their responses to the blessed news of a child to be coming. Make notes of past times where you let the How kill the dream of a WOW! you or someone else in your life experienced. Think about ways you could have handled the situation differently.

Prayer:

Dear father in heaven, thank you for all the WOW! moments you have blessed me with in my life. They are all wonderful opportunities you have gifted me with! Thank you for giving me the wisdom and strength to not let the How kill the dream of the WOW! and instead embrace your gift of wonder and opportunity. Amen.


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


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Don’t Be a Cynic

Han Solo from the Star Wars movies is probably one of the most famous cynics in the movie world (if you are not a Star Wars fan, please keep reading nevertheless—I promise I will not get too geeky here). Two of his most famous movie lines are:

“Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, Princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.”

and

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

Han Solo is the lovable rogue and cynic, who represents the polar opposite of the hero of the story, Luke Skywalker. Luke is the dreamer and idealist full of hope.

This week, you have heard about the importance of hope, how to make room for it, and where to find it. Today we will be talking about the opposite: cynicism. Cynicism is rampant in today’s world, and it is the thief of hope. It is a hope killer.

I am sure you have encountered cynical people in your life. They are the ones that will focus on the mistakes made even when the team wins. They are the ones who will not let you enjoy anything. They think that hope is not worth it. They feel like they need to bring reality into every conversation. Being around someone like that is like standing under a dark cloud, and their pessimism sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

Cynicism can be defined as:

  1. An inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest (skepticism).
  2. An inclination to question whether something will happen or whether it is worthwhile (pessimism).

Proverbs 13:12a

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

It is therefore very important that we do not give into being a cynic, no matter how tempting, but instead embrace hope through forgiveness and praying.

I had to make exactly that choice recently. Someone I love very much is an addict. He has been an addict for almost two decades. It is not the kind of addiction that happens overnight, but occurred gradually and slowly built with time until he was consumed by it. He has in recent times become aware enough of his situation and even admits that he is an addict, but he is still not willing to do all the things he should be doing to get the help he needs to break free from his addiction. It breaks my heart to watch how the thoughtless and hurtful actions resulting from his addiction drive the people who truly love him out of his life.

I could be a cynic and say that there is no hope for this person because he is an addict. But I still feel in my heart that there is hope for a miracle or for a come-to-Jesus moment. Of course, he would still have to do the hard work himself to get “clean” by making major changes in his life, since no one can do that for him. I will not give up hope that one day he will finally turn his life around. I will always choose hope over cynicism.

Questions:

When was the last time that you were tempted to be cynical? Did you choose hope instead? If not, why? If you did choose hope, what happened, and how did that make you feel?

If you are cynical, what would it take for you to believe God’s promises?

Next Steps:

Make a list of Bible passages you can read when you feel tempted to be a cynic because of your circumstances. Think about how you could have viewed things differently and behaved differently the last time you had a cynical response to something. Make a commitment in your heart to always choose hope over cynicism.

Prayer:

Dear Father in heaven, thank you for giving me hope in my life. Thank you for allowing me to be the eternal optimist that I am rather than having a pessimistic outlook on life. By giving me this world view, I am able to see flowers in the deserts that I sometimes have to walk through until I’m able to see the other side. Thank you for walking with me on my journey. Amen.


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Protestant church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man whom she loves and whom she wants to serve the Lord with.


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Created to Hope

Few things rival the feelings of expectation, wonder, and hope that fill children as Christmas nears. The air they breathe seems to be alive with magic. There are cookies everywhere. The smells are magical as the Christmas tree twinkles in the dark, emitting the scent of pine. The stockings hanging limply fill the soul with the expectation that soon they will be bulging, and the space around the tree will no longer be empty. Christmas morning dawns early for both parents and children as they race to the tree to see what treasures await them. The joy and excitement are not for the children alone. The parents, too, await with eager anticipation the joy their child experiences when he or she receives a perfect gift chosen with love.

Too often as adults, we have lost the wonder of Christmas. It becomes an obligation to find the perfect gift for everyone on our list. It becomes stressful, expensive, and disappointing as it seems no one fully appreciates the effort you put forth to create a wonderful Christmas. If Christmas has lost its magic, how can we expect to find hope in our daily monotony? We trudge through life with the “grin and bear it” mentality with little hope or expectation that life could or even should be better. We left the wonder behind when we stopped believing in Santa.

But we were not designed to trudge through life. We were created to live with an ever-increasing sense of joy and hope. We have a hope that should pour forth from every aspect of our lives. Infusing real joy into our very being is the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot accomplish this through our own willpower or thoughts. Won’t you allow the Holy Spirit to permeate your hopes, dreams, and daily life as you look to the future hope and promise?

Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Questions:

On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate your level of hope or anticipation for your future with 1 being “my life will never change” and 10 being “I can’t wait to get up tomorrow to see what God has planned for me”?

What can you do to increase that number, even by one or two levels?

What does it look like for you to “overflow with confident hope”?

 

Next Steps:

Complete this statement: When I think about ________________, it makes me excited to get up in the morning.

Every night before you go to bed, think of one thing that will fill you with hope for the next day.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating us to live with hope. Thank you for promising to fill us with your joy and peace. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to help us find hope. Remind me of the hope I have in you, so that I live my life as an example of the hope that draws others to you. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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What I Always Wanted

I love Christmas! It really is my favorite time of the year. I love Christmas music, Christmas trees, Christmas novels, Hallmark movies, buying gifts, and baking cookies. My favorite thing at Christmas is spending time with my loved ones.

I especially enjoyed Christmas when my girls were little. They were so excited and joyful. They beamed with wonder and delight. I remember one year when my oldest daughter was around 3, she would open a gift, and she would say, “Just what I always wanted.” She said this after each and every gift she opened. She was so grateful. It was adorable. What amazed me, though, was that a few days later, those gifts didn’t mean very much to her.

I am ashamed to say that many times in my life, I have received or bought something that I was overjoyed with, only to quickly forget about it. I thought if I bought those jeans, shoes, sweaters, or purses, I would be so happy. I think we call it “retail therapy.” A sure cure for the blues. I believed if I got that sweater, I would be filled with joy and peace. If I couldn’t afford it, I would put it on a credit card. I told myself, I did deserve to be happy. But shortly after that purchase, there would be something else I desperately wanted. It was a vicious cycle. I found the more stuff I bought, the higher my credit card debt grew. I quickly lost my peace and became very anxious. I still have to remind myself that stuff only brings short-term happiness.

Praise Jesus that he is happy and able to provide all the peace and joy and fulfillment we need when we trust him. He wants you to have a relationship with him. I believe that in order to have a healthy relationship with someone, you have to be open and honest, listen, spend time with that person, and grow to trust them. When you really trust someone, you will learn to be vulnerable, you will depend on that person, and you will show him or her your true self—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Jesus is so trustworthy, honest, and loving. He wants to fill that void you have been desperately trying to fill with the wrong things. It could be stuff, alcohol, drugs, food, or many other things. He wants to fill us with his peace and joy when we trust in him.

Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I can personally attest to how true this is. Jesus is the only one who can fill that void in your life and in mine. When I really trust him and stop trying to make my own happiness, I feel his glorious love, joy, and peace so strongly. I am filled with his joy and peace regardless of my circumstances. I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to him for this free gift. I am like a little kid on Christmas morning: full of delight, joy, wonder, and peace. I can honestly say, “Jesus is just what I always wanted!”

Questions:

What are you using to fill the empty void in your life? Is it bringing you lasting peace and joy? Have you considered that Jesus is the only one who can fill you with peace and joy?

Next Steps:

Make a list of things you try to fill yourself up with when you are unhappy. Next time you are unhappy, pour out your heart to Jesus. Trust him and be vulnerable.

Prayer:

Jesus, I am so grateful that you love me so much! I know only you can bring me true joy and peace. Please forgive me when I try to do life my way. Help me to repent quickly and return to you. Thank you, that you alone fill me with joy and peace. I love you so much. Help me to grow closer and closer to you. Help me share your joy and peace with others so they may come to know you, too. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Could You be the Next Mega-Winner?

Every time the mega-powerball lottery prizes get into the stratosphere, I toy with the idea of buying a ticket. It’s kind of a joke because I barely know how! One Christmas, someone bought me those stocking stuffer lottery tickets, and I didn’t even know how to find out if I had won anything. I’ve just never been much of a gambler. Actually, my heart aches for those folks who believe that their lives would be so much better if only they had a bunch of money. (I just want the winnings to build out the Oregon campus, even though our video feed is pretty sweet!).

Statistics show that lottery winners do not typically dwell in the “happily ever after” category. The tabloids show with stunning regularity that money and fame do not automatically lead to happiness or contentment. As Christ followers, we can look to our Savior, Jesus, as the source of our hope, fulfillment, and joy. When we trust him with our hopes, our needs, and our heart’s desires, we can have confidence that he is all we need. He never says we will have all we want (how could we simple humans even know what that might be?), but he does offer to be our source of joy and peace when we trust in him.

Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I once heard pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie talk about an exercise he would do with high school students. He gave each of them three slips of paper and told them to write on each slip something they believed they couldn’t live without. Then one by one, he told them to discard the slips of paper. The point of the exercise is that if the thing you can’t live without can be taken from you—family, spouse, career, car—your life is always one slip away from insecurity. Letting go of what you cannot hold onto anyways makes room to trust Jesus.

Jesus, our Lord, has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). You can never lose Him. When we place our trust in Jesus, he becomes our source of hope. He fills us with joy and peace, regardless of our circumstances.

Questions:

What is your source of hope (money, career, relationships, possessions, social life, something else)?

Could you lose it? What then?

Next Steps:

Determine what (or in whom) you might be trusting besides Jesus and then decide to let go of it (them). Tell a trusted friend and ask them to help you decide what steps you should take. Ask your friend to hold you accountable as you pray for God to take care of it, and make room for trusting Jesus with those concerns.

Prayer:

My gracious Father, how I love that you love me! The hope that you bring fills my heart with joy and peace! You work all things together for my good, no matter how my circumstances may appear to me now. I trust you. I trust you. I trust you. Help me trust you! Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook.


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What Do You Have Room For?

It is hard to believe, but the Christmas season is here. We are beginning to see lights twinkle across our neighborhoods, trees are being decorated, stockings are being hung, and songs that are declaring this season to be the most wonderful time of the year can be heard throughout the city.

For many us, it is the most wonderful time of the year. We enjoy all of the music and decoration. We love experiencing the Christmas spirit and joy that people demonstrate. What really makes it wonderful, though, is that we get to spend time with loved ones. We have an opportunity to make memories, share meals, and show our friends and family that we care for them.

For others of us, Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year—rather it is the most challenging time of the year. We have this picture of what Christmas should look like, but it never quite does. Our finances, family, and friends are a source of stress rather than a source of hope and joy.

The truth is that no matter which camp we are in, whether we find Christmas to be the most wonderful or most challenging time of the year, God has things that he wants us to experience and receive this Christmas.

Last weekend, Ben shared with us that we can only experience what we have room to receive. Sadly, many of us enter this season without any room and will miss out on what God wants us to experience.

As Ben pointed out, we often don’t realize how many unnecessary and unhelpful things we have in our lives. It could be that our own expectations are actually taking up space and causing us to miss out on what God wants to give us. It might be fear, anxiety, hurt, or shame that take up all the room in our lives. Perhaps, it is possessions, hobbies, or relationships. Not that those are bad things, but if we’re looking to them to provide joy and peace, they will fall short. It is God in whom we find hope and from whom we receive joy and peace.

Romans 15:13

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we continue the LivingItOut Bible Study over the next few days, we will look at the hope God wants to give you this Christmas season that comes through trusting in him.

Questions:

What do you have room for this Christmas? Are you excited by what God might bring into your life?

What are the unnecessary or unhelpful things in your life? Are you in an unhealthy relationship that prevents you from experiencing true love? Are there any possessions you could give away that would serve others better?

Next Steps:

Make an inventory of things that may no longer be helpful or beneficial in your life in terms of possessions, activities, or unhealthy relationships. Make a commitment to create room in your life before Christmas by removing one item (or several, if your list is long) per week before Christmas Day.

Prayer:

Dear Father, thank you so much for letting us experience the wonderful season of Christmas to celebrate the birth of your Son. I am so grateful for this season, even if it may entail some challenges. Thank you for bringing me what I need most in my life to grow closer to you this Christmas, and please give me the strength and wisdom to make room in my life to receive your gifts. Amen.


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Rest and Trust

Yesterday’s LIO was about savoring every moment we are graced with instead of rushing around from one “must do” to the next. But who are you trusting to get you through each day? Does getting across the deep ravines in your life depend upon you and your abilities alone? Or perhaps on other human beings with good intentions, but who are also flawed and imperfect, like we all are? Thankfully, there is a superior, better alternative.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus promises:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

In other words, now is the right time to put down your heavy burden and entrust it to Christ. Let the creator of the universe, who loves you perfectly, carry your load. You may be thinking, “But I don’t know him. How can I trust God?”.

When trying to share my faith with my much younger brother, I said to him, “If our house was on fire, do you know without a doubt I would come in and rescue you?”. He answered, “I sure do.” So I asked him, “Why? It’s never happened so how do you know?”. To which he replied, “Because you always rescue me.” I am sure I have since failed him a thousand times, but in God’s case, it is the irrefutable truth that we can trust him with everything.

In Hebrews 13:5, it states we have no need to rush about seeking for wealth, safety, or power because, “…for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” –Amplified Bible (AMP).

We should trust God because he is worthy of our trust. Trust in the all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, gracious, merciful, loving God, who saves us and gives us not only life here on Earth full of deep meaning and purpose but also everlasting life with him thereafter.

 

Today’s pause revolves around trusting God. So make the decision to get to know God by intentionally spending time in his Holy Word, his love letter to humanity. Do it before any other activity of your day every day. Pause to take time to learn who he is and how much he loves you. Pause to learn your best life begins when your will and your way, the path you walk every day, is determined by your trust in and will to follow and obey God. The only way to know God is to seek him daily in his unerring Word, the Bible. If you do this, you will find him there waiting and willing to carry the burdens of your life for you while you walk in his ways and share the Good News of his love for all of us.

Questions:
Are you sick and tired of being sick, tired, and defeated by life? Are you ready to seek the truth and embrace God’s love for you?

Next Steps:

Talk with your campus team, group leader, Celebrate Recovery leader, or check out Week One of Growth Track to learn more about having a personal, forever relationship with the one true God. It will change your life in ways for the better you cannot begin to imagine.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for loving us so much that you paid the price of our sins through the suffering, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for giving us a brand new life and eternity with you. Thank you for freeing us from sin’s grip and destruction. Lord, please help us to put our relationship with you at the center of our lives where you belong and want to be in order to guide and guard us against temptation and sin. In Jesus’s name, we pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Preckler and the LIO team. Martha loves Jesus and growing closer to him every day. She loves serving on the Sparkle Team and Greeter Team, as a Landing Leader, GrowthTrack hostess, and fill-in writer for LIO. Martha is the grateful mother of two grown sons and one daughter-in-law. Both sons are good writers, but one is a published urban fantasy writer and self-proclaimed grammar dictator, which he swears he picked up from his mother. She has been a Toledo Business Journal contributor, speech writer, as well as creator of dozens of promotional pieces for seniors’ events and programming offer by the YMCA and JCC of Greater Toledo.


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Savor the Moment

A few years ago, a friend told me about the book My One Word by Mike Ashcroft and Rachel Olsen. The premise of the book is that you pick one word and focus on that one word for an entire year. The hope is that God will change you based on what you learned from the word you chose. My life group decided that we would do this, and I immediately knew what my word would be: SAVOR. I wanted to learn to savor every moment of my life, and not be too busy or focused on perfection that I missed the joy Jesus died to give me. The meaning of the word savor is “to taste and enjoy completely or to delight in.”

Psalm 34:8

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts him.

I love the word savor. I imagine eating a large piece of carrot cake, with thick layers of gooey, sweet cream cheese frosting. Taking small bites and enjoying each morsel. I have never understood how someone could gulp down a dessert. As I have gotten older, I have learned to savor something much more important than cake; I savor each moment and blessing God has given me. I’ve made some major changes in life to be able to delight in every moment really.

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

I’ve had to slow down and stop rushing. I’ve had to give up good things to focus on much better things. I’ve really had to prioritize what is important in my life and to do a lot of praying. A year ago, I got a wonderful new job. I had a few concerns at first. For starters, I would have to be at my job earlier than I was used to because the drive was further than my previous job, but yet I wanted to have enough time for my morning quiet time with Jesus. I made the tough decision to get up at 5:00 am every morning (and not allow myself to hit snooze) in order to exercise, have quiet time, and eat a healthy breakfast. I have to be at work by 7:55 am, but I leave plenty early, so I don’t have to rush or worry about traffic. I feel such peace when I drive to work because I give myself plenty of margin on workdays. I am not in a hurry. I usually listen to Christian music or pray while I am driving. I arrive at work full of peace, and that makes my day go so much better. I am much kinder to my co-workers and my patients. I have found I must go to sleep earlier, and I’ve had to give up some of the activities I used to do in the evening.

Next to God, the most important people in my life are my family and friends. I make time daily for them. I am more concerned about the time I spend with my loved ones than everything being perfect. I am overjoyed right now because my daughters will be visiting for Thanksgiving. I am overjoyed. I am not going to worry about the silly stuff… I am going to treasure my time with them and thank God for this blessing. I am not going to focus on how quickly the time will go, or how much I will miss them when they are gone. I am going to be so grateful they got to come home. I know all of our lives would be so much fuller if we just paused and savored the important stuff!

Ecclesiastes 6:9

9 Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.

Questions:
What can you do to slow down and stop hurrying? What blessing are you missing because you are so distracted by busyness? What do you need to give up in your life to focus on what is really important to God and you?

Next Steps:

Make a list of the priorities in your life. Study your calendar carefully. Make a list of what you need to cut out of your schedule. Schedule times of rest in your calendar. Give yourself some margin.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am so grateful for all the blessings you give me. Forgive me when I am too busy to notice or to be grateful for all you have done for me. Help me to focus on what is really important in my life: YOU. Help me to take delight in you, my precious Father. Thank you for coming to this world so I may live life to the full. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Come and Spend Some Time with Me

This week we are talking about how we can meaningfully spend our time when we pause and rest. Each day, we have been looking at a specific action that is part of the R.E.S.T. acronym, which the pastors at each campus had shared with us this weekend.

Today, we are looking at the action step for “E,” which is “Engage Relationally.” When we talk about engaging relationally with others, this refers to spending time with people that need our best. Time with our family and our friends – and not just sitting near one another while we are each engaged with our electronic device of choice. Spending meaningful time with those whom we love should come easily, one would think, because we all, of course, want to do this. But our lives are typically so busy that making time for this is often the first thing to fall off our to-do list.

I grew up with two younger siblings, and my mother was a divorced, full-time working mother. Now that I am an adult, I can appreciate that life would not have been easy for her. Working full-time meant the time she was able to spend with us was limited to the evenings after work and weekends. But despite those circumstances, my childhood was blessed with all of us making many special memories together because my mother chose to use the time she had with us in meaningful ways.

One of my fondest memories is baking Christmas cookies together during the Advent time leading up to Christmas. Baking Christmas cookies or Weihnachtskekse is a big tradition in Germany. We would typically make at least 10 to 15 different types, each absolutely unique in its ingredients and therefore, very different in taste from one another. We kids were tasked with some of the more boring jobs like blanching and peeling the almonds and grinding the almonds and other nuts through an old-fashioned, hand-cranked grinder. But, if we did our job well, we also got to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies. The best part was, of course, the glazing and decorating. During all of this, we would chat and sing Christmas songs – and make great memories.

Proverbs 27:9 The Message (MSG)

Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight, a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.

Spending time with loved ones refreshes our soul. So as an adult, I can now see that for my mother, it was also a way to rest from the busyness of her life. Us spending time together like this was surely no accident. It was something she had to plan and prepare for. Something where she had to choose to give her best to us when we were with her, even though she surely would have been tired after a full day of work. But having experienced the same kind of blessing with my kids, I understand now that consciously and conscientiously making the time to pause and rest by doing activities with my kids actually leaves my soul refreshed and rejuvenated.

Questions:
When was the last time that you consciously made plans to spend time with your family or friends? How did you feel afterward? How could you incorporate “rest time” with your family into your schedule? What are your favorite activities to do with your family or friends?

Next Steps:

Make a list of your family and closest friends. Plan one activity with each of them in the coming months. Put the activities in your calendar so that this time is reserved for you to pause and rest with them. Write down the memories you made with them and how that time made you feel.

Prayer:

Dear father in heaven, thank you for my family and friends. Spending time with them gives me time to rest from the busyness of life and to refresh my soul. Thank you for placing them in my life and for providing me with opportunities to make precious memories with them. Amen.


This post was written by Cordula Mora. Cordula is a neuroscientist who currently works in the Provost office at Bowling Green State University. She was born and raised in Germany, then spent many years living in New Zealand before settling in the US almost 16 years ago. She was raised in a German Lutheran church but feels blessed to have been spiritually awakened when she was introduced to CedarCreek Church. She thanks God every day for all the blessings in her life, including two amazing daughters and a wonderful man who loves the Lord.


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Letting Go of Control

Today, we begin to look at the R.E.S.T. acronym from this past weekend’s message. The “R” in R.E.S.T stands for “Release,” which means to let go of what you can control.

Anyone who has ever attended a 12-Step Meeting will be able to identify the beginning of this prayer:

God, grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

It is commonly known as the Serenity Prayer. This portion is recited at the beginning of each gathering by millions of addicts, their friends, and families in thousands of meetings all over the world every week. But most people have never heard the second part of the of the prayer, as written by author Reinhold Neibuhr:

Living one day at a time;

enjoying one moment at a time;

accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will; (my emphasis)

that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

forever in the next.

Amen.

Every phrase of this prayer suggests releasing our concerns to God, trusting him to affect his will in our lives. It reaffirms that he loves us, wants the best for us, and is on our side both now and in the future.

If anyone had good reason to question God’s plans for him, it was David, the second king of Israel. The prophet Samuel anointed David at a very young age as the next king of Israel. Yet, for the next 15 years, not only was David NOT the king of Israel, but he was pursued for a long time as a fugitive by King Saul. Saul was determined to have his son Jonathan follow him on Israel’s throne. David, on the other hand, decided to release what he could have changed by force to God, in whom he had placed his trust. This is what he sang on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul:

Psalm 18:1-2

1 I love you, Lord;

 you are my strength.

2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;

 my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.

He is my shield, the power that saves me,

 and my place of safety.

What does it mean that God is our strength, our rock, our fortress, and our savior? I believe it means we can trust him with all things – those things we ‘think’ we can control as well as those we know we cannot.

What does that look like today? What do we think we can control? Work, cell phone usage, emails, texts, chores, other people?

When you take a day off from work, you are trusting that God can provide more in 6 days than you can provide on your own in 7 days.

Studies show that it is important to take a day off and to build rest/breaks in our daily schedules. A study by the University of Illinois had these findings:

  1. Adequate rest add years to your life.
  2. You focus better at work when you take time off work weekly.
  3. Completely withdrawing from work regularly reduces the likelihood of heart disease.

Not only that, but a Sabbath rest is one of the Big 10 (commandments):

Exodus 20:9-10

9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.

Will you release your schedule and trust God at his word as David did? One way to find out!

Questions:
Do you make resting and taking time off a priority in your life? How do you feel during and after those intentional days off or rests? How can you incorporate a Sabbath rest into your schedule?

Next Steps:

List your top 10 priorities from 1 (most important) to 10 (least important). Now be honest and assess how much time you give to each. Check whether your time allocation matches the level of priority. Commit to working regular rests into your schedule. Give yourself a break!

Prayer:
Father, thank you so much for your love for me! Thank you for your good plans for me. Thank you for working all things that happen in my life together for my good and according to your will. Help me to trust you so that I can let go of things that keep me from you. I trust that you are enough. Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people who God used to start CedarCreek 21 years ago, and was on staff until 2013. She and her husband Mike love to travel the country in their motor home with their kitties Jane & Mary. Lauri is passionate about prayer, and about helping women discover who they are in Christ. She doesn’t tweet but you can follow her and Mike’s adventures on Facebook.


Want to be a part of the LivingItOut team?

We are always looking for people who are passionate about writing and proofing to serve on the LivingItOut team. If you are interested, email LIO@cedarcreek.tv today!


Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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Memory Verses
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