The Great Puzzle Solver

My father-in-law was a puzzler. By that I don’t mean that he was strange but that he loved completing puzzles. Whenever we visited, he had a huge puzzle laid out that covered about half of the ping pong table he had in the lower part of his bi-level home. He, my mother-in-law, and the kids would spend hours pouring over these 2,000-piece exercises in emotional exhaustion. I often got involved. I would pick up a piece and search for a location for what seemed like an hour. After several hundred attempts to fit the piece I was holding, I would quietly lay it down and resume some other activity. Others at the table seemed to have no trouble locating the right fit for the pieces that they held.

Sometimes our walk with God feels like my puzzle experience. 1 Peter 4:10-11 tells me that I have a gift, and I should use it to glorify God.

1 Peter 4:10-11
10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

But sometimes we feel like I did with my puzzle piece, like we just don’t
know where we fit. But God has made you and gifted you in a special way. Every piece in the puzzles my father-in-law worked on was unique. It had a unique shape with it’s own portion of the picture to contribute. In the same way, God has fashioned each of us to fit in the body of Christ and complete the picture that he wants the world to see. God knows exactly where we fit. Too often we feel overwhelmed, afraid, or inadequate, and we let those special gifts go unused. As Paul wrote to Timothy, he encouraged him to fan the flame of the gift that was in him so he could be a blessing to the body of Christ and bring glory to God.

2 Timothy 1:5-7
5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Most of the time, our problem is getting started. We stand at the starting gate, staring out over the field wondering if we should begin or not. But once someone steps into the role that God has prepared them for, there is no doubt that her or she will experience immense joy and fulfillment, just like Jesus intended. This is a key to the abundant life that Jesus promises to those who love and follow him. When we don’t use our gifts and talents to honor God and help others, we are like that puzzle piece put to the side. We aren’t contributing to the picture that God wants to show the world regarding his love, care, and compassion.

Nike has a slogan that fits this situation — Just Do It! God knows where we fit, and he gives us a passion for people or for activities. That passion acts like a pointer to help you discover where your piece of the puzzle fits. Perhaps your passion could lead you to start a Group to find and encourage others that share your passion. It could be that your passion would lead you to be part of the prayer ministry, student ministry, or one of several roles here at CedarCreek that seek to meet needs in the body of Christ. Don’t wait any longer. Put your piece on the puzzle board and see where it fits. Together we can show the world the picture of love and forgiveness that God is putting together.


Questions:
What have your past experiences, your personality, and your passions prepared you to do to help others in the body of Christ?

What obstacles are keeping you from using your unique gifts to meet the needs of others at CedarCreek?

Next Steps:
Attend GrowthTrack! There you will find a clear definition of the spiritual journey and how your unique giftedness and personality can be used to glorify God and make a difference in the lives of others.

Start a Group centered on your passion. Seek to use that common bond with others to help them to take their next steps on their spiritual journey.

Seek out the leadership team at your campus and talk to them about your passion and how God has prepared you for ministry. Explore with them what your next steps should be as you seek to fit into the puzzle of God’s love and care.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the way in which you have gifted me and prepared me through the experiences of life. I have confidence that you know how I fit into the body of Christ and how I can glorify you by making a difference in the lives of others. Help me to identify my passion and give me wisdom as to how I should follow that passion to make a difference in the lives of those around me. May my heart be open to the path that you want me to walk. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Terry McGraner. Terry is an engineer at Dana Corporation. He facilitates GrowthTrack and leads a Group at the South Toledo campus. He is married and the father of four adult sons. He loves spending time with his family and communicating the truth of God’s Word to make an impact in the lives of others.


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Take a Risk

I like plans. At work, I pride myself on having a plan and instructing others to do the same. On a day off at home, I like to know what we’re doing together as a family and when. Even on a recent vacation, I kept asking my wife what we were going to do each day. Needless to say, spontaneity is not in my vocabulary.

As an introvert, I feel less comfortable when I am surrounded by people, even if it may be good for me. It is particularly challenging for me to be part of a group of people who are willing to be open, to talk about their lives, to support each other, and to live out the words of Acts 2 and Hebrews 10.

Luke wrote in Acts 2:42-47 about the way the early disciples lived, devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, sharing meals, meeting together, worshipping together, and even sharing their possessions.

Again in Hebrews, the author encourages the church there to continue those practices.

Hebrews 10:24-25  
24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

I have been fortunate to be involved in a few meaningful groups in my time as a Christ-follower, with the most recent one being a CedarCreek Group. Last winter, my friend Andy invited me to join a newly forming group that was set to meet at the Black Cloister. I immediately said yes, partly because we’re friends and I was excited to join a group with him but also because of the opportunity to meet other men from church (and to sample a different beer each week).

I had attended the church for a couple years, but I hadn’t connected to many people because I am not a spontaneous, outgoing person who will walk up to strangers and introduce myself. But in that group, 10 to 12 men were able to come together to study the Bible and engage in meaningful conversation. Even though we only met for one semester, we continue to pray for each other through an ongoing group message because, as Jesus said, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Questions:
What is keeping you from joining a Group?

What are your expectations of a Group and from a Group?

How will you decide which Group to join?

Next Steps:
Join a Group. Take a risk and step out of your comfort zone. Fortunately, at CedarCreek, everyone can find a Group that fits his or her needs, from young married couples with children, to basketball enthusiasts, to those who are single again. Check out cedarcreek.tv/groups to find the Groups Directory and contact the host to get connected.

Prayer:
God, help me to find the right Group to challenge me, to welcome me, and to help me find the answers to my questions. I ask that you will use the Group to help me develop authentic relationships, rooted in Christ, that will spur me on toward knowing you better. Amen.


This post was written by Ryan Cook. Ryan is an executive director for two Chick-fil-A restaurants in Toledo, so if you see him at church and think he looks familiar, that’s where you know him from. He is married with a son and a daughter. Follow him on Twitter @CookfilA.


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So Many Choices

It is estimated that the average human makes 35,000 “remotely conscious” decisions each day! It would be impossible to say yes to every one of those 35,000 choices that bombard us, so we must be saying no to something. There are a lot of distractions vying for our attention in this world. However, God has given each one of us a finite amount of time, and he expects us to manage it wisely. We need to say yes to those things that are worthy of our concern and no to those that are not.

Luke 10:38-42
38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Let’s simply focus on today’s Scripture passage. There are two women in this story: Mary and Martha. Martha has welcomed Jesus into her home, and Jesus didn’t travel lightly. He had at least 12 other people with him. That is quite a houseful, especially on short notice. Martha went about making dinner for her guests. No small task. Her sister Mary, however, sat in the other room with Jesus listening to him teach.

We can understand how Martha would be a little peeved at her sister for not helping her with the preparations for their guests. There must have been a ton to do. Martha finally got fed up and expressed her frustration to Jesus, asking him to order her sister to get up and help her. But Jesus told Martha that there was only one thing worth giving her attention to and Mary had figured it out. What Martha was doing was good. Very good. Even gracious. But, her sister Mary had chosen what was great!

There are many good options that come along in this life that we can choose to learn about, be passionate about, and give our time to. But there is only one thing that is great in this life, and our eventual destiny depends on what we do with it. A pastor once said that God loves that we want to learn about him and serve him, but he also craves simply being with us. Perhaps we need to say no to a few good things today to free us up for something spontaneous and great tomorrow!

 

Questions:
Verse 40 in today’s scripture says that Martha was “distracted.” What was she distracted by?

What does the rest of verse 40 and verse 41 tell us about how Martha felt about her choice of how to spend her time and energy?

What had Mary “discovered”?

What does Jesus mean in verse 42 when he says, “it will not be taken away from [Mary]”?

Next Steps:
Look at one or two items on your schedule today. Label them as “good” or “great.” Then, as manager of your time, make the executive decision to focus your time and energy on the great item(s).

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for the gift of time you have so graciously given to me. I have no idea how much I have left, but teach me to value it and manage it in a way that honors and glorifies you. I want to devote my time to the “great” things you have in store for me. Show me what to say “yes” and “no” to from this day forward. Amen.


This post was written by David Vernier. David enjoys the opportunity to encourage others in their walk with Jesus as a writer for the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Everything At Our Fingertips

I often ask myself and anyone who will listen (never with a hint of sarcasm), “How did we ever live without instant communication, instant results, and instant gratification?” As the world gets more technologically advanced, it grows smaller and more demanding. We are control freaks more than ever before. We have to have everything researched, organized, and planned out, and, of course, there’s an app for that. We can know details about practically anything just by asking Siri or Alexa. Is this a good restaurant? Will I like this movie? What’s the rating of this phone? We can find out if we’re pregnant in 30 seconds. We can have our DNA tested for any number of things, from ancestry to genetic defects, and have the results in a week.

I remember the days when you had to stand in one place and dial a rotary phone to make a call. If no one was home, you would have to wait and try again later. If you wanted information, you went to the library. Women had to go to the doctor to find out if they were pregnant and never knew the sex of the child — or anything else about it, for that matter — until the child was born. We mostly relied on word of mouth for recommendations for movies, restaurants, and the like. You just rolled the dice and took your chances … and somehow, we all survived!

The problem with having all of this at our fingertips is that we’ve forgotten how to be spontaneous. We’ve forgotten that life is full of twists and turns, and every good plan can fail. We end up with unrealistic expectations for how things will work out, which can lead to a lot of stress and disappointment.

When we remember that we are not in control, it opens us up for putting more of our trust in God. Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” This verse reminds me of the saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I know he doesn’t really laugh, but he knows so much better than I do what is best for my life. A lot of 12-step programs use the phrase “My best thinking is what got me here.” Even when I research, plan, and organize, if it isn’t in God’s will, it isn’t going to work out. If I trust him and remain open to his plans, I can have a closer relationship to him with a lot less stress. When I remember that God is in control, I have so much less to worry about!

 

Questions:
When was the last time you did something spontaneous with no research, organization, or plan?

How did that feel? Was it fun or uncomfortable?

What can you do to let God have more control of your life?

Next Steps:
Write down a couple of areas where you need to give up the illusion of control. Pray for God to help you let go and allow him to take over.

Prayer:
Father, thank you for taking such a great interest in me that you made a plan for my life before I was even born. Thank you for loving me so much that your plan is for good in my life. Help me to recognize that I have no control, to let go of the illusion of control, and to trust you to determine my steps. Amen.


This post was written by Kelda Strasbourg. Kelda is a grateful member of the LivingItOut writing team. She has a love for Jesus and desire to help others find that same love. She has her own business and a border collie named Emily.


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Spontaneous Adventures

“Let’s go out of town today!”

Depending on your personality, these six words can either be very exciting or simply stress-inducing. For those of us who find this phrase exciting, we love the chance to live on a whim or not have to stick to a plan. This is evidenced in how we spend time with friends and family and even how we spend our money. For those in the latter category, the mere thought of deciding the day of to go out of town is absolutely insane.

No matter which category you find yourself in, many times, our relationships tend to drift toward monotony. And, when we find our relationships – romantic or not – lacking excitement, we may simply need a little spontaneity. This past weekend, Ben Snyder spoke on spontaneity and stated, “There is more adventure for us when we are free to be spontaneous.” Sure, too much spontaneity can sometimes be irresponsible, which is why in his message, Ben defined healthy spontaneity as “learning when to surrender control of the outcome.”

He then pressed his point further by arguing, “If we follow Jesus, he will challenge us to live spontaneously.” Essentially, an inherent part of a relationship with Jesus is the willingness to be spontaneous. In the Gospel of Mark, we see clear evidence of this claim.

Mark 6:6b-11 
6b Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people. 7 And he called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits. 8 He told them to take nothing for their journey except a walking stick—no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. 9 He allowed them to wear sandals but not to take a change of clothes.

10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”

Would this have been a difficult mission for some of Jesus’ followers to accept? Of course. But, God’s call to follow is not a call to an easy life, it is a call to an adventurous and fulfilling life through a deep relationship with Jesus. In God’s call for us to be spontaneous, he’s calling us to a deeper, more meaningful relationship. As Ben said, “love grows when we share things in common,” and when God calls us to be spontaneous, it is always with him. Furthermore, we are not simply sharing in the adventurous relationship with God, but we should also be spontaneous in our relationships with others. We will discuss how we can do this throughout the rest of the week.

 

Questions:
When was the last time you were spontaneous in your relationship with God?

Why do you think we tend to drift away from spontaneity the longer we are in a relationship with someone?

Next Steps:
When someone asks you to do something spontaneous this week, do it! Take note of how you feel before, during, and after the experience.

Prayer:
Father, you are so good to constantly remind us of your love for us. I know I struggle to always listen to your call for me, and I want to be more spontaneous. Thank you for your Word and for your desire to have an adventurous relationship with me. Help me to be more spontaneous with you and others this week. I ask all this in the name of Jesus, amen.


This post was written by Andy Rectenwald. Andy has a passion for bringing the Bible to life for people, for Christian Apologetics, and for the Cleveland Indians. He is married with two young children.


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A Guarded Heart

In the first weekend of “3 in 30”, Adam Marroquin, the NextSteps Director at the West Toledo Campus, unpacked three very different interpretations of what a guarded heart means. One has a defensive posture, which he identified as a Wall Builder, a person who intentionally builds up walls around themselves to keep others out. Next is The Defender, a person who guards by protecting the dream in their heart at all costs. Finally, he identified the Lavish Giver, a person who guards their heart by generously giving and expecting nothing in return. This is living like Christ, serving the people around us and not expecting repayment. If you want to find freedom and adventure in your relationships again, consider living from a guarded heart as a Lavish Giver.

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give life as a ransom for many.

Jesus redefined the dynamics of our relationships with others by demonstrating selfless giving, and we are to follow his example.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

This is one of my favorite Bible verses. From the inception of my Facebook page, my bio has read, “Living a Christian life, one day at a time, with a guarded heart.” I am optimistic about my many relationships, whether it is with family, a romantic interest, friends, coworkers, or my small group. I have a heart that is alive with desire, but that desire is rooted in pleasing God.

Our hearts were created to connect with God and to know him. Yet, many of us have an optimism that our relationships with people can fill our hearts in a way they were never intended to. When we look for our relationships to fill our hearts, disappointment can emerge because we are looking to people to meet a need that only God can fulfill.

1 John 5:21
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.

When you keep God in his proper place in your heart and seek to please him, you will find it easier to be a Lavish Giver, able to give generously to others without needing much in return.

Questions:
What are some of the unmet expectations in your relationships that are ruling your heart? Are you building a wall?

What does your heart look like in your relationships today? Are you experiencing disappointment?

Next Steps:
Identify the tense relationships that are causing frustration in your life. Journal possible causes of the tension and commit to working on resolutions. Invite Christ into the relationship and observe what transpires.

If you didn’t have a chance to hear Adam’s talk, you can watch it on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLnCQdOnRG0&t=43s

Prayer:
Dear Abba Father, help me to guard my heart in such a way that I will be a Lavish Giver. Grant me the wisdom to know that when my heart’s desires are unmet, I need to look to you, not others. Give me strength to live like Christ in serving others without expecting something in return. In Christ’s name, amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke. Jenn is the Real Estate Manager for Hancock County. She has a son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson, and she thanks God every day for them. She feels blessed to be writing for the LivingItOut. She was raised in an Evangelical Church, but her spiritual life awakened when she started attending CedarCreek.


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Listening Ears

It’s difficult to admit, but I’m not the greatest listener. I enjoy debating and discussing things, but mostly, I enjoy sharing my own opinion with others. I can honestly say that when I’m having a heated discussion with someone, I’m more interested in convincing them of my point of view than understanding theirs. Can you relate to this? Do you find yourself listening with the intent to respond, or do you listen with the intent to learn?

Last weekend, Casey Greenawalt, Director of CedarCreek Kids at the Perrysburg Campus, spoke about Proverbs 18:2.

Proverbs 18:2
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.

This proverb not only condemns the foolish and impulsive words that come from our mouths, it condemns the impulsive conclusions of the mind and heart that those words stem from. Casey talked about the importance of not just understanding the words someone is saying but also feeling what they are feeling. He gave us three principles of empathetic listening:

  1. Listening with the intent to understand, not just hear.
  2. Listening with your ears, eyes, and heart.
  3. Listening with the intent to have a deep emotional connection with the person.

These principles teach us that even when we disagree with someone, we have an opportunity to experience a deeper connection with them.

I love this perspective from a hospital chaplain named Susan from the book Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey. When she enters a room, Susan assumes that, bidden or not, God is already present. “If I forget that God goes ahead of me, and think instead that I am bringing God into the room, I can have an air of smugness. I feel pressure to say the right thing, try to impress the patient and staff – in short, I take myself too seriously. I need the constant reminder that God precedes me in that room, and that the person in the bed has a story that I can learn from.”

When you are more focused on learning and less focused on impressing, you can create a deeper, more meaningful connection with someone. Always seek first to understand, then to be understood.


Questions:
Do you listen with the intent to learn or the intent to respond?

Which of the three principles of empathetic listening is the most difficult for you and why? Which is the easiest?

Do you feel God already present in a conversation, or are you more interested in being the one who brings God to the conversation?

Next Steps:
As you are in conversations with people this week, especially people with whom you find it difficult to connect, challenge yourself to seek first to understand.

If you didn’t have a chance to hear Casey’s talk, you can watch it on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp5xCoXnlC0).

Prayer:
God, thank you for creating me with the ability to listen with my eyes, ears, and heart. Please help me to seek first to understand before I seek to be understood. Please especially help me to experience a deeper connection with those whom I disagree by practicing empathetic listening. Amen.


This post was written by Meghan Yarnell. Meghan is an art teacher and artist. She is married and has a son and daughter.


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The Weight of Words

Have you ever skimmed through Proverbs just to see how many verses it has on the power of words?

I have, partially because words are so important in my career and partially because I’m not always good at holding my tongue. Suffice it to say, Proverbs has a lot to say about words, and most of them carry a similar message.

 

Proverbs 18:21
The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.

 

Words have power, over both us and others. We all know this in our gut to be true, even if we don’t always acknowledge it. Have you ever had someone say something encouraging to you just when you needed it, or tell you exactly what you needed to hear to calm your nerves in that moment? It’s life-giving! On the other hand, one discouraging or hurtful comment can sometimes ruin an otherwise great day, or year. Wrong words can sometimes even completely shatter us.

As Christ followers, it’s important to remember that our words affect those around us. Sometimes we can save or ruin a day with one offhand comment. And while we rarely need to consider the consequences of saying something encouraging (if you think someone’s shirt is cool, seriously, just tell them – it’ll probably make them smile), when it comes to less encouraging words, we really need to hit the pause button before speaking.

As it says in Philippians 4:8b, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” If we aren’t even supposed to think things that aren’t true, honorable, right, and pure, how can we excuse saying them?

Of course, we’re human, and we still do think such things. On top of that, sometimes we have to say things that are true but not necessarily easy or encouraging. So, how do we determine if it’s something that needs to be said? Well, next time you think about saying something less than encouraging, pause to really T.H.I.N.K. (as Sarah Bucher recommends):

Is it True?

Is it Helpful?

Is it Inspiring?

Is it Necessary?

Is it Kind?

As Sarah said in her 10-minute talk, our words carry weight, so we should choose to wait.

 

Questions:
Do you feel you’re careful with your words, or are you quick to speak?

Do you believe your words tend to bring life and light to people’s days?

Next Steps:
The next time you feel tempted to say something you’re not sure you should – wait and walk through the T.H.I.N.K. acronym. Then, decide whether it’s really worth saying.

Say something encouraging to someone today – whether to a friend or stranger, either something big or small.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of words. Thank you that we are able to make such a difference in people’s lives with just a few kind words. Please help us to use this gift to encourage others rather than breaking them down. May our words be a reflection of you, may people hear Jesus’ love through them. Amen.


This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton Lechner is a college grad currently working at her local library. In her spare time, she volunteers as an ESL teacher and freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.


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Jealousy vs. Gratitude

Do you ever find yourself wishing you had someone else’s life? What about someone else’s job, house, car, vacation, or clothes? If we’re honest with ourselves, we have all felt jealousy at one time or another. Jealousy can sneak up on us and rob us of joy. I catch myself doing this when I’m trying to pay off debt or save money. While I’m saving, I notice every time my friends spend money, and I get jealous. It is okay to enjoy the money we make and have nice things, but if all we’re doing is trying to keep up with our friends and neighbors, then we’re wasting our energy.

Jealousy better translates as envy – a passionate, zealous desire for something. It is a feeling of discontentment or dissatisfaction because of what another person has. Allowing jealousy to dominate or rule your life will result in hopelessness and depression.

Proverbs 23:17-18
Don’t envy sinners, but always continue to fear the Lord. You will be rewarded for this; your hope will not be disappointed.

It is interesting to see studies that show how gratitude affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs, grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

An article on Forbes.com, “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round,” reveals that some of the benefits of gratitude are improved physical and psychological health, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression, improved sleep, improved self-esteem, and increased mental strength. Anytime you feel jealous this week, remember that gratitude is the antidote to jealousy.

Proverbs 14:30
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.

Questions:
Think of a time when you’ve been envious of someone else. What were you jealous of? How did that affect your relationship with that person? How did that affect you (physically, mentally, emotionally)?

Now, think of a time when you felt blessed or grateful. Did this affect you differently than when you felt envious?

Next Steps:
Work on intentionally being grateful. This week, pick one thing you are going to do to become more grateful, or choose one person to express your gratitude to.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for the many blessings in my life. I know how much you care for me and provide for my needs. Help me to become more grateful and less jealous. Amen.


This post was written by Kaye Althaus. Kaye is honored to be a member of the LivingItOut writing team. In her spare time, she loves to read and do crafts with friends. She and her husband live in the quiet country and raise chickens.


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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Can You Hear Me Now?

Proverbs 11:12 (ESV)  
Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.

On our first trip to Honduras in 2000, my husband, Mike, and I stayed with a wonderful host family, Rigoberto and Emma and their three children. Not one of them spoke English. We communicated by using a Spanish-to-English Bible that I had brought, along with my two years of high school Spanish. Although the week was exhausting, speaking to our new friends about our life in the US and our faith in Christ that had brought us on this mission trip challenged me to listen harder and communicate more sincerely than at any other time in my life. To me, this illustrated the power of being quiet and listening with laser focus. I almost never listen like that here at home.

Listening is a lost art. We are so concerned about being heard, having a voice, and presenting our own ideas and opinions that we have little interest in what others have to say. We see the effects of this self-centeredness on the nightly news: school shootings and other senseless acts of violence where people just want to be heard and noticed by any means, regardless of how it might affect others.

Who is listening? Do you? Do I? Do I listen to the people in my life who, just like me, also want to be heard? Am I willing (even able) to listen without jumping into my “solution” for their situation? One time a friend told me that perhaps the reason I want to “fix” everyone is because I don’t love them enough to walk with them through whatever they are going through. Ouch! As painful as that observation was, I fear it is still true more often than not. When I jump into problem-solving mode, I am done listening. I want you to listen to me. But when I listen, really listen, I am saying to you that I love you enough to set aside my opinion and my agenda, and I am taking the time to really hear what’s going on with you. I am saying I value you as a person, an intelligent being, who is entitled to work through things yourself and come to your own solutions, or not. I am saying that I humbly consider you as more significant than myself, having the same attitude Jesus did (Philippians 2:3-5). I am not jumping to conclusions, finishing your sentences, or assuming I’ve got the picture after only a few words from you. I am asking questions for clarity and listening thoughtfully, with space for processing. I am asking, listening, and loving like Jesus with the woman at the well (John 4:7-26). It took him a little while to get to the bottom of her story, but it was worth it. It will be for us, too.


Questions:
Are you a good listener? Would others agree?

Do people often seek you out to talk to?

Next Steps:
Have courage and humility and ask your spouse or a close friend what they think of your listening skills. Really listen to the responses without getting defensive or making excuses. Then, take some time this week to practice improving your listening skills.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you so much for the examples you gave us about listening and asking thoughtful questions. Help me this week to care enough about the people you put in my life to truly hear them, to walk with them, to love them as you love me. I know you always hear my prayers, but you seldom rush in with a solution. Instead, you allow me to pray, process, pray, wait, and come to a place of peaceful resolution through your Holy Spirit. Help me to honor those who come to me in the same way. In Jesus’ name, 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:

Click Here


More Resources

Memory Verses
Weekly Discussion
RightNow Media