Fun, Fun, Fun – Haunted

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This school year was the first year I’ve sent BOTH my kids to school. My youngest went off to kindergarten! Since I am a stay-at-home mom with an at-home business, my days shifted from sheer chaos to eerie silence overnight. When the school year started, I had so many plans for those seven hours without children. I would put a lot of time into my work, the house chores, the meal plans. The dog was going to take so many walks. I was finally going to be one of those moms who had it all together.

By around week four, I was pretty tired. But I was driven by that ever-familiar sting of guilt that every parent has experienced regardless of work status. I wanted to pull my weight, waste no time, and avoid transforming into the TV trope housewife who binges Netflix or shops all day. I suppose I felt the subconscious need to prove myself. But by the time the kids got home and my husband finished working, I had nothing left for them. I had left no time for fun, and it was causing me and my family unnecessary stress.

But did I need fun? Isn’t that just fluff you add once the work is done? How can fun possibly fit into a busy schedule?

If you had the opportunity to hear Lauren Snyder speak last weekend, you already see exactly how my logic was flawed. Of course I need (and deserve) fun! The bottom line of Lauren’s message is “Instead of wallowing in the MEH, welcome the meaningful.” My self-assigned workload was only bringing me “meh,” but as I began introducing moments of fun within my day, I ended up with energy and pep that I could share with my kids after school.

Ecclesiastes 8:15           
So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun.

Earlier in the week, we addressed our mental and spiritual selves. One way for our physical beings to welcome the meaningful is to cultivate meaningful experiences, and that means looking for fun. Here are some steps to help you cultivate fun in your life:

  1. Define your fun: What experiences are life-giving to you?
  2. Give permission for fun: You deserve it! And if you take care of yourself, you are better equipped to care for those around you.
  3. Schedule the fun: Make it a priority!
  4. Continue having fun: What is something you enjoy doing so much that you lose track of time?

Questions:
Do you struggle fitting fun into your day? What barriers keep you from prioritizing it?

Describe the last time you had a lot of fun. Did it involve big belly laughs, other people, alone time? What can you do to make those moments a regular part of your week?

Next Steps:
Plan something fun for this week. Literally, that’s it. Put it in your calendar. Do it!

Prayer:
Dear God, while I know not every moment of my life will be perfect and happy and FUN, I also know you want my life to be filled with joy and fulfillment. Help me to find joy in both little things and big things. As you fill me with this joy, let it overflow into those around me. Amen.


This post was written by Ashlee Grosjean. Ashlee is a blogger at GratefulSheep.com and a stay-at-home mom and wife. She loves writing for this team, and she hopes to help convey God’s message through this study.


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Free Your Mind of the Meh – Haunted

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Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 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.

Lauren Snyder illustrated that “meh” thinking views challenges as bad, whereas meaningful thinking views challenges as opportunities for growth and great stories. Lauren shared a few stories over the weekend, including one involving a GPS. I also have a GPS adventure that I find hilarious but still gives my wife nightmares.

In 2010, we were driving our Jeep to some unknown destination in California. We relied heavily on our “trusty” Garmin device. I admit, it had betrayed us before, like the time we followed directions through someone’s backyard. I’m sure the little girl playing in the yard was scared to see us driving through, but what were the odds of the GPS taking us off the road a second time?

The route led us up into a mountainous area where the road kept getting narrower and narrower. We finally realized that it wasn’t a road at all. I slowly got out of the Jeep and guided Erica while she inched the vehicle around. The process took about ten minutes. My feet were partially off of the edge of the path. One bump from Erica, and not only would I have met an untimely demise, but she would have likely backed off of the side of the mountain as well. We learned the hard way that updating the Garmin regularly would probably help us avoid future GPS disasters.

Maybe the true fault came from easily allowing or accepting others to lead the way. At the time, I was in a season of self-doubt. I knew where and who I was supposed to be, but I let the discouraging words of others lead me away from what God had placed on my heart. My “meh” thinking didn’t equip me to grow through the challenges necessary to reach God’s intended purpose for me. Switching to a mindset of meaningful thinking helped me find hope in difficult times.

Hopefulness is based on who God has already proven himself to be. You can’t always put on a smile. Challenges lead to growth, but growth isn’t always pain-free. Like Wanya Morris said, “Although the sun will never shine the same, I’ll always look to a brighter day.

Our stories aren’t always ideal when we’re living through them, but they become valuable lessons and great conversation starters in due time with hope.

Questions:
How do you approach challenges? Does your mind typically move away from meaningful thinking?

Next Steps:
Avoid focusing on the things that you know invite negative thoughts. Start your day in prayer or meditation instead of social media. When you are on your phone, scroll past topics that venture toward negativity. Schedule time to be present with yourself and your family and friends.

Prayer:
God, I am blessed even when I don’t see or believe it to be true. Thank you for loving me without reason. Thank you for allowing me a way to free my mind of thoughts that keep me behind where I need to be. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


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Welcome, Welcome, Welcome God! – Haunted

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I love to find the meanings of different things. I love the meaning behind my name and the meanings people tell me are behind their favorite things, like jewelry, heirlooms, or other treasures they own. I love the meaning in the presents I get at Christmas, often more than the presents themselves! The meaning an object has makes it so much more special to me. But meaning is meant to be found in the spiritual part of our lives as well as the physical and mental parts.

Last weekend, Lauren Snyder talked about how to cultivate meaningfulness in our hearts. She spoke on how to welcome the meaningful, rather than wallowing in the meh.

Do you remember when you first accepted Christ? Or a time when you felt God’s presence all around and in you? In those moments, everything feels so beautiful and full of adventure and mystery. But after a while, we find ourselves falling into meh spiritual practices, like praying the same self-centered words over and over, or reading the Bible but not taking in its message. But it is so life-giving to make them meaningful again.

The only way to do that is to welcome God back in. Sometimes, you and I shut him out, trying to live our own way and not trusting his perfect plan. Lauren said that every morning, she says a certain prayer to help her welcome God back in. She invited us to read it, take it in, and throw the doors open wide for God.

“The Welcoming Prayer” by Father Thomas Keating

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval, and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within. Amen.

Can you imagine how much more meaningful, how special and life-changing, our lives would become if we focused on trusting God in every hour of every day? God is mercifully waiting for us to welcome him in.

Lamentations 3:21-25
21 Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.

Revelation 3:20
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

Questions:
Into what areas do you want to spend extra time inviting God? Which part of the “Welcoming Prayer” is the hardest for you to trust God with?

Next Steps:
If you haven’t taken GrowthTrack (or it’s been a while), you should certainly experience it. There are few things more meaningful than living out God’s purpose for you, and GrowthTrack helps you discover it.

If you know anyone who doesn’t attend a life-giving church, invite them to Halloweekend this month. There are some fun things planned!

Prayer:
Father, I welcome you into every part of my life! Help me to trust you all the time. I mess up often, but your mercies are so great. I cannot even comprehend your faithfulness! Thank you for wanting to come into my heart. Amen.


This post was written by Lydia Snyder. Lydia has been a story-lover for as long as she can remember, often found reading books or writing. She is thrilled to be making a difference by inspiring others to take part in the best story ever – God’s story. Lydia lives with her three wonderful siblings and two amazing parents.


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The Easy Way, or the Hard Way – Haunted

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At one point during our year-long mission trip to LaCeiba, Honduras, our job for the week was to build a house for a family who was new to La Iglesia GranComisìon. A previous team had poured the concrete floor, God bless them! We were tasked with putting up the walls, using cement board. The tricky thing was that the only way to get to the site was by a single-lane horse trail through the jungle. That meant we had to haul all our building materials by foot through the jungle! We also had to haul all of our food and water, since we would not return to the church for lunch, as the walk was 45 minutes each way.

Did I mention we also had to take a portable generator?

My sidekick that year was the infamous Laura Bell! Some of you may know Laura. She worked in IT at CedarCreek for years and is truly one of the smartest, funniest people I know. We (It was probably my idea that Laura went along with, knowing it was destined for failure!) decided that we could “fashion” a yoke for the two of us to haul some of the heavy items out to the site. It consisted of a pole of some sort, the use of some creative padding for our shoulders, and hanging the weighty items on either end to carry. We were determined to manage this ourselves (i.e., without men)—because even though we were girls, we were smart girls! We had chosen our yoke and were determined to make it work!

Several missteps and mis-configurations later, we decided that we were smart enough to know, for the sake of our backs, shoulders, and bruised legs, that hiring the kids who were always hanging around us “gringas” to haul the stuff out was a much better plan. We were not good at carrying such heavy burdens or creating yokes to share the weight. Our coping strategy did NOT work!

Jesus, on the other hand, is a master craftsman. The legend that Lauren Snyder shared about the fame of his hand-hewn yokes is a compelling one, as is the metaphor he used later to describe his desire to ease the burdens of our lives.

Matthew 11:28-30          
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.”

When Jesus says, “my yoke is easy to bear,” he’s telling us, “my yoke fits well.” He is offering to help us with our burdens. Why are we so reluctant to accept his help? While the desire to be independent and “do it ourselves” seems to be a human characteristic, I think we in the United States have made this mantra into an idol. We want to do it ourselves. Just like the toddler who demands, “No! Me do it!”—we want independence. We want the credit. We want to appear in control of all our circumstances. And I believe that leads to a meh life because we can’t.

We just can’t.

I don’t know about you, but my hands get tired from clutching my circumstances, trying to force the outcomes I want. It’s exhausting, and futile, because truly, we control almost nothing in our lives!

A meaningful life can only happen when we invite God into our circumstances. When we let go of outcomes and invite God to have his way, we can relax and enjoy the ride. Sure there are ups and downs, the bumps in the road that are part of life on planet Earth. But with Jesus as our focus, things fall into glorious places. One of my favorite Bible verses to meditate on comes from Psalm 16, and says:

Psalm 16:6 (NIV)
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

As I welcome God each morning into my day, I try to focus on all he has given me. I pray about all the day may offer me—opportunities to serve the people God puts in my life. This sets the attitude of my heart for whatever might come. I can rest in Jesus. I let him hold my heart. I can trust him with it, so I can risk loving those who aren’t always lovable, kind of like me!

Questions:
What burden(s) are you clinging to? Can you release it to Jesus?

Next Steps:
Make a list of the things that worry you today. Write them down—really! It helps define your cares when you see them in black and white. When you get them out of your head and onto paper, often they seem less difficult. Ask Jesus to share these burdens with you. Listen for his voice. Do what he says. Rest in his presence.

Prayer:
Jesus, my sweet Savior, thank you for bearing my burdens. Thank you for knowing how heavy they are, and how incapable I am of dealing with them. I trust that you love me. I trust that you are good. I trust you to carry that which weighs me down. I give it to you now, and I’ll try not to take it up again. Thank you for forgiving me when I do, and for never tiring of me coming back to you once more when life overwhelms me! I love you! Amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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God Moves Us from Meh to Meaningful – Haunted

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Lauren Snyder, CedarCreek’s Executive Director of Ministries, gave a message this past weekend that blew me out of my negative thinking! I am normally a cheerful, energetic, positive force of nature. Just ask my brothers, sons, and husband. But something happened during what seems like an ever-growing number of tragedies and trials that have been swirling in and around my life for the past twenty months.

Although I know and embrace the verse, “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,” at some point, I lost my sense of amazement, hope, and joy (Romans 8:28 CSB). I became fearful, short-tempered, sickly, and lacking in motivation. I began to feel like a failure with no future and no hope. What the heck?!

I specifically began praying about my dilemma, and God sent Lauren and her message on “Meh vs. Meaningful” to get me back on track.

Lauren shared how God can, and will, move us from meh to meaningful, and joyful, if we ask him into our lives as our Savior, the one true God and leader of our lives. She then proceeded to unwrap verse after verse as proof that when we just stop “being in charge” and walk with him in his light and love—no matter what is going on in our lives—he will bring us joy and meaning. He is, was, and always will be the source of all peace, beginning the moment you turn your life over to him.

In John 10:10, it reads: “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy..” He does it in different ways, such as by using our thoughts to guide us into a state of generalized dissatisfaction and frustration, or by leading us to embrace anxiety and fearfulness about the future. But when Jesus finished the statement with these words: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

In Matthew, Jesus explains how he will renew our joy:

Matthew 11:28-30
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.”

As a former horse trainer, I can tell you with certainty that custom-made equipment isn’t a burden. It actually helps to make the job easier for the animal—which is exactly what Jesus promises us if we embrace him as our Savior.

God has more for our lives than we can ever know. He wants us to choose him and to live an abundant and satisfying life. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it will be purposeful.

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Questions:
How are you doing emotionally these days? Do you find yourself feeling discouraged, fearful, angry, or even hopeless?

Do you want to have a meaningful, joy-filled life or merely exist?

Next Steps:
If you haven’t done so, carefully listen to Lauren’s sermon and take notes. Look up the verses she explains, and write them down. Pray for understanding.

If you haven’t already released your grip on the lie that you are somehow in control of everything, it’s time to admit to yourself and God that you need to accept and embrace him as the one and only God of your life. Apologize for denying him that position. This is the path to joy and salvation.

If you’re ready to accept Christ into your life, acknowledge God loves you so much that he sent his own son to save you by paying the price of your sins and dying in your place. Then share that with someone who can celebrate with you and help you grow as a new Christian.

If you are already a Christ follower but struggling with the thoughts that are holding you down, pray and ask God for relief. Then see your Campus Staff or Group Leader for more ways to experience Lauren’s examples of how God can restore you to peace, purpose, and joy.

Prayer:
Lord, I praise your holy name! Thank you for Lauren’s amazing message that has reset my mind and emotions back onto the joyful path Jesus died to give me. I love being joyful, helpful, and motivated by your love and your word.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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