Category Archives: Christian Living

The Light Shines Through (Good Friday guest post)

Light streaming through trees. "Even on this, the darkest day, the Light shines through."

Image source: Pixabay

The Light Shines Through

by Steph Beth Nickel

Today, Christians around the globe will gather to solemnly commemorate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Whenever it is overcast and rainy, we think, “How appropriate.” It is truly “the darkest day” of the year—no matter what the weather.

The sinless Saviour was humiliated, beaten, and then nailed to a Roman cross. While we won’t go into detail, suffice it to say it was one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised.

As busy people, we rarely stop to consider the implications of this fact in any more than a fleeting manner. How often do we take the time to contemplate what the Lord did and allow ourselves to be overcome with reverence and gratitude? This day—or any day—is a good one to do just that.

But as we consider the darkness, we must also focus on those cracks of light. Even as the Saviour went to His death and suffered more than we can imagine, the Light shone through—and continues to shine to this day.

The Light Shines Through

Jesus prayed for those who put Him to death. In Luke 23:34, we read, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (ESV).

Knowing Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him should amaze us. Though He was fully God, He was also fully man and suffered as any other individual who had been put to death in this way. And more than that, He actually became sin for us, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Talk about suffering! And Jesus knew all this would happen before it did. Still He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

He was not only thinking of these individuals, when He was dying, the Son of God was thinking of His mother, Mary. In the midst of that kind of suffering, few—if any—of us would be thinking of anyone or anything besides ourselves. But Jesus knew His mother would need someone to care for her after He was gone, and He assigned this task to His beloved disciple, John. What an expression of selflessness and love! The Light was shining brightly.

Yet another of Jesus’s final declarations is found in John 19:30. Many a sermon has been preached on this verse. It says, “It is finished!” (ESV). We know it wasn’t only the fact that His suffering would soon be over. Jesus knew all along that, to make the way for us to be right with the Father, He had to take our sin upon Himself and suffer the punishment we deserved. This is yet another truth that should cause us to stop and marvel at what He did for us.

Let’s go on to consider not only the cracks of Light we can see as the Saviour was crucified but also what happened when He expelled His last breath and “gave up his spirit,” as it says in John 19:30.

Invited into the Light

One of my favourite verses in all of Scripture is Matthew 27:51. In the ESV, the first part of the verse reads like this: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

It’s a brief verse and easy to skim over, but it is truly awesome. The fact that this curtain (or veil) was torn in this way is miraculous. The fabric was 60 feet long, 30 feet high, and as thick as the palm of one’s hand. It would have been virtually impossible to rip from bottom to top, let alone from top to bottom. This was no act of man.

And most awesome is what this act of God represents. No longer are believers denied access to the Holy of Holies. We are invited into the Throne Room of Heaven because of Jesus’s death. Now that’s something to marvel at—especially since His presence was reserved for the High Priest, who could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year.

Now, because of what Jesus accomplished on Calvary, we are invited to come before God any time of any day. Of course, we must do so in reverence and awe. But if we have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour, the way is open to us. In fact, Jesus is the Way, as we read in John 14:6.

So, while we will celebrate the Light bursting from the grave on Sunday, we can see that even on this, the darkest day, that same Light shines through.

Our meditation on these truths should not be restricted to one weekend a year. Will you consider setting aside time to do so on a regular basis?

And when your life seems shrouded in darkness and you can’t see the way out, will you turn your eyes toward the One who is the Light of the World (John 8:12)?

Tweetables

Even on this, the darkest day, the Light shines through. (Click to tweet)

When life seems shrouded in darkness, turn your eyes toward the one who is the Light of the World.  (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Keep an Eye Out (Guest Post)

Keep an Eye Out

By Steph Beth Nickel

Keep an eye out … it’s applicable advice in many areas of life.

This past week, when seeking to decide which two women to write about for my “Just Like Us” series of devotionals for HopeStreamRadio, the answer came in two different ways. I wrote about Eve because she was mentioned in the New Testament reading I did one day as part of my quiet time. I also wrote about Hannah. I had subscribed to a series of online devotionals. That particular morning the focus was on Hannah. While I approached my piece from a completely different perspective, I loved that I had kept an eye out.

And speaking of writing … You may have heard the terms “plotters” and “pantsers.” Plotters create a clear outline before they begin fleshing out their story. Some do so in extreme detail. Pantsers, on the other hand, sit down to write and see where their thoughts take them. Plotters must keep an eye out for good ideas they may not have considered at first, ideas that may make their work better. Pantsers must keep an eye out to see where their writing takes them but also to make sure that they don’t wander aimlessly—although that can be fun for a first draft.

This sounds a lot like life to me.

I’m reminded of Proverbs 16:9, which says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).

There are plenty of scripture passages that indicate it is wise to plan for the future, that we aren’t simply to “go with the flow,” as it were.

However …

We all know that life often throws us curve balls we weren’t expecting, even if we were keeping an eye out for them. The problem with focusing too intently is that we are likely to get preoccupied with the What Ifs that never come to pass.

We must prayerfully make our plans and plot our course. But we must always be mindful of what it says in Isaiah 55:8-9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways." Isaiah 55:8, ESV

In one sense we plot the course of our life, but in another, we are all pantsers. We must keep an eye out for what God is doing, for what He desires to accomplish in and through us. Along the path we will hit potholes, detours, forks in the road, and insurmountable obstacles. Thankfully, none of this takes Him by surprise.

And the path He leads us on will bring Him glory and will bless us and others. How that will happen is sometimes inconceivable, but let’s commit to keeping an eye out so we can recognize His fingerprints, which are, indeed, all over our life.

Tweetables

In one sense we plot the course of our life, but in another, we are all pantsers. (Click to tweet)

Let’s keep an eye out so we can recognize God’s fingerprints all over our life. (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Resolutions Worth Keeping (Guest Post)

Resolutions Worth Keeping

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether we call them resolutions or goals, this is the time of year many of us consider the 12 months before us and what we want to change.

Instead of trying to change everything at once, why not set monthly goals (aka resolutions)?

Below are six suggestions. I look forward to hearing what goals you plan to achieve in 2018.

January

During December healthy eating habits often get set aside. Various social engagements and family gatherings can make it difficult to eat as we should. January is a great month to begin eating well once again.

If healthy eating is new to you, it’s best to take small steps in the right direction. For example, increase your water intake the first week of January; then, the second week, add more vegetables to your diet. During the third week, begin to limit your intake of restaurant and processed food. The last week, begin to limit dessert to the weekend. (These recommendations are for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.)

Of course, it’s important to continue with these new habits throughout the year, but always remember to “factor in the cheats” and give yourself grace if you revert to old habits.

February

Since Valentine’s Day occurs in February, it’s a good month to schedule more time with our loved ones. There is always more work to be done and we rarely feel as if there are enough hours in the day. However, it’s vital that we devote undivided time to those closest to us—and to others. What a great month to begin doing so!

May

It’s important to get adequate physical activity. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is only one reason exercise should be part of our daily routine. When we’re active for even 30 minutes a day, we’re likely to notice the benefits. Exercise helps us think more clearly, work more efficiently, and sleep more soundly. It even improves our outlook and mental health. These are all great reasons to find something we enjoy—or can at least stick with—and get more active.

June

Hopefully, you’ve done so already, but if not, this is a good time of year to factor in downtime. Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read. Take up a new hobby, one that relaxes you. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or BFF. In our high pressure society, we feel as if we must be productive at all times. However, our physical, emotional, and mental health will almost certainly suffer if we don’t “step back and take a breath” regularly.

September

The kids are going back to school. Sounds like a good time to take a course. There are several free and inexpensive online options. Interested in sign language? Photography? Creative writing? You name it, there are countless courses available. Udemy, Teachable, and Reedsy are only three sites you can check out.

October

While not a proponent of Halloween, I was inspired to challenge you to do something that scares you. There has been a meme going around Facebook for some time asking what readers would do if they knew they couldn’t fail. Maybe it’s time to risk failure to do something we’ve been putting off, something we either know we should do or something we really want to do but haven’t. Let’s face our fears this month and see what happens.

And there you have it … examples of doable resolutions worth keeping.

Tweetables

Instead of trying to change everything at once, set monthly goals. (click to tweet)

Let’s face our fears and see what happens. (click to tweet)

===

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

First Things First (Guest Post)

First Things First

by Steph Beth Nickel

Raise your hand if you’re crazy busy.

One, two, twenty … yep, that’s all of you.

Busy with holiday preparations. Busy with your day-to-day workload. And, if you’re a little crazy like me, busy trying to hit 50K in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

It’s so easy for our priorities to get all jumbled at this time of year. We try to keep up with our year-round responsibilities while adding countless additional ones. As trending punctuation would have us express ourselves … It’s. not. going. to. happen.

So how do we choose what stays and what goes on our To Do list? Let’s put first things first and ask ourselves some questions:

Keep first things first this holiday season.

Can it wait until after the holidays?

We must humbly accept the fact that we can’t do it all—not if we don’t want our health and relationships to suffer.

Let’s take a look at our agenda and reschedule what we can.

Does a particular project bring us joy or does it add stress and weigh us down?

While not everything we must do fills us with joy and anticipation, holiday preparations should—for the most part at least. Have we taken on too much? Because it’s expected of us? Because we always do whatever it is? Because we don’t want to let others down?

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our workload, committing to those things we truly enjoy (and a few we may not) and passing along some of the responsibilities we just don’t have the time or ambition to accomplish.

Can someone else do whatever it is?

This year I’m doing my Christmas baking via two young women I know. Both are raising money for a worthwhile cause by making homemade goodies. I get several dozen Christmas treats made with love, and it doesn’t add any extra work to my holiday season. Win-win!

Is there anything you could pass along this year? Baking? Cleaning? Decorating?

Would it be better for our family and friends if we spent time with them rather than spending hours cleaning, decorating, and baking for the holidays?

Sometimes sitting down to play a game or watch a Christmas movie would be a better option than spending another evening up to our elbows in sudsy water. (Sounds like a better option to me most anytime actually.)

Let’s look at all we want to accomplish, decide what’s the minimum we can get away with, and settle on something in the middle. And when we’re busy with our holiday responsibilities, why not do things together, making it a bonding time rather than just one more stressor?

And, as Christians, we must ask ourselves if our endeavours enhance or distract from our relationship with the Lord.

Are we neglecting our quiet time? Forgetting to pray? And making excuses to play hooky from church? Not good.

Let’s keep the reason we celebrate in the forefront of our mind and our preparations. Let’s keep first things first.

Tweetables

Let’s keep first things first this holiday season. (Tweet this)

Settle on something between all you want to accomplish and the minimum you’d be okay with. (Tweet this)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

NaNO? NaYES! (Guest Post)

NaNO? NaYES!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Most of you are likely scratching your head.

What on Earth does that title me?

Well, those of you who are writers have likely heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50K words in 30 days.

Crazy? Some may think so. But thousands of people all over the world are sharpening their pencils and limbering up their keyboarding fingers.

Although I have participated in the far more flexible Camp NaNo a number of times, I’ve never taken the plunge and actually signed up for NaNoWriMo. All that changed this year and I’m diving in.

Sh! Don’t tell anyone, but I hope to make significant progress on a story I’ve had in mind for a very long time. The point of the challenge is to write the first draft—or close to it—of a new novel during the month of November, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really want to write My New Old Life.

So how can I set myself up to “win” NaNoWriMo? How can you set yourself up to achieve your goals—whatever they may be?

Learn from those who’ve gone before. (Tweet this.)

Although it may feel as if you’re alone, there are those who have gone before you, who know what you’re facing, be it an exciting new challenge or a heartbreaking situation.

I’m so thankful for those who have gone before, who know the pitfalls to avoid, who know how to plot a course (or a story), who know sometimes you just have to “feel the feels,” as the saying goes.

I would encourage you to learn from those with a positive attitude, who are further along on the journey. I have listened to some NaNoWriMo veterans on YouTube who shared great advice. I have also listened to some who share more about what went wrong. That’s not necessarily helpful or encouraging.

Plot out the journey—at least the highlights.

For the most part, I’m known as a pantser in writing circles. Come to think of it, I kind of live life that way as well.

I love paper planners and journals. They enable me to dream and pretend to be super organized. But I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind getting to the end of the day not having checked everything off my To Do list. In fact, I can’t remember a time I actually accomplished everything I’d set out to do on any given day.

But when it comes to crazy big goals, like writing 50K words in a month, some plotting comes in handy. If I know the major plot points I want to hit in the story, it will keep me moving in the right direction.

And if we know the major points we want to hit along this journey called Life, we will have a better chance of achieving our goals as well.

Plan to succeed. (Tweet this.)

While it’s okay to participate in NaNoWriMo and write 30K, 20K, even a few hundred words—after all, it’s more than we had written at the beginning of November—it’s best to go in planning to win.

And that’s the way it is with other things in life as well.

I’ll never have a clean, organized home. So why bother trying? They’ll never hire me for that job. Why even apply? I’ll never be thin. Why bother eating healthy and exercising?

It’s so easy to give up before we even get started. Let’s set ourselves up to succeed instead and take one step at a time in the right direction.

Don’t give up when things don’t go as planned. (Tweet this.)

We all know that it doesn’t matter how carefully we schedule our day or plan our life’s course; things will always come up that have the potential to derail us all together.

While we may have to reconsider our plans and dreams, it doesn’t mean we have to abandon them altogether. We just have to be willing to reprioritize as needed, and, as Christians, we must believe the promise in Romans 8:28, that God is working everything out for our good.

Fireworks image with the words, "Celebrate the victories -- no matter how small."

Celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

Many NaNo participants set up a reward system for achieving word count goals during the month of November, the more words, the more extravagant the reward. This kind of system keeps some pressing on.

Whether or not you choose to reward yourself when you make progress toward your goals, it’s a good thing to celebrate in some way. Too often we become discouraged when we don’t achieve our ultimate goal, when we don’t cross off everything on our To Do list.

Let’s celebrate the “small” victories in our life—and in the lives of those around us. (Tweet this.)

===

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Life’s Perplexities (Guest Post)

Life’s Perplexities

by Steph Beth Nickel

I originally wrote this devotional for HopeStreamRadio, but it may encourage you as well. Be blessed!

Have you ever been disappointed by a brother or sister in Christ?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that God hasn’t answered—at least not as you wanted Him to?

Have you ever read a portion of His Word that left you shaking your head?

It’s fairly easy to understand why others disappoint us from time to time. After all, they are only human—just like we are. When a fellow Christian—or anyone really—lets us down, we must extend forgiveness. This isn’t always easy, but God will give us the desire and wherewithal to do so. We need only ask.

And that brings us to the matter of prayer.

We stand on promises like the following:

Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Do I believe the promises in these verses? I do. Do I always see them come to pass exactly as I hope? Definitely not. Many, if not most, of you would say the same thing.

I know there are those who say God always answers. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Later.” I, however, think this is an oversimplification.

When He says, “Yes,” do we remember to thank Him? I do—sometimes.

When He says, “No” or “Later,” we must remain prayerful. Is there something He wants us to do or a spiritual lesson He wants to teach us? Is He increasing our ability to walk in faith despite disappointment and heartache? Is He working for our good and the good of others—even though we don’t see it at the time?

As I mentioned, I think wrestling with these questions and seeking answers that are true to His Word and His nature are sometimes part of the process.

But again, we must not question His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness. Although we can’t always understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the Lord’s character has changed. In fact, it never has and it never will.

We can count on Him to fulfill every one of His promises—but not necessarily as we expect or would like.

No matter what the outcome, we must remain prayerful.

And when it comes to portions of the Scriptures we simply can’t understand, portions that may cause us to bristle and squirm, we must learn to “rightly handle the word of truth,” as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Here are a few things we can do:

In the face of life's perplexities... Pray. Study. Obey.

Pray

We can—and should—pray before we open the Word, asking the Lord to help us understand and apply what we read.

Study

When we come to a difficult portion, instead of skipping over it or deciding it must mean something other than what it seems to mean, we should commit to studying it further. Keeping a separate journal where we keep notes on these portions of the Scriptures could benefit not only us but also others who are struggling with the same passages. We must refuse to put our Bible on the shelf, deciding we’ll never truly understand it anyway.

Obey

We must seek, with God’s enabling, to apply the portions of His Word that are clear.

Philippians 3:12-16 is a wonderful and challenging passage:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (ESV).

In the face of all these perplexities, we must continue to pray, confident that in His time and in His way, He will work all things out for our good, as He promises in Romans 8:28.

Tweetable: In the face of life’s perplexities… Pray. Study. Obey. [Click to tweet]

[English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

The Best Laid Plans (Guest Post)

The Best Laid Plans

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever made extensive plans only to have them go sideways?

I know I have—and I’m pretty sure the same is true of you.

Isaiah 55:8-9 gives us some insight as to why this is. These verses say, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV).

I know there are many reasons our plans don’t work out the way we intended, but I am certain God is involved and will keep His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).

I remember one incredible summer several years ago. Our finances were beyond tight and we really didn’t know what the future had in store. But I had spent hours in God’s Word and prayer and I could honestly voice the following realization:

Lord, if we have to be on the verge of bankruptcy for me to remain this close to You, then please keep us there.

Humanly speaking, we would rather avoid unemployment, illness, and broken relationships. But these and other struggles can result in tremendous spiritual growth. This is why the Lord commands us in James 1:3 to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

He goes on to say, in verses 3-4 to say, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

As Christians, we believe this on one level, but we find it hard to “count it all joy” when our plans crumble at our feet. It’s easier to look back and rejoice after we’ve seen how God was at work in the situation. But what if we could look ahead with confidence, knowing God will fulfill His promises?

Last weekend I left my hubby in Toronto for a weeklong stay. He was to have two hernias repaired (which he did). I had plenty on my To Do list and had no idea I would begin to miss him before I even left the clinic parking lot.

I am not typically a worrier and don’t mind sleeping alone, but that first night I woke us from a very troubling nightmare and was not at all impressed. (It might have something to do with reading a mystery novel before bed, but we won’t talk about that.)

What did the Lord bring to mind? That I ought to pray for those going through far more challenging circumstances: a lady who just lost her husband of many, many years; a relative in her late 30s who is dealing with throat cancer (and she’s never smoked a day in her life); friends whose marriages are in serious trouble …

Will God work these situations out for good? He will.

Does He use things I wouldn’t have planned to bring about His purposes in my life? Absolutely.

As His child, you can rest assured that He will do the same for you.

And as we make our plans, let’s do so prayerfully, asking God to have His way in our life, knowing His plans are higher than ours.

Tweetable

God’s ways are higher than ours. (Click to tweet this.)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Unfailing (Unlimited) Love

Have you ever personalized a Bible verse as your own?

Some verses we speak back to God in prayer, and others we cling to as promises.

In an effort to fill my mind and spirit with good things, I’m working to memorize Scripture verses. I have them on note cards that I see in the morning… (to read the rest of this post, click here. It was a guest post I shared on Janice L. Dick’s website.)

Warnings Against Over-Committing (Guest Post)

Warnings Against Over-Committing

by Steph Beth Nickel

Caution tape with text: "Warning: Meltdown Ahead"

Complete edit. Find and train sound room personnel. Recruit someone to clean the church.

These are just three of the things on my To Do list, a list that has to be completed before Thursday, July 20, when my husband and I fly to Jasper on vacation.

God calls us to serve one another, to use our gifts and abilities to honour him and bless our brothers and sisters in Christ. And yet, there are drawbacks to over-committing ourselves.

It has been years since I’ve succumbed to anger and frustration and had a meltdown. (Until God delivered me, it used to be a regular occurrence.) However, that’s exactly what happened this past Thursday evening.

My husband and I are waiting on an individual to do his part before we can do what needs to be done in one certain area of ministry.  Busy with a demanding job and a young family, he doesn’t seem to realize how heavily we’re depending on him.

After meeting with this man, my hubby came home and told me they hadn’t gotten anything done that they’d originally intended—and I lost it. I was absolutely, positively overwhelmed.

Being the mature, spiritual person I am, I immediately took my concerns to the Lord and felt His peace wash over me. Right?

No, not right.

I didn’t want to relinquish my anger and frustration. I wanted to stay mad.

Has this ever happened to you? You want to vent just a little longer.

Thankfully, the Lord wouldn’t let me. Even in the midst of my mini tirade, I came to realize just how frustrating it must be for church leaders who want to further God’s kingdom in their community but don’t have the support of those around them.

A tiny part of me was rejoicing that the Lord was teaching me something even when I seemed quite unteachable.

And yes, eventually I did begin to pray for the individuals whose actions I have no control over. I also made a revised list of what I need to accomplish in the next few days, those things I can do something about. I unclenched my fists and got on with things.

My To Do list wouldn’t be near so long if I hadn’t taken on so many commitments. I once heard a wise teacher say she never took on anything new without prayerfully deciding what she could set aside.

Even after my meltdown, I’m not ready to make this commitment. Still, I must carefully evaluate all I am doing and ask God what, if anything, He wants me to lay aside.

How about you? Are you over-committed? Have you asked the Lord which responsibilities He’s given you and which He’s calling you to set aside—at least for now?

If not, I encourage you to do so. You just may be able to forego the downside of being over-committed.

Tweetables

Seek to avoid over-committing. (Click to tweet)

Warning: meltdown ahead. (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Serving Up God, by Colin MacDougall

Serving Up God: My Workplace as Ministry, by Colin MacDougall #bookreview #ChristianlivingServing Up God, by Colin MacDougall (WestBow Press, 2017)

This book is subtitled “My Workplace as Ministry,” and its memoir-style vignettes illustrate author Colin MacDougall’s premise that “Your purpose in life, simply put, is to live Christ where you are” [page xi].

With candour and gentle humour, chapters explore various facets of work and relationships: with customers, co-workers, and employees. It’s clear that the author doesn’t consider himself to have achieved perfection. As he “serves up God” in his business, as much as that impacts those around him, they in turn impact him – for the better.

Since most Christians spend far more time in the marketplace than in faith-based settings, books like this are a valuable resource on how to avoid a Monday morning disconnect from the Sunday morning worship.

The book begins with the idea that work is a gift given by God to be given back in worship, and that doing so involves seeing those around us as children of God: not judging, not trying to push people into their final identity as mature believers, but doing our best to help them move one step closer to God.

Employers and managers are encouraged to take time to know and pray for the employees in their charge, to lead by example, and to discipline fairly and always with the goal of helping employees reach their potential. Jesus is cited as the ultimate example of how to be a leader, as well as how to be a follower (in how He followed God the Father).

Favourite lines:

No matter how big or how small you may feel your job is, do it for the glory of God, and who knows the lives you will be able to impact. [page 6]

It’s important for me to recognize that, although I refer to my workplace as my ministry, it is really God’s ministry. I am quite fortunate to be along for the ride. [page 32]

This book is only 110 pages, but it’s filled with wisdom for Christians who want to live their faith on the job. Some sections apply specifically to managers/owners, but employees will find insights for co-worker and customer relationships as well.

Colin MacDougall has an extensive background in management, and at present he and his wife, Joanne, own a thriving cheesecake restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Sweet Hereafter. Serving Up God is his first book. For more about the author and his book, visit servingupgod.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]