“Our God is a God of the unlikely. He uses unlikely people. He redeems unlikely situations. He goes to unlikely lengths for us.” —Caroline Harrington
Our God is a God of the unlikely. Unlikely people. Unlikely situations. Unlikely lengths.
God Uses Unlikely People
When I think of people, situations and lengths that are unlikely, I am reminded of the story of Rahab, recorded in Joshua 2. If you're unfamiliar with her story, let me fill you in on a few of the more interesting details.
God Redeems Unlikely Situations
When we open the book of Joshua, we find the Hebrews encamped in the Jordan valley opposite the City of Jericho. They are ready to cross over the river Jordan and into the Promised Land. Only Jericho stood in their way. Joshua sends out two spies to investigate the military fortitude of Jericho. While in the city, the spies take refuge in Rahab's inn. Rahab hid them, under bundles of flax on the roof, from the soldiers sent to capture them. It was the time of the barley harvest. Flax and barley are ripe at the same time in the Jordan valley. Bundles of flax stalks would have been expected to be drying at that time, and the roof was a good place for this. So the roof turned out to be a great place to hide a couple of spies. Rahab told the spies:
"I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that dread of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. As soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no courage left in any of us because of you. The LORD your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below. Now then, since I have dealt kindly with you, swear to me by the LORD that you in turn will deal kindly with my family. Give me a sign of good faith that you will spare my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death." Joshua 2:9-13
After escaping the soldier's search, the spies promised to spare the lives of Rahab and her family when the Hebrews took the city. She would need to make her house visible by hanging a scarlet cord out of the window. The scarlet cord made it possible for Rahab to be saved, just as the blood of Jesus makes possible the way of salvation for you and me.
"Our modern-day world provides every convenience we could ever possibly imagine, and then some. Our gadgets allow us to watch almost every movie ever made from the convenience of our handheld devices while we wait at the airport boarding gate. We can answer e-mail as we wait in the carpool line, and our offices are composed of a thirteen-inch screen that we can carry into the kitchen so we can keep working while we start dinner. We have automated so many features of our lives, and yet instead of spending that reserved time for something enjoyable or fulfilling, we fill it with longer to-do lists. Our workweeks are longer, not shorter, as was predicted half a century ago."
This post is going to reiterate the theme from Tuesday's One Thousand Gifts and a Lifestyle of Gratitude. Both encourage us to slow down and live intentionally. I need this!
I read Tsh Oxenreider book Notes from a Blue Bike last summer on vacation, at the beach. It seemed like an appropriate time and place to read a book about slowing down and living intentionally.
Notes from a Blue Bike made a significant impact on my life, and my thinking. Just as I was beginning this blog, I also needed a reminder to slow down. Seems somewhat like an oxymoron. However, I do believe reading the book has made me a more intentional person. I take more time now to notice and be grateful for the small graces along life's path. I'm more intentional about looking for the divine opportunities― opportunities that may only come by once. And that's really the important part of intentional living for me.
“Do whatever it takes to increase your sensitivity to the little things in life you wouldn’t otherwise notice, much less savor. If your autopilot setting is hurry. you’ve got to power down frequently enough to enjoy the effects of intentional living.”
My autopilot setting is for sure on hurry! And I quite frequently have to reevaluate to see if the choices I'm make are lining up with the intentional lifestyle I want to live. Living intentionally requires specific choices, it's just not going to happen by default.
Life can be chaotic, but we can choose to live it differently. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change how we live. We can change the everyday little choices in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.
"The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized Simple Mom online community tells the story of her family’s ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally.
Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike.
Entertaining and compelling—but never shrill or dogmatic, Notes from a Blue Bike invites you to climb on your own bike, pay attention to who you are and what your family needs, and make some important choices.
It’s a risky ride, but it’s worth it—living your life according to who you really are simply takes a little intention. It’s never too late." ―goodreads
I really enjoyed reading about the Oxenreider's travels, especially with a house full of children. Not just travels, but complete pick-up-and-moves! From Kosovo to Turkey to Austin, Texas and finally to the little town of Bend, Oregon, all along the way making choices to live with intention.
"Most of life’s decisions don’t come with black-and-white answers, and that’s a beautiful, marvelous thing. We’re each given freedom to choose our decisions, and that responsibility is the very definition of living with intention, after all: making daily choices so that your life lines up with your passions and values. It should all make sense in your head."
Living intentionally begins simply with everyday choices. This lifestyle is a topic that has really been on my mind lately. It's at the heart of these last two blog posts. I've got a lot on my plate right now. I'm sure you do as well. If we're not careful, all that stuff cluttering our minds will takeover our world. That clutter will make things complicated where there could be, and should be, simple. The journey can become just a hop from one task to another, from one to-do list item to the next. We find no time to look around for the goodness of God and divine opportunities that lie in our path.
If there's one takeaway from the book it's that we can live intentionally in every area of our lives. It's simply a choice to do so.
God's timing couldn't be more perfect! There's probably no stage in my life that I needed Notes from a Blue Bike more. The theme of living intentionally, seeking out and praying for divine opportunities to share the love of Christ continues to be on my mind. Life isn't about us. It isn't about our careers or the things we own. It's about relationships.
“People are willing to be brave when they admit their smallness within the enormity of the world, and the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring, one foot in front of the other.”
Tsh knows all too well the enormity of the world with all their travels and living in different parts of it. She's also acquainted with comfort zones, and getting out of them. Which most of us, including myself, find difficult.
As she documents family life, including the husband wife and parent child relationship, she breaks her book down into seven parts. Awakening, Food, Work, Education, Travel, Entertainment, and Revival. No matter where you are in life, anywhere from single to empty nester, there's something to learn from Notes from a Blue Bike.
In many ways I feel the term “live intentionally” has been so overused. We can read it and miss its meaning completely. To really take living intentionally seriously, there needs to be a plan. We can't just say it because it’s a popular thing to say. We have to live it. We have to make choices that align with it. Planning a lifestyle of intentional living requires creativity and saying no to good things in order to say yes to better things.
"...listening to that still, small voice that says, This is you. That voice you hear? I think it's a little nudge to wander down that one path, which thereby gives you permission to ignore the other path. God made a lot of people, and if He wanted us all the same, well, He didn't do a very good job. I'm fairly convinced He tapped into His creativity when He made us." ―Tsh Oxenreider, Notes from a Blue Bike
It's almost wedding planning season for a lot of people out there. Maybe you are one of those people. If you are, BLESS YOU HEART! I hope this little planner might be a help to you.
The Wedding Planner Checklist (A Portable Guide to Organizing your Dream Wedding) is sold by Peter Pauper Press, which I find very apropos! However, as wedding planners go, it's quite inexpensive (it will be the best $8 you spend on your wedding) and has been everything we need in a wedding planner.
So what kind of plans are you making to live intentionally?
Today's hurried lifestyle is filled with deadlines, to do lists and goals, all pushing us faster and farther than ever before. We need this reminder to slow down. Some of us need it more than others. To slow down, look around and be grateful for the little gifts God leaves scattered along our way. Smell the rain. See leaves falling from the trees. Hear geese flying overhead. Taste the goodness of a homemade meal. Feel the warmth of a roaring fire.
But it's not just about slowing down. It's not only about being grateful. It's even more about being intentional. It's about praying for, seeking out and anticipating divine opportunities―the opportunities to share the love of Christ. To share my story all wrapped up in His, and His all wrapped up in mine. To smile at the check out girl and leave her with an encouraging word about God's goodness. To help the elderly lady at the library get to her car in the rain and remind her "God loves you". To meet the mail man at the box with a note of gratitude and an invitation to church.
I love Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts because it helps me get there!
“Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all the rushing.... Through all that haste I thought I was making up time. It turns out I was throwing it away.” ―Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
The book One Thousand Gifts was such a blessing to me! A disclaimer though, I read the Kindle version as I so often do. You need to get the hardcover! Get the One Thousand Gifts hardcover here. Why do I want you to invest in the hardcover. 1. Because this book is so beautifully illustrated! (The Kindle version does not do it justice.) 2. Because IT'S ON SALE! The photographs in the book are way beyond gorgeous, and Voskamp's writing style is uniquely her own, poetic and lyrical.
The book begins with the theme of suffering, sorrow and disappointment, and how these things drive gratitude away from our hearts. One Thousand Gifts is a picturesque accounting of how Voskamp first saw her own need for gratitude. The suffering, sorrow and disappointment that made up her life at that time had also planted seeds of ingratitude. She was looking for a way to trade a lifestyle of ingratitude for a lifestyle of gratitude. She learns to make that exchange not only in spite of her hardships, but even through them. And there is the key, to be grateful THROUGH the hardships. If we can do that, we can cultivate a lifestyle of gratitude.
One Thousand Gifts Proposes a Lifestyle of Gratitude
So how does Voskamp cultivate this lifestyle of gratitude? She does it in a very tangible way by setting out to number all the things she has to be grateful for. She begins this journey by challenging herself to write down one thousand gifts of God’s grace. ONE THOUSAND GIFTS OF GOD'S GRACE! Wow! Can I name 100? Can I even name 10? I know there are a thousand, the question is, can I see them? Do I recognize them? Have I allowed myself to experience them? Or am I too hurried?
What are these one thousand gifts? They are the ordinary, every day things we so often overlook and take for granted. The way the morning sun moves across the kitchen floor. The sound of a blue jay outside the bedroom window. The smell of fresh cut grass. The beauty of a corn field. As she begins to list these gifts of God's grace she finds that she also begins to speak the language of gratitude. Voskamp discovers how to be grateful not just in spite of life’s hardships, but to be grateful through them! Her life is transformed. I believe when we also make this discovery in our own lives, we too will be transformed.
As Voskamp learns to live a lifestyle of gratitude, she also calls on us to do the same. She wants us to experience this lifestyle, and to begin our own journey of listing one thousand gifts.
Researchers said of those who keep a gratitude journal:
If you are convinced already that a more grateful lifestyle is what you've been craving. If you're ready to live intentionally. To pray for, seek out and anticipate the divine opportunities. To share your story allowing gratitude to take a seat in your heart where ingratitude once lived, let me introduce you to the Pretty Simple Books Gratitude Journal. I have gifted this to several friends and the response has always been positive.
Today, let's begin to cultivate a more grateful lifestyle. Let's live intentionally, pray for, seek out and anticipate divine opportunities. Let's share our stories. Let's let gratitude take a seat in our hearts where ingratitude once lived.
Let Ann's beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!" --goodreads
It's only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have that
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