Fits and starts

I am no stranger to inconsistency. I know how to start a project with passion and drive...and never finish it. I have a spotty history of coming and going in friendships and commitments. And, as a native Detroiter, I have weathered the vacillating reputations of the Pistons and the Tigers (although the Lions have been fairly consistent through the years).

And then something happened.
Namely, The Message version of Ephesians 4:2:
~And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love...~

"Fits and starts..." Oh man, I did not need to finish reading that passage. The phrase had me pegged, and it felt awful. No matter how well I'd tried to hide it - no matter how successful I'd been at doing so - I knew I was living inconsistently. And my consistent, unchanging God longed to get me on track and in rhythm.

As I read further in the chapter, Ephesians 4:14 (this time, the NIV) nailed me again:
~Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.~

"Tossed back and forth..." Yep, guilty again. I was an immature threenager who just wanted new new new! I loved me some new trends, new insights, new voices. But this thirst for novelty was causing me to wander away from the solidness of The Truth.

And so I relinquished my fits and starts in favor of the seeming boringness of consistency. It took a lot of practice and some embarrassing accountability, but my loving Daddy finally has me on the right path. I'm still not always great at it - my personality type is not known for its conventionality - but God's grace covers my flaws. 

And Ephesians 4:2, after punching me in the gut, taught me to stay humble as I learn this life of discipline. <3 span="">


Burnt Out on Burnout

There has been a common underlying theme in several of my conversations recently. I think the title of this post gave it away - maybe I should have been a bit more sneaky and teased the story better. Next time.

As I was contemplating how prevalent burnout is among women who love to serve in ministry, who are sooooo ready to use their gifts, I realized what a marvelous scam it is for the enemy. Get in there when the hard worker is doing her thing for Jesus, make her think she needs to do more and do it more often, and soon she no longer wants to do any of it.

Boom! One more soldier he doesn't have to worry about.

And here's the real kicker: If you don't think you're prone to burnout, you're totally prime for the picking.

~Pride precedes a disaster, and an arrogant attitude precedes a fall.~
Proverbs 16:18 (GW)

So let me, a recovering burnout addict who was always either burnt out or on my way to being there, explain to you the intricacies of it through its own metaphor.

When a candle wick is lit, it's a steady burn. If it doesn't take a break and get blown out from time to time, it will burn away more quickly. The burning does not speed up; it just continues on its course. When the end of the wick is reached, the flame goes out. That's it. No grand finale, no dramatic exit - it just ends. 

In other words, one Sunday you may be worshiping in church next to someone, and the next week she isn't certain she still believes in God. Sound familiar? 

For me, my body would give off signals like pain in my right shoulder or acid reflux or trouble sleeping, but I'd shrug them off as general life stress. I kept telling myself, "People are counting on me! God wants me to be doing this as my ministry to Him!"

Let me be straight with you in a way no one was with me: If you're serving from wick that is about to die, God isn't asking you to keep going. He is asking you to rest, to say no, to back off, to be still. 

~"Be still, and know that I am God
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”~
Psalm 46:10 (ESV) - emphasis mine

He doesn't need you to keep going, and He doesn't want you to make yourself sick. He created your body with amazing warning systems that He intends for you to honor, and He created His body with amazing helpers equipped with giftings to come alongside yours. 

A burnt-out heart is so contrary to what He desires. In its burnt-out state, it is next to worthless in kingdom work. It takes a lot of time and healing for it to even wish to return, and then it may come back guarded or, worse, jaded. 

But if you are burnt out, please hear me on this: His arms are waiting. He can restore you. Let me throw a truth sandwich at you:

~“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”~
Matthew 11:29-30 (MSG)

~The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.~
Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

~Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!~
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

~“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."~
Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

Got that? He wants you to step away, sit in His loving and grace-filled presence, be made new, and witness the new life He is growing in and around you!

Let's stop listening to the enemy's subtle lies to keep going in our own strength because "this needs to be done." That isn't what Hebrews 12:1-3 is about. When we fix our eyes on Jesus (vs. 2), He will give us His energy and will renew us to soar on wings like eagles.

Oh, and to revisit the metaphor one last time, if there isn't oxygen to keep the flame lit, no matter how much wick is left, the fire will die. So take a breath.