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Have you ever had a vision for something to improve and wondered, "Well, who is gonna do that?" Maybe you went to your child's school and saw that the playground was in disrepair, and thought, "When are they going to take care of that?" Maybe you passed a homeless person and thought, "What is the local government or local church doing about this?" Maybe the paint in your kitchen has become grimy and you think, "I wonder if I can get my husband to spruce this up." In each of those scenarios, you saw a need and looked outside of yourself for the solution.

I do this every single day.

Most of the time I don't realize I'm looking for others to fix things, but lately God has brought it my attention. I pride myself on having a lot of ideas and creative solutions. When my husband sees a problem, he thinks of how he can make it work. When I see a problem, my first response is to look around for people who are positioned to make it work. This approach can be very helpful for leveraging resources and delegating tasks, but it can be really easy to slip into "management mode" and forget that the solution might need to come directly through me.

I've been mulling over the story of Sarah and Hagar, from the Old Testament. For decades Sarah and Abraham had not been able to conceive a child. Suddenly God shows up and promises them a son. Sarah, knowing her track record of limitations, seeks a solution and sends her servant, Hagar, as a surrogate.

I'm sure it made much more sense to Sarah for Abraham to make a child with a woman who wasn't barren for the last several decades. Makes sense to me. Often I will look at my past track record and disqualify myself, thinking someone else is surely a better bet. As I analyze the needs and resources, I can take myself out of the equation, based on past failures, lack of interest, limited energy and a handful of other reasons. What if God is wanting to birth something new in and through me, but I am looking to others to take my place?

Isaiah 43:19

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.

When I first came to serve here in Belize, I was a newly graduated 22 year old. I was open to try anything. I was available to serve wherever I was needed. Some things I was good at and some things I was flat-out terrible at (construction). Fast forward almost 20 years and I have so much more experience under my belt. I know what I'm good at. I know the skills and training I bring to the table. I try to be open to opportunities, but most of what comes along doesn't feel like a fit. I am prayerful about where and how I get involved in our church and community, but part of me is also hesitant to just jump in and do stuff that isn't in my wheel-house.

My prayer this week, as I think of all these things, is that I will trust God to do a new thing in me; that if He presses me to birth something new, I won't look to others to do the birthing. I want to embrace the miracles He wants to do, instead of disqualifying myself. Will you also pray for God to do new things in your life? To use you to bring His life and light into the world?

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In a conversation with my young ladies group this week, we talked about being in a spiritual rut. A quick poll showed that the girls fell into one of two positions: a) doing all the "good Christian things" while still feeling disconnected from God or b) choosing not to keep doing the "good Christian things" when they are feeling disconnected from God. If you think about it, you have probably found yourself in one or both of these categories over the years.

We talked about what might help us move out of apathy and towards connection. We discussed things that have helped in the past: youth camp, favorite worship songs, fellowship with others...and I asked them what I could do to support their next steps. I can't wave a magic wand and give them the spiritual highs they remember. If I can't do it for myself, I certainly can't do it for them!

The majority of the work is theirs and it's personal. There is no recipe or handbook, no fail-safe instruction guide for how to climb out of a rut with God. But there is a place for community, for shared experiences, for bearing each others burdens. While it's not our role to fix things for others, there is a call to love our neighbors.

Living in a developing nation, there are signs all around indicating where the development dollars are coming from. Government trucks donated by the European Union, firetrucks donated from Taiwan, billboards sponsored by the UN...all point to neighbors who are investing in the growth of this young nation.

I see parallels here. Even if the UN or the US have completely benevolent motives behind their investment (which is unlikely), their desires for Belize shouldn't supersede those of Belize itself. My best intentions for these young ladies can't be more than their own investment in their spiritual growth.

Being stagnant is characterized by lack of development, advancement, or progressive movement: i.e. a stagnant economy. It means inactive, sluggish, or dull. If Belize is to resist becoming a stagnant nation, it will need to actively push for progress, advancement and movement. It will need to have an outflow, not just taking in from outside sources, but contributing to its global neighbors as well.

The same goes for the young ladies, for myself and for you. Are we allowing what's been invested in us to bear fruit? Are we using that fruit to benefit others? Or are we inactive, sluggish, spiritually dull? Are we always on the receiving end, never pushing for own growth or investment in others?

"Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”

John 7:38

One way to fight stagnation is in service to others. Another is getting up early and practicing the spiritual disciplines that you're normally too lazy to do. For someone else, it might be taking a day or a week to truly prioritize your faith walk, instead of cramming it into 90 minutes on a Sunday morning. We, each of us, need to find that out for ourselves; and not just once in our lives, but many times over.

God is unchanging. The difference between a vibrant relationship and a rut is the effort we are willing to put in.

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Emotions in a relationship are not static. They ebb and flow. They spark and grow dim. It's rare if, over the course of years, both parties are on the same emotional page at any given time.

This life of faith is a relationship between mortal man and an immortal God. Whereas time takes a toll on human relationships, God stands outside of time. His passion for us burns just as intensely today as it did on the cross. He is constant; I am fickle.

As I go about my daily life, it's so easy to take His love for granted. To cease to appreciate His care for me. To ignore His overtures, His gentle whisper to meet Him in secret. Other voices are so much louder, more insistent. His is quiet. His is unassuming.

A few blogs ago, I wrote that I relate so much with Hosea's wife, the prostitute. How time and again she was unfaithful, time and again, she looked outside her relationship to get her needs met. Instead of turning to her husband, she turned to other lovers. Aren't we the same?

Don't we look for validation from friends? Don't we seek identity from the world? Don't we seek peace from distractions like entertainment, food or alcohol? Does our job become the source of our stability, rather than God? In so many ways I am drawn to get my needs met elsewhere, to forsake my first love and run after fleeting pleasures.

I love that God made Hosea's marriage to Gomer a symbol of His love for us, His wayward bride.

Hosea 3:1 The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.”

Human nature, I think, would wait for the adulteress to see the error of her ways; wait to see her come crawling back, hat in hand. Human nature might relish the sight of her, humiliated and degraded. But God's nature is one of complete mercy, of unending love. He is love. He "always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13)"

Gomer might have known she'd made a mistake. She might have regretted walking away; we can't know for sure. Sometimes when our hearts wander, we can't see the path that would lead us home. Reconciliation seems impossible. The journey back feels intractable. The good news is that Jesus will come to us. He will woo us. He will walk the whole way to bring us back. His kindness leads us to repentance. His love heals our wounds and His forgiveness wipes away our ugliness.

As I reflect on all these things. I open myself up to being wooed all over again. Jesus, lover of my soul, captivate my heart again today.

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