by Erica Barthalow
Labels abound in the world in which we live. They mark the food we buy, the cosmetics we apply, the number on the waistband of our jeans. While I appreciate the label warning me of the 3,000 calories contained in a McDonald’s Big Mac, there are other labels I can live without.
Why do we have these little squares of information plastered to the things we buy? Most labels exist to tell us what we should expect to find when we open up a package. While labels on products are a good thing, labels applied to people are not always so beneficial. As a child, I could only be called graceful in sarcasm. I was “coordinationally challenged,” to put it mildly. I received a bike and a Popple for my fifth birthday, and after my inaugural ride on my new bike my Popple accompanied to the emergency room. The biking challenges continued for years, I had encounters with stationary objects like bushes, curbs, and concrete retaining walls. My athletic father laughed at my obvious lack of skill, and everyone (myself included) thought it best for me to retire my bike. But a year ago, my husband discovered a love for bicycle riding, and I decided not to let my old label of “uncoordinated bike rider” keep me from enjoying time with my husband. I am so glad that I didn’t let the old label deter me from doing something that I’ve found I now enjoy.
Earlier this year I was reading through the book of Isaiah and was impressed by a beautiful word picture that I felt compelled to paint. Immediately I thought, I am not an artist! Yet I still felt the need to paint this image. Unfortunately, this was a time that I let my label of “unartistic” keep me from doing something that I felt I should. However, I am planning to work on the painting and, who knows, maybe God is trying to show me that I am an artist after all!
There are certainly some labels that I welcome such as wife, mother, daughter of the King, but I want to be free of the labels that others may wish to impose on me, or I may place on myself, limiting what God wants to do in and through me. Let’s engage the labels that we love, throw off the ones we don’t, and be open to the new (perhaps unexpected) ones that God desires to give us!
Erica has served alongside her husband Jonathan as youth and worship pastors and missionaries to India. Currently they serve as Iowa Ministry Network Chi Alpha Directors, reaching the college students of Iowa. She and Jonathan have two children, Jacob and Juliana.
by Brad Thomas
When I think about the word “engage” my mind goes back to the day 19 years ago when I became engaged to my wife, Lisa. We were young and in love and nothing could stop us. Now, after 18 years of marriage, we’ve weathered a few storms, suffered various heartaches, and learned a thing or two along the way (we are also very happy).
One of the things we’ve learned is to engage each other in healthy financial conversations. Neither one of us had very good teachers on this subject matter. The initial conversations were actually somewhat unhealthy. We both had different ideas about what was important (remember the storms I referenced in the previous paragraph). Part of those conversations involved the idea of a budget – a realistic budget. We have tried various methods throughout the years and started and stopped many times. We’ve learned that our finances work much better and we are much happier when we are following a budget. It also makes saving for vacations and other fun things much easier!
There are many great tools to use. Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial both have great resources. Make your own hybrid system using envelopes or cash only for the non-fixed expenses. Regardless of the method, the point is there needs to be a method. I encourage you, as Jesus did, to be good stewards of your finances. Engage in healthy financial conversations today.
For decades, it’s been described as “holy” and “disciplined” for Christians to remove themselves from anything corrupt, evil or broken about society. But Christians are left wondering how to navigate the terrain of being salt and light in a twenty-first century world. How are followers of Christ called to respond to sin and corruption found all around them? Do we run towards it or preserve our purity and holiness in the midst of a fallen world?
This video from Q Ideas and Jo Saxton challenges that idea.
by Ebon Carter
He was leading the crew of the Enterprise into the unknown. They were commissioned to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” The final frontier, the vast unknown was their destination. Sounds like ministry doesn’t it?
We are striving to engage a culture that is unique and changing at a rapid rate. I guess it is this challenge that defines our great adventure. As we move forward into the unknown like the crew of the Enterprise, let’s engage the culture with deep enthusiasm and passion. Let’s boldly go as the Spirit leads into new endeavors for Christ and at the end we can stand and say “I’m giving it all I’ve got captain!”
Here are some great thoughts from Jon Tyson on The Cross in Culture.
by Cary Van Kampen
Have you ever heard of a couple being partially engaged? No, because you either are or you are not. A partial engagement is not an engagement at all. It would never work. It defeats the purpose of being connected; not a good relationship.
Now, husbands, consider the times you said “uh huh” or “ok” from behind a newspaper. Moms think of the times you uttered patronizing remarks to a child as you were busily rushing around the kitchen preparing a meal or completing a project. Were you engaged? Maybe partially? You either are or you are not. The wife knows; the child knows. Like engaging the clutch in a car- it is or it isn’t!
The Heavenly Father knows when we are engaged with Him or not as well. Has He ever tried to tell you or teach you or show His love to you or use you in an important moment to reach someone, only to hear us mutter “uh huh” or “ok” with no engagement of our heart. That is not a good relationship. I would like to add this month’s theme word to the old phrase: stop, look, listen–engage. That takes time, effort, patience, and genuine selflessness. How many times does the Lord wait on us? Let’s turn it around. “They that wait upon the Lord…” you probably know the rest!
by Tom Jacobs
I wonder how many of my recent conversations have started with phrases similar to these. If I’m not careful, I tend to pack my schedule and then wear my busyness like a badge of honor. Too often, busy = important in our culture.
I want to reach the full kingdom potential that God has for my life, but I’m not sure that fulfilling His will necessarily means packing my schedule with paper-thin margins that stifle creativity, steal time for rest, reflection and restoration, and – most importantly – decrease engagement in my relationships with God and people.
How do I know when I’m too busy? I’m too busy when I don’t have time to fully engage in relationships. Instead of truly connecting with people, I’m thinking of the next task or appointment.
I’m trying to use questions like “I know you’re busy . . .” as reminders that I need to prioritize people over tasks. With the Lord’s help, I need to intentionally engage with the person.
How can I engage? Here a couple of ideas:
Listen. I need to stop what I’m doing, look the person in the eyes and listen. Listen to what the person is saying. Listen for the deeper message. Ask questions. Repeat back to the person to make sure I understand what they are saying. Really listen.
Compliment. You will engage with people more effectively if you look for things you like about them. When you notice a great character quality or a job well done, say something. Looking for positive attributes in others will help you to engage with them. Stating those observations will encourage and build up the other person.
I’ m asking God to help me to be present in the moment with people. I’m trusting Him to help me to really engage in God-honoring relationships . . . even when I think I’m busy with other things.