Our culture glorifies “hustle”. If you do a quick Google search you’ll find countless memes about this theme and how exactly to hustle well. According to Urban Dictionary “hustle” means: “Anything you need to do to make money… be it sellin’ cars, drugs, ya body. If you makin’ money, you hustlin.’” While I appreciate this rather informative definition, it grieves my heart that this what our society glorifies. To put this another way, we live in a “meritocracy”, a system where our position in life is wholly dependent on our ability and work.
So how does this cultural, Capitalism-driven concept match up with Christianity? How do “hustle” and the truths of the Bible compare? I could argue this one both ways. There are verses about working and there are verses about resting, so how do we balance these two concepts?
I’m a workaholic. I’m good at working and for many years I found my worth and my identity in my work. I thought that I was valuable because of what I could do, not who I am. I’ve always worked at churches and schools, places where the work is never done and you have to wear many hats and work constantly, feeding my need to be needed. For years and years and years I’ve lived in this place of constantly working, unnecessarily taking on the responsibility of others, rarely taking days off because there was always some other work to be done.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been learning to stop working when I had reached my hours for the week instead of electing to work overtime. This probably seems small but has been a huge step for me. The first time I tried out this “day off” concept, it was awkward to say the least. The first day was great, I ran errands, wrote for a little while, and met up with some friends; all in all it was a nice, relaxing day. Then the second day off came. I wrote a little bit and did a few creative things but I felt lost the entire day. I asked a friend what I should do and her response was “rest”, to which I automatically replied “I don’t know how to do that.”
I have spent so much of my life focused on working that I never properly learned the art of rest. More than that, I haven’t learned a healthy way to work. I’m in the process of learning how to work and rest well.
We tend to think of work as one thing and rest as the exact opposite of work. But does it have to be that way? Is there a way to move from an either/or mindset to an “and” way of thinking? God is rest and when our focus is on him, we can operate from a place of rest knowing our success depends on him and not on our actions.
What would it look like if you were to work from a place of rest instead of a place of striving? What does “working from a place of rest” mean to you? For me, it means being full of peace, knowing that everything doesn’t rest on my shoulders. It means that while I’m working I can be in tune and in conversation with God. There’s a freedom and a relaxation that comes when you realize that who you are isn’t based on what you do.
What does “working from a place of striving” mean to you? To me, it means working to fill a need in my life. I work harder because I need to define who I am or I need to please my boss or I have to be the best. Striving is a hurried, frantic, loud posture, where your heart is never satisfied or full or quiet.
This “rest” concept is nice to talk about in a theoretical discussion, but is a lot harder to actually put into practice. It’s easy, especially with deadlines and to-do lists and bosses and co-workers, to fall back into that “hustle” mindset. When I begin to fall back into that pattern of striving I have to step back, breathe, and ask God how to proceed. I’m learning that rest is vital in our lives, no matter how much we live like it’s not.
I whole-heartedly believe we could all use more rest in our lives. What is one change you could make it this week to make room in your life to practice resting? For me I had to start small by leaving work when I say I would, even though I knew there was a lot more work left to be done. For you, it could be as simple as spending a few extra moments with the Lord, or getting a pedicure or a massage once a month, or saying “no” to that extra social engagement, or reading your favorite book, or going on a date with your significant other. Though it can be difficult, I think you’ll be amazed to see what God can do when you give him those precious, sacred moments of rest.
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. Sarah currently work a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. Sarah wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
For any of you who know me, you are aware that I am a lover of dogs—big dogs. I grew up with a King St. Bernard named Moochie, and since then I’ve owned a black Lab, a yellow Lab, a Golden Retriever, and two Great Danes. Currently my husband and I are the proud parents of a feisty toy Yorkie named Levi and a massive 220 pound Great Dane named Hattie. We got Levi first, but he claimed my husband as his almost immediately. Shortly after, I got Hattie when she was eight weeks old, and she has been my baby ever since.
Even as I write this, her massive head is lying in my lap. I do love her so.
However, just given the plethora of animals I’ve owned myself, it’s a proven fact that most of us outlive our pets, which means that as pet owners, chances are that each of us has had to say good-bye to them at one time or another. This morning a dear friend of mine wrote me to ask for prayers because she and her children are going to have to say good-bye to their sweet dog. It’s heartbreaking, and for those of us who have gone through such a horrible process, their deaths are painfully hard.
More than once I’ve had women ask me if we will see our pets again in heaven. This is such a good and important question. Our pets are a part of our families; so naturally, we want to know if we will get to see them again. I believe that we will. As a matter of fact, I believe that the bible clearly supports that we will. I believe with my entire heart (and based on much biblical research) that I will be surrounded with my big babies for eternity, along with all of my believing family and friends. If you are a Christian and have had pets you have had to bid farewell to on this earth, then I also believe that you will see them again in heaven.
Wonderfully, I’m not alone in this belief. Many theologians agree with me and have written excellent resources on just this subject. Why, even John Wesley wrote the following when speaking of our pets:
“Something better remains after death for these poor creatures …
that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption,
and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”
(Wesley, John, The Works of Reverend John Wesley, A.M. Vol 2 of 7,
Forgotten Books, 1912, p. 56)
John Piper wrote the following poem when speaking of eternity:
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
(Piper, John, “Glorified,” http://www.desiringgod.org/poems/glorified)
How can Mr. Wesley and Mr. Piper and countless other acclaimed and well-known theologians make such a claim?
First of all, I think it important to point out that Christ did not die for our pets, at least not in the way He died for mankind. People are made in the image of God. Christians are partakers in His divine glory and have been redeemed by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our sins have been forgiven by this act of propitiation. Animals are not people, so they don’t need a redeemer in the same way.
However, having said that, I also think that Jesus did die for animals in an indirect sense. According to Romans 8, we know that Christ’s death for humanity purchased redemption for everything created, since everything created was brought down due to the sin of mankind. Romans 8:21-23 tells us,
The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV, emphasis added)
These verses indicate that our resurrection and the redemption of our bodies bought by the sacrificial blood of Jesus will extend to all creation. What Paul is saying is that on the New Earth after our resurrection, the animals who once suffered because of the fall of man and the “groanings of the earth” will be joined with us for all eternity, enjoying the glorious redemption of perfection brought to us in eternity with our Lord.
There are so many passages that speak to God both bringing judgment and blessings on men and animals because of man’s sins and respectively, because of God’s grace. (Exodus 9:22-25; Jeremiah 7:20; 21:16; Ezekiel 14:12-13, 17; Deuteronomy 7:13-14; 28:1-4)
Likewise, John the Baptist testified in Luke 3:6, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The Greek word here translated as “flesh” is sarx, which is inclusive of all flesh, not exclusive to just mean mankind. “All flesh” includes animals. In essence, then, this great prophet was saying that mankind and animals will see the coming redemptive earth.
One of my favorites, though, is how the psalmist exclaims the relationship between God and His created in Psalm 104. In verse 24 of that psalm, the psalmist sings, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Then he goes on to talk about the animals and all created life—sea creatures, birds, mammals—exclaiming how all are fed and cared for by their Creator. But then in verses 29 he says, “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” To which he follows in verse 30 with, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” To “renew the face of the ground” is to re-create. The psalmist is crying out that God will also renew the animals when He redeems the Created, which fully makes sense!
Truly, the Creator could very well intend to make new animals when He redeems the earth, but that doesn’t follow either with His character as a loving and generous Lord or His clear intention to renew that which was already created. Besides, He created us with spirits that have the propensity to be emotionally fed by our pets. We love them, not in place of humans, but in addition to our human relationships. Our pets bring us companionship and joy and unadulterated love. They are committed to us in our darkest and most profoundly sad moments, and they are there to pounce around in unwavering joy when we are exploding in happiness. God did that! And He does nothing accidentally!
Therefore, since we can see that the bible plainly states that both mankind and animals will be renewed in the New Earth, and we also know that God gave us some animals to be special to us purposefully in His great love, doesn’t it follow that our kind and loving Father will bring those relationships into our eternity? I believe with everything in me that this is the truth. My sweet, enormous, ridiculously silly Hattie will be with me in paradise, along with Levi and Moochie and Harley and Champ and Charlie and Chelsea. I’ll see them all there, and I believe you will see your beloved animals, too.
We serve a God of love who purposefully gave us both human and animal relationships to enjoy on this earth. Jesus will return and renew all of creation that “groans” under the curse of sin, and that includes our wonderful pets. So love them now, knowing that good-bye is only temporary. You will see them again.
How awesome to be loved by so great a God as our God!!
And how wonderful to know that this big love will be with me in paradise!!!
**One of my favorite resources when teaching on heaven and the truths the bible proclaims is the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I can’t recommend this book enough for those who are struggling with what to believe about the hereafter and how it accords with the Word of God.
Dr. Deb Waterbury is the President and CEO of Love Everlasting Ministries. In her desire to spread the truth that all Christian women share an intimate relationship with Christ as their Bridegroom while “Breaking the Barriers of Isolation” that often plagues these same women, Dr. Waterbury travels extensively, both nationally and abroad, leading conferences and teaching seminars at every opportunity. She has a special heart for the people of Africa, devoting much of her year to speaking in several countries there. Dr. Waterbury also spends a great deal of her time writing both curriculum for study in the areas of her passion as well as allegorical novels representing the believer’s journey in realizing her position as the chosen bride of Jesus Christ. Her series, The Painted Window Trilogy, has changed the lives of countless women as they come to that beautiful understanding of the truth of their relationship with Christ. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Jeff.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
For a moment in church yesterday we had the opportunity to ponder about the blessings, the disappointments and the events of last year. There aren’t many moments I am able to do this. This is because I am a single mom of two boys under 5. Sebastian was diagnosed with autism at 3 and Julian who is 2 loves outlets and running faster than his legs can carry him.
I exhaled as I reflected at the changes in 2015: moving into a new home with my parents, finalizing a divorce and finding my new community in Tucson. I walk into 2016 as a single woman reclaiming her maiden name back – marching forward for her two boys and living an untraditional but beautiful life.
When we sang and raised our arms to “How Great Thou Art” I truly mean it. I mean it from the bottom of my soul and naturally my arms are raised to heaven thanking God for all He has shown me.
I have seen miracles – miracles in Sebastian and Julian. I’ve seen that you can overcome a “label”. “Autism” does not define who a boy is – God’s power shines through him and with love, support and intervention a boy can overcome obstacles and play amongst kids without a label or challenges the same way.
I have seen Julian fight for his life in the NICU and defeat all the odds when he was born at 26 weeks. He is turning into a bright, smart and funny little boy. When I stop and think that the doctor at Mt.Sinai asked me if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy at 24 weeks when my water was broken I cringe thinking that someone thought this little boy didn’t have a chance. I can’t imagine this world without him. “With God All Things are Possible” -Matthew 19:26.
When I lived in Miami – isolated from family and far away from my Christian circle of friends I laid in the arms of God each day waiting on Him to lead the way and comfort me in my solitude. Living with my husband who didn’t believe presented daily challenges, struggles and disagreements. God lead every step I took, I needed Him in my loneliness and he gave me strength for each day. I would pray through the walls of that house in Florida to give me courage and community. Going through a diagnosis of autism and Julian’s prematurity couldn’t sustain a marriage that was already weak. Discovering he had cheated paved the way to greater things ahead for me and the boys and our new life in Arizona with family, support and community. I had to leave him behind and God set me free from the bondage of a troubled marriage and a father who wasn’t lead by the spirit.
Living life with God and surrendering to what God has for you – is living life with joy, peace and passion. I will never be the same and I don’t want to be the same person I was without God. He has held my hand through the valleys and pushed me to run towards the light.
I will not fear the future, I will have peace in my soul knowing He is leading the direction of my life. He has already shown me His power and in Him I will always find hope.
“The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”Zephaniah 3:17
Brie Seward is a work at home mom to her two boys, Sebastian (age 5) and Julian (2). Brie was born and raised in Arizona and moved to New York City after college where she was following her publishing career dreams and worked at publications like Harper’s Bazaar and Gourmet magazines. She had the opportunity to start ecommerce websites for international fragrance brand, Bond No.9 and was part of the team to launch the U.S. website for Louis Vuitton. Her last position before she had her boys was marketing manager for Perry Ellis brands in Miami. Brie now resides in Tucson, Arizona where she is reunited with her family, cousins and community. She is a child advocate for her son, Sebastian who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3. While Seb is at school, you can find Brie chasing Julian who is full of energy or trying to keep him out of electrical outlets. Julian was born at 26 weeks and considered a micro-preemie. He stayed in the NICU for 109 days and is now a 2 year old full of joy and showing the world he is truly a living miracle. Brie has realized the true meaning of Home Sweet Home. Through the trials of special needs, prematurity and divorce – she hopes to share with others how God always leads the way and guides us on the narrow road.
“By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week.”
As I look back now, I can see that I was really a ‘needy’ person… pretty much from the ‘get-go’. I did well in school, but I used lying, deceit and “illness” to get the attention that I craved.
My dad was a successful Kansas dairy farmer. My mom worked very hard to keep up with farm chores and babies, especially after her mother and her mother-in-law died of illnesses. Life on a farm during the Second World War was, indeed, challenging (ration cards, no indoor plumbing, no electricity, gas lights, and an “ice box” for a refrigerator.) Mom and Dad were good parents and also strong Christians.
I was the youngest of three kids born in 3½ years. The day before I was born, my mom cooked for 12 harvesters. No wonder my mom would say that my birth put her in ‘overload’! While she didn’t mean any harm, she would reflect on those circumstances, when chatting with friends in my presence. As a result, I came to believe that I was a big mistake! To make matters worse, my eyes were ‘crossed’ necessitating surgery when I was 5.
Then, when I was 12 years old, my family had to relocate to Tucson, for health reasons. I went from a class of 6 farm-kids to a school with 400 city-kids… just in 8th grade! That was a sort of cultural shock. I didn’t feel very ‘cool’.
As for my relationship with God, I had answered an ‘alter call’ and was baptized at the age of 5. While I believed in Jesus as my personal Savior, there was no fruit or power in my life. Church was mostly a social event.
Later on, I met my husband, Dave, at church. I started dating him when I was 14 and he was 17. We married when I was 16. I became a mom at 17. We were immature and under enormous pressure. Can you imagine that our life did not resemble marital bliss?
By the time I was twenty three years old, I was a mother of three children, ranging from 9 months to 5 years old. I found myself living 1,800 miles from family, with a husband who traveled 5 days a week. He was absorbed in his work-reports on the weekends. I was lonely and angry… and Dave was pre-occupied with his job. Quarreling was a way of life for us.
After a particularly bad argument on a Sunday morning, I picked up my kids and headed for church while Dave stayed behind. On the way to church I cried out to God. I said “God, you have to do something!” I had in mind something to “straighten out” my husband. God heard my plea, but to my surprise, His work was to be in me, not my husband.
I dropped the oldest two children in Sunday school and the baby in the nursery. I walked into the service while the congregation was singing the Doxology. I suddenly found myself reciting the first verse of 1Corintians 13 in my head. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” I had memorized that verse in VBS when I was 12, but had rarely thought about it since. I also had a vision of a tongue of fire simultaneously as I was quoting the scripture. I uttered out loud “Oh, God, you mean love, that’s what’s wrong, it’s me”! I was so overwhelmed I walked out of the service and went home.
Dave had left a note that he had gone fishing. I took my Bible, and on my knees with the help of a concordance, I looked up and read every reference I could find on love. In the next hour, God infused every cell of my body with His love! When I got off my knees to go back to church for the kids, all of my neediness had vanished and I was for the first time in my life satisfied! I was a completely new creation!
I waited for Dave to come home so I could share my experience with him. He was glad I was happy, but a bit puzzled about how to deal with me. Suddenly, sermons were spell-binding and the Bible was all I wanted to read! The smile on my face was impossible to wipe off. I was, in fact, NEW!
I have thought about how God has brought newness to my life. First, I’m sure our marriage of 46+ years would have failed before year ten. Second, my children would have not been exposed to God’s redemptive love from their mom. You simply can’t give what you don’t have. Third, God provided the power to cope with the new challenges just around the corner. God taught me to trust Him and rely on Him when I was REALLY lonely!
Rather than make things easy for me, God ‘upped the ante’ by giving me some real culture shock! Just two years after my extraordinary experience with Him. Dave was transferred to Madrid, Spain with his company. When he was traveling, I was left alone with our four children, ranging from 6 months to 8 years, without the benefit of even being able to make myself understood. I spoke no Spanish. There was no English-speaking church. I had no idea what I was doing in the European culture. (Remember, I was a Kansas farm kid!)
While this was a very hard, exciting, scary time… it was also a sweet time of fellowship with God. He was all I had to rely on! All of the normal props had been pulled out from under me.
Simply put, His love sustained me.
Five years later, we returned to Tucson where Dave returned to school for a graduate degree and I went to work for the first time in my life. Once again, there were many challenges; juggling family and work time, and intense financial stress as Dave struggled with starting a new business. I held onto the knowledge that God loved and cared for me and my family. I remembered how He had met me in my most desperate times of need, when I was hopeless. He didn’t choose to make the burden lighter; instead He gave me His strength to carry it!!
Our children are all married with big families (twenty grandchildren to date). All have found that the God who was faithful to their parents… is also faithful to them. They now share His love with their children and bless many others with their lives.
My prayer is that you, too, will find a need so great that you cry out to Him, so He can make you NEW!
By Elizabeth Ryan
When we are young we grow a custom to our environment and the people around us. Unable to view our experience from any other perspective, because of course, this is all we know. We instinctively accept the behavior of others, adapt ourselves accordingly and believe that this is the way it is supposed to be. Whether our environment is happy and safe with lots of loving communication or it is scary and unstable with lots of abusive words…or maybe it could
be someplace in between…This is our world and this becomes the foundation from which we begin to build our lives and our understanding of others and our world.
If we could imagine for a moment that our experiences with others are like a constant exchange of garments. From the time we are little we are given all types of “emotional” garments and as we grow we learn to accept the garment no matter what is given.
Then, in turn, we begin our exchange of imposing garments. Some are heavy and cloak like. Others are scratchy and irritating and some tight and confining. While others can be sheer and light, some colorful and flowing or maybe soft and comforting.
Throughout our lives we exchange garments with those we encounter. Some of us have become so heavy-ladened with garments we find we can hardly breathe much less move or even see. We are sometimes panicked at the fact that we are unrecognizable even to ourselves trapped and hidden deep, beneath all the layers we cling to so tightly.
Our voices so muffled we are unable to be heard or even seen for who we truly are, whom God created us to be.
In our inability to bear the weight of all that we have accumulated we drop to our knees…Then, collapse into a heap on the ground. Broken and ashamed at the realization of all that we have given to others…In this, we are able to find true humility and are ready to let go. Our Savior removes the garments one by one, those that we have received and those that we have given, now we can begin to experience what it means to truly be free. As the bondage is
released Jesus is able to reveal to us the beauty of whom he created us to be without the garments of this world.
Through His grace and mercy we have been given the ability to see beyond the garments worn by others. We have a deeper understanding and true compassion for those who are unaware of their own garments and share with them the hope we have come to know when Christ removed ours and revealed to us His glory.
The garments, whether weighty or light, can only fully be seen by our Savior.
After all, He “knows” us. He was there when we received them, He knows fully from whom they were given and how weary and tired we have become from dragging all the bags we have accumulated behind us. He has seen all the garments you have given to others and yet He sees clearly that you are beautiful and you are His…Exactly the way He created you and no longer hidden, deep beneath the heap on the ground.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Let us surrender the need to exchange the garments of this world and instead embrace the simple exchange of the only garment we need…The garment of God’s Glory.
**Featured Image Photo by Sonora Leif Photography
I wish that the rest of this was going to be my take on all the songs that make me want to get down with my bad self, but it’s not. You see, I have an incredible life. It is full of love from my husband, my children, my family, and friends. We have the ability to be home together almost everyday of the week, and I have the blessing of home schooling my minis. Our needs are taken care of and we laugh. A lot.
But I got derailed. By that I mean I found myself withdrawn and had a difficult time finding contentment. I wanted to be anywhere but here, maybe start over somewhere new, just me. My husband wasn’t my most favorite person, I had been hurt by some people I trust, I had no patience for my kids, and I couldn’t seem to find peace. I was in one of the deepest funks I’ve ever been. Merriam-Webster defines funk as: a depressed state of mind. (more…)