Surprise!

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Each day holds a surprise.

But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy. It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.

–Henri Nouwen

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There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved: It is God’s finger on man’s shoulder.

–Charles Morgan

To find gratitude and generosity when you could reasonably find hurt and resentment will surprise you.

–Henry B. Eyring

Today’s surprise came to me from the Bible. As I was pondering and praying through this evening’s Central Goes topic of Surprise, the Scripture referenced in my daily devotional took me to a story filled with surprises.

I’m going to digress here for a moment to share something about how God speaks to me. I cannot tell you how many times I have opened a devotional book or the part of scripture I have been reading through to find that day’s reading directly applies to what is on my heart and my mind for that day. Now, it is not God saying, “Joanna, go to 21 Jones Street and tell Sam to drop on his knees in prayer.” More often, it pertains to situations where I am wrestling with how to love someone better, what to put first in my priorities, or how to interact with everyone I encounter that day. The point here is that when I am regularly reading God’s word, when I am regularly setting aside time to be with God, He speaks in a way that connects to my daily life. This is how I receive guidance from the Holy Spirit. Right there in the routine of being with God every day. It is one of the ways God regularly surprises me!

Take a look at this fascinating story in John 4:

Jesus…left Judea and returned to Galilee.

He had to go through Samaria on the way. Eventually he came to the Samaritan village of Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; and Jesus, tired from the long walk, sat wearily beside the well about noontime. Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.

The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”

Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?  And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

The woman said, “I know the Messiah is coming—the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus told her, I am the Messiah!”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him… 

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay in their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many more to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”

Jesus talked to a woman and a Samaritan–he broke all the cultural customs of the day that separated groups of people. I am particularly struck by this because of the number of cultures represented in my circles of friends. Just yesterday, a friend said to me as an explanation for something, “It is our culture.” I love to learn about cultures, but I also love that Jesus repeatedly steps above and beyond and over culture. And every time he did someone was surprised or shocked enough to start re-thinking who they were, what they did and who Jesus was.

More to Ponder:

  1. At the top of this post are three quotes. Now that you’ve read the John 4 passage, go back and read those quotes and see if you can explain how each of those quotes relates to John 4.
  2. If you want to challenge yourself even further, take the time to think of examples from your own life which may connect with each quote.
  3. What stands out to YOU from this passage?
  4. What questions does it raise?
  5. If we are to follow the example that Jesus left in the way he lived, what might God be calling you to do as a way to do what Jesus did in this story?

Please feel free to comment below.

 

Family Photo Credit: Sophie Brendle Photography

Strength

Before we get to an informative and challenging post brought to you by the one and only Kelsey Lehman, we bring you a silly (but very popular with the teenagers) video about the amazing strength of Scott Sterling’s face. If you do not enjoy body humor or a little fake blood, you can bypass it and get to the serious stuff. If you need a good giggle, check it out:

Studio C’s Scott Sterling Soccer

 

Usually, when we hear the word “strong,” we think of big muscles lifting heavy objects. But this isn’t the only kind of strength. Strength can express itself physically, emotionally, spiritually, and through characteristics and abilities. What does it mean to be strong? And how can we develop greater strength?

In order to gain physical strength, athletes discipline themselves by repeating various exercises over and over again, focusing especially on the areas they want to strengthen. However, what many don’t realize is that strength is actually created through destruction. As you exercise, your muscle fibers break down and break apart, which is why you can feel so sore after a tough workout. But between workouts, as you are resting, those fibers grow back. And as they grow back, they multiply and expand, resulting in bigger muscles and greater strength. Developing other kinds of strength often parallels this process. It requires discipline, repetition, focus, destruction, rest, and then growth. Increased strength comes with numerous benefits. Physically, you can endure more, tire less, increase your capability and perform better than you could before. Spiritually, we also stand to gain much from increased strength. God’s Word tells us we will develop perseverance, endurance of heart, healing, greater righteousness, and abundant peace.

 

What does the Bible Say?

A number of verses in the Bible refer to strength. And many times, those verses refer to getting our strength from God Himself. When God breaks us down, it gives more space for Him to take over our lives and gives us access to His strength, which is so much greater than our own. That certainly doesn’t mean it is always comfortable. Destruction hurts. But He promises to always be with us, no matter what we are going through. Here are some of those verses.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you wherever you go.” -Deuteronomy 31:6
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” -Isaiah 40:31
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” -Hebrews 12:11-13
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” -Philippians 4:13

 

Daily Life Questions

  • In what areas of your life do you possess strength?
  • In what areas of your life do you want to develop greater strength?
  • What sort of discipline, repetition, and destruction would it take to make that happen?
  • Are you willing to commit yourself to such disciplines and exercises, and letting God take over more of your life?

 

And just in case you did not get enough of the strength of Scott Sterling, you may want to check out this video about his volleyball skills.

Studio C’s Scott Sterling Volleyball

 

Central Goes Together

Week 4 in our Central Goes series. Check out the explanation here: Central Goes

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A wise African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” In nearly every aspect of our lives, there are opportunities to work together with others. And in all of these opportunities, we have chances to unite with others, learn from others, and make something better as a group than we would have by ourselves. American culture often wants us to look at our lives through a very individualistic lens, but this often leads us to lose the perspective, strength, skill, and insight that others have to offer. There is, after all, strength in numbers. Plus, working together as a group can be fun!

 

What does the Bible say?

The Bible has a lot to say about working together with others and how community and fellowship add a great deal to our faith and relationship with Christ. In fact, right from the get-go, God says “It is not good for man to be alone,” (Gen. 2:18). We aren’t meant to do this life by ourselves. One particular verse that illustrates how we are to work together comes from 1 Corinthians 12.
For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,’ that would not keep it from being a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,’ that would not keep it from being a part of the body. If the whole body were just an eye, how could it hear? And if it were only an ear, how could it smell? As it is, however, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body… And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. All of you are Christ’s body, and each one is a part of it.” (verses 12-20, 25-27).

God created us with many differences; different gifts, different purposes, different roles, different perspectives. But He still created us to be together. Our individual pieces add up to make a whole. And when we are a part of this whole, we learn that each part of the body belongs to the others. We must care for each other, protect each other, challenge each other, love each other. In the same light, we all operate from the same heart: the heart of Christ. So when one part hurts, we all hurt. When one part celebrates, we all celebrate. When one part fails, we all fail. When one part succeeds, we all succeed. We are all in this together. And that is how God Himself designed it to be.

Daily Life Question
What do you think your role is in the body of Christ? What do you think your part is at Central (or your home church)?
What are some parts of the body that could use your help and your support to help them succeed?

Other Verses To Look At
John 13:34, Philippians 2:1-3, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Matthew 18:20, James 2:15-21, 2 Timothy 3:1-2, John 17:23, Ephesians 4:16

Enjoy the pictures of our Central Goes Together evening!

 

Tangled Day

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This girl. Summer can be tackled many different ways and today my daughter not only tackled it; she nailed it, organized it, categorized it, embraced it and rocked it like a rock star.

A couple of weeks ago she came up with the idea of spending a day doing all the things listed in a song from Disney’s movie Tangled: “When Will My Life Begin?” She made a list of every activity and then assigned times to each one so that she would have enough time to do them all.

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Last week, she looked at our family calendar and picked a day that we had nothing else planned so that she could have the entire day to work her plan. Then she looked at the list and spent a couple of days organizing the materials needed so that she would be able to do activities with a minimum of preparation time on the day. Things like cutting and pinning to sew a dress for her bear and looking up an internet recipe for making a candle and gathering the supplies.

She then set her alarm to get up at 7 a.m. on a summer day and set to work. On top of it all, she time-lapse videoed the whole day.  Enjoy Leina’s Tangled day set to “When Will My Life Begin?”.

In case you missed it, she did chores, read, painted, swept, read more, played guitar (ukulele), knitted, cooked lunch, did puzzles on her iPad, played darts, baked cookies, paper maché with Mod Podge, a bit of ballet and played Chess for the first time (and beat me–I’m ridiculously rusty in that department), play-dough pottery, ventriloquy, candle-making, stretched, sketched, climbed, sewed a dress, re-read books, brushed and brushed her hair.

What are you doing this summer to get your creative juices flowing?

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S-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing

Week 3 in our series. Check out the first blog post Central Goes.

Guest blogger today: Kelsey Lehman

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Click for a super short stretching video for a giggle:  The Grinch

 

Before (and after!) you do any kind of physical activity, it is always important to

S  T  R  E  T C  H !

Stretching helps increase flexibility, which leads to better performance, and also reduces the risk of injury. Stretching can also be pretty uncomfortable. It pushes your muscles and ligaments to extend past what they are used to doing, and past their resting point. It can be painful! But it also increases the body’s overall ability and capacity.

Going through stretching experiences in life can also be painful. The discomfort we feel can manifest itself in a number of ways. When we are being stretched, we may fight against feelings of reluctance, fear, inadequacy, frustration, doubt, anxiety, or pain. But going through experiences that stretch us out of our comfort zone does help us to develop an increased ability and capacity to become more like Christ.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible may not specifically reference physical stretching, but there are places where there are parallels, and some people who certainly went through some stretching experiences.

  • Read the story of Moses and the burning bush, found in Exodus 3 & 4. (Suggested verses, 3:1-14, and 4:10-17.)
    • In what ways was the Lord calling Moses to be stretched? Put yourself in Moses’ shoes. How would you be feeling?
    • What are some signs that Moses was being stretched out of his comfort zone? Can you relate to his reaction?
    • We learn that God used Moses to do some pretty incredible things, including delivering the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, leading them through some very trying times, and preparing them to enter the Promised Land. How do you think being stretched prepared him for these events?
  • Read some other stories of people of God, and Jesus Himself, who were stretched and then used for amazing purposes. What are some common factors you see that lead them to be able to make it through and come through on the other side, stronger and closer to God?
    • 1 Samuel 17:4-18:51 (David), Esther 5:1-8, 8:1-14 (Esther), Matthew 26:36-46 (Jesus), 2 Corinthians 4:8 (Paul)

 

Daily Life Question

In what ways and what areas of your life is God encouraging you to stretch?

What truth and encouragement can you hold onto as you go through this stretching experience?

 

More Resources:

Check out this great reading on the parallels between physical stretching and spiritual stretching. Stretching for the Lord

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Encouragement

*If you have stumbled upon this blog, please take a minute and read the first one in the series Central Goes.

Take a minute and drink in these awesome words from one of my favorite encouragers, Kid President:

“Cour” in French means heart. “En” means in. So the literal meaning of encouragement is to put the heart into. We have a choice each day to put heart into others or take their heart out. Let’s consider this week how we can encourage others. Let’s be aware of our words and our actions and consider what affect they are having on others.

Last year at this time I started a twice a week running club for teenagers. About halfway into the summer, I printed out a handful of motivational phrases and handed out one each to that evening’s runners. I encouraged them to pull out that paper when they started getting tired or discouraged as a way to push them a little bit farther. That night one of my girls hit a milestone: running two miles without walking. I get a little excited about those kinds of accomplishments and was laughing and shouting. I then turned to see her with a slight grin on her face.

“Know what my paper said tonight?”

I looked curiously at her, “Yes.”

“You are stronger than you think you are.”

Now I was jumping around and pointing at her, “YES! YOU ARE! You are stronger than you think you are. You just RAN TWO MILES!”

I like to think that we put the heart into each other that night. I will never forget the moment that she discovered that she was stronger than she thought she was. Encouragement speaks life both to the one being encouraged and the the one giving encouragement. Let’s discover more about putting the heart into one another.

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What does the Bible say?

1 Thessalonians 5:11-24. These verses end Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. They are general instructions for the whole church.

So continue encouraging each other and building each other up, just like you are doing already. Brothers and sisters, we ask you to respect those who are working with you, leading you, and instructing you. Think of them highly with love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are disorderly. Comfort the discouraged. Help the weak. Be patient with everyone. Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit. Don’t brush off Spirit-inspired messages, but examine everything carefully and hang on to what is good. Avoid every kind of evil. Now, may the God of peace himself cause you to be completely dedicated to him; and may your spirit, soul, and body be kept intact and blameless at our Lord Jesus Christ’s coming. The one who is calling you is faithful and will do this.

  • From this passage, what are specific ways we can encourage others?
  • Can you find things in this passage for you to do that might help you be an encouragement to others?

 

Ephesians 4:29, Hebrews 10:24-25, Proverbs 12:25

  • Look up one of these verses and copy it out on a card. Meditate (read it slowly and carefully thinking through each word) on it each day this week and see how God brings it to your mind throughout the day.

 

Philippians 4:8. This verse is from Paul’s closing words in his letter to the Philippians.

From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.

  • Take time this week to list at least one thing that fits each of these categories. For example, when I think of pure, I think of a mountain stream I once hiked to—just sparkling clear water. Then use one of these images or thoughts as your go-to point of focus for the week. When bad news or another horrific story comes your way, re-focus on that pure or lovely or just thing and let it encourage you that God is still active and present in our world.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT Daily Life Question

What encourages you most when you are down? How can you seek that out this week? Who could you intentionally encourage this week? How will you do that?

 

More helpful tips from around the internet:

Specific Ways to Encourage Others

52 Practical and Thoughtful Ways to Encourage Others

 

 

 

 

Goals

Central Goes Week 1

If you are just starting to read this blog, you may want to read the blog entitled Central Goes first for some background.

What kind of goals have you set in the past? Hopefully a little more healthy than this guy:

What does the Bible say related to GOALS?

  • 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (CEB)

Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies. So now this is how I run—not without a clear goal in sight. I fight like a boxer in the ring, not like someone who is shadowboxing. Rather, I’m landing punches on my own body and subduing it like a slave. I do this to be sure that I myself won’t be disqualified after preaching to others.

–What do these verses imply about goals?

–Write down what you think the key word is in these verses. If you were to rate yourself on that key word, what would you give yourself between 1 and 10? What specific thing might you do to improve yourself in this area this summer?

  • Proverbs 16:3 (CEB) Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.
  • Proverbs 16:9 (CEB) People plan their path, but the Lord secures their steps.

–Do you think we always succeed in what we plan? What do you think it means to commit our work to the Lord?

–What do you think it means that the Lord secures our steps?

  • Look up and read Philippians 4:4-13.

–What specific things does Paul instruct the Philippians to do? (Hint: look for the verbs—action words.)

–What does he thank them for?

–How might these two ideas relate to goals and making goals and reaching goals?

 

Here are a couple of very practical internet resources about goals.

31 Beginner BabySteps

http://www.fastcompany.com/1150180/set-smaller-goals-get-bigger-results

 

GOALS Daily Life Question

What goal have you made for the summer? What is your plan to accomplish that goal?