The Heart Cry of Discipleship

What if grace was God responding to us because he sees us whole and wants us to experience that wholeness? 

My friend posed this question to me in the middle of a conversation while we were considering what it was to have Christ formed in us. 

Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I'm going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. The apostle Paul wrote these words to the believers in Galatia. (Galatians 4:19) This is the heart cry of discipleship. 

Oh, the joy of new babes! But they don't stay babies, they grow and develop, just like new believers in Christ. 

Oh, the joy of new babes! But they don't stay babies, they grow and develop, just like new believers in Christ. 

Christ formed in me is to have Christ formed in ALL of me. 

When Jesus took his last breath, the temple curtain tore in two, opening up a whole new way to God. It was God's way of demonstrating that a high priest was no longer necessary to go behind the temple curtain to intervene on our behalf for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus did that for us on the cross. It wasn't about religious rules and regulations anymore. It was about a relationship with the resurrected Jesus, given once and for all, for all mankind, for all time. 

Jesus died so we could be whole. 

We are not only spiritual beings, but emotional, physical, and intellectual beings. Discipleship includes all of this. Christ formed in us means that it effects every aspect of life. Attitude. Will. Desires. Longings. Goals. Plans. Decisions. Past. Present. Future. 

Over the next four blog posts we will be taking a look at what I call the four big questions to experiencing wholeness. 

Join me as we explore the four essential elements of discipleship. The spiritual practices are one of those elements, but discipleship is so much more. 

My Greatest Joy

In the short time Unforced Rhythms has been released, I am encouraged by the responses from those who have read it. The highest compliment is to know that those who read the book sense my heart to relate and understand. My greatest joy is to know that others are finding freedom in God's grace.  And, the ultimate fruitfulness is to know Jesus is making himself more at home in people's hearts. 

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Here's a taste of what people are saying: 

While the idea of questioning daily devotions seemed outlandish to me, I also have struggled for my 32 years of faith to follow a daily devotional schedule. As an artist, a writer, and a creative individual, I believe that I might trend toward a more seasonal, yearly rotation, as Jackson highlights in her book. I will spend hours, days, and even weeks in a state of prayer, scripture study, or worship, and come out renewed, strengthened and restored. – M.M.

The spirit of your book so clearly reflects who you are. It may be of no surprise to you that I am a daily person, however, I love what I am reading and agree with you so much about how we often make burdensome rules for one another to carry while defining it as spiritual maturity. Thanks for taking the time to write your book and for your deep loving care for so many. – L.W. 

Great truths - practical and your vulnerability sets people free to do the same. It has much to contribute to the spiritual formation landscape! – J.L.

I am just getting into reading your book. So far, I don’t want to put it down! I, too, wrestle with the guilt of having daily quiet times. I’m excited to see how the Lord uses your words in my life. – T.R. 

Finally, someone has spoken out loud what I have been thinking/struggling with for years; I don’t do “devotions” everyday and have spent much of my life feeling like I don’t measure up. As a pastor that is an obvious wrestling match. It’s not that my relationship with Christ isn’t daily, it just doesn’t always consist of reading my Bible and spending an hour in prayer everyday. – D.B.

I would imagine any author appreciates feedback on a book they have written. I am grateful beyond measure for those who have written to express the impact of the book on their life!

My prayer for those who find freedom in the pages of Unforced Rhythms comes from Galatians 5:1 – So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don't get tied up again in slavery to the law. 

 

 

It Found Me

Today I am sitting in the Budapest coffee shop where I first read Erica's email (as described in my first chapter) explaining her struggle with daily time with God. It was here, in this place, where I began to put words to paper in my response to Erica. This was the beginning of Unforced Rhythms. What began as an average email response ended up developing into an attached 5-page document. 

Coffee shops and Budapest inspire me :)

Coffee shops and Budapest inspire me :)

Writing out my thoughts has always been something that has helped me make sense out of life. And so, as I began creating a response to Erica, the words flowed out of years of my own angst in time with God, yet I could respond to her out of a place of freedom.  

Over the years, writing a book is a thought that crossed my mind from time to time. A few people told me that I should write a book on prayer.  In a roundabout way Unforced Rhythms is about prayer, but it took on a whole different angle than I ever saw it going.

After two decades of seeking and searching for answers to daily devotions, the truths and discoveries in Unforced Rhythms found me. They came to me through the Word, particularly Matthew 11:28–30. They came to me through the gentle voice of my heavenly father telling me to "just live" in place of striving. They came to me through others, like my friend, Dave, who shared his brilliant concept of Life Rhythms. 

I've heard it said, recently, that some things find us.  

The words to Unforced Rhythms came to me like a river flowing over granite cliffs falling to the base below where the waters just keep flowing. Though I searched for answers, the book came out of the answers that brought me freedom. They found me.

Hearing "Me Too" in other parts of the world

This past weekend Dennis and I had the privilege of celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation with our Egyptian friends. Sitting in the same room with key evangelical leaders from around the world was a surreal experience.  There are an estimated 250,000 evangelical Christians in Egypt, about 20% of the population.

The Great Pyramids of Giza

The Great Pyramids of Giza

Though it was amazing to visit a city with rich ancient history, and to see pyramids dating back to 2,500 years BC, what I most enjoyed was the opportunity to interact with people. 

Hanan was our translator and so gracious to answer all my questions. Along the way she discovered that I had written my first book, curious to know what it was about. I told her the title and subtitle, pausing to wait for a reaction. She gave me a nod, with a knowing look, and so I continued on to share a bit more specifically about the book's topic. "Yes, we struggle with this here in Egypt, too." 

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I wondered if Unforced Rhythms would be a book that crossed cultures. Did Christians in other parts of the world have the same spiritual angst that I did with daily devotions or was this just a North American thing?  

A few months ago in Africa, I spoke with our Zambian leader and pastor who oversees the church planting efforts in Malawi. He, too, asked about the book. After describing the topic of the book, I ask him if he had daily devotions. "Yes, but I do good for a couple weeks and then I struggle to stay at it." I told him I understood and that I think he would find the book helpful. He chuckled and said, "Well, you are the ones that taught us to do it!" 

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Trusting God to determine the scope of influence in the message of Unforced Rhythms. 

Unforced Rhythms Spans the Generations

From millennials to retirees, the impact of Unforced Rhythms is making its mark. Much to my surprise, I am hearing from those who I thought might react to Life Rhythms.  I thought, perhaps, those who have been in the church for a long time might push back on something that goes against the grain of Christian standards. 

One retired couple reading it aloud on the 2,000 mile road trip to their winter haven in Arizona  sent me a message saying, "We are loving your book," asking to order three more copies for accountability friends. "When I read a few pages of the book before we left on the trip, I knew immediately he (her husband) would love the book." 

This is my hope and prayer, that all ages would be impacted by the message of Unforced Rhythms, and that it would be a book that both men and women would enjoy. I'm encouraged that 20% of my Instagram followers are men. And, the highest age span is 25–30. My favorite age group to connect with are young adults. Perhaps it's because my young adult years were so life-changing. It was in that season that the trajectory of my life was set.

I wrote the book with people in mind. I thought of my kids, all in their 30's, trusting that their hearts would resonate with the words. I wanted it to speak to millennials who are looking for authenticity in the church. I thought of my 86-year-old mom who suggested that I have the text font clear and crisp so she wouldn't have a problem reading it. :) I thought of my brother. who continues farming on the land I grew up on. I wanted him to believe the book worthy of a sit-down-and-read (without falling asleep) in the midst of full days on the farm. And, mostly I thought of anyone who needs to be set free from oughts and shoulds, from self-or-others imposed expectations, and those bearing heavy yokes. 

It's a book about freedom, celebrating each other's differences, and mostly, about God's love and grace.

The Seasonal/Yearly Person

It was a liberating day when I discovered that I lived life to a seasonal/yearly rhythm.

For so long I had struggled to live within the confines (for me, anyway) of a daily box. The spiritual angst I felt from the guilt and defeat of trying to be daily wore me down spiritually. Wouldn't it be like the enemy of our souls to discourage and torment in something considered a spiritual discipline–daily devotions? 

I felt guilty when I missed daily devotions, yet deeply desired an authentic and meaningful relationship with Christ. What a relief when the concept of Life Rhythms shed light on the tension I felt.

Once I realized repetition and routine bog a non-daily person down, it all made sense. The defeat I felt wasn't because I didn't love God or desire to know his Word. It wasn't because I didn't want to spend time in prayer. It was simply because I wasn't daily.

No more condemnation. No more guilt. No more accusation. I am free to connect with God out of my seasonal/yearly rhythm and in this, I find great joy. 

We like a start and finish to things. Making an indefinite commitment to a service, activity, or responsibility saps the the energy out of a seasonal/yearly person. They need to know that things are going to change up after so long. No wonder the consistency of daily devotions rob the seasonal/yearly person of their joy. 

Creativity stirs the soul of a seasonal/yearly person. Music, art, writing, and other creative outlets can motivate and draw the seasonal/yearly person closer to God. Times with God will flow in and out of each season, setting the tone for life. Engaging in spiritual practices with flexibility, variety and change will give a seasonal/yearly person a fresh perspective to one’s spiritual walk.

Seasonal people anchor themselves in processing life in blocks of time. This could align with the seasonal changes of the calendar year or in just what's happening in life during a certain timeframe. Unlike the daily rhythm with to-do lists, or the weekly/monthly rhythm with calendars and priorities, the seasonal/yearly rhythm lives in the ebb and flow of life. Where's God moving in this season of life? Processing life in order to determine a theme enables them to focus on what matters most in a particular season or year.