At the beginning of the summer, when I signed up for Revival Camp through Illustrated Faith, I said to myself, “I shouldn’t do this. I don’t need another project. I’ll never finish it.” Then I felt that nudge from the Holy Spirit to do it anyway. I’ve been astonished at how closely this devotional with odd passages from Nehemiah has paralleled my own life. The camp guide unexpectedly turned into a life guide for me.
We were planning a trip to Baltimore this weekend, but honestly, I just felt more like staying home and Bible Journaling, so that’s what I’ve been doing this long Labor Day weekend, finishing the last three devotions from camp. My husband played with our children and I feel like I’ve been on a mini-retreat!
I loved the Grounded devotion and the story that went along with it. My major take-away from the devotional is that we can resolve many sticky situations when we ground ourselves in God’s Word. In this case, a supposed prophet told Nehemiah that there was a conspiracy to kill him and that he should go hide in the temple. That just did not sound right to Nehemiah. Here’s how he reasoned through the situation: “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” Nehemiah finds the right path through this situation by recognizing that God is not likely to send someone with advice that goes against all the instructions he first received. And Nehemiah shows courage by not running away, and humility by recognizing he is not the kind of man who can enter the temple. There were those who wanted to give Nehemiah a bad name, but Nehemiah did not fall for it because he was grounded in God’s Word.
The Wild devotion focused on the testimony given by the people of Israel. It was a retelling of many of the events of the Old Testament as a way of demonstrating God’s steadfast love. The devotion encouraged me to reflect on my own life and what God has brought me through. One of the passions I’ve focused on throughout camp is vocation, so I wrote down all the ways that God has helped me through my 20-year career in investments (a fun thing to think about on Labor Day weekend). Honestly, it’s been a wild and crazy trip that began with me getting a job other than the one I applied for, a few attempts on my part to do something else, and ultimately finding a sense of purpose in an often frustrating business. God has blessed me with so many people who have helped me along the way. As I wrote everything down, I kept repeating to myself: “God if you only had done this for me, it would have been enough.”
This week’s devotion turned into a prayer in my journal:
God may my journey testify to your faithfulness. May I always listen to you and follow your instructions. Let me rise above conflict. Refresh, revive, and restore my passion. May every step bear witness to your passionate love!
This reminded me of another prayer I say often:
Grant that I may learn to turn all the circumstances and events of my life into opportunities to love and serve the church and all souls with joy and simplicity, lighting up the paths of the earth with faith and love.
Both prayers ended up in my journal:
The final week of camp focuses on “Shine.” It feels good to confess this to the world on Labor Day weekend: All my work is done with God’s help!” Not just the work I get paid for, but all of it! If the laundry gets folded and put away, praise God! It’s an everyday miracle!!! I wrote down the words “joy” and “simplicity” because those are the two things I notice most when I feel God’s help. I have joy in my daily tasks and there’s a simplicity that shows up even in challenging situations. In all my work, I try to follow this advice from St. Francis: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’ll be doing the impossible.” This has always worked for me in the past.
Lately, I’ve been going through a strange season of life. Instead of feeling in the flow; I keep meeting resistance. I am loving and serving, but without the consolations of joy and simplicity. I relate to Nehemiah’s dilemma; I can’t run away. In the past, God has moved mountains for me—I recently tripped over something smaller than an ant hill. (Maybe God wants to know me the blessings of strength and resilience?)
When I read the final line of the devotion, I burst into tears: “Friend, He’s rubbing the dullness off your sparkle and about to hit you with a light. For one reason…to shine for Him!” I always hope that others can see God clearly when good work gets done, but I also worry that I’ll mess up and make God look bad. If I testify that God is with me in all that I do, I wish I could do everything better. And yet I know that God is with me. I feel that even my journal was completed with help from God, who kept me going simply by meeting me right where I was in life through the Words of each weekly devotion.
This Labor Day weekend my prayer is that God meets you in all the work that you do. May you know the blessings of loving and serving with joy and simplicity in whatever your vocation may be. May God bless you with strength and resilience as needed. And if you find yourself in an especially challenging season of life, may you find joy in the God who has promised that he will never leave nor forsake you.