Process Over Product

city-rhythms

Anyone that has moved knows that it is no small feat.  A study showed that moving is more stressful than a relationship breakdown, divorce, or a new job. Crazy!

The little things like changing your address to the actual moving day can be enough to pull your hair out. It seems like as soon as I get one thing checked off the list, I am bombarded by an unexpected task. Work can also feel like this… living to check things off the list.

What if God desired to encounter us in the mix of the task rather than just crossing something off? As my car started to act up recently, I was reminded by a dear friend that perhaps I’m not at the car shop to simply get my car fixed… I’m there to encourage the person sitting next to me. Or as I visit three different places in search of a notary, perhaps I’m supposed to bless the dishelved man sitting outside the store. If I have tunnel vision, I could miss what God is ACTUALLY calling me to.

God doesn’t put us in situations to simply arrive at the end, but to rather walk with us in the journey. The process over the product.

I constantly come back to the narrative of Abraham as God instructed him to sacrifice his son. Isaac (Genesis 22). Ultimately, Abraham had to trust the goodness of God. He had to trust God’s sovereignty in his uncertainty. So he acted in accordance to God’s command, but all the while, he had one ear to the spirit of God. If Abraham would have turned off his ears, focusing on the end result, he would have acted completely outside of God’s will.

1 Samuel 15:22 reads, “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.”

Above all else, God desires our hearts. God desires hearts that are attentive to his voice and obedient to follow through. When we listen, he leads us and guides us so that we may walk in step with him.

Barriers to obedience: We get locked into what we think is best. As a friend share with me, “we ask God to endorse our plans.” How silly (but true)! Last time I checked, I’m a fallible human being. I want to be a part of his plan.

At the end of the day, I am guilty of feeling entitled over my time (ha, millenials) and I feel like I’m being robbed what I should actually be spending my time on. Reality check… the time wasn’t mine to begin with. If I offer it all to the Lord and recognize any easy in my life as a gift of grace, my posture towards my time changes entirely. I am now a humble servant that delights in the plans of my Master.

 “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Like I wrote before… options are an opportunity for God to move. Inconvenience is also an opportunity for God to realign us.

“God, your ways are higher than ours. Your thoughts are higher than mine. I trust that all things are working for the good of those who love you. Please give us the eyes and heart to see our time and tasks as opportunities to see you in a new and refreshing way. Forgive us for making an idol of control and convenience. We claim that you are good and we are most satisfied when we are delighting in you!”

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Options as an Opportunity

city-rhythms

Growing up in rural Illinois, there were few decisions to be made around your daily routine. I got in the car, encountered no traffic and parked in my assigned parking space. I didn’t have to make constant decisions based on the traffic, the weather or other random activities that were happening that day. The time it took to get there was often dictated by the number of miles it was down the road (10 miles = 10 minutes… maybe 9). Easy.

Nearly every time I walk out the door in DC, I have the option to bike, walk, bus, uber, metro or drive. You have a 100 different restaurants to choose from when you want to eat out. There are a few grocery stores that are basically the same, but a little bit different (but hey, there’s only one Target. ha.). How are you possibly going to spend your weekend? Oh, and you are only a near train or airplane away from ending up in another city entirely (if there wasn’t enough to do here).

You are constantly bombarded with decisions. Quite frankly, it can be overwhelming. You can make one decision and feel like you missed out or wasted your time. You can decide to metro because it seems like the best, quickest option… little did you know the red line felt like catching on fire today. You can decide to drive, but oh, there’s an event downtown and you spend an hour looking for an overpriced parking spot.

What if each decision could be actually be an opportunity to invite God in to your decision making process? If we believe that God is sovereign over the little and the big things, we can trust that He is in each decision. What if we felt like going to Giant over Harris Teeter because there is going to be radical opportunity to bless the young mom in front of you by buying her groceries? (yes, you can do that anywhere, I understand, but just go with me here…)

I think about this often, but just yesterday I loved how it played out. I was downtown and making my way back up to Columbia Heights. Earlier in the day, I had already opted to bike (leaving my car behind) so now I was down to a metro, bike or walk back home option. I decided to walk and as I walking, I ran into one of my Back on My Feet alumni (client from my old job). We stood and talked for a while as I hadn’t seen him since last fall. We then ran into more BoMF members as we stood by the sidewalk laughing and catching up. I would have missed out if I would have taken the metro.

In any place we live we can make decisions based on what we want to do. I’m proposing that we use indecision as an opportunity to ask God, “What do you want me to do?” or “Where do you want me to go?” Perhaps, it isn’t clear and you have the freedom to choose. Or maybe, you can engage with God in a fresh way as you invite him into the adventure of whatever you are doing next.

You find Proverbs 3:5-6 taking on an interesting twist when you think about it in this context: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” – James 1:5

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

City Rhythms: Walking with God in a City that Doesn’t Stop Running

city-rhythms

After numerous conversations, I have come to the conviction of writing on this topic… embarking on a series actually. What does it mean to walk with God, maintain your sanity and actually thrive in the city? There is always more to do and more to miss out on. There is little grace for rest and constant pulls towards socialization and connection.

I will be posting various thoughts, suggestions and perspectives that capture the heart behind following Jesus in a city like Washington, DC. I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I feel like it is an important idea to explore. I’ve never lived in a city that is not DC, so I will be interested to see if these are similar hurdles that are encountered by other big-city-folks.

The city often dooms people into exhaustive rhythms of work, socialization, more work and sporadic travel. Washington, DC proves to be more of a stepping stone than a dream-come-true fortress at the end of the fairy tale. This leaves individuals often searching for the next place rather than present in what is in front of them.

I’m captivated by the fact that in Revelation 21-22, John refers to the new heaven and new earth as the “Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (21:2). In 22:3, it reads, “The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city.” By living in the city, we get a unique picture of the Kingdom of God embarking on the earth. The Kingdom of God is here, but not quite yet (Luke 17:20-21). What can we learn by… living in the city now? Trusting in God in the city? Engaging with people in the city? that we would not learn if we were in places of slower, monotonous rhythms that seem easier and simpler…?

A “rhythm” as defined by Webster: “a movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.”

If our “regular recurrence” is the centrality of Jesus, how can we leverage the movements, fluctuations and variations of life for His glory?


Check out the first post on this topic: Options as an Opportunity.


To share your insights on this topic, please contact me at jolee.paden@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you!

Seeking to be Satisfied

This summer, I’ve had the privilege to speak, teach and meditate on what it means to have great intimacy with the Lord and the satisfaction we can find in it.

Feel free to find a point below and explore the idea. Share a thought with a friend. Bring it into your time with the Lord. Give me your insights.

  1. Our culture has twisted our greatest commandment.
  2. True love is not about getting, but giving.
  3. Relationships are for sanctification.

Realization 1: Our culture has twisted our greatest commandment.

What is the first and greatest commandment that Jesus shared? Love God and love others as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). As I prayed through intimacy with the Lord and how that relates to our current situation, I realized that I can skew this commandment. Satan has given a subtle twist to our key towards abundant life (John 10:10). Rather than loving God and loving others, I think my objective is to be loved by God and be loved by others. Don’t get me wrong… being loved is not a bad thing, but putting that at the center of our life’s pursuit is a plan for disaster. We cannot depend on the praise of others for our sustenance. Ultimately, our abundant life is found in loving God and others, not just being loved by God and loving others. Life is found in the giving, not the getting. Which brings us to the next point…

Realization 2: True love is not about getting, but giving.

If we are always in a posture of “needing to receive” in our relationships, we are often left feeling empty (It’s like the water at the well that will not satisfy – John 4:13). If we are looking at how we can benefit by being in relationships, we can miss the opportunity to give and be a blessing to others.

True love towards one another is not about picking something up so that we can gain, but that we will lay something down for another’s benefit. John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Are we fighting to stand on the shoulders of others or are we bending down so they can get on ours?

How is our aim to give rather than to get?

“Giving” comes from a heart of gratitude. [Absolute overflow supplied by the well of the Holy Spirit in your heart. You don’t have to worry about running dry when Jesus is your source.]

“Getting” leaves us with a scavenger’s mentality. [An unhealthy dependence for affirmation, satisfaction and completion. The hungry are constantly looking for food, while the well-fed are looking to share.]

Our desire for romance cannot be rooted in what we will gain from being in a relationship. It is not about being served, but seeking to serve (Matthew 20:28).

Realization 3: Relationships are for sanctification. 

In my current Christian circles, it is easy to think of romantic/dating relationships like step work. “Okay, once I’m satisfied in my singleness… then God will give me a boyfriend.” So we can pursue a mindset to try to fool ourselves and even fool God… “I’m totally content now.” And many times, stories reinforce this thinking as a woman shares… “Well, I finally decided I would be totally okay to be single the rest of my life… and then I met my husband.”

Our walk with the Lord is not about arriving at a certain point, but the process of looking more like Jesus. AKA sanctification. The relationships in our lives are not necessarily a reward of goodness or obedience, but rather a tool to shape you more into the image of Christ (Proverbs 27:17). Marriage as a tool for sanctification comes earlier for some than others. Marriage isn’t the goal, but looking more like Jesus is.

When our goal is to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), we can be confident that our fullest satisfaction is supplied. When our goal is to look more like Jesus, we are no longer consumed with the culture or patterns of our flesh. We can aim to love others without fear.

I love the chorus of the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of His glory and grace.


I want to be so fixed on Jesus, that the ways, waves and raves of the world grow strangely dim. When I can take a step back, I recognize the ways the Lord supplies and provides my heart with all that I could ever need. Often, he waits and wants me to ask him… and most of the time, he meets my needs in ways I would never expect… and always, he is faithful.

When do I feel unsettled and discontent in my life? When I am looking to receive from others and I feel like my needs go unmet. When I feel most alive and satisfied? When I am seeking the welfare of others in conversation, prayer, letters, service… and when I approach the throne of God with a surrendered heart.

Generosity of the Heart

God consistently asks us to give of ourselves and our treasure.

When we think of treasure, our minds immediately go towards our money and “stuff.” Is our treasure simply our physical possessions though? Our treasure includes such riches, but what if we examined the emotional possessions that we held so close to our heart as treasure as well?

What does it look like to be generous with our words, emotions and heart? In Proverbs 11:25, it reads, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

If God also commands giving of our emotional heart, what biblical model does he give us? Perhaps it is much the same of giving of our physical treasures.

His model of giving begins with offering our firstfruits to him. In Proverbs 3:9, it reads, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”

When we are full of thoughts and emotions, do we first bring them to God? Do we offer him the first of frustration or elated joy? He created us and first gave it to us, so he deserves the first bit of it. Psalm 62:8 says, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” In his hands we can first make sense of our hearts, for he knows our hearts better than we do.

When we offer our firstfruits, God promises his abundance. In Malachi 3:10, it says, “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”

Deuteronomy 26 gives a clear picture of honoring God with your firstfruits and tithes. Giving God the first of your portions ultimately brings him greater honor as you declare him as your provider. With thanks and trust, you give back to God as an act of honor. It is in your giving to God that others are also satisfied. In Deuteronomy 26:12 it reads, “When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.”

As we offer the first our hearts to him, we then know what is left to bring to the table for others and ourselves. God talks about bringing food into the storehouse, but it is only for his glory. We don’t store up for our own protection or out of a heart of scarcity. We can give to others, because the Father has first provided for us. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

In our abundance, we can give of our hearts with wisdom and generosity. We have been filled up so that we can overflow with blessing. Proverbs 21:26 says, “All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing.”

Emotional generosity doesn’t mean that we give our vulnerability away to everyone though! We don’t throw our physical treasures to anyone and everyone. Just like our possessions, we must discern with the spirit what and with whom God wants us to share our hearts. Notice specifically that in Deuteronomy, we are instructed to give to those in need. Someone could be rich and only give to other rich people… that would not be helpful. Someone could bring brave vulnerability, but only to others who bring there’s as well. We must find those who are in need of emotional generosity and give away the blessing you have been blessed with.

In scarcity, we store up. In abundance, we have the freedom to give away. When we store up fear, doubt, or even excitement, what are we afraid of losing? Why don’t we choose to share with others our vulnerability so they may also be met with blessing?

In 2 Corinthians 9:11, it reads, “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

When we look to God not only as our physical provider, but our emotional and spiritual provider, we can live with a heart of generosity. We can engage with our vulnerability without fear of it being taken from us.

If you were to store up food for years and years and years… it would go bad. It would be rotten. There has to be a natural rhythm of feeding others and yourself with the goods in the storehouse. The same is true with your heart… do you have years of stored up emotions (defeat or celebrations)? What is your platform to make these things known?

And when we you do share your heart, see it as an act of service to the Lord and not the world. Matthew 6:2 says, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” reads Matthew 6:18-20.

God has given you each piece of your own heart for his blessing and the blessing of others. Your story is your unique possession. Your gifts are your service to the world. Your passions are our lens into God’s heart.

1 Chronicles 29:14 – “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

 Acts 20:35 – “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “

Don’t Hit the Rock

A glimpse into my world –

Why January 15? This was a goal for 100% funding that I set back in September. This was not a deadline, but rather a Lord-willing prayer that we breathed for many months (ay, Circle Maker). The spring semester at George Washington University started on January 16 and I wanted to be fully-commissioned and ready to roll for the new year.

Full-time support raising for two months. I can honestly say that prayer was the foundation for how quickly this support was raised. I started to build a team of supporters in early October. My last day at my job was October 27 before going to India for two weeks. I began raising support full-time on November 19 after returning from Illinois for my Grandma’s funeral. Throw in the holidays and many thought this was impossible. I still am in awe. 

Going into the final week. There was still $700/month left to raise. That seems like a lot…. but I was consistently reminded that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). HE is the provider. The Lord brought to mind the story of the provision of manna in the desert for the Israelites. HE is the provider. And then he brings to mind the story of Moses when God tells him to bring water from the rock. I hear God speaking to my heart… “Don’t hit the rock.” If you are familiar with the story, you know there are two instances when God uses Moses to bring water from the rock. The first time, God tells him to hit the rock with his staff and the water would come out (Exodus 17). Okay, cool. It happens. The second time, God tells him to instead speak to the rock (Exodus 20). Instead of obeying, Moses hits the rock twice. The water comes out, but it was because of this that he didn’t get to go into the Promised Land.

Perhaps it was uncertainty that made Moses hit the rock the second time rather than just speak to it? He had seen that work before… Perhaps there was an element of control exercised in hitting the rock. I felt like God was telling me to trust him enough to speak to “the rock”… don’t take things into my own hands… speak in prayer and trust him enough to bring provision out where you wouldn’t expect it. He would bring the water from the rock.

So I spent a lot of time praying this past week. Circling the campus of GW in prayer, praying for my current supports and those still in limbo. I walked through open doors and pursued opportunities to tell others about what I was doing, meet new people and invite others to join me in prayer.

$100 a day was the prayer. For two days, $100 commitments came each day. It seemed like God was confirming this in my spirit. The following days were not as visibly fruitful and I continued to process and pray for his miraculous provision. $500 to go on Thursday.

There was only so much I could do at this point. A few calls here and there. Praying through who I should call next. I continued to hear God… don’t hit the rock. Don’t force anything in your own power or control. He would get the glory for this.

I took a Sabbath on Friday and volunteered at an FCA event all day on Saturday.

At church on Sunday, we sang “You’re the God of Miracles” and “All your promises are yes and amen.” A confirmation in my spirit, yet help me in my unbelief, Lord.

Monday is the day of truth. I went to bed like a little kid on the night before Christmas. I volunteered with some awesome people at a YoungLife event for MLK day on Monday and awaited the notifications. Well… I didn’t realize that the FCA office was closed for MLK day so I would have to wait until tomorrow. God has a sense of humor…

By late morning on Tuesday, the email notifications began to arrive. Tears welling up and heart so full. It appeared to be enough. I pulled out my computer at Sweetgreen with Jason and Crystal from H’burg FCA and plugged in the numbers. Twenty-seven donations (monthly and one-time) were made over the weekend to bring the goal of funding $3 over the necessary monthly support amount. 

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” – St. Augustine. Pick this quote apart as you please, but I can say that the prayers of my community brought this goal to the feet of the Lord everyday. And I can honestly say that I worked in all my effort to see this come to fruition… not so I could get a paycheck, but so we can begin the work in the city of Washington, DC.

There are so many stories of hope, encouragement (some discouragement), surprise and provision that I could tell you. I hope you can ask me about them. I would love to share.

For those of you that were up in the air about joining my team or just hadn’t gotten to it yet… I hope you do! Visit my.fca.org/supportforjoleepaden. It would be an honor to have another soldier in this army as we head into the battlefield of this city.

“11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:11-13)

Thank you for those who have been walking with me before this, in this and ahead of this. My heart is so full at the community of support that the Lord has brought and continues to bring. The journey is just beginning. Thanks for being a part of it.

To God be the glory forever and ever, Amen.

Standing in the Fire

On paper, the last month has been one the most challenging months of my life thus far.

I transitioned out of my role at Back on My Feet, started building my support team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), hoped and prayed through difficult and uncertain family situations, traveled to the joy of India and then returned to the unexpected passing of my dear Grandma Peggy.

People ask me, “Are you okay? Are you sure?”

I smile and they probably think I’m crazy, but really… I am. These things are tough, but God continues to encourage and inspire me in his goodness.

As I laid down to sleep, the Lord brought the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendgo to mind from Daniel 3. If you aren’t super familiar with the story… It is about three guys that are commanded to bow down to the image of gold that the king creates. They refused and in return, they are bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. Rather than burning up, they survive and with awe… the king changes his narrative as he worships Yahweh – the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendgo.

As I thought about these guys… They must have felt the heat, but they didn’t get burned. As they were thrown into the fire, I’m sure it was hot and they are were probably nervous, but at the end of the day… they trusted in the deliverance of the Lord.

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.” (Daniel 3:16-17)

I feel like I have been standing in the fire lately. It’s hot, but I’m not getting burned. I feel at peace and confident in what the Lord has done, what he is doing and what he has yet to do. Everyone thought these men would burn up as soon as they were thrown into the furnace. My natural response should be fear, anxiety and discouragement. Yet, with the peace and presence of God himself, he continues to strengthen and sanctify me.

A few key observations as I read Daniel 3:

  • In the testimony of the Lord, there is opposition. Caution: hard stuff ahead.
    • I have taken the step of faith into full-time ministry. Since then, there has been some tough stuff, my friends.
  • Everything was stacked against these men. The furnace was heated 7x hotted and they were tied up.
  • The men who threw them into the fire DIED. With the power and protection of the Lord, others could not endure such fire. 
  • BUT! While in the fire, the men were set free AND there was a fourth person – the perceived “Son of God.” (The Lord stands with us in the fire?!!)
  • Others will see and respond to the outcome of our obedience. Daniel 3:28 says, “Then Nebuchadnezzar said, Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.'”

Psalm 66:10-12 –

“For you, God, tested us;
    you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
    and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
    we went through fire and water,
    but you brought us to a place of abundance.”