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Bonnie Gray Christian Blog and Commentary

Bonnie Gray

The Faith Barista

One time, when I was little, I played a game.

Grandparents, aunts and uncles were all visiting that weekend. The house was packed.

I don't know why I came up with the idea, but I thought it would be fun to hide. I wanted to see what would happen if I suddenly went missing.

I slipped behind our dusty olive-green couch, squeezing myself under it’s sagging belly. My legs slid in easy, along with part of my tummy. There I hid half contorted, like a gummy worm stuck between the wall and the carpet.

I waited and waited for someone to come look for me.

I eventually climbed out numb and stiff.

No one seemed to miss me.

No matter how old we get or how strong we've grown, we can all use encouragement. We all find ourselves stuck in hard places --

-- we wonder if anyone notices.

-- we wonder if anyone cares.

When we are happy, is there someone I can dance the crazy-dance with?

When we are unsure, is there anyone I can talk to in run-on sentences and find them still listening?

When we're pressed against our everyday lives, we wonder if anyone sees.

Most Encouraged

Deep inside, we are all waiting for a chance to be known.

The times in my life I was most encouraged were the times I felt most invisible.

Because someone noticed. Someone was willing to spend time to listen. Or invite me out for coffee. Or ask. Or send an email.

There was more to the struggle or the excitement I was willing to reveal.

And her presence made all the difference to my heart.

But, it didn't happen initially when I was going through my season of anxiety and panic attacks.

Because I didn't tell anyone. I was very thin on friendships where I felt safe enough to be vulnerable and receive.

I didn't know it, but I had protected myself from past hurts of friends who betrayed me -- by soley surviving on just exercising my gift of encouragement. I didn't know how to reach out and choose to develop friendships where I could just be me, so that I could enjoy receiving encouragement.

It's not easy to find friends who you can confide in during times you're trying to figure out how you're feeling. When you're not looking for advice. When it's not about problem solving -- and you want to have a friend for soul sharing -- it's important not to give up on the journey to find soulful friendship.

So that you can be refreshed with encouragement.

I’m learning not everyone can touch that place of empty. Not everyone knows how to stay. But it doesn’t mean our search for friendship needs to end fruitless.

Encouragement is a Gift

It's kind of ironic, but sometimes the people who encourage others the most are the one most in need of encouragement.

So, give yourself the gift the encouragement: by sharing your story. By reaching out to call a friend -- to ask her out for coffee -- or invite her for a walk -- or send her an email -- and let her know how you're doing.

That's what I did last week. I'm still getting used to this. It's relatively new for me -- because I enjoy giving the gift of encouragement.

We know how to give out, but we find it difficult to stop, share vulnerably and receive.

I texted two of my friends and told them, "Do you guys want to go out for dinner? I need some girlfriend time to talk about something that's bothering me. And catch up with you guys too."

Before my journey of healing, I would be the one to always ask people out to see how they're doing and my heart found a lot of joy by being there for others.

But, now, God is inviting me to receive -- and that means being vulnerable to reach out to others. And also find friends who are the kind of people who can encourage by listening -- more than giving advice or fixing my problems.

But, I think it's worth the risk. My heart would not be as alive -- embracing both my scars and my blessings -- if it weren't for kindreds who are willing to share their stories too.

Like you.

You are the ones that God sees and says with cheer:

"We all have different gifts, based on the grace given us... If it is encouraging, devote yourself to encouraging others." Romans 12:6-8

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." 1 Thess. 5:11

The spotlight is often given to the more "up-in-front" spiritual gifts like evangelism or teaching, both of which are very important.

But the spiritual gift of encouragement is no lesser just because it is hidden.

Jesus Himself encourages us with the work of giving in secret.

"...so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:4

God Sees It All

God says He sees us -- and He values each us. The quiet ways that no one may ever know about. God knows. And He wants to encourage you through the voice of a friend. So that you can be refreshed and encouraged.

You are not invisible. You are highly cherished, appreciated and valued.

May God reward you with refreshment in return. But, we need to take the dare and risk vulnerability. We need to go on the journey to find friends we can be refreshed with.

So that we can continue to pour out and encourage. From a heart that has been refreshed. As the beloved.

"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25

~~~~~

How has God been prompting you to get some soul refreshment from friends? How is God encouraging to nurture existing or seek out new friendships that are for soul sharing?

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For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

What does it mean to have faith?  God values faith in ways we least expect.

I never used to be afraid.

I was all faith.

Or so I thought.

I had enough faith for everyone around me and seconds to go around too.

Everything would always work out fine because I was with Jesus.  And Jesus was with me.

I loved people.  Prayed, studied my Bible, and recycled regularly.

But, as time passed by and the number of things that went wrong started adding up, I unconsciously started keeping a tally.

I would've never admitted that I was keeping such a list.  Not even to myself, much less God.

But, I did.

Deep in my heart, where I did not dare to go, I had a running list of questions about where God was leading me.  And why it was taking so long.

Of course, I knew that He is all good, all knowing, and all powerful.  So, I didn't allow myself to doubt God's plan for me.

Or so I thought.

I masked my insecurities with God by doubting myself.

What I feared most was being forgotten.  I was afraid to live an insignificant life.

Two Pictures

During one weekend away spent in whitespace, I decided to share my list of disappointments with God. After writing pages and pages of unanswerable dilemmas, God gently and lovingly brought two pictures to my mind.

*  In the beginning, there was nothing.

It was in nothing, the Holy Spirit hovered, where God created something.

*  Mary's empty womb.  How can this be? she asked.

It was in nothing, the Holy Spirit hovered again, where Jesus became flesh.

The place inside me where faith was near death became alive.

Nothingness.  That's me!

I had never been so happy to discover I had become the perfect place for Jesus to rest in.

That song I sang as a gullible teenager long ago suddenly took on a completely different meaning --

Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true and with thanksgiving, I'll be a living, sanctuary, oh for you.

It was as if a bolt of lightning struck my heart and resuscitated my story.

It irrevocably changed my direction.  I decided to stop setting my sights on where I was going or what I would end up doing in the future.

I set my sights on who I was walking with -- Jesus.

I surrendered my ideas of what life ought to look like, so I could have the courage to make choices facing me today.

In the everyday. That is where I will find Him.

In the everyday. This is where He would lead me.

I realized the best life -- the most significant life I can live -- is the one I grow in my faith.

Something Better

In the Old Testament, the patriarchs of faith recognized God's blessings by taking possession of a physical Promised Land.  God's presence was symbolized by physical blessings of harvest and goods.

This all changed after Jesus arrived in the New Testament.  The author of Hebrews tells God prepared a spiritual blessing -- something better.

"And all these [patriarches of faith listed earlier], having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us...

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith" Hebrews 11:39-12:2

Our something better isn't a plan.  Our something better is a Person.

Our spiritual Promised Land is life with Jesus.

Next Time You Think

If you're feeling overwhelmed by the areas in life that appear dark and formless -- or empty and barren -- remember Jesus is faithful --

to create something beautiful in you.

bring life to others through you.

to carry you to safety.

to make a way you cannot see.

to put you back together again.

to return laughter where you taste sorrow.

to give you courage to start over (again and again).

to use every loss and every triumph for His glory.

Next time you think nothing is happening in your life -- or you find yourself asking "How can this be?" -- remember things aren't as they appear.

Jesus sees you.

And He will never forget why He put you here.

~~~~~~

For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

Faith isn't faith until Jesus is all you're holding onto.

I didn't think I had much left.

I was past my prime.

I'm not talking about my age.

I'm speaking in Marlon Brando-esque language.  I'm talking about time and opportunity.

"I coulda been a contender."

A contender for what? you ask.

I wasn't exactly sure.

God created us for a purpose, of course I know.

But, was I living my life the way He intended?

Sometimes, when you've run the course as best you can, you may end up at a place that feels dry and bare of creativity or insight.

You may feel tired.

You may feel ordinary.

Don't be alarmed. 

The truth is your faith in Jesus holds extraordinary value to Him.

A Series of Letters

Before Faith Barista blog began, I reached a point in my life when I wasn't sure what it was God wanted me to do.  I'm not talking about the everyday stuff, like putting gas in your car, buying just enough bananas for the week or even doing what it takes to pay the bills.

I'm talking about the what-is-God's-purpose-for-my-life type enigmas.

As I entered into a weekend alone with God for spiritual whitespace, I decided to write Jesus a series of letters.  It wasn't planned.  In fact, I signed myself up for a women's retreat at a church I didn't even belong to, held at a very attractive beach side location.  I registered last minute for the purpose of desperately needed rest and sleep.

It turns out it wasn't just physical rest that I needed.  I was in deficit of spiritual rest.

I needed relief from --

Too many questions and not enough answers.

Feeling trapped by the pressure of inaction, yet at a loss with what to do next.

Doing too much and not enough.

Nestled in the sand, writing against the sound of waves creeping up on the shore, I made my case to my captive Audience of One.

At points along the way, I dropped my pen so that my tears -- and then my silence -- would carry the conversation.

All I Had Left

During those hidden moments of ordinary me, God spoke.

One thing was undeniable.

Faith in Jesus was all I had left.

Faith in Jesus was all that I needed.

If you feel faith is all you have left -- among the plans that go off-script and dreams that grow out of reach -- you have more than you may believe.

It doesn't matter how small our faith is.

It doesn't matter how little of it we have to give.

What matters is that we use whatever faith we have.

Use all of it --

To change what we can.

To let go of what we can't.

To fall down.

To get back up.

To cry.

To laugh.

To love.

To leave.

To start again.

To believe God is faithful to finish the work He's begun in you.

When you feel threatened that you may not live up to all God has for you, remind yourself of this:

Our faith is worth far more to Him than what we can do or what others may see.

I am reminded of this by Jesus in Mark 12:41-44. When wealthy people were dropping rolls of hundred dollar bills into the temple's offering box, Jesus noticed a widow who just slipped in one cent.

Jesus said that she was the one who gave the most because she gave away all that she had.

~~~~~

The life we are living right now holds extraordinary value to God, when all we are holding onto is our faith in Him

As for those letters?  God was faithful to answer them that weekend.  His letters are all about faith and they are still being written.  Here at Faith Barista is where I share them with you.

~~~~~

"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." ~ Hebrews 11:6

~~~~~

How is God encouraging you in your faith?

~~~~~~

For more encouragement and words of rest for your soul, read Bonnie’s book Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Restwhich garnered starred review praise from Publisher’s Weekly.

 

Bonnie Gray blogs at Faith Barista, serving up shots of faith in the daily grindShe has been named Top 6 Notable New Religion Authors by Publisher's Weekly and writes for DaySpring (in)courage, Revelant Magazine, spotlighted by Christianity Today and Catalyst Leadership.  A UCLA graduate, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

 

*Don't miss!* If you are new to Faith Barista, click here to subscribe by email (free) and get each blog post hot and fresh directly in your mailbox.

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