Returning to My First Love

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. (Revelation 2:4 NKJV)

It’s not that I don’t love being a writer, blogger, rancher, church member, husband, friend, mechanic, farm hand, mentor, Christian man, chauffeur, advocate, business consultant, caregiver, and master-level opinion offeror. It’s that I’ve felt for months that my life is out of balance and I’m not making much of an impact on anything. While there’s nothing I can do about the titles I associate my name with, there is something God and I can do about what I’ve been feeling.

Through days, weeks, and months of prayer—asking God to reveal what He needs me to see and believe about myself—the answer arrived. For some Believers, God speaks in thunderous roars; others hear a still, small voice softly whispering His will. For me, it’s visual and spiritual stimulation through the people, animals, plants, and other things around me. I’ve learned that it’s not always visual at first. There are times when I feel a stirring in my soul, and I must prayerfully look around until I find what it is God is using to speak to me. When I latch onto what it is He wants to show me, I can literally feel His presence rest upon me, saying, “watch, listen, learn.”

In the past month, I kept being led back to Revelation 2:4. Here, the angel directed John to write to the church of Ephesus about how they had left their first love. Feeling much like Peter when invited for breakfast at the beach, I finally asked God, “You know I love You, Lord. Show me please where I’ve turned from You?”

I felt strongly that it wasn’t a case of turning away as much as a problem of dilution. What God has been showing me is that I’ve let busyness creep into all aspects of my life and the world has gained influence. My prayers of late have been like peeling back the layers of an onion. There’s been plenty of tears and some bloodletting, but I’m reaching the point of learning what God wants me to understand. My discovery is that I’ve allowed the things I’ve added to those things God gave me to do to pull me away from what He wants me to do.

Sometimes, in our desire to serve God, we let the world lead us into more than what God calls us to do. #LetGodLead #FollowYourFirstLove Click To Tweet

I’m still working my way through this journey God has placed me on and don’t yet know where it ends. My fervent prayer is that it ends with my having an even closer relationship with Him. Working my way through His process, I’ve come to understand much about what I want for myself and what God wants for me. I’m grateful that these things are not all mutually exclusive.

First, for all the things that I do (that define me), none are bad in themselves. In fact, I hope I brought God glory through each of them. The problem is that I’ve become so busy adding to what God called me to do. I too often forget that He is supposed to be leading me rather than my trying to drag Him into whatever I’m doing. Second, it’s more important that I busy myself doing what He wants rather than what I might think He wants. His will, not mine.

One example of doing that is in my church life. While serving God must be the number one priority in my life, it is how that service manifests itself that determines if I’m serving God or myself. God led my family to our church. And He has equipped me with various gifts to serve His church. My problem has become that there’s so many opportunities to serve Him there that I‘ve diluted, or strayed from, His purpose for placing me there. I’ve always been the type of person who if I see a need, then I’ll try and fill it. I’m learning that this is not what God wants me to do. In my trying to, I never considered that I was keeping someone else from filling the role God had purposed them for.

The world has crept into my Christian writing life too. Without question, I was, and am to this day, called to be a Christian writer. I am certain God has called me to use the gifts and talents He created within me in His service. What I’ve discovered is that being a writer of books and being a blogger are two different things. Neither is any better or worse than the other, but often reaches a different audience with a different style. I was called by God to be a writer. Well-meaning agents, publishers, and respected authors influenced me to become a blogger. And while both are possible, I can’t allow what I think I should do interfere with what God has called me to do.

Lest you think I’m going to quit blogging; I am certain God has blessed me and many who read our blog mightily through my posts. Our Around the Cross-Dubya blog has blessed me with wonderful new friends and readers that I may have never been able to reach otherwise. Our blog has grown in subscribers, readers, followers, and friends. More than mere numbers on a tally sheet to make some potential publisher happy, I have found precious, godly, lasting relationships with so many people that have enriched my life. I hope too that in some way, I’ve enriched theirs.

Something I’ve begun doing is taking inventory of every aspect of my life by asking God’s help to identify what part of that is what He intended for me. The other part of that request is to show me what parts I’ve added. In my Christian writing life, I’ve decided that it’s time to slow my blogging pace for a while. This will help create more free time to work on completing some things and work on other manuscript ideas that have been simmering for too long.

Beginning this month, I will release our Around the Cross-Dubya blog twice monthly, rather than weekly. Some well-meaning friends have suggested, “Just write shorter blogs.” That’s honestly not who I am. I’m a teacher and storyteller at heart; and trying to force 400-word blog posts from my 1,500-word heart doesn’t feel natural and right.

As I work through returning to my first love, returning to doing those things God has led me to do, I’m certain other areas of my life will change too. While I don’t yet know what that will look like, I find great support in knowing I have wonderful reading and writing friends with whom I can share my journey.

I pray you agree with me that the perfect place for our lives to be is in the center of His will.

God’s blessings,

 

Please join me this Thursday evening at 9:00 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya on PJNET TV. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

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34 thoughts on “Returning to My First Love”

  1. Praying with you and for you my friend. I can relate as it is so easy to let the busyness creep into life. We need to listen and follow God’s prompts to do what is most important to Him. I will miss your weekly wisdom but now it will be more precious each time. God bless you in all your writing.

  2. Good morning, friend.

    Your words continually direct me to Him and I am thankful for your ministry. I pray He will continue to bless you in every area of your life and look forward to reading more–just a bit less often.

    In His love,
    Tammy

  3. Praying for you in all this and I know you still grieve the loss of John. Thankful he is in the arms of our Savior. And that’s where you are too, my friend. Only He gives us the purest and truest direction for our writing and blogging path. I know bloggers who write short snipets every day. That’s not me either. Besides, this is all about Jesus, not me. Even ministry is not about me, it’s about the One who said, “Follow Me.” Lord, help us love you more than anyone or anything and be with my friend, J.D. Help him to follow your voice in all things. Amen.

  4. Jeannie Waters

    Thank you for sharing wise words, J. D. I’m in a new season of searching how God wants me to serve in His kingdom. I think He’s saying less—perhaps for the reasons you mentioned. I will join you in prayer as you seek His best.

  5. Last year after a couple of years of posting a blog almost every Friday (missed a couple), I felt led and an agent confirmed to only do one blog a month and a newsletter once a month. It opened up more time to work on other things like a novel that has been sitting idle for half a decade or more and writing articles for pay as well. Sometimes you have to cut good things in order to do the best things.

  6. There’s nothing greater than following our first love, and recognizing when it is a battle to do so. I’m glad you’re still writing.
    I love our Lord, who more than satisfies the desires of our hearts— so much so that He encouraged you to do even more.
    Isn’t that so like the heart of our Lord?
    God’s Speed, friend.,

  7. JD, you are such a great inspiration to me. Your encouragement has truly brightened many days. Please know that you are doing the work God has set for you and through your words, people are drawing closer to the Father. God bless you.

  8. J. D., following God’s lead is always the best path to take, no matter where it takes us. I hear you about stepping back from such frequent blogging; I used to do two a week, but have cut down to one. It feels both right and good.
    I always look forward to what you post on your blog, my friend, as your wisdom and inspiration definitely are God-infused. I’m blessed to have a friend like you!

  9. Kathy Collard Miller

    J.D., I respect your heart felt examination and think we all should be examining our motives frequently–at different depths on a variety of topics. Thank you for your vulnerable sharing.

  10. Thank you, for sharing your heart and your walk with the Lord. Your blog is inspiring and always points me to Our Lord. My desire also is a closer walk with the Him as well as trying to recognize where He is leading me. God bless you and keep writing.

  11. This is profound, J.D., and it hit home. I know there’s an enemy of my soul who works overtime to keep us from the BEST. Thanks for this post.

  12. Thank you J.D. I find I need discernment about allowing the business of writing to interfere with the ministry of writing. In that fine line or messy one, I struggle with the world’s invasion into what God has called me to do with the words He gives me.

  13. oh my. I feel like a kindred spirit that could sign my name under yours here. so many similarities. And, I too feel as though there has been a sudden bubbling up of new words to share. I am praying with you through this season of discovery. He will lead.

  14. I recently listened to a podcast about pruning, how trees are pruned – the excess cut away – so it can produce healthier fruit. Praying for you, friend, as you go through this season.

  15. I’m a little late, Brother, but my heart rejoices with you in your decision–not that I don’t look forward to the insights and inspiration you bring into our lives with every post, but I could feel the relief as I read your words. Like so many other responders above, I’ve struggled with the same decision, especially as the years accumulate and the needs seem to multiply with them. Diane and I have had this same conversation more than once when the pressures mount (and mine are minor compared to yours), i.e. why not cut back to twice a month. So far, God and I are still in the negotiating stage about that. Like you, I just want to do what He wants with the time and resources I have left.

    The relationship you’ve allowed Diane and I to have with you may look digital, but it doesn’t feel that way. You have been, and will continue to be a treasured friend and Brother and a member of that eternal family that Jesus made possible. We’ll still hope that we get to share a cup of coffee and/or a hamburger or something one of these days, but I’m reserving one for later on in heaven if it doesn’t happen here. We’ll still look forward to your words, and continue to pray for all the other things you’re responsible for, and for God’s absolute sovereignty over all there is in you that He died to redeem,. Thanks again for your encouraging transparency– much love from Diane and me.

  16. I feel your pain, my friend–and your joy in discerning God’s purpose for you. We are much alike, J.D., and I’m also attempting to learn God’s purpose and path for my writing. Thank you for sharing from your heart and helping those of us who are also struggling with “busyness” as we also strive to determine which actions to intensify and which to slow remove. Praying for you!

  17. J.D., I read this post earlier & returned to read it a second time. Your writing has spoken to my heart so very often. I am glad God crossed our paths in this blogging world. May the Lord continue to guide you and bless you as you listen and obey to His call. I will be looking forward to your teachings twice a month. May the Lord richly bless you!

  18. You’ve echoed what many of us are experiencing, J.D. Thanks for putting a voice to it. Reducing your blogging will fuel your soul and create space for other writing. And life in general. I love your posts and will eagerly anticipate your two posts per month rather than the usual four or five.
    Blessings to you, my friend!

  19. That passage in Revelation is both sobering and convicting. There are so many things that could be done, it’s easy to get too many irons in the fire. I’ve had the same struggle with blogging vs. writing and haven’t come up with a solution yet. I think it’s actually harder to write shorter blog posts.

    I appreciate your heart here. Thank you for sharing these truths. May we all clearly perceive His leading and will and follow.

  20. I’m not surprised by this post, JD. In fact it is repeating a theme I’m hearing from other friends and what I’ve discerned in my own life over the past few months. The Lord is doing a work in His Body these days for those who will listen. Praying for clarity and peace for you, as you continue to pray and listen.

  21. I feel you, JD! We do ourselves a disservice by trying to meet the needs of everyone through our gift of writing. I know the Lord will bless this season of slowing down. We will benefit from each and every post, no matter how often. God continue to bless your commitment to place him above all else.

  22. Dear friend, I’m so glad the Lord is giving you answers to your prayerful questions. How to juggle all our family and work duties on top of a writing schedule can be exhausting. I’m happy you’re slowing down to give more room to other things, and I pray you find that sweet spot of balance that makes everything work well. Besides my teaching blog, I am in my 4th or 5th year of writing a book the Lord called me to write many years ago. Jesus is my partner, and everything I write is for His glory and in His timing. May our focus be on His voice, and may our eyes be fixed on the goals He sets for us. May the peace of God abound in your life, sweet brother.

  23. I, too, JD found your words relatable to my own life. I only send out my newsletter/blog once a month, sometimes bi-monthly. I felt that would provide time for other writing the Lord has placed on my heart and mind. Even once a month is not easy to achieve, especially with writers who write longer pieces. I think your ability to write the longer pieces, though, is a good sign for someone who wants to write books. At least that’s what I tell myself! I usually have too much to say and end up editing a lot out. Or saving it for book material.
    Also, I think our audience might even prefer the once a month. People get so many things to read. I don’t like to overwhelm others. So good decision and may the Lord continue to bless the words he gives you to pen or type 🙂

  24. Joanna Eccles

    Thank you for sharing your heart. I feel like I can relate to having diluted my love for God as I am stretched in many directions. My Bible study recommended a book “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” this week that I feel called to read. I love people, but can’t let love of others sideline my time with God.

  25. You’ve obviously touched on something here JD. Like so many others have said, I too can relate. The struggle to put Jesus first is real. More and more I find that, when we belong to him, we hunger for that deep personal connection with him that comes when we put him above all else. Only Jesus satisfies. When we seek him, we will find him.

  26. I say wise word and wise decision here, my friend.
    There are many, many good things we can do to serve God. But we’re not called to be “do-gooders.” We’re called to obey His voice.
    When we linger in His presence and listen He will separate our perceived good from His best. And, yes, when we jump to fill a need we may be robbing another of the opportunity to be a blessing and to grow in Christ.
    God bless you as you carry on, listening, hearing, and doing God’s best for you and your family.

    And, hey, I feel your pain. My efforts to blog consistently, as you know, have been a struggle. I constantly ask God to help me prioritize my tasks.
    I pray we both hear Him clearly and have the gumption to walk in it.

  27. J.D., I hear you! I’m always about two weeks behind in catching up on reading the blogs I love.
    Loved reading this: “I too often forget that He is supposed to be leading me rather than my trying to drag Him into whatever I’m doing” and this reminder: “the perfect place for our lives to be is in the center of His will.”
    I continually have to step back and reaccess what I’m doing with the limited time I have here on this earth. If allowed, my thoughts can overwhelm and discourage me. What I have to offer seems like a microscopic dot here and there. Quite often those dots seem far apart and meaningless. But, I am reminded the Creator of the universe is the expert at connecting the dots. Sometimes, it’s only with hindsight or “heaven-sight” that we see how He was working something amazing in and through it all–whether it was clearly by His leading or us thinking we were dragging Him along. 🙂
    J.D., you’re a blessing to others no matter how often you blog because you reflect the love of Christ. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23, ESV).

  28. this is a very insightful post about how busy we each can get–diluting the things God has called us to do, J.D. I too have stepped back a bit from blogging (not completely) in order to have more time for a writing project I’ve contracted to do. I pray that god will help you see just where and how to serve Him more completely and specifically (I know you’re already serving Him in powerful ways). God bless you!

  29. As is not my so unusual custom these days, I am slow in my response. Between health, house, family, and writing issues, I ask you to kindly overlook my tardiness. I must say, I can totally relate to your insights. With all of the responsibilities you have and maintain, I have always wondered how the heck you manage to get out a weekly blog. I struggle with bi-weekly! But you are so right – blogs and writing for books, articles, and devotions are different. Both take time but for me, the assignments and initiative pieces take precedence. Actually, everything ends up taking precedence over my blog, but somehow I manage to pull it off. I love it all, but being a writer is way more time-consuming than one (unless a writer themselves) wants to acknowledge. I am glad you are making this decision, J.D. It’s wise. I find that getting older brings on new challenges, too, that require time and effort. I wish you the best and appreciate who you are and the friendship that we have developed through your blog. Thank you. I value your opinions and encouragement. Always. May God bring clarity into your workmanship.

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