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This morning my mind is still fixed on a question my small group asked last week. “Doesn’t the word immediately contradict the phrase fighting hurry?” I had just told our group about a podcast series I’ve been listening to called “Fight Hustle, End Hurry” and shared that I also recently discovered in the first chapter of Mark, he uses the word immediately ten times. I love questions that make you pause for thought. After thinking on this, I realize it doesn’t contradict it at all. 

Immediately is actually a key word that can unlock one of the main reasons why we hurry. We hurry because we don’t have enough time. And usually we don’t have enough time because we didn’t do something we needed to do when we needed to do it. We procrastinated. Most people who procrastinate are very busy people. We are just busy with the wrong stuff.

Instead of immediately doing what really needs to be done when it needs to be done, we focus our attention on tasks of lower priority, using them as escapist behaviors. Then when it almost becomes too late to accomplish those things which are most important, we hurry to complete them, often rushing around like crazy people. (And making the people around us crazy as well!)

I have discovered one of the main underlying reasons for procrastination is fear. Not the kind of fear you experience when there is physical danger; that is a healthy fear your mind initiates to keep you safe.

The fear I’m referring to is that of getting it wrong or not doing it perfectly the first time. Or the fear of failing and the embarrassment that accompanies it. Perhaps there is even fear of succeeding and not knowing what to do next. Fear of criticism, often from myself or others. Fear of rejection, of not living up to expectations—both mine and from others. And then there is the fear of the unknown. It can stall us every time. There are so many different ways fear can be a motivator to our actions or inaction. Fear is a small word, but it can have a big impact.

It would be great if we could say, “Just don’t procrastinate.” But it’s not that easy. Not only because it could mean we have to stop and acknowledge the fear, which often takes time and the help of others, but it’s actually hard to break the behavior of procrastination because we are accustomed to the hurry. Our bodies begin to crave the “rush” we get from the rush. We are addicted to hurry.

There are groups to help with most addictions, and there is probably one for those addicted to hurry. If there isn’t, maybe there should be. But in lieu of going to a group or starting one, I have found Mark’s word immediately to be most beneficial. 

I have discovered the word immediately actually displaces the fear. It doesn’t necessarily get rid of it, but it renders it ineffective. It takes the fear captive by giving me something else to focus on. When I reflect on the word immediately, it prompts me not to put off, but to step into action — to begin to develop a life of responsive obedience. It makes me stop and ask the Lord, “What really needs to be done right now?” and then practice submitting as the Spirit redirects my thoughts to that which is most important and of highest priority. Immediately is a word God uses to reorder our steps. Now. Not two days or two hours from now, but now.

When we respond immediately to that which is of highest priority, it starts to eliminate procrastination, hurry and rushing in our lives. Soon our rhythm begins to change as we experience the peace of this new pace, and our bodies start rejecting hurry instead of craving it. Before long, we begin to feel very uncomfortable with the thought of hurry and at odds with the stress it causes and the physical ailments that ensue.

Without even realizing it has happened, we have experienced a paradigm shift called transformation. By refocusing our thoughts and responding to the Spirit’s promptings, not only have our actions changed but our desires as well. We have moved from procrastination to peace, from chaos to calm, all because of one word, God’s word - Immediately.

Katie Harding serves as Associate Director of NorthStar Church Network and Founder/Director of NorthStar Women's Network.

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The Best Gift Ever

The best Christmas present I received this year wasn’t one wrapped with pretty paper and a matching bow and found under the tree on Christmas morning. It wasn’t even one found in a decorative bag handed out at the office or given by a friend. The best present was one I received early Christmas Eve morning from the Lord Himself, as I studied the scriptures for that day.

That morning I followed the Spirit — starting at the first chapter of Luke with the announcement of the birth of John, on to the Mount of Transfiguration, then to the Mount of The Beatitudes and ending at the Cross. It was quite a journey, but it was also quite a gift.

In the first chapter of Luke, we are told that John will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah wasn’t just a prophet; he was the prophet noted for praying it would not rain, and it didn’t rain for three and a half years. He then prayed for rain and the sky poured forth. He was the prophet who turned the hearts of the Israelites back to God after challenging the prophets of Baal to a showdown between their god and his. Elijah was bold and prayerful, honest in his fears, and listened with a finely tuned ear to the voice of the Lord. He was one of two individuals mentioned in the Old Testament who never died, but was taken straight to heaven.

Focusing on John’s comparison to Elijah, the Lord brought to mind Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, so I followed the Spirit there. Whenever I read this passage in Mark, I am usually taken by the fact that Peter, not knowing what to do or say as he suddenly sees Jesus standing on the Mount with Moses and Elijah, offers to build three shrines as if they were all staying. For some reason Peter always wants to offer an answer before a question is even asked.

But that day, what struck me most wasn’t what Peter and the others saw, it was what they didn’t see. After God proclaimed, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus only. One moment there were three of them: Moses, the giver of the Law; Elijah, one of the greatest prophets of the old scriptures; and Jesus, all standing together in community. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was just Jesus.

In the past, I have not given much thought to their departure as I always focused on their presence and Peter wanting to build shrines. But that morning, I keyed in on these words “no one with them anymore, except Jesus only.”  Except Jesus only. That phrase kept replaying in my mind, and suddenly I realized, it was as if God was showing them in the past the Law and the words of the Prophets were of prime importance. But now the time had come to listen and fully heed what Jesus says, Jesus only.

From there I felt drawn to Jesus’ words about the Law on the Mount of The Beatitudes, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets, I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).

Jesus was telling his followers He wasn’t coming to overthrow the Law or the words of the Prophets. Instead, if we look up the word fulfill, what Jesus was really saying is that He was coming to complete the Law and the words of the Prophets. In thinking about the fact that His mission was to complete the Law and to complete something means to finish it, suddenly the next phrase that crossed my mind was Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished.”

“It is finished.” I had never given much thought before to what “It” was or is. Was it His work? Yes. Was it His life? Yes, that too. But what if He was referring to the specific task assigned to Him, to fulfill the Law and the words of the Prophets? What if for a moment, we view it from that perspective? Maybe when He said, “It is finished,” He meant the time of the Law and the words of the Prophets in being a governing force has ended. Moses and Elijah are no longer on the Mount. Just Jesus only, with the Father instructing His disciples to “Listen to Him!”

What God gave me that morning was a vision for Jesus’ mission: the importance of His work in bringing the Law and the words of the Prophets to completion before ushering in His new and indwelling presence into the lives of His disciples. Then there would be no question as to whom they should listen to. “This is my Beloved Son,” He told them, “Listen to Him!” Jesus understood His task, the Father confirmed it, and He brought it to completion before putting in place A New Way of living in direct relationship with the Father.

Many of us don’t understand the importance of completing one initiative before starting another, but Jesus did. And I am eternally grateful. There is no confusion about who to follow. It’s always Jesus. Jesus only.

What a beautiful gift I received this Christmas.

Katie Harding serves as Associate Director of NorthStar Church Network and Founder/Director of NorthStar Women's Network.

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An Advent Devotion: The God Who Sees

“What do you want me to know?” I asked.

I recently attended a conference with many other NorthStar women. One morning before breakfast, I sat on the edge of my bed in prayer and asked, “Father, what do you want me to know?” After a short time of complete stillness, He lovingly answered with, “I see you.” 

It was the first time the Lord ever said those words to me, but it was not to be the last. Throughout that day, God confirmed His word as various speakers made some type of reference to God seeing us. It was crazy! As I shared those words with a few friends, they continued to confirm the message as they heard it throughout the day, as well.  

Those three words, “I see you,” have been permeating my thoughts so much this Advent season as I am beginning to realize how foundational they are in this season of Advent.  

From the beginning of time, God has seen us. 
He saw Adam and Eve in the garden. 
He saw the Israelites in slavery. 
He saw Moses by the burning bush. 
He saw David shepherding his flock. 

On and on throughout Scripture, God sees His people.  

In the first chapter of Luke, God sees Zechariah, Elizabeth, and their newborn son, John. He also sees Elizabeth’s relative, Mary. God sees them as they are and more importantly, as they are yet to be.  

And God‘s view of them is so different from that of the world’s. 

The world looked upon barren Elizabeth with disgrace, yet God looked upon her with love. He saw her from the inside out. He saw her righteousness, her faithfulness and her obedience. Once Elizabeth discovered that God saw her, that was all that really mattered. When we realize God sees us in our place, we discover our true significance. 

The world looked upon Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptizer, as odd. He lived in the wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, drank no wine, and was clothed with camel’s hair. 

Yet, God saw Him before he was even born, fulfilling his purpose as the forerunner of Christ, preparing people’s hearts and turning them back to the Lord. When we recognize that God sees us in our purpose, it fuels our focus and drives us forward.  

The world looked at Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, as young and ordinary, yet God saw her and called her blessed among women. Before He even came to her, He saw her potential to believe in the fulfillment of what would be spoken to her. He knew she was the one. When God sees us in our potential, nothing is impossible for Him to bring about. If only we would believe and step out in faith, as Mary did.  

Perhaps God’s reminder to us this Advent season is, “I see you.” 

I see you in your place. I see you in your purpose. And I see you in your potential. I see your successes, and I see your struggles. I see your joys and I see your sorrows. I see who you are and who you are yet to be – not from a distance, but up close and personal, because I am right there with you. Where you are, there I am also.  

I see you.

As we await the coming of the Christ child, let us remember our God as the God who sees.  

Katie Harding serves as Associate Director of NorthStar Church Network and Founder/Director of NorthStar Women's Network.

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