The 52 Cups Challenge

“Are you tired? Worn Out? Burned out on Religion?”  

Do you struggle to read the Bible consistently, or even at all?

Have you been questioning the existence of God and long to just hear the sound of God’s voice? 

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, the 52 Cups Challenge is for you. The 52 Cups Challenge is a low commitment, community driven, invitation to increase your intentionality with the Lord. 

The Rules are Simple:

  1. Schedule a date 1x a week to spend with God. 
    • Invite God into something you enjoy: drinking a cup of coffee/ tea, going for a walk, shooting hoops, whatever you choose! 

This time represents your “cup.”Now you get to invite God to fill it. 

  1. Choose your devotional 
    • Call me biased, but I recommend 52 Cups of Coffee (link) – it was created for challenges just like this, but there are also plenty of other great devotionals you can choose from! 
    • Begin your quiet time by reading a reflection from the devotional of your choosing, but don’t stop there. What scriptures do they reference, what stories from the Bible come to mind? Look them up and allow God to lead you from there!
  2. Pray
    • Pray about what God has laid on your heart during your quiet time. Have questions? Bring them up. Is something weighing on your heart? Talk to God about it. Write it down. Say it aloud. Whatever you need to do. Let God hear your voice and wait for His response. He’s listening.
  1. Schedule your next date
    • Once you’ve finished, schedule a date for the next week. Write it in your planner or put it on your phone, and commit to showing up. Consistency is the key to success for this challenge.

So, why is it called the 52 Cups Challenge, you may ask. Great question. As there are 52 weeks in the year, I challenge you to show up 52 times for God. One year. Let’s commit to one year of spending intentional time with God. 

The 52 Cups Challenge is not about adding another thing to our to do list, or forcing us into “quiet time” with God. Nope. At the core of this challenge, lies a gentle invitation to invite God into our lives… our real, imperfect, messy yet beautiful lives.Scripture tells us that in God’s presence there is freedom and fullness of joy; it’s time we experience what this truly means!

Want to do this challenge in Community?

Join the Facebook Group (link) 

Or

Follow along on Instagram (link)

I hope to see you there!

Cycles

Have you ever experienced spiritual deja vu? I know, it sounds a bit strange. What I mean is, have you ever gone through something relatively familiar, maybe a vivid feeling of discouragement, an intimate experience with rejection, or some sort of personal mistake that made you think, man, I feel like I’ve been here before? Yeah, me too. Let’s talk about it!
 
I had a moment like this just a few weeks ago. I was feeling extremely discouraged about some things going on in my personal life, playing the comparison game once again. Much to my dismay, I opened my journal to a random page only to realize that I had been griping about the exact same things just a few months before. It hurt. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but feel confused. How did I get here again, I thought to myself. Of course, life often offers circumstances beyond our control, but in this moment, I was reminded, that I have the power to control how I respond.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a situation like this before, noticing familiar patterns in the things that distract, discourage, and bring you down. This is the kind of spiritual deja vu I’m talking about. So, how do we move forward? How do we face life’s challenges without allowing them to repeatedly bring us down?  To find out, I turned to Scripture, and Gospel music.
 
There’s a popular Gospel song out right now called Cycles. It’s all about recognizing the disruptive cyclical patterns we experience as humans in our walk with the Lord. At one point the lyrics state, “See the devil, he learns from your mistakes even if you don’t. That’s how he keeps you in cycles.”
 
I’ve been thinking about these words a lot lately, the devil learns from my mistakes, even if I don’t… Yikes. These words remind me of the battles we face daily, while Jesus comes to offer us abundant life, the enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy that very thing (John 10:10). Satan will use whatever tactics are necessary to steal our joy, kill our hope, and destroy our faith. Scarier still is the idea that he pays attention to what works on us and repeats the process over and over again until we respond differently. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go in cycles.
 
In Matthew Chapter 4, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted by satan. Time and time again, satan approaches Jesus with various alluring offers in hopes of inciting Jesus’ downfall. Time and time again, however, Jesus responds with the Word of God, ultimately demonstrating the key to our success: the Word of God!
 
We don’t have to be the fastest, smartest, or most courageous person in the room to stand against the tactics of the enemy. We simply have to know where to find our weapons.
 
It’s like war, or a basketball game. Anyone can fight/play, but not everyone can win. The good news for us today is that the final score has already been revealed. We win. The hope of Easter is the victory Christ gave us on the cross.
 
We are not a people without hope, and we are certainly not bound to the tactics of our opponent. God has given us an abundance of promises to build our lives upon, 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. 
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.,

just to name a few.
 
Today, as we prepare to enter into Good Friday, I want to encourage you to remember one of the most pressing promises we are offered, found in a 3-word cry from the Lord:
“It is finished.”
With this declaration, Jesus proclaimed our eternal hope…the devil has no hold on us. We have been set free.  
 
I know everyone is fighting various battles of their own, some more challenging than others, but there is room for us all at the cross. This isn’t Christian feel-good jargon, or a cop-out for life’s tragedies and unsettling circumstances. It’s the hope we have been given as children of God. Let’s remember that today, this weekend, and the rest of the year. Let’s not go in cycles.

Natalie Brown

Open Our Eyes

This essay is an excerpt from Fifty-Two Cups of Coffee (Cup #7)

When I was a student at Hope College, I found that there was always a quiet revolution that occurred amongst the student body around the first signs of spring, even if it was still technically winter. As soon as the temperature reached near 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the shorts came out, sandals slid on, and ice cream runs began. It was a beautiful phenomenon, almost as if the campus chose to silently declare – we will see spring again. And in a town where the winters are perpetually long and frigid, this reminder always felt quite necessary. Perhaps the same is no less true of our lives today.

There is nothing more seemingly sacred than the calm after the storm, breath after it has been withheld, light at the end of the tunnel, but sometimes it takes a second to get there. On good days this is frustrating; on bad days this is maddening. So, how do we seek the potential of spring when we are still caught in the middle of winter?

In Ephesians chapter one, Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus, proclaiming his hope in Christ and calling on them to seek the same. In verse 18 he offers a prayer that the eyes of this church would be opened to understand the hope to which they have been called in Christ. At the time of this letter, Paul was in prison, yet somewhere within he was able to find the resolve to proclaim a hope bigger than his circumstances. Through this letter, Paul reminds the Church that hope is not always found in what is right before us; and I believe there is something valuable that we can learn here. Though certain seasons may be long, weary, and tiresome, we have been promised rest, freedom, and redemption. Through the spiritual opening of our eyes and hearts, we, too, can find a hope outside our present circumstances.

Will we be people who trudge through the darkness failing to witness the light, or will we choose to be a community that decides to remember though weeping may last for a night, joy comes in the morning. Today, like Paul, I pray that God will open our hearts to the deeper hope we have been offered in Christ, for this is a truth that always offers new life.
 

Photo Credit: Emily Tewers

Wonder-Full

The work of writing, as once told to me by an up and coming author, is to give voice to the extraordinary found within the ordinary, and notice the ordinary within everything extraordinary. It’s a bit of a tongue twister, I know, but time has taught me it’s life-changing effect. A great teacher for me, in this regard, has been a four-year-old named Dennis.

Dennis is bright and inquisitive, joy-filled and curious, and he teaches me to be the same. For the past few months, I’ve babysat him on Saturdays. Most days we go to the park for an adventure, because, as I’ve learned, when you’re four years old,everything is an adventure.

On the way, we make up games to pass the time. I’ll point to something random and ask for its color, or, he’ll choose a color and ask me to find it on something nearby. As we go back and forth, the ordinary subjects around us become more than commonplace objects, but items to be noticed. Through the process, life becomes more than a backdrop towards our destination, but a playground of its own.

Through Dennis’s eyes, I am invited to look at the world as an invitation to be amazed. His youth gives him a sort of eternal optimism that I both admire and envy. Sometimes it seems as though adolescence trains us to see the world with skepticism. At best we are surprised. At worst we are disappointed, yet again. Of course, life offers us more than one reason to sleep with one eye open; it only takes five minutes of current events to see as much. Yet, I wonder if we’ve stopped paying attention to all the good that is also present along the way.  

Just yesterday, a new friend of mine took her next big step in advancing her career. A few days before that, I received the kindest note of encouragement from a perfect stranger. In reflecting on these things, I am reminded of how important it is to pay attention. There is some form of beauty to be found in everything.

So, what would it mean and how could it change us to see the world through the perspective of wonder…to find the ordinary in the extraordinary and the extraordinary in everything ordinary.

It dawns on me now that scripture begins with the genesis of wonder:
      “In the beginning, God created….” 

At the start, we are called to imagine a world where life is birthed within void, light reveals itself in darkness, and beauty comes from dust. This is a key component of the Gospel. Beauty from ashes, joy from mourning, life from death. It is our gift of an invitation to look up and accept that this world is far more complex, striking, and worthy than we can see on our own. In every person, place, and thing there is something worth being redeemed. In every person, place, and thing there is something worth noticing.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Descend

South Africa is filled with many gorgeous mountains. They are one of the things I miss most about living there. A few times throughout my stay, I hiked up Lion’s Head Mountain with some friends. The time it took to make the trek up was always worth the view that was waiting at the top.

It was from the mountaintop that I was able to see life like never before. The cities, people, and problems below all felt so much smaller, as is the case when you see things from above. From the mountaintop, I was given a new perspective. But, of course, at some point, I had to come down. The return was never fun. The anticipation that accompanied me during the climb always seemed to disappear during my descend. Rather than expectantly imagining what I would face at the top, I felt compelled to contemplate all that I would be returning to below. The cities, people, and problems that seemed so far away before became only closer and larger with each descending step.

The end of the year can feel like climbing a mountain. As we approach the start of a new year, we are filled with great anticipation for what could be. The perspective we gain at the end of things allows us to see life with fresh eyes, but then, as with all things, we have to come down.

So how do we descend well? This is the question I’ve been asking myself lately. Sometimes climbing is more difficult than the world might make it seem. We lose traveling companions on our journeys, we run into things that trip us up, and still, we are forced to keep going. So how do we do so with hope?

In talking through this concept with my dad, he shared a word with me that I must give him credit for, before sharing it with you myself.

      “Natalie,” he started slowly as he leaned back in his office chair,

“You can’t change the view you see from the mountaintop until you make your descent. It is from the perspective of the mountaintop that you can find your purpose, but it is during the descent that you make your game plan. True change will never occur below until you face what’s waiting for you on the other end.”

As he spoke, I realized that I’d been waiting for another mountaintop experience to inspire and encourage me in my journey, but that’s not where God had me. I am in my own moment of descent because it is leading me to my purpose. This is not easy, of course, but I know that it is worth it. It’s all worth it.

So, where are you?

Does God have you on the mountaintop, revealing to you a breathtaking display of beauty, grace, and unfolding redemption?

Maybe you’re in the middle of your descent, retracing your steps and remembering what you saw before in order to face what you will find ahead.

Or maybe you’ve reached the ground, and it is now time to buckle down and bring to life the beauty you witnessed on the mountain.

Whatever the case, know that God is with you (Matthew 28:20), and the perspective we each carry from our places on this journey will strengthen us along the way.