Friday, February 16, 2018

Temper Tantrums

I was thinking about how rebellious we are as a species.  It came up as I was talking with a friend about health and the little ways we sabotage ourselves.

I myself am quite the stubborn lamb.  As a sufferer from chronic health issues I have tried almost all the things.  I have tried to politely smile and thank well meaning acquaintances who ask if I've tried A, B or C.  I have tried to shake off the comments about my health problems being my fault.  I have tried enough mainstream and alternative medicines to "fix" my issues that I've developed a bit of a problem.  I will only give any new "cure" a month.  Some of the suggested fixes are quite unpleasant and for me having a set end date was part of my mental defense for giving solution "x" every chance to work.  I would do everything they asked of me....for a month.  And when it didn't work, because let's face it, nothing had yet, I wouldn't be surprised and I wouldn't have invested hope falsely.

Sometimes what health professionals ask of us sounds so ridiculous.  At least it does to me.  I honestly believe (and therefore act out) that what they're asking of me couldn't possibly make a difference. This is apparently not uncommon.  The training my friend is going through to become a therapist is asking some great questions of her.  She was stuck on a particular one when we met for tea and so she asked me my opinion.

"What do you say to a client who is clearly not doing the work at home that you have assigned"

I understand the question from the clients side and after talking it through, she realized she did too.  We all have things that raise our hackles and set our stubborn feet.  We all, at every age and type, have little temper tantrums when we say in the privacy of our own minds, "Well, I'll show you!"   It's counter productive in the extreme and doesn't help anybody.

There are many ways that my stubborn streak has caused me harm.  My health being one of the biggest areas it has effected.  In order to prove to the therapist and "everybody else" that I'm not lazy, lying or faking it, I do everything they tell me even when it is painful and causing more health issues.  I don't talk about it.  They didn't want to hear me when I told them it won't work, then fine.  I'll show them!  Sometimes I completely ignore health workers advice because it sounds so far-fetched.  Like eating at specific times of the day....how could that possibly be the reason I'm not losing weight?!?

The real problem is that I have already decided that it's not going to work.  That belief effects the outcome.  It makes it more likely that I will not comply with what is being asked of me, either through omission or through stubborn belligerence.  It is ultimately a waste of my time and whichever health practitioner I am currently seeing.

Entering into any activity should always be done with eyes wide open.  Being on the lookout for red flags and warning signs is always wise.  We should be searching for God in the everyday and that means even the things we consider mundane.  It is always walking forward, searching actively....never with neck outstretched, heals dug in, weight shifting to our rumps.  Your stubbornness will never take you where you want to go.  It will only keep you where you are.



If where you're walking isn't working, then change your course, don't fight to stay where you are.

Jeremiah 7:24 ESV 


But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Secrets Revealed

Some time ago I vaguely hinted that I had been asked to participate in a project that I was very excited about.  It's about time I shared it with all of you for two reasons....

  1. It's in print and available for purchase.
  2. It's launched a new season in my life.
What is "IT" you ask?  Good question.  


Introducing Overcomer, a Journal of Hope for Women who Hurt.


Kim has said this project was a God thing and it was.  Even the bits I got to contribute came from a heart prayerfully asking God what He wanted me to say.  I was blessed and excited to be a part of it and I am so happy to be able to share it with all of you.  Whether you need a place to work through your story of trauma or you know someone who needs it, I can personally recommend this book.  

My friend Kim is an amazing author but more than that she is an amazing woman of God.  Before I knew she was an amazing author she spoke God's truth into my new marriage and into my walk with Christ and she is one of dearest people to my heart.  I would encourage you to visit her website for many reasons, including her other books, but also for the information she shares about fighting human trafficking and struggling with chronic illness.  
(You can find her website here http://www.kimberlyrae.com/)

Getting to contribute to this work has sparked a new desire to write.  You may have noticed an increase in the regularity of my posts.  I couldn't have had a better launching pad than this book.  So wait with me and see what the Lord does!  Let the Adventure begin because Overcoming obstacles is all part of the grand quest!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Striving and Surrender

I attend a Holy Yoga class by Beautiful and Beloved.  I adore my Holy Yoga class.  I'm not a stretcher...in fact I find it the most sure torture in the world for me, but Yoga is strength and stretching all at once and it's been a good supplement (as long as I'm mindful of not going past my limitations) to my exercise routine for many reasons.


I don't want this to turn into an advertisement for yoga but I do want to give you a few of the reasons why I, as a Christian, participate in a traditionally mystical practice.  I'm never going to be able to convince all of you that our intentions are an important factor in any endeavor.  I don't go to yoga to align my chakras or meditate on the universe.  I know some have argued that if that was and is it's purpose then that's it's purpose no matter what my intentions.

No problem, I don't want to cause anyone to stumble, please stop reading.


The world loves to remind us that holidays we celebrate, everyday practices, habits and tools we use, were once used for evil purposes.  If you look hard enough you can be offended at everything.  Don't get me wrong.  We should be mindful, and if Yoga raises flags for you, then don't do it.   For me, it's exercise and a time to pray and honor the Lord by working on paying attention to the temple He's given me to care for.  I've been lucky enough to find Godly people who are trying to do the same thing.

Believe it or not, I'm going to get to the actual point now. 😉

During practice, our amazing instructor reads scripture at various points and sets our intention of focus as we meditate on the Lord.  I'm not sure what it was that week but the Lord kept bringing to mind the idea of yoga being an example of striving and surrender at the same time and I thought that was an apt analogy for our spiritual lives.  When I got home I tried looking up that idea but all the searches brought me to articles that admonished people to stop striving and surrender.  I get that wiser heads than mine have wrestled with the issues of setting aside our need for control which is very true.  We shouldn't be trying to take control out of God's hands.

but...

What if there's room in the definition of striving that is good and right for Christians to participate in?

What if striving and surrender aren't mutually exclusive?

As human beings we often tense up when we are striving physically.  Pushing a weight often leads to tension in parts of the body we aren't meant to be pushing with.  My trainer has had to tell me more than once to relax my shoulders while I'm doing a chest press.  I had a friend describe her labor to me in those terms.  She was trying, for the babies sake, to relax so she wouldn't hurt him as he was being born, while at the same time pushing to bring about the birth.  If that juxtaposition can be physically true, then why not spiritually?  While I am absolutely supposed to relinquish control to the sovereign God, that doesn't mean I sit like a lump until God drops things in my lap.  Life in Christ is a pursuit, an adventure and a quest.  I am to walk with God!  I am to seek Him, follow Him, pursue Him.  Those are not passive words.  There is a difference between seeking to get things done/make things happen and striving to see God in our every circumstance.  While I absolutely have to watch myself to avoid falling back into a to-do list toting "Martha", I absolutely should strive to become a "Mary".  In yoga, some of the most relaxed looking poses are the most active.  Every muscle is engaged.  That's what I want to strive for in my spiritual life as well.  Every fiber of my being engaged and focused, poised and ready for my Saviors call.
  • If you're unfamiliar with the Biblical reference then the short story is Martha was serving the household by making sure food was on the table, drinks were in the cups, stuff was cleaned and hostess duties were being performed while her sister let her do all the work while she sat at Jesus feet.  When Martha ask Jesus to make her sister help her, Jesus told her that Mary had chosen better.  Jesus wasn't saying that physical practicalities weren't important or necessary...just that they weren't AS important or necessary. 


I don't cease striving because God is in control, I continue striving because God is in control.  What I strive for changes.  I don't strive to make things happen the way I want.  I strive to pursue what God wants, which is for me to know Him and to help others know Him better.  While God doesn't need my help to glorify His name, I am going to pursue that goal with abandon.  I will strive to praise Him, to glorify Him and to know Him.




I admit this might be an argument of semantics but I honestly believe it's possible to surrender control to a Sovereign God and actively strive to pursue Him.  Are there areas in your life that you need to give up your control of the outcome and instead strive for peace, patience or gratitude?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Treasure Hunt

I don't know about you, but I used to hear people say "I heard from the Lord..." and my heart would grimace a little.  I hadn't "heard" from the Lord...does anyone, really?  He doesn't speak with an audible voice.  Was it all just wishful thinking woo woo?  How could they know it was the Lord?

While some people use the phrase "I heard from the Lord" to give weight to their own decisions or opinions, I have to conclude that people have heard from the Lord.  He wants to communicate with us.  He says so in His Word.

While I've been studying God's word more and more, and practicing intimacy with God, I have started to understand what it means to hear from the Lord.  I'm doing about 4 different Bible Studies  for various reasons but ultimately because this is what God wants me to be doing to teach me to be still and know He is God.  As I move from one to the other and learn, I'm finding so many parallels and reaffirmed truths.  From different books of the Bible, different Bible Studies, He repeats Himself.  God orchestrated a specific message at this very moment in my life!  How amazing is that!!

So, today, after I had had my quiet time (which had built on the same message from my Bible Study the day before) and then gone to yoga (which had the same message from scripture) I went and sat in a coffee shop to finish up my Bible Studies and couldn't help but giggle.  Here's what I "heard" from the Lord.

Luke 11:9

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.


It's not a new concept to me and probably not to you either.  I've read it in the various gospels and heard sermons on it many times over the years.  What was new to me is this.  I heard this message being repeated through various books of the Bible, various Bible Studies and from Godly people randomly speaking into my life and with each new repeat God had asked me to consider some questions.  As I answered the questions and asked my own, Luke 11:9 was the response from God's word.  
At first glance this verse seems very unrealistic.  No one ever gets everything they ask for.  I always saw this verse as a nice thought.  Surely, God meant that if I asked for what was in His will I would get it, but is that really true?  

1 John 5:14
14 And this is the confidence that we have before Him: If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we have asked of Him.…

Again, these are all sermons I've heard before.  How to pray with confidence.  Don't worry, I'm not going to give you the same sermon. You see, part of getting a repeating message like this is personal meaning.  The verse that tells us to Ask, Seek and Knock...Jesus is speaking.  You can't get more direct words from the mouth of God than that!  He is teaching on prayer, that's true, but He's also teaching us so many more things at the same time.  He's teaching us about Himself, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Who they are and how much they love us. 
If this life is a great adventure, with the express purpose of knowing and glorifying God and helping others do so, then that's how we should be living and how we should be reading His word, right?  

So as I sat there this morning, two things occurred to me.  

  1. Jesus spoke Luke 11:9 after the example of a persistent neighbor banging on the door for bread until the owner got up to give him what he asked for.  Classic squeaky wheel.  Think about it...What is God saying about prayer here?  I don't think He's telling us to be a squeaky wheel, so what then?  This is about persistence.  We pursue what's important and of great value to us. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, there is no humbug sitting behind a curtain ready to hand knowledge, courage and understanding to us.  Those things are gained through pursuit.  It's an adventure, a quest, a treasure hunt!  
  2. If we are seeking and investigating God, we'll find Him.  If we are looking for His blessings, provision, protection and the works of His hands in our life...
We Will Find Them!

  


So let's go be pirates today!  Hunt down that treasure.  Look for the dotted line that takes you to the X.  Search for the clues. Investigate the mystery!  Take your eyes off the shiny baubles and stormy seas and pursue the real treasure...God!



Sunday, January 21, 2018

yarn on the finger

What does a piece of string on the finger mean?  It was a way to remind yourself of something before iPhones and personal assistant devices.  People used to actually do this.  Tie a string or bit of yarn or ribbon around their finger to help them remember something.  Or at least to help you remember that you were suppose to remember something.

I was having quiet time this morning and thinking about how sweet my time with the Lord has been.  I can't remember a time when it has been this fulfilling and intimate and then it hit me.  I couldn't remember... Had I ever had a time of close relationship with the Lord and just forgotten?

I don't want to forget this time in my life.  It's amazing and precious and I have a suspicion it's going to have to sustain me for what is coming next.  So... how to remember.

This blog is a first step.  Writing it down so you can revisit the memory is certainly a good beginning.  Especially if you like re-reading your journal or blog entries.  I do.



The last time I wanted to remember something important, God was bringing me to a lot of passages telling the story of the standing stones of Israel and how they were supposed to be a reminder for generations of what the Lord had done for Israel.  We made stepping stones and stamped in verses and put in meaningful bric-a-brac to remind us of God's provision and adoption.

Mulch has mostly covered them over the years and painful memories have kept me from spending time thanking the Lord for how he has moved in our past, present and will move in our future.  I'll be sweeping those off and doing so now.  I'll continue to explore this idea of remembering what the Lord is doing so I don't forget later.

In the meantime, how do you remember what the Lord has done for you?









Friday, January 12, 2018

Beginnings and endings

It has been a very long time since I could say I've had a good start to the year.  I really can't remember a time I had a great end to the year.  I am fully aware that I am a pessimist (or as any pessimist would say, a realist).  I don't know about you, but by the time I get to the end of the year all the little stresses, drama and things that go wrong set me in a mental place that says "this has been a crappy year".  Does that happen to you?  A few things going wrong at the end of the year color how I see the rest of the year and really set my mentality for the coming year.  I've allowed this pattern to continue unnoticed for years.  Looking back now I can see that this was a result of exhaustion from over working myself all year and the stress of expectation at the holidays.  Can anyone relate?  I can look back at it because this year was different.  Beautifully, wonderfully different!

Here's what changed.

I have some amazing women of God in my life.  I have been blessed, even though they are now in different states, to continue to study the word of God with them.  Last year we read a book on advent which was really good.  This year, to continue the practice of anticipation of the coming Savior, we decided to practice gratitude.  Every day in the month of December we would text each other something we were thankful for.

It was GLORIOUS!

Not only did I search my days for something to be thankful for, even the bad days, I got to share in the joy of my friends.  As I searched my days for gratitude, I found it.  That gratitude allowed me to look back on the rest of my year with the same.  It's even spilled over into how I am starting my new year.  I have never had such a close, vibrant walk with the Lord.  (There are a couple reasons for this but for the purposes of this blog it all started with an attitude of gratitude)  

I've been told over the years that thankfulness and gratitude were necessary to a vibrant life.  My grumpy Gus self grimaced at this.  I was not required by the Lord to be happy, I only had to have Joy.  Joy is a choice, not an emotion I would smugly say.  Yeah, I know...sad.  I was.  I still struggle with sorrow.  But today, and for the last month and a half, I have had joy.  I've had abundant life!  I've even been....giddy.  While the happy, giddy excitement may be gone tomorrow, the practice of joy and gratitude will stay with me.  I feel light because I have exchanged my burdens of worry, stress and annoyance for the much better gift of gratitude.  

For those of you who are not predisposed to joy...it's okay, you can get there.  For those of you who have happy in the bag, good on ya.  This will still help you.  Whether you've set your resolutions for the year or not you can still set goals and intentions that will help you throughout the year.  So here's my challenge to you.

Find someone you can email, text or talk to every day for 30 days.  Every day, share with each other something you're thankful or grateful for.  If you don't need a full 30 days (to be honest I think everyone could use a gratitude refresher)  or if you have done a 30 day and need a gratitude booster, then try a 7 day.  Don't worry if some of your hard days leave it hard to find something to be thankful for, search anyway and come up with something.  I kid you not, one of my days I shared that I was grateful I was sick on Christmas.  I meant it.  I was grateful.  It took me a month of practice to get there but the previous hard days had taught me to search every new situation for something to be thankful for so I had something to share.  You can too!

Keep at it and by all means, tell me how it goes!

Friday, January 5, 2018

One of the hardest things I've ever done

A grave and terrible thing has happened to me.  God asked me to take a sabbatical.
I'll wait while you all recover your breath.








I know the primary purpose of this blog is to discuss the unique challenges and joys of being a servant minded individual and it is.  Part of that purpose includes knowing when to take a break.  I've written a few blogs on taking care of yourself so you don't pour out until you can't give any more.  The Lord had been putting the idea of sabbatical on my mind for a while, I just wasn't getting that He was talking to me. Last September, God made it clear He was asking me to give up my volunteer activities.  Over the month of October and November I was busy wrapping things up and writing for NaNoWriMo (which I completed this year, yay me!).  It was by December, when I was looking at my full calendar and overwhelming to do list, that I realized I hadn't done what God had asked me to do.  He wanted me to stop everything.  To take a real and true break.  A sabbatical.  I have to tell you, this has been beyond challenging.  It's been incredibly difficult to explain to people.  It's been hard to justify to myself.  My identity has been wrapped up in being useful.  Of having purpose.    I thought taking a pause from volunteering for the month of September would be it, but as the year proceeded to a close, I wasn't getting any new instructions from the Lord.  As I paused my busy schedule to ask Him, it hit me.  I wasn't standing still long enough to hear from the Lord.  I have been such a Martha. It's my normal bent to be sure.  I don't ever want to be accused of being lazy but more than anything I don't want to be thought of as useless.  It's shaped how I even view "rest".  So I started my year with a mental reset.  I've pared down my to do lists, I've given up my idea of useful and replaced it with what is needful.  It's meant a lot of Bible study, a few naps and filling my life with few things more complicated than keeping my house neat and clean.  

I know this is a time of preparation.  For what, I can only guess.  I'm trying not to guess in earnest because thinking too far in the future defeats the purpose of listening to what God is saying in my present.  Thinking too far in the future often invites fear into my life.  I assume if God has to give my life pause to prepare me it must be for something huge, difficult, exhausting or hurtful.  It also gives me time to doubt.  To doubt God is asking something of me, to doubt my ability to accomplish it. All of these mental gymnastics are ultimately all part of the prep.  To shake off the doubt, to get in step with where the Lord is moving, to put on the full armor of faith and to be fully rested and able to endure whatever is coming.  This season could be as simple as getting my body healthy again or it could involve a whole new season or state in life.  *shrug* Doesn't really matter.  This time of rest means that I can practice being on board with trusting God completely with my future.  Granted, I'm still working on the being still part.  

As you think about your new year and what your intentions and hopes and resolutions are, consider resolving to rest and be still.