I care; You share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

Even though my plate is full, I care, so you share

I had coffee with a friend today. I thought we were getting together to laugh. Turns out, we got together for a lesson.

During our conversation, she shared a profound truth, and I asked her to write a guest post on my blog. For you to fully grasp the power of her message, please allow me to share the highlights of what my friend is facing:

  • Her 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, has cancer
  • Her 17-year-old son has been dealing with the legal system all year. He was recently released from a psychiatric hospital stay. After a 3rd violation of his probation, they have court soon to determine if he will stay in the home or be placed in the system.
  • Her father-in-law lives with them. In the last month, he has been hospitalized twice with mini-stroke symptoms.
  • Her mother lives with them and, in the last month, has also experienced health issues.
  • My friend has her own mental health journey that is challenging to navigate with all these stressors.

…and we think we have problems? But wait: Capture that thought. My friend, Amanda Meers, has a word regarding that ‘thought’, and I believe we all need to hear it.

Amanda’s insights

I tell you these things, not so that you will feel sorry or have pity, but to acknowledge that sometimes it feels like God gives us a triple plate of life. Most people would prefer these things to happen on individual plates at different times in life (if they have to have them at all). Some people, like me, get all of the plates at once. I have a nickname amongst some of my friends, Jobina (the female Job).

I am often told, when reaching out to different people in my life, that what’s going on in their world is nothing compared to what’s happening in mine (whether they know all of it or only about Sarah’s diagnosis). This is a huge pet peeve of mine!!!

Let me explain:

Yes, everything happening in my life (taken individually or all together) is a lot for anyone. However, that doesn’t mean that the trials happening in your life are any less important or significant than those happening in mine. It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges. If you or someone in your life is going through a hard time—whether it’s a cold, the flu, a baseball bat to the face, strep, issues at school or work—it’s all hard, it’s all scary, it’s all traumatic, and it’s all life. We are in this life together. We are supposed to share so that we can lift each other up in prayer.

Going back to the fruit example (apples and oranges): We are all fruits picked by God. We’re all different—whether you consider yourself an apple or an orange. We have different sizes, different colors, different bruises. When God picks us, we are placed in the fruit truck, all headed to the same place—but our journeys are so different.

Sometimes when people tell me “Well, I know my stuff is nothing compared to what’s happening in your life,” it feels like this means you think that I can’t or won’t or don’t want to pray for you. Praying for you and what’s happening in your life takes the focus off my life. I want to be other-focused. I want to pray for you. So many have been faithful to pray with and for us. By not allowing me to pray for you, you are denying me a blessing. Even if you factor out the friendship and love I have for you, we, as Christians, are meant to pray for each other. Praying for others is my job. If you are not sharing your prayer needs, you are depriving me of the opportunity to do my job. I can pray for you (and I do), but if there are specific things I can be praying, I want to know so we can go to the Father together in prayer. We are not meant to carry our burdens alone—no matter what they are.

We're all fruity. Let's show we care. Let's share.

Great job, Jobina. Thank you for permission to not compare my apples to your oranges. Thank you for praying for my apples as I’m praying for your oranges. Thank you for the invitation to be fruity together. 

You can reach Amanda at ameers2002@icloud.com

How’s your helmet? Armor Up Part 2

Helmets as the armor of God - How's your helmet? - Ephesians 6:17

Helmets as the armor of God - How's your helmet? - Ephesians 6:17

I overheard this conversation snippet in a coffee shop the other day…

Barista: “Hey there! How’s married life?”
Customer: “Great! Of course, it’s only been a month, but it’s great!”

What a wonderful world it would be if every married person always responded, “It’s great!” While this is possible, preventing the first-blush of a relationship from burning out requires intentional action from those who want to keep that fire stoked.  

How can we keep our “first-blush” love for God on fire? This week we continue our quest to be well protected by the armor of God as we take the intentional action step of properly wearing our “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17).

In the era Paul wrote Ephesians 6:17, logistically “A helmet was vital for survival, protecting the brain, the command station for the rest of the body. If the head was badly damaged, the rest of the armor would be of little use.” Spiritually, we “take the helmet of salvation” and wear it properly so that the “assurance of salvation is our impenetrable defense against anything the enemy throws at us.”

The helmet symbolizes us being mindful that God has given His salvation to us. As I prayed about writing this week, God prompted me to reflect on this question: What do our helmets currently look like?

BEAUTIFUL IN BATTLE

Do you remember…

  • being excited at the new life you found in Christ when you first put your faith in Him?
  • having moments when you were amazed that God loved you—enough to die for you?
  • having incredible encounters when you felt God’s presence?

In those types of moments, our helmet of salvation might look something like this…

New helmet as part of the armor of God - Ephesians 6:17

…shiny, solid, attractive and fully capable of protection. During times when it’s easy to connect with the first-blush gratitude we have for our salvation, we project wearing this type of helmet through all of life’s battles. Whether we “received” this helmet recently or if we’ve worn it for years, its shine comes from our perspective of how amazing it is.

  • Action step: Show off that attractive helmet! Reach out to others who appear to be hurting and unprotected.
BATTERED FROM THE BATTLE

At times, we may forget the power the helmet of salvation has to protect our minds due to the combat in our lives. We try to figure out messes with our way of handling things before we even think to talk to the Helmet Giver. In those seasons, perhaps our helmets take on more of this look…

Tarnished helmet as part of the armor of God - Ephesians 6:17

…still solid and capable of protecting us, but a bit tarnished and not nearly as attractive. Do others see our helmets of salvation—our testimony of God’s amazing grace to us—through the filter of a Christian ungrateful for his/her armor? Remember, preventing the first-blush of a relationship from burning out requires intentional action from those who want to stoke that fire.

  • Action step: When life is hard, polish that helmet with prayers of gratitude simply for your salvation. With joy you will draw from the well of your salvation. Isaiah 12:3
BASHFUL IN BATTLE

Yet another thought occurred to me this week. Do people see our helmets at all?  Are we so concerned that people might think we’re a “Jesus Freak” that we keep our helmets in a place that is off limits? Maybe those helmets look something like this…

Helmet in museum as part of the armor of God - Ephesians 6:17

…stand-offish, secret, only touchable on special occasions. We’re told to “put on salvation as a helmet” (Ephesians 6:17/NLT). If no one outside of church knows we’re a Christian, it’s going to be difficult to feel God’s protective power as we engage in the battles of life.

  • Action step: Unlock that vault! Pray and ask God for boldness to live your salvation out where others can see. Like the disciples Peter and John, make this your life verse: We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20
BE REAL IN THE BATTLE

Wearing a fake helmet will allow attacks to undermine our assurance that God is with us. There are too many people who like to pour what I call “Jesus Juice” on a helmet that is not properly fitted. It looks sort of like this…

Spray painting a helmet as a cover up to the armor or God - Ephesians 6:17

…a cover up job. The “I’m doing great” response when inside we’re falling apart or we’re simply not on fire for God. Don’t settle for a lukewarm relationship.

  • Action step: Get real. Ask God to send you His comfort and assurance that He is with You. Ask another Christian to journey with you as you reconnect to your first-blush relationship with God. Never be lacking in zeal, but always keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Romans 12:11

Keeping your relationship with God strong. Remember: Preventing the first-blush of a relationship from burning out requires intentional action from those who want to keep that fire stoked.  

Look in the spiritual mirror: How’s your helmet?

 

 

1 GotQuestions.org. “GotQuestions.org.” GotQuestions.org. Got Question Ministries, 04 Jan. 2017. Web. 07 Apr. 2017. <https://www.gotquestions.org/helmet-of-salvation.html>.                          

Loving God with your mind when you feel like you’ve lost it

In bible college, I was assigned J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. In it:

Moreland explains the importance of using your mind not only to win others to Christ but also to experience personal spiritual growth. Moreland challenges you to use logic and reason to further God’s kingdom through evangelism, apologetics, worship, and vocation.

Moreland highlighted that Western Christians are often not respected intellectually because they’ve pursued the experience of God and disregarded pursuing the knowledge of God. I was inspired by the book and its invitation to engage my mind as an act of worship.

That said, this week I’ve been looking at Matthew 22:37 in a new light.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

As a pastor, mom, wife, sister and friend, I’ve walked with people as they’ve experienced brokenness that sent their hearts and souls reeling from the pain. These soul-shattering faithquakes often release anger and blame—many times toward God. Even more concerning, faithquakes can open cell doors to a numbness prison where self-sentenced, devastated people lock up to escape the pain.

During these dark seasons, many people report they cannot feel God. In the grip of overwhelming hurt, they can mistake that lack of feeling as a sign. Is God not there? Has He gone away as a form of punishment? How does all this relate to Matthew 22:37?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.

When the parts of us that are made to feel and experience God—our heart and soul—are locked down or consumed by our situation, God offers a way to keep hope strong through loving Him with our minds. We can do this by:

  • Remembering how He has transformed our reality. Former situations in our lives may not have anything to do with what we’re currently experiencing. However, using our mind to recall how God showed up in the past is basically saying, “God, I don’t know how You’re going to work in this current mess, I just know that You’re going to” (1 Samuel 17:37). It isn’t a magic prayer that will immediately change things. It will, however, allow us to stay connected as we’re navigating the mess. Loving God with our mind in this way prevents the spiritual attacks of doubt and anger from getting a foothold when our circumstances are the most intense.
  • Using words of faith not fear. Words matter (for more on this in a former post, click here).When we speak the truth that we know God is working (Philippians 1:6)…that God has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11)…that He will work this mess for something good (Romans 8:28)…we are loving God with our mind. Even though we have no idea how He will do it, even though our heart hurts and it isn’t well with our soul, loving God with our mind means speaking words of truth anyway. The alternative is to speak words of fear and freaking-out which will block our minds from receiving God’s creative way forward. Here’s a powerful truth: Our words become our world.
  • Trusting past the pain. We will most likely not understand why God is allowing so much pain. In the space between the initial shock and some understanding of “why”, we need to limp toward trust. God is in control and is holding everything together (Colossians 1:17). Trusting keeps hope alive that good is on the way.

It takes time to rebuild after a faithquake. As we’re navigating it and healing, the last thing we need is to feel condemned because we’re not being a good Christian. Loving God with our mind when our emotional and spiritual self is bruised or broken keeps us connected and growing through the pain.

I’m praying for all those who are hurting and reading this. While I don’t know the specifics of your situation, I pray you can relax into loving God with your mind and have grace for yourself if the feelings aren’t there right now.

 

What are you crazy about?

It’s Valentine’s Day, or—as I mentioned in a former post—Cupid Stupid Day. While not a fan of being told when to tell the people I love that I’m crazy about them, today gets me thinking about the idea of being head over heels for something/someone.

I am crazy about all things pumpkin spice. Unlike pseudo pumpkin lovers out there—the type whose hankering for pumpkiny-goodness emerges only when it’s chunky scarves and boots time—I am the real pumpkin spice deal. My crazy is not seasonal. It’s a 365-affair. I am dedicated and faithful to my crazy.

You know how they say, “If you looked up the definition of crazy, my picture would be in the dictionary.”? Well…

Pumpkin spice (PS) coffee is my jam. Again, some people think this is a seasonal drink. Silly pseudo-PS’ers! This clovey love-in-a-mug should weave its steamy magic year-round. To accommodate my crazy, I had to find a way to ensure I could have PS coffee January-December. A few years ago, I came across the idea of ordering a year’s supply of PS coffee from Keurig at the end of their selling season. If that seems a bit much, just wait; there’s more.

The first year I did this online, I got to the checkout screen and was asked, “Is this a gift?” I thought, “Why yes, it is” and clicked affirmatively. A new screen popped up with the best question ever, “Would you like to send a gift note?” I thought, “I certainly do” and tapped a note to myself thus birthing a new tradition: To me from me. Below is 2016’s “Note to Crazy” offering…

As crazy as I am for PS I am more crazy for JC—Jesus Christ. I love Him, and on this Valentine’s Day, my heart is overflowing with wanting to celebrate the One who loved me before any others did. (We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19) I love Jesus. He is my first thought in the morning and my last thought in prayer at night. I see Him all around me—in good times and bad.

This week, I had the privilege of talking with a couple of friends as they are navigating some shocking situations in their lives. I’ve listened as they mechanically unloaded the details of their living nightmare until tears broke the stoic dam holding them back. I was overwhelmed. Their pain made my head spin. As the story unfolded, I was seeing what they were seeing: swirling chaos. What in the world could I say that would help their hurt? Answer: Nothing. However, with wisdom, I’ve learned: When you don’t know what to say, don’t talk—pray.

I prayed asking for wisdom and healing.  Each time, He delivered. THIS is Who I’m crazy about. The One who can take every hurt and cover it with peace, clean it with power and convert it to purpose. The situations are still difficult, but God—invited in for a new dose of His understanding—is the great game-changer. His loving wisdom is better than anything, and I’m crazy about Him.

I have this sitting beside my bed.

I love me some PS, but I love Jesus better than pumpkin anything. From the definition at the top of this article, I am #2 crazy about Jesus. I’m extremely enthusiastic, passionate about, enamored with, keen on and infatuated with Him. This is how I love Jesus. He’s not dry and distant. He is One to get fired up about.

Are you enjoying this kind of love with Him? If so, give a huge bouquet of grateful Valentine’s Day prayer to the One who loved you first. If not, message me and let’s get you connected to someone who can help. Let this Valentine’s Day ignite a passion that never lets you down.

 

Turn your “OW” into a “WOW”

When life is hard, that pain = ow.

I’ve always equated hard times to giving birth. If you, as a couple, knew exactly how long labor pains were going to last, you’d pace yourselves. Let’s say you knew that in exactly 14 hours and 36 minutes it would be over. Even at the 12-hour mark, you could pant, “Only 2 hours and 36 minutes to go! Hanging in there!”. However, when labor pains transform a normally lovely woman into a sweating, red-faced mess of “hee hee hoo”, the unrelenting agony can trigger a loss of perspective. The only goal is to get it over with.

Difficult seasons in our lives feel this intense. Emotionally, financially, relationally, spiritually it can seem as through we’re drowning in the Sea of Ow. During these times, we’re not able to see when–or if–there will be a guaranteed end to the pain. We can be so consumed by the situation that it’s hard to see any point to the “ow”.

Many people know the story of Job from the Bible. He is the poster child for suffering through a ton of unfair circumstances. In every way possible, Job was afflicted. In Job 30:20-22, he’s had it.

I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
    I stand up, but you merely look at me

You turn on me ruthlessly;
    with the might of your hand you attack me.
You snatch me up and drive me before the wind;
    you toss me about in the storm.

Have you ever felt like that—maybe even feeling it now? Everything you wanted…everything you hoped…everything you worked for – gone. Perhaps, like Job, you have called out to God and told Him how you think He ought to handle the situation. And, as in Job’s case, maybe God didn’t do things the way you wanted them done.

When the ow is overwhelming, we can lose perspective. Yet, the most inspiring people are those who share their story of surviving a crushing challenge. But honestly…? It’s easy to be inspired when the pain is over. Think childbirth again. Labor stories are about intense pain that lead to the wonderful “wow” outcome of holding a new baby. Rather than waiting for life’s situational agony to pass, is there a way to help our “ow” become a “wow” as it’s happening? Let’s consider Job again and take some cues:

  1. Don’t waste your suffering. To be blunt: You have to deal with whatever is happening to you, so you might as well suck it dry for every lesson it can teach. As you open your eyes in the morning and the reality that the “ow” is still there washes over you, convert that pain to prayer. Ask God to show You what you need to learn. Job mostly wallowed in his pain and spun his wheels—not a great role model for this point. Ask yourself: Am I praying as much as complaining?
  2. Understand there is purpose to your suffering. Like Job, you would never intentionally put yourself into a hard situation. However, certain things can only be learned in the hard, dry, dark places of life. The most interesting people are those who have walked through a pit, come through and now share what they’ve learned. I say all the time that while I wish I hadn’t had to go through the ugly times, I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything.
  3. Take strength that it’s a season. After the Lord gave Job the equivalent of a spanking, He restored Job’s life (Job 42). Sometimes, there is no way to “go back” to how things were. Loved ones die, families dissolve, homes are lost, relationships are severed. I’ve discovered a simple truth that has allowed me to handle hard times with peace. God never wants us to “go back”. He always invites us to move forward. As we stay close to Him in prayer, take comfort from His Word and His past faithfulness, He’ll begin to gift us with a glimmer of the “wow” that could be ours because of the current “ow”.

Are you in the middle of an Ow? I’m praying that you’ll be able to suck it dry and see that this season will lead you to become more than you thought possible.

Have you survived an Ow? My prayer is that you are actively looking for how you can help someone else who is currently hurting.

The only difference between “ow” and “wow” is that first “w”. Let that “w” = a win in your life.

 

My Worst/Best Faith Building Moment

It was well after midnight. I was in the middle of one of those cry-so-hard-til-your-tongue-sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-and-cuts-off-your-breathing ugly cries. My first husband had left me and I was devastated. Everything I’d worked toward was falling apart. Drowning in a lonely darkness without boundaries, I had the crushing thought, “There is no one in the world who knows I’m crying right now.”

As I lie there struggling to breathe, something happened. I had an identity-shifting encounter with the Lord that set my life’s course in motion. I had always believed in Jesus. I had a good relationship with Him, but I had never needed Him this way. In that dark moment, I felt His presence and the hint of a touch on my cheek. Without anything audible being said, in every part of me that processed words I heard, “I am here.” And then, I felt peace.

That moment was one of my worst/best. I wish I had never lived through the pain that birthed that ugly cry, but—at this stage of my life—I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The experience caused me to fully understand the phrase, “Take it all, but leave me Jesus.” The beauty in enduring that season is that I’ve never been afraid to face hard things since. I may not like having to navigate them, but God’s, “I am here assurance in that dark hour replaced the fear with a new deposit of faith.

I think “faith” is often misunderstood. Have you heard—maybe even said— “I need to have more faith”? It’s framed in the context of putting the responsibility on the individual…that if “I” can just force my mind to let go of all my fear and reason, I will be able to manufacture more faith. And, if “I” can have more faith, then I can do better business with God. He’ll hear me more clearly. He’ll be more inclined to answer my prayers. He’ll send healing. I just need more faith….

There is a biblical flaw in that logic. Faith is not something we can create more of; faith is a gift from God. (Romans 12:3, Hebrews 12:2, Romans 10:17)

Our response to the faith God gifts to us is to believe it. In Matthew 21:21-22, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt what was done…If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Let’s run the idea of “I need more faith for God to answer my prayers” through this biblical filter:

  • As we pursue God’s will first—pray to ask what He wants before telling Him what we want—we are available for new deposits of faith that will guide us in following His will.
  • God initiates the faith. He provides us a picture of His will for a situation through the principles contained in His Word. (Romans 10:17)
  • When we have spent time in His presence through prayer and meditating on His Word, we can understand His will.
  • Our response is to not doubt that God has given us guidance. We believe that what God wills is what will be, and we act out of the empowering faith He gifts to us.

For a more in depth look at faith through this lens, I liked how this article explored the topic.

If we aren’t seeing the results in our lives that we want, let’s not layer misplaced shame on top of the difficulty. We cannot “get more faith” by any formula. Instead, we pursue God. We ask what He wants us to do in a situation. As we understand His will—which will never contradict the principles in His Bible—He is giving us faith.* Sometimes, what He shows us is not the way we’d do it, but He invites us to act…to walk by the faith that He gave (2 Corinthians 5:7).

When my life was broken and empty, God graciously filled it with a faith deposit. At the time, I wasn’t being super holy nor spiritual—the faith was a gift. My response was to believe He was there and to pursue Him even more.

What kind of faith-deposit moments have occurred in your life?

 

*I know some folks struggle to know, “Is it God or is it me?” Next week’s post will be about a method of journaling that helps me get clarity.

Doing battle in a bathroom ~ How to pray without ceasing

This week I got a call from a friend, Ashley, who was in the middle of a discouraging bathroom makeover project.  Her initial plan had been to remove the decades-old wallpaper, but she fought the wall and the wall won. The house has a few years on it and the wallpaper wasn’t properly applied. It’s never good when you begin to question if you might be doing structural damage to your home as chunks of sheet rock join the discard pile.

She regrouped and put a new plan in play centering around finding the just-right shower curtain fabric. Hitting the web, she came across the perfect pattern only to discover it wasn’t for sale anywhere. After 3 hours of futile searching, she thought she’d have to find something else. The next day, she texted me a picture of the original fabric, told me why she loved it and said, “But I literally can’t find it. Like it doesn’t exist!”

In a moment of right thinking—I wish I did this 100% of the time—my response was an application of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing”.  I texted this to her—not really knowing if/how God might respond:

 

1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.” How can we do that?

At a preaching conference, several years ago, I heard a solid interpretation of this verse. Devereaux Hubbard said, “Pray in the rhythm of life.” As we go about our day, if we talk to God about everything we undertake, we’ll be praying without ceasing. The NIV Life Application Bible carries this note: We cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. A prayerful attitude is not a substitute for regular times of prayer but should be an outgrowth of those times.”

Nothing is too small to bring to God.

Back to my friend. Later that afternoon, I was waiting in the school parking lot for my daughter. Knowing how resourceful Ashley is, I thought, “If she can’t find it online, it probably can’t be found.” However, with nothing else to do, I started searching for that fabric. I cannot begin to tell you what kind of a search I did, but within 3 clicks, God not only led me to the fabric, but directed me to a site where it was massively on sale. I texted her to see if it was the right pattern and got the equivalent of a text jaw-drop in response.

The point of this story is not how great I am at searching the web. The point is the lavish love of God. Will He always answer by directing in ways like this? Of course He won’t—but there was a bigger work going on. Let me share (with permission) how my friend reacted when God provided what she asked.

Last night, after I ordered the fabric, I spent some time with God thanking Him. I was feeling a bit of guilt and shame for not immediately turning to Him for EVERYTHING and needing that reminder (nothing crazy, just acknowledging my sinful nature which is always uncomfortable). I was going on and on about how loved I feel and how grateful I am and I got this sense of “Hush, just look around. It’s so much bigger than this”. I’m realizing God is using this remodel to teach me how He’s growing and remodeling me.

 

I have been praying for guidance on where I could have a “war room” [for prayer]. I feel like there isn’t an inch of space in this house where I could take over and call it all mine…a place I could go to pray FERVENTLY and do battle for me, my family, our church and our country. God also took this time with Him to show me that, yet again, I’ve put too much emphasis on the details and not on the main thing. He said to me, “Be ready, child. We are building your War Room right now! Get to work!” As I spend time working on this bathroom, I’m going to be praising God the whole time. I’m going to go to battle in the bathroom!

You may be battling things that are bigger in life-scope than finding the right fabric.

You may be frustrated that your day is filled to overflowing with “things not going your way”.

You may be feeling far away from God.

You may be looking to go to your next level with Him.

Whatever season you’re in, the pathway to a breakthrough is the same:

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

  • Rejoice—be glad that you are known by the One to whom you are talking.
  • Pray without ceasing—talk to God in the rhythm of your day.
  • Give thanks—no matter the situation or outcome. God doesn’t create nor delight in evil, but He will be with you through it.

Predictable schmedictable

I hate to be called “predictable”.

I much prefer to think of myself as the lady pictured above…slightly mysterious, always thinking, the kind of person who makes people laugh due to the quirky, unexpected things that spill out. Ah, my true inner self.

Of course, there is only so much unique discourse a ‘slightly mysterious’ person can have on hand at any given time. And when said person lives with a man who loves to be the first one to figure out how things work and is gifted at sifting through all possible outcomes to arrive at the most obvious one…well, let’s just say, it can be a trifle challenging to maintain the mystery. All it takes is that word—usually in a text conversation—to make me not want to talk to him for at least the rest of the day. In my mind, that text conversation looks something like…

 

This week, however, I got to see being predictable in a fresh way. That same husband texted me that he was “thinking” about doing something that was a bit uncomfortable and outside his comfort zone due to not knowing how it would be received. Here is a snippet of how I replied in that actual conversation:

 

I hadn’t thought of this before, but, yes—I want to be known for being “spiritually predictable”. When people approach me needing a safe place to explore the deeper/harder things in life, I want them to find consistency. (btw: My awesome husband immediately followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and put into action what he’d been thinking.)

How can we become people of spiritual predictability?

  1. Choose a filter and live it. We must know who we’ll be before deep/hard stuff hits. When it falls on us, we don’t have the bandwidth to try to figure out how to be grace-filled because we’re in survival mode. To do minimal harm as we’re navigating difficult times, we need to have in mind the type of person for which we want to be known. Most likely we won’t feel like being that person in the moment, but if we’ve chosen a filter, it will guide us in saying things that fit that filter and quiet in us the things that don’t.
  2. Know who Jesus is. Speaking of spiritually predictable… Jesus never made a mistake, so the more we read and study how He handled the hard stuff, we can know the perfect way to deal with whatever life hands us. Daily Bible reading is off-season preparation for when we’re thrown into the game. It’s not something we “have to” do. For those who want to handle life with grace and style, it’s a gift.
  3. Ask God for strength to be spiritually predictable. On our own, we don’t have the required wisdom nor the strength to be this consistent. James 1:5-8 says:

    If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

What’s your filter? Do you want to be known as “spiritually predictable” or would you rather be blown and tossed by the wind when a storm hits?

I’m a work in progress in becoming as spiritually predictable as I’d like. However, as this is my chosen filter, I’m predicting that God will continue to give me the wisdom to live it out.

New Year’s Resolutions – I do not want to want to

I resolutely do not make New Year’s resolutions. I’m all about setting goals – it’s just that I seem to react when anyone tells me I “have” to do something on a certain day.  It’s like Valentine’s Day: 2 thumbs down from LMR—I can’t stand it.  DON’T tell me that February 14th is the day I must tell the people I love that I love them.  Look, if they don’t know it before and after Cupid Stupid Day, we have a problem. But I digress….

While making New Year’s resolutions is on my “uh uh” list, I relate to how this time of year causes us to pause and consider if we’re where we want to be in life. Every one of us has areas in which we’d like to improve. If only we could make the changes by simply thinking about them…

Yet, strangely, it’s the thinking about them that can be the first step to failure. We look at a change we need to make and thinking about how hard it’s going to be may be the very reason we never begin. The time, pain and sacrifice would be worth it, but we can sense the self-denial, smell the sweat and feel the fear of what it’s going to take more strongly than we can touch the victory that seems so distant.

Several years ago, I hit a wall in a relationship and it felt as though I was being crushed. As I considered the yawning future, my overarching thought was, “Oh well, this is my life.” Maybe I had an idea of what it would take to fix it, but the self-denial, sweat and fear seemed so overwhelmingly real that I couldn’t take even a small step toward right thinking/action. I remember lying in my bed one morning trying to come to grips with this sort of half-life that was to be my destiny. I was soaking in a smelly pot of, “Since this is the way it is, settle for becoming less than you are and very little of who God made you to be.”

Then I remembered, or—more accurately—was reminded by God of, one of the most powerful prayers I had ever heard. It was designed for situations like mine, but in my quagmire of despair, I had almost drowned instead of reaching toward its strength.  Here it is—the most powerful prayer I know when a person needs to make a big change:

Dear God: Please help me to want to want to fix this.  Amen.

On my bed, that’s what I prayed. Honestly, I didn’t think God could do anything with it. It wasn’t like I was “praying in faith” and doing a mighty work on my end to prove to God I was worthy of His help. All I could do in that simple prayer was acknowledge that I hoped there was some way this could get better while not really seeing how it was possible. At the end of the prayer, I still felt crushed.

Over the next few months, I kept that as my daily prayer, “God, please help me to want to want to…” There came a time when the prayer changed to, “Dear God, I actually want to fix this now…”  And then my prayer evolved to, “God, I thank You for how You’re working…I’m surprised, but you’re changing me and I’m grateful.” For me, the “fix” took 3 years, but I’ve never looked back. The self-denial, sweat and fear that had seemed like obstacles are now distant memories.  I still shake my head in wonder because I approached this “need to change” by bringing very little in the way of my ability to do anything about it.

Are you facing a challenge in taking steps to advance your career? Are you needing to get healthy physically, financially, relationally or spiritually? We think we need to massively clean up our stuff so God has enough room to do a mighty work in us. In truth, He only needs a tiny space to get started.

I have 3-4 big areas I want to “fix” in my life. I’m not resolving to get them accomplished, but I am being prayerful about wanting to want to and looking forward to how God leads.

…maybe I’ll knock them out as a Valentine’s Day gift to myself ?

 

 

What if we SHUT UP and prayed?

Within the past few months, my husband and I were sitting on our deck when the phone rang. As I listened to what was shared with me on the other end, my head began a slow, disbelieving shake and my mouth almost couldn’t form words of response.  I was hearing the sort of next installment in a drama that had already aired too many episodes.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was so high on the “Are you kidding me?” scale that I quickly hit the speakerphone button so my husband could listen in. After a few minutes, we reached an uncomfortable way to move forward with the caller and hung up.

Now, historically, when this kind of thing crops up, my husband and I immediately start talking about it—and by “talking” I mean dissecting how things went, how things are going wrong, how so-and-so needs to do this, how the sky is falling, how this may usher in the end of the world as we know it…on and on.

I don’t think we are alone in this reaction.

My experience with most homo sapiens is that when something is not going the way they want, they search out other homo sapiens and start “talking”.

This particular night, as soon as the call disconnected, I knew the USS Talk was about to sail.  Before it could, I grabbed my husband’s hand and said, “Let’s pray”.  Honestly, the situation was such a mess, that I just didn’t trust that we knew how to “talk” about it.

We prayed – one of those prayer times birthed from desperation.  “Lord, if You don’t do something, nothing of any good can happen.” It was the kind of prayer that is stripped away of everything but humbled hearts interceding to the only One who has the power to redeem the mess.

As we finished our verbal prayer, we sat in silence and just listened.  The night was still. The lack of wind amplified the sound and song of every invisible creature that was around us.  I listened because I was too in shock to think.

And into that space, I received this from God. “For the rest of this night, you two are not allowed to “talk” about this situation unless you are speaking to Me about the situation in prayer.” 

Wow – that took a minute to process. How do I know it was God?  Because who in their right mind comes up with something like that?

I told my husband what I had received.  We’ve been together for 17 years, and this has never been the way we’ve handled a difficult issue.  Like most people who pray, we usually “talk” until we’re exhausted with the mess and then we pray about it.  Or, we pause and pray and then talk until we’re exhausted with the mess.

But this silent night, God wanted to teach us something.

For the rest of the evening, a thought about the situation would occur to one of us. We’d open our mouth to “talk” but then convert it to a 3-way prayer conversation. We’d still share what was bugging us, but it wasn’t just so we could talk to each other about how messed up we thought things were.  This night, we were still laying it all out there, but we were also actively engaging God in the dialog.

Proverbs 10:19 says this, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.” NIV.
In the NLT it’s worded this way, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”

Look at the practical applications of this:

  • Words matter. When a situation is at an incredibly tender state, the words you speak are contributing, spiritually, to the situation.  They will either be a blessing or a curse.  You may think that if someone can’t hear the ugly things you’re saying that it doesn’t matter, but there are spiritual forces that do. They will take those words and use them to cause harm—either to the one you’ve got an issue with or to yourself by robbing you of peace and the ability to receive direction because you’re so eaten up with the words you’ve spewed.  For another blog post about the importance of words, click here.
  • The more you say the more opportunities you have to say something stupid. Enough said.
  • Sin is not ended the more you talk about it.  Even if you’re in the right, talking about it outside of talking directly to the people involved doesn’t make what they did move toward correction. Know how I know?  Because God said, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”

 

To the one reading this who says, “This is unrealistic. I just need to vent sometimes. I need to process.”  OK.  I’m not suggesting that you stop processing – I’m sharing with all of us what God shared with me: Process with Him. You can do it in the company of others if need be, but take it Up before you take it out.

As that long night progressed, we had peace even though we didn’t have resolution.  That’s what God offers.  As we do things His way, we are available for these kinds of blessings in the midst of our struggles.

So to a world that needs to hear:  Let’s shut up and pray.