Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wrestling With Forgiveness

Wrestling With Forgiveness

An email from my doctor read, “You have an enlarged heart wall and extra electricity . . . this could be from damage to your heart  . . .  or. . .”  Immediately, my mind raced and my heart raced faster causing me to lose an entire night’s sleep!

A few days earlier, my doctor expressed concern for my slightly high blood pressure.  “How could this be?” I asked.  “I exercise regularly and I try to eat fairly well.” She ordered an EKG with a follow up stress test to see if I had any signs of heart disease.
The above test results of the EKG showed up in my email box two nights before I was to speak to a group of college students.  The topic?  Perfect Peace!  With every ounce of will power, I recalled Scriptures about anxiety, trust and health.  In my heavy breathing prayers, I even accepted God’s sovereign rule that I could have a health issue.  But nothing could slow down my beating, anxious heart.

As I retrieved my notes for my talk, I prayed with my intercessor and tears stung my eyes as my physical heart danced wildly inside my chest ~ as if it was expressing something to me ~ making me appreciate its constant and faithful service to me all these 43 years.

Although I was desperate to call my doctor first thing that Monday morning, I could not because the chapel talk was scheduled. The call would have to wait until after lunch.  Moments before I started to speak, I whispered a prayer offering God my body, my mouth, my anxious thoughts. Suddenly, when I opened my mouth to deliver my talk on Perfect Peace, my heart slowed down to a normal rhythm.  Isaiah 26:3 tumbled from my lips: “You will keep in perfect peace him (and her) whose mind is steadfast, because (she) trusts in you.”  

I taught for a few moments from Acts 12 when Peter was asleep in prison on the eve of his persecution.  And I embodied peace.  Miraculous, I thought.  Even with my heart acting somewhat normal, I still had lingering thoughts and real concerns about what the stress test could reveal.  Perfect peace?  Not quite yet.

A few weeks later, I did indeed show up for a stress test.  My blood pressure was so high that the nurse in charge asked if I was anxious about the test.  “I don’t think so . . . but what if something is wrong with my heart? Can I speak to a cardiologist right away?”  I wanted, more than anything, to speak to an expert.

Within 12 hours of the stress test, I received another note from my doctor announcing that my heart is in excellent condition; she noted that I should rest more in between my activities to see if that lowers my blood pressure.

And with that email, in that moment, my mind and my spirit knew (fully convinced) that my heart was good and my breathing leveled out.
What does this have to do with forgiveness?  Why am I writing this to the leadership within you?  My point is twofold:  Scripture spoken aloud to one person or 1000 people restores the soul.  And, second, we need to wrestle truth to the ground until we have the answers we need, in hand, from the Expert.

As the beating of my heart and the pressure of my blood are foundational, even basic, to my overall heath, so is forgiveness the basic foundation to our spiritual health.   You and I check our hearts and blood pressure regularly but why do we ignore our forgiveness capacity?

Women in leadership have been hurt and will continue to experience pressures, stresses and injustices that men do not.  It is what it is.  However, just as Jacob wrestled God all night long asking for a blessing, so must we wrestle with forgiveness as long as it takes so we won’t depend on deceit or scheming to receive the blessings God has prepared for us! 

But a wrestling it is ~ when I succumbed to the stress test, examining the true condition of my heart ~ I was running fast on a treadmill with wires strapped wildly on my mid-section.  Three nurses surrounded me, vital statistics flashing, sweat forming on my body: the only way we could get an accurate reading of my heart was when my body was maxed out to its capacity.  The only way we can lead others with healing is by maxing out our spirits in full forgiveness.  We must wrestle with God through the night hours, not letting the sins of bitterness and grudges overtake us.  We must hold on until God responds and spares us, giving us another day, another 24 hours to rejoice and lead with full forgiveness as our foundation, pumping fresh blood and life into our cells.

Who do you need to forgive in this day and are you willing to struggle with God until the blessing of forgiveness is yours?

Let’s talk about this issue

1)   How might you depend on deceit and schemes when someone offends you?

2)   What does it look like to receive forgiveness?

3)   In the story of Jacob and Esau, how do you think Esau could forgive Jacob?

4)   When does unforgiveness impact your capacity to lead others?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eye-2-I AM Contact

Eye-2-I AM Contact

Today I am distracted and I must ask Jesus to teach me how to stay focused on one thing at a time.  The most frustrating thing about distraction is the draining of mental, emotional and physical energy, just as air leaks slowly from a tire and over time becomes useless.  That is why Christ, hours before his arrest, commanded his disciples to "be on your guard, watch, give strict attention, be cautious and alert" (Mark 13: 33 and 35, amp.).  

There are levels of distraction that translate to spiritual focus.  The ordinary woman is distracted simply because she is alive on this side of eternity.  She suffers from human nature.  She is distracted because she is normal!  And this can happen without anyone else involved.  Another level of distraction happens because we are in relationship with others.  This distraction comes because we care: a mother for her child, a medical professional for her patient, an administrator making a decision that affects hundreds of people.  It would be unnatural NOT to be distracted by the existence of others.  A third kind of distraction includes the second one but goes beyond -- it is the distraction of the call -- this is the kind of distraction Jesus experienced on this earth.

Jesus didn't get distracted by human or Divine nature, he emptied himself and took on the guise of a servant (Philippians 2).  Yet, even in that position, Christ still boldly approached his Father in heaven for what he specifically needed. Like Nehemiah the cupbearer, who stayed focused on rebuilding the wall (Nehemiah 1:11), he needed eye to eye contact with the King.  That is why as a woman in leadership, I must pause in the middle of what I am about to do, position myself before my King and give him my full attention -- turning my most pressing need into a purpose.  I must not deny myself the discipline of eye to I AM contact, for that would be the denial of undivided attention.  I must cooperate with the discipline of eye contact with my King  as mental and emotional anguish come from not knowing the Holy Spirit's leading.  Jesus' eyes are on the Father's and so must mine be.  But I cannot maintain eye contact alone.  I can only do it through Christ who gives me access to what he so boldly initiated.

" . . . As the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy."  Psalm 123:2b

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Patterns and Revelations

Patterns and Revelations
"Who endowed the heart with wisdom or gave understanding to the mind?" Job 38:36

I live in a culture that has multiplied my choices.  How thankful I am for the freedom to choose. But what comes with so many choices is the temptation to not move into the Room of Decision!  The difference between my decision making now and before I trusted Christ, is the difference between the natural and the supernatural.  When I chose to follow Christ, I chose to give up my old self; now I must keep choosing to give up my sin so I can be my best for Him.

Making decisions as a Christian, is learning to pattern the routine of my life like Jesus patterned his ways after God's (John 5:17).  In fact, Jesus said, " . . .whatever the Father does, the Son also does (v. 19). Jesus was always Watching God.

I must settle once and for all that as a Christian, I live by revelation.  To rely soley on human reasoning pressures me to be clever and competitive.  That is why God commands me to "fix your thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1).  The word, "fix" in the Greek means to think, observe, to consider.  A related word means to "discern."  So a better way to say it to myself is, "Teach your thoughts to think on Jesus!"  Fixing my eyes on Jesus teaches me how to Wait for God.  I love the Psalmist's words, "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret" (37:7); Waiting patiently, I can dance, I can sing, I can find a pattern that I repeat that helps me swirl down in his presence.  

A third part of living by revelation is to remember that I need insight or understanding to distinguish between right and wrong.  As a woman who has leadership within her, I also need understanding to distinguish between better and superior.  It might be good to take on a new responsibility, but is it what's best?  I might perceive with my senses that I can handle that extra request or opportunity, but my senses do not ensure understanding (Daniel 12:8).  Conversely, when I live by revelation, the Spirit could lead me to say "yes" to someone or to something that my imagination could not perceive!  That's the wonder of God working in my life! As my thoughts are fixed on the Radiance of God's glory, Jesus, I cannot help but have reverence in my heart because the Holy Spirit speaks to my spirit! And I learn to work with the Wonder of his ways.

 As I create patterns in my life to watch and wait for God, he gives me the gift of understanding.  Simply,  decisions I make from the leadership within me, come from knowing how to Watch, how to Wait and how to Work with Wonder.

"Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law."  Psalm 119:18

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Humility: A Healthy, Confident Response

Humility: A Healthy, Confident Response

Lord, I know you want me to humble myself but what about the pride that comes when others resist or ignore my leadership?  God can convict me of my own arrogance but can he save me from the hate I experience from another’s pride?  Can he transform me so I am no longer withdrawn, distant, offended, weak, put out, and intimidated?

If Christ’s attitude of humility means anything, it must be mine when I am criticized and ignored as a leader not merely when I am followed closely and affirmed.  When Jesus brought heaven to earth by healing the sick, others despised him.  Walking away without response demonstrates his wisdom but even more – his meekness of character.  This is the wonderful thing about Jesus – he accepted God’s dealings with himself without resistance, without bitterness.  But how?  He avoided two extremes that tempt me regularly:  getting angry without reason and not getting angry at all!

Lord, that is what Jesus came to do – to spiritually empower people – not just inspire them to proper outward behavior or right relationships.
I am a woman in leadership to whom God has given excellent skills: musical gifts to play concertos, administrative gifts to manage organizations or families, design gifts to create websites or architectural skills to plan buildings, preaching skills to minister the Word, mercy skills to serve those in need of compassion or to love my husband.  I am destined for God’s eternal plan as his eyes look throughout the earth bearing down into my soul, loving me, preparing me for what he has next.  Now I see what you mean, Lord, when you say, “Humble yourselves . . . that in due time He may exalt you” (I Peter 5:6).

I am being prepared for so much more beyond this earth.  To let others determine my identity and to come up wanting is to miss the point.  May I not carry unresolved anger in my heart as that would deeply undermine my capacity to thrive. Jesus, you were not weak on this earth.  When faced with others’ pride you got angry at the right time, in the right measure and for the right reason. 

Be well-balanced – temperate, sober-minded; be vigilant and cautious at all times, for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger, seeking someone to seize upon and devour” I Peter 5:8 (amp).