Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Truth about Deception

What are your first thoughts the moment after realizing you've been deceived?  Like you were all in -- one-hundred percent, not holding back with anything or with anyone or from going anywhere? And in one instant the truth was revealed or perhaps the truth dawned slowly upon you?

Recently, I made a "bring the whole tithe to the storehouse," kind of commitment about eating healthier.  I bounded out of bed every morning for two weeks to fix new and healthier food for myself and my family.  I was literally at the "storehouse" we all know as Costco, standing in a massive line with all my healthy items when I glanced down at the ingredients.  Stunned, I read and reread the label for clarity - it listed a gazillion milligrams of sodium in my favorite vegetable side-dish. Believing it was heart-healthy, it slowly dawned on me I had been whole-heartedly deceived for a few weeks.

My first thoughts after reading the ingredients' label weren't thoughts at all -- I was mad and I told everyone in earshot the truth about the gazillion milligrams of salt in the package I was holding.  Suddenly, all the people around me started swapping food deception stories because they were convinced a certain product was healthy!

The spiritual realm is really no different.  Even though we may feel super motivated in bringing our "whole tithe to the storehouse," if we don't pause for a few moments, (see August 22, 2012 blog post) and "tighten the belt of truth around your loins," (Ephesians 6:14, amp), we can be seduced into believing we're doing exactly what we're "supposed" to be doing.  When, in fact, we are whole-heartedly being led astray.  For each one of us, deception looks different as our internal needs, wiring, wounds and preferences are unique.  Yet, Scripture teaches us we are to be on our guard and to watch out (I Peter 5:8).

As a woman who follows Christ and wears the full armor of God,  I am not only responsible to face the truth of who I am and who God is, I am also called to tell every young woman in earshot the truth about the Enemy's schemes in my own life.  Just this morning, I was swapping a spiritual story with a woman in the generation after me who was searching for the truth in Buddhism and I watched as the Light of truth dawned in her eyes.  The Bible says that the truth of God's Word is the Light.  So in a world of darkness and in a young woman's inner world of darkness, I am eager to tighten the belt of truth - what about you?

"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).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Standing Firm, Standing Still

Lord, help me to be strong in you today.  What are my misconceptions about being a strong woman of God?  How do they impact my relationships with other women?  I put on the full armor You provide, Lord.  In Your presence right now, I have some decisions to make:  The devil has a scheme to bring me down, to bring others down because of me, and to separate us from each other.  I receive the FULL armor of God so that I can stand AGAINST the enemy in my relationships.  God, You are strong and You want me strong.  It doesn’t mean You want me controlling, rigid, detached, or in all things “figured out to the max.”  Your weapons made of the best materials are what give me strength.  So today, I put them on; I stand up to everything thrown my way.

 I make another decision in Your Presence as I stand strong in You today -- I  wait for You.  When I glimpse another woman’s life, envy can so easily stab at me.  Then, I feel weak, like I gave in to something I didn’t know was in me. In putting on the armor, I am waiting for You.  Being strong in You means I pray openly, not ignoring what comes to the surface.  If I think too much about putting on these invisible pieces of armor, God, even more of my weaknesses surface.  Just feeling slighted by one can make me feel unloved by all.  Suddenly, I cannot find the strength within to cope with life’s demands.  And then I remember . . .

The unseen powers of darkness are at war and if I’m not prepared for the battles, I live defeated, struggling to stand firm. 

I put on the full armor of God by pausing in Your Presence, naming each piece as Jesus hands it to me and then I pause waiting my instructions.  As I connect with other women, I pray inwardly for them to be strong in God ~ a very real reason the armor of light exists.
Ephesians 6:10-11; Joshua 1

With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” I Corinthians 15:58

Friday, May 11, 2012

Prayer: Concern for the One

“ . . . When one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community.  The woman or man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men or women might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all men and women are one at the well-spring of pain and joy . . . forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership.”  
~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Prayer in its most general sense requires a relationship where you and I are most vulnerable.  When we come to God in prayer, we are invited to open up our hands and let go of what we cling to so tightly.  For some of us, it takes time to trust; others quickly release their fears and surrender to God in unashamed freedom.

When we think about it, prayer opens us up to God’s influence and Power which can lead us in ways we never wanted to go or never thought about going.  Christ is the one who revealed to us that praying, “Not my will but Yours be done,” frees us to pray for others.  Through His prayers, countless people received their sight, lost their chains, found their peace and held their loved ones close.

“Prayer,” says Walter Hilton, “is nothing else but an ascending or getting up of the desire of the heart into God by withdrawing it from earthly thoughts.”   As the Apostle Paul so artistically writes, “For in him we live and move and have our being. . .” Acts 17:28a.  It’s easy for us to think God lavishes only a select few with the spiritual giftedness of prayer; yet, we are all filled with the Holy Spirit to pray at all times and on all occasions.

Praying for Another

Praying for another, then, is a way God cares for the one lost sheep.  It’s the capacity to be fully present with another where they are most vulnerable.  Spiritual women are distinguished by their commitment to hear God’s voice and as co-workers with Christ, we understand how to reach out in prayer, going to emotional places few are willing to go.  It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t want to pray with another. But our busy lives keep us from being available.  This makes us wonder: where do women go when they need prayer?  Do we just assume someone else has that covered or that it is her responsibility to find someone to pray for her?

Our willingness to pray for another opens us up to new realities as we don’t just say, “I will pray for you.”  Rather, we initiate and offer a place to meet opening ourselves up as a vessel of God’s deep love.  This approach to praying for another is challenging because it requires us to organize our lives in such a way that we create spaces to respond more deeply as we listen to God in prayer.  This does not discount the need for our own private prayer.  However, Scripture is clear that we are to “encourage one another daily. . . “ Hebrews 3:13.

The Challenge of Praying for Another

One of the challenges of initiating prayer for another is it can feel like boundaries are being crossed or that getting too involved risks being vulnerable ourselves.  We might feel burdened by someone’s circumstances or lack of support.  Yet, many people, especially women in leadership are longing for a way of getting into the Presence of God through prayer with someone who has spiritual commitment and guts.  Many would love the relief of prayer without the extra traveling to seek a spiritual advisor or financial expenses.  These women wonder, “Is there a person I can trust in prayer who will listen in the quiet as my pain and joy mingle?”

I believe you are that “yes!” to one woman this week or this month.  Last week, I was led to pray for a woman in our community who just lost her son to a car accident.  I could barely allow myself to think about looking into her eyes.  As she was standing before me outside her place of work, I drank in everything about her and just wept.  In those moments, I knew I was in the Presence of Christ as He stood close by her weeping for her, too.  For that moment, that was my prayer.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Big, Bold Courage for a Brand New Day!

Big, Bold Courage for a Brand New Day!

"When we have the courage to live, we find joy, for joy is the emotional expression of the courageous Yes to one's own true being."  Gordon Smith

I am writing today from a beautiful place called the Dreamgiver's Inn.  Isn't that a great name? Nestled one mile off Wilsonville Road, the Inn sits gorgeously on green hills; I can see Mt. Hood clearly.  I am preparing for a retreat next weekend and just had a strong desire to connect with you about what God has given me.

Here's the question: What is holding you back from doing all you had in mind?  It's a question I've been asking myself for some time and working through this material is helping me answer it honestly.  Because we're each created so uniquely, what we have in mind to do and what's holding us back may not look the same at all!

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients the last 12 weeks of their lives.  She recorded their dying epiphanies and writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives.  When questioned about any regrets they had, common themes surfaced again and again.  Here are the top five regrets as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, and not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I'd had let myself be happier.

You can read more of her writings on her blog called Inspiration and Chai.  But I was struck by the fact that the word "courage" was used twice in these statements.  We long for more courage, don't we?

Courage can mean, "eager to do what is in one's mind or thoughts." Sometimes we need courage to face another day because of great loss, lack of confidence, deep anxiety, or unwanted circumstances. Other times we need courage to face that person, change our daily habits, or spend more time with people who matter most.

In Joshua 14:6-15, Caleb is asking for his most difficult job to date!   Eighty-five-year old Caleb wastes no time on nostalgia or regret.  Joshua and Caleb lost 45 years of abundant living because of the Israelites’ unbelief.  Yet, according to this passage – Caleb is still the whole-hearted man following hard after God.  Remember Caleb’s response when the other spies said “we can’t do it?” He and Joshua cried out and tore their clothes.  No holding back true feelings for Joshua and Caleb; they expressed their deep disappointment.  However, these men had the courage to live the next 45 years true to God and themselves and by doing so, could confidently say, "I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous" (v. 11).

Brad and I were talking about this passage a few days ago; ironically, we are both preaching on Caleb this week.  We wondered what Caleb's daily life looked like during the years of wandering.

(any ideas?)

What did whole-heartedness look like, sound like, feel like for Caleb when he was surrounded by a complaining and disbelieving people?

Whatever held him back from doing all he had in mind to do was no longer in his way.  On that brand new day in verse 6, Caleb approached Joshua with four Spirit-planted, Spirit-grown qualities that I long for:


What holds you back from doing all you had in mind to do?  This is what I'm asking myself this week.

I pray for you by name throughout the month.  Feel free to drop me an email if you need courage for something specific!  Thank you for always praying the same for me when I ask!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Leading With Conviction

Approaching the God I love and know
Remembering what He said long ago
Old enough to hear, “servant, go!”
Young enough to explore land, return with show

Convinced of all my eyes could see
Firm understanding of strong and weak
I spoke from my convictions

Hearing the words fall from their hearts
Melting with fear those in the dark
Many from there I did part
When I spoke from my convictions

“It’s yours, fully persuaded one,”
I heard from the Holy One.
“The inheritance is yours to come
For your children not yet born
Because you spoke from your convictions.”

Days and years later am I
Fully convinced as then
With a certain can do possession
Young enough to hear, “servant, go!”
Old enough to start the show
As I speak from my convictions

Bless me Boldly, God I love
Give me Hebron as I’ve longed
Whole heart I follow hard after you
As I speak from my convictions

CONVICTION: A firmly held belief.  The quality of showing that one is firmly convinced of what one believes or says.  From the Latin: convincere.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Facing Reality

Facing Reality
As I watched my 13 year old daughter fall on her knees, head in hands, I sprinted onto the basketball court in three seconds flat.  Blood poured out her nose and mouth while my eyes never left her face wondering where she was hit.  Walking her off the court with my arms wrapped around her, I stayed behind her in case she fell backwards.  Ashen, dizzy and light headed, Annalise was not able to speak much.  Another player’s head had slammed her nose and face while they were playing basketball.  

Game Over for my daughter.

At the doctor’s office we wanted to know one thing.  Was her nose broken?  Her nose is what all of us could see and it was slightly swollen and stuffed up, blocking air flow.  Methodically, the doctor asked questions taking in as much information as she could before the actual examination.  Feeling a bit impatient, I asked aloud if her nose was broken or not.  If not, that’s great because the next day was the basketball tournament and Annalise was one of her team’s defender.  I was feeling confident that the doctor would sign the necessary paperwork for her to play. 

After all, this was a temporary, even minor sports injury, right?

Her nose was not broken and, in fact, she had sustained a concussion.  Not only was playing in the tournament out of the question, her brain needed complete rest.  According to the doctor, complete resting of the brain meant no reading, no texting, no television, no activity.  But aren’t those non-activities? I inquired, as I eyed a sullen Annalise across the examining room. Her face reflected one who just received the news that she could not do what she so passionately desired.

Moved by compassion, I started formulating a plan so she could play.  In the middle of my scheming, the doctor explained that even taking in information stresses the brain and causes it to swell. 

What is unseen to us needs to be left alone so it can renew. 
I removed my attention from what I could see to what I couldn’t see.

Resting her brain served one reason – it was best for her.  I stopped my conniving wheels from turning and accepted the reality of what I could not see.
Second Corinthians 4:16-18 (amp.) encourages us in three things that are best for us:
1)   Don’t become discouraged, weary or exhausted because your body is wasting away:  Your inner self is being renewed day after day.
2)   This slight, temporary distress and pain will pass: It’s preparing and achieving for you something glorious beyond anything we can measure!
3)   Look to the things that are unseen: They are invisible, deathless and everlasting.
When I stop taking in information all day long and let my brain rest, I daydream a little and memories come to the forefront.  As my imagination wraps around an old memory, it creates a connection to my present thoughts and circumstances.  It’s a heaven and earth intersection, and I experience eternity, I live in the invisible realm. Being all lit up with the present renews my brain and ultimately my spirit.

After the basketball tournament the next night, I talked to Annalise about how she was feeling.  It was hard for her to admit but not playing was much harder than she had imagined. Watching the game made her want to play all the more.  She ached to be fully alive on the court. Wordless, I just sat with her.  What we could see with our human eyes was that she just missed an awesome basketball game.  What we couldn’t see, what was eternal was her inner self being renewed giving her more passion beyond what she had the day before!  It’s something that cannot be calculated.

How about you?  What makes you aware that your inner self is being renewed day after day?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Belonging To God

“Pam!!!  Tennis is not an aggressive game!  It’s a graceful game,” Bellowed Neal from the other side of the court.
I was taking tennis lessons with a group of 10 women.  I loved it and I wanted to do well.  It was challenging to pay attention with a group of friends who I wanted to talk to; it was challenging to improve my skills.  On the first day, I discovered I was on the B team.  It was humbling and I accepted my position – I learned a lot from the guidelines:
·      Tennis is a gentle sport
·      Keep moving your feet
·      Wait for the ball to hit the dead zone
·      Swing all the way through
·      Use your left hand to guide how you will hit the ball
·      Tennis is a graceful sport, not an aggressive sport
·      Start over with every swing 

Taking tennis lessons reminded me of the Ten thousand hour rule from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.  His principle asserted that champions who excelled at one given skill, job or sport consistently logged 10,000 hours of practice time.  I was a long way from 10,000 hours of practicing tennis!  But what was clear was how much I improved playing tennis when I played the right way.

The game of tennis became a lesson in life to me.  Less aggression – more grace – pauses and positioning myself, less charging forward with all my might.  What would my relationships look like if I consistently logged 10,000 of practicing belonging to God? In other words, if I cried out to God first when I recognized the pain, instead of pushing through life, would it make a difference in my relationships?

During those few weeks of tennis, I realized that it really wasn’t about winning the game.  Rather, the enjoyment came each time that ball was shot into my court.  I had decisions to make, to remake, to make again, to improve and to get it.  With a few accurate instructions, I was so happy!  I’m still not good enough to play my husband and his friends, but I could not get over how those lessons given personally and consistently took me to the next level.
The instructions that monumentally impacted my game were the ones given personally to me from the instructor – even while I was still practicing my strokes with the other players, I left each day knowing what I needed to do.  And those instructions, that certainty, were gifts to me.  When I put them into practice the next day – the other players noticed that I had improved.  And I noticed how much each one of them improved.  The decisions about how tennis should be played were decided a long time ago.  I moved into the room of decision when I accepted that the game of tennis was established and guidelines put in place so the game could be played a certain way.  Simply, when I followed instructions, my tennis improved.

I was young when I moved into the room of decision and accepted that I was on my own in life.  Within five years of my family of origin falling apart, many of my extended family members died early from health problems.  As a teenager, I lived with my father and brother in our family home in Mount Laurel, New Jersey.  By the age of 14, I went from being surrounded by my mother’s Jewish relatives and my father’s Catholic relatives to having no one around.  It was abrupt.  As a young girl, I was close my parents but for health reasons and marital problems, my mom moved out of our house and my father moved into himself.  I was, emotionally speaking, on my own. Even in the middle of community, school and church life, when the people closest to me were unable to give – I felt lost and abandoned.

My teen age spirit knew something then but could only put into words as a much more whole adult:  I cannot rely on anyone else to be there for me at this level.   I resolved to not burden others.  Little did I realize the decisions I was making would impact my future in life and in relationships.  Later, when I was living in healthy close relationships, I would see that I didn’t have to stop receiving from others.  Belonging to Him came with benefits that He wants to give me.

 Christ has given personal instructions for me based on decisions He made in the past.  Yet, the prerequisite before I could receive the Five Unfailing Gifts of love is this:
·      His hands made me and formed me (Psalm 139; Psalm 119: 73). 
·      Like the Psalmist, I needed to decide that “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. . .  and He will not abandon the works of His hands (Psalm 138:8 ). 
·      Or in my times of searing pain I needed Job’s decisive spirit that asks, “If your hands shaped me and made me, will you now turn and destroy me?” 
·      In this room of new decisions, we mortals are not more pure than our Maker and I needed to practice Belonging to God.

Why would I resist decisions made by Someone like that?
I resist because I am distracted.
What I am distracted from is hearing that I belong to God!   I am distracted from hearing this every day. 

I can still hear the faint voices of our tennis team on those crisp summer mornings . . .  “it’s a gentle sport. . . . wait, wait, wait. . . .all the way through . . . use your left hand to guide. . .  start over . . .”  Those instructions, repeated over and over, were reminders to me that I was playing tennis; those instructions refocused me on the courts and I remembered where I belonged at that moment.