Determined Discipline

Sunday, March 01, 2015  ::   8 important comments

Through the years I've started and not finished many hobbies from photography to learning to play the bass or the banjo. You see, I'm an ideas person. I can have ideas until the cows come home. Lately, my mind as been swimming with so many potential good visions. Sometimes I wish I could simply put the ideas in a bowl, add some sugar, flour, and eggs, pour them into a pan, and turn them all into completed accomplishments.

A couple of the ideas I've had I really want to see through. But they are both BIG ideas. It will take so much prayer and discipline. And I'm a little scared. Actually, so scared that I don't even want to tell anyone about them because I'm afraid I can't accomplish them, and then I will feel flakey or worse, like a failure.

But, at the same time I'm so thankful for new thoughts and plans. When I was in my 20s, I heard someone say that most people stop learning new things when they are in their 30s and just coast to the end of their lives living off the few years of accumulated head knowledge they've managed to gain. It alarmed/pushed me into determined discipline to position myself as a learner for the rest of my life. Notice the words: determined discipline. Learning can sometimes begin accidentally, but it must continue with effort and intentionality. Continued ideas, vision, and direction are some sweet fruits of learning.

As you might have guessed it, I believe learning for a follower of Jesus begins with time spent in the Bible. Reading it, hearing it, studying it, meditating on it, and of course, memorizing it. I hope those of you that are joining in this accountability group are not just spending time memorizing verses. You will be one lopsided person if that is all you are doing. You must take this one ingredient and mix it will all the other aspects of taking in His Word to grow into an accomplished learner full of vision and ideas from Jesus.

Do you have the notion that all of this should be easy? Were you hoping that taking in His Word and obeying would come automatically or naturally? Did you know it would take effort? Listen, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But the truly challenging and changing stuff of life takes real work. The gate is narrow, not just for the Kingdom, but for many good things in this life. So keep up the good, hard, soul-changing work! You will continually reap the fruit of learning, my friends. I know it to be true.

I'm still working on 2 Timothy 3:1-7. I have verses one through four down, but five is still tripping me up, so I'm going to keep working on it. I'm hoping to have the whole passage down by the end of the month because six and seven will be easy for me to remember. If you've been around me at all, you've heard me get preachy about these two.

2 Timothy 3:6-7 
For among them are those that creep into households and capture weak-willed women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at the knowledge of truth. 

Which that last phrase puts a whole new aspect onto being a learner, doesn't it? To be a faithful-to-Jesus learner, we must fix our eyes on Him or we "learn" all kinds of things but never arrive at the knowledge of the TRUTH! That makes me shiver. I don't want the ways of this dark world to worm their way into my mind, heart, or home. I want to be a learner with ideas, vision, and direction from the Spirit of God!

Now it's your turn. Please post the verses you are memorizing and/or studying.

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Do you see yourself as a teachable person? In what ways do you learn from God and from others? What have you been learning lately? 

May your life be enriched through determined discipline, my friends! 

To Build Up or Destroy, the Choice is Yours

Wednesday, February 11, 2015  ::   5 important comments

**trigger warning**

There is so much from the world that comes against purity and holiness and marriage. I spent some time reading through the stats of how many people have read 50 Shades of Grey and how many people are expected to see the movie and my heart and head just hurt. To live in a time where women and children are sexually exploited, where children are abused, where story after story of rape on college campuses with very little done to prosecute and punish abound, yet books and movies like this become best sellers absolutely astounds me. I cannot for the life of me understand why any women at all would want to subject herself to such insidiousness.

I can already hear some of you asking why I would have such a strong opinion without having read the book. Well, first, I'm not stupid or naive. I've read the reviews and anything that promotes the domination of women in sex is not uplifting or treasuring to us which I know is not God's design. Second, I do not have to drink arsenic to know it will kill me. Third, I've been married to one man who deeply treasures me for 20 years. The intimacy between us is far greater than anything the distorted world has to offer. There you have it: I'm not stupid, I don't drink poison, and my marriage is healthy, which I believe, gives me a voice you should heed.

Friends, please, please do not be weak-willed in your faith and understanding of who God desires for you to be. Do not give into filling your heart, mind, and soul with this movie.

Marriage takes real work. It requires honesty, integrity, communication, commitment, selflessness, understanding, compassion, diligence, and much, much more. What's interesting is so much of what happens in a marriage can be viewed by friends, neighbors, family. How you keep your house, how you parent your children, how you spend your money, even how you bicker and argue can be observed by others. But, there is one thing that is for you and your spouse only, one private aspect of your marriage that should include absolutely no one else.

Sexual intimacy was created for two people who have covenanted together to spend the rest of their days living life in such a way that displays and gives witness to how Jesus Christ loves the church. 

Because marriage was created to show the world how much Jesus loves us, Satan (the DLB), a very real and present enemy absolutely hates marriage. He continually shows how he seeks to destroy us. If genuine intimacy was created to be experienced between one man and one woman, he is doing his best to steal, kill, and destroy it. Again, abuse, exploitation, perversion in the form of pornography all set themselves up to be the exact contradiction to what intimacy is meant to be.

And, the DLB is cunning. He knows that many of us believe we are strong enough to withstand abusing someone or becoming addicted to porn, so he creates subtle distortions through stories that appeal to humanity, to our thirst for relationships, attention, fantasy. A racy make-out scene here, a Car'ls Jr/Hardy's commercial there. A TV show where 25 single women make out with the same guy here, or a mall store with boobs and underwear in our faces there. It is everywhere and we buy it hook, line, and sinker... but slowly, not knowing that we are being boiled in our own pot of hypocrisy, numbness, and smut.

One verse that has been so wrongly used in the Christian sub-culture world of dating is Proverbs 4:23. Come on, finish it for me: Above all else guard...  Yep. I know you've heard it. Maybe you've even quoted it when you were dating someone, or about to break up with someone. Or maybe you've thrown it in the face of your friend when you felt like they were loving too much too soon. But let's reclaim it today for the sake of what it truly means.

Proverbs 4:23 
Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. 

Whatever you put into your heart, mind, and soul, will eventually come out. (Luke 6:45)

If you put humility in your heart, serving others will spill out of you.

If you guard your heart with thankfulness, your well will not run dry with entitlement.

If you fill yourself up with patience, you will flow with kindness.

Likewise,

If you allow gossip to enter your heart, you will soon think of yourself higher than you ought.

If you engage in political hatred, you alienate people Jesus asks you to love.

If you shut yourself off from community, the well of your soul will feel isolated and alone.

Deeper still,

If you take in content through the internet, books, or movies that does not lift your soul, you will crave more, lust for more, soon be ensnared.

If you do not guard the sexual intimacy of your marriage, you will grow dissatisfied with your spouse and distance between you is inevitable, and you will seek it in other ways.

If you are not married and you seek to satisfy desires for relational intimacy apart of Jesus and purposeful community, you will become a target for the DLB to fill your heart with lies of entitlement, shame, rejection, and regret.

People, let us guard our hearts! Why exchange the truth for a lie? Why believe unholy thoughts that set themselves up against the knowledge of God? Why continue to learn about the stuff of this world but never arrive at the knowledge of the Truth?

Guard intimacy in your marriage. It is the only thing that is just for you and your spouse. It is a gift to be treasured and guarded, the point at which you can come together, recalibrate, refocus, refresh. Do not let anything in this world come into what was meant for just you and your life mate. If you need resources to help you grow in your understanding of intimacy with your spouse, email me.

If you are not married, guard your heart. The drive for sex can only be fully quenched in marriage. Love satisfies. Lust craves. Love gives. Lust takes. Love enables true intimacy. Lust kills true intimacy. Love protects. Lust destroys. Love builds your heart. Lust destroys your heart. Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

If you are a follower of Jesus, do not watch or read 50 Shades of Grey.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, guard your heart, too! Fill your mind and heart with life-giving, humanity-lifting wisdom. Do not watch 50 Shades of Grey.

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Many, many blessings to your heart! May Jesus satisfy your deepest needs to be known, loved, and treasured.

The Daily Battle

Saturday, February 07, 2015  ::   10 important comments

He did not do many mighty works among them because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58

These words have chased me for the last few years. Three years ago I began to ask God to increase my faith, teach me not just to believe in Him, but to believe Him. Like so many people who pray that prayer, I did not know what the cost of asking for more faith would mean for me. Soon after begging God for more faith, my family and I faced a health situation that would require me to quiet my fears, trust Him with my family, and take a year sabbatical to heal and to learn to just be with God.

I learned good, rich lessons of resting, and being with Jesus, of trusting Him, obeying Him in the day to day walk of life.  But, let me be honest with you, as the time between that sweet rest grows, there are more and more days when I wonder if I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing, wondering if I should be doing more. The funny thing is I know what I'm passionate about, investing in women and teaching them to do the same. I love telling people about Jesus and experiencing life transformation with them. But sometimes. Oh those sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if I am enough, if there is more, if I 'm missing something.

Yesterday Jennie Allen started the If: Gathering by challenging us with faith. There was so much passion and urgency erupting out of her. As she talked of Joshua and Caleb's faith the story was building in my heart again, am I doing what I should be doing or is there more? And then the answer came.

This faith, this life, our lives are to be spent for the Gospel, for the souls of men!

"We are at war and the prize is faith! There is nothing more damaging to hell! If God is real then let's go take the land. It isn't in the measure of our faith. It is in the measure of our immeasurable God!" -Jennie Allen

Friends, this is the stuff of daily living! This is not only the big adventure to do big things in the eyes of people. It is opening your mouth to your co-worker, your classmate, your roommate, your mom, your brother, those with whom you are in contact every day. Every normal, mundane day of your life is the actual battle!

I often believe the lie that my life is small, but I am living out my faith with my family and church in Tucson, AZ where 90% of the people are unchurched. Another level of freedom came to me during Jennie's message yesterday. The battle is for the souls of the people in my every day life. In head knowledge I know this truth. Now I'm asking God to make it a reality in the experiential knowledge of my soul. If I am not willing to fight the daily battle then I am no true warrior. Ann Voskamp summed it up at the end of the night perfectly for me as she led us in confession. Forgive me for wanting a calling bigger than my character.

Jesus, help me, help us be faithful with the few. Help me battle in the everyday. Let my character run deep. Let me long for you so much more than I long to do work for you.

Increase our faith. Please do many mighty works among us because our faith pleases you!

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What challenges your faith? Who do you need to tell about Jesus? Have you considered the measure of your character compared to the calling you desire? 

May rich blessings of faith grow in your heart as you do what He's asked you to do! 


Soul Care

Thursday, February 05, 2015  ::   6 important comments

Beautiful words filled my mind when the alarm went off this morning. 

I've spent this week wondering: Wondering why Alysa gave me her IF: Gathering ticket. Wondering what to expect. Wondering about the women in the IF Facebook groups. Wondering what God has for me. Wondering what to expect or even if I should have expectations. Wondering if God has something to teach me, show me, tell me. Wondering. 

Yesterday I focused on laying all the wonderings down. The God of the Universe owes me nothing. Jesus is enough. His presence in my life is a gift of His unfailing love. As I faded into sleep and whispered the dreamy prayers of my heart, I confessed to Jesus that the break from routine and sitting in His presence this weekend was enough for me.  

At 6:05 the alarm buzzed, and my mind was instantly full. 

"I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope; my soul waits for the Lord, more than watchman wait for morning, more than watchman wait for morning." Psalm 130:5-6

"My soul finds rest in God alone. My salvation comes from Him." Ps 62:1

"My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods, with singing lips my mouth will praise you." Ps 63:3

Turns out my true desire for this weekend is to rest in Jesus, to have little to no responsibility, to just be with Him. The burden of expectations has been lifted.

I'm already breathing more deeply and slowly, enjoying the slowed rhythm of waiting. My soul rests and waits. He will satisfy me, not the music, not the speakers, not the women with whom I interact. I trust He will use those good things, but He doesn't need to. He is enough. 



Practice to Truly Live

Sunday, February 01, 2015  ::   13 important comments

To carry out an activity habitually or regularly is to practice. What in your life is something for which you desire proficiency? For me, exercise, baking, and even parenting are parts of my life that demand consistent practice. I've tasted the cookies of people that only bake once in a blue moon. Usually, one bite is plenty. Lone crumbs on the plate after a party give great evidence that someone has practiced baking their favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Practice. 

Our spiritual lives require this important discipline. The more I practice praying, the more I realize I'm truly talking to God with no pretense, fear, or entitlement. Kindness grows as we practice seeing the needs of those around us. Generosity grows as we practice meeting those needs. John Ortberg wrote a book teaching about the purpose in training for the life you want verses simply trying to obtain it. (Consider reading this good book.) 

Of course you know I'm going to say the same is true in memorizing scripture. The more you practice, your ability to remember verses will grow. The more you practice, your ability to apply them to your everyday life will grow. The more you practice, your ability to calm your heart and mind, obey a prompting of the Spirit, and even spontaneously pray scripture will grow and grow and grow. 

Unfortunately, many of us as children took the word "practice" and put it in the negative word folder of our minds. How many of you were forced to practice piano or violin? Did you just shiver a little bit? For me, it was practicing math facts. Just typing that sentence made my lip snarl and nostrils flare. Ick. Well can we just please stop a minute and reclaim the beautiful word of practice? How about these words: 

Review, carry out, persist, work out, get in there, make progress, labor, and my favorite, do your thing! 

A few times a week, say the verse you are memorizing out loud over and over. A few times a week practice remembering the verses you already know by reviewing them. This practice makes the power of His word a very tangible reality in our hearts, minds, and souls. Don't you desire this fruit in your life? I do. I so so SO want this in my life and in yours. 

Click on this photo, so you can get a good glimpse at theses dates. I've been practicing my verses for many, many moons.
You will have to look closely, but there are some antique cards in that pile. 1991! Raise your hand if that card is older than you. Yes. I know. Quite a few of you. Amazingly, I still know each of those verses because I PRACTICE them regularly and have been since I learned them! So whatever your method is, review should be a vital part of your practice. 

This next photo is only a point of encouragement. Jeremiah 9:24 says, "Let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows me." I'm not promoting my skills, but wanting to show you what your heart, mind, and soul can take in if you practice. 
Review your verses, friends. REVIEW YO VERSES! Practice. Practice remembering. Practice learning. Practice living. Practice loving. Practice being. And then when you practice doing, your heart and mind will be set on heavenly things where Christ is seated at the right hand of God, not on earthly things. (Colossians 3:1-2)

This month I'm continuing to take in the passage in 2 Timothy about how the world will be full of junk worming its way into weak-willed women's homes. I'll be working on verses 3 through 5. 

2 Timothy 3:3-5
heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 

Such "happy" verses, aren't they? A good explanation of all of this will be written up soon. I promise. 

Please post what you will be memorizing and/or practicing this month. I can't wait to read what you have to say! 

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What are you memorizing? Are you reviewing? How are you practicing what you are learning? 

Blessings in your practice, my friends! 

Pruning, Growing, and Death and Hell

Friday, January 30, 2015  ::   3 important comments

The past few months have been fairly challenging for me and my family. Recently, I've said several times that Second Mile is being pruned. When we first moved to Tucson, an older, well-meaning, pastor's wife took me to the side and spoke to me with an intentional, sober tone with words of the necessity of building a fortress around my family, protecting my husband and my kids, because "the church" would destroy us if I didn't. Whoa. At that stage of my life, I listened to her with a sad curiosity of what made her say such things to me, but easily dismissed them and pushed the roots of my desire to love people and welcome them into my home and family even deeper. So, for ten years that's what I've done.

Recently, I faced a circumstance that brought that women back to my memory. I thought of her with new understanding as I dealt with something that made almost everything within me want to turn inward, to build a fortress around my family, to "protect" my husband and kids. There is no telling what that sweet woman had faced through the years, what her husband or family had endured, or even what she was currently dealing with, but I was facing very real thoughts of enough is enough. I have enough people in my life. There are enough people in our church. There is enough work to do. There are enough problems to deal with. Enough. Taking those dark thoughts captive felt like a work-out of heavy weight lifting. My heart muscle is still a little sore from it all. 

"I am the vine and my Father is the Gardner. He cuts off every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2

Did you know that when a church is pruned, the leaders are probably also being pruned? It is good, painful, stretching, pulling, holy work for both the church and her leaders. The result: new, fresh, beautiful fruit. In my own life, I can see the buds of the fruit of new, fresh, beautiful desire to have more and more new people in my home and around my family, but with a deeper, richer dependance on God with my eyes set on him. I am working to learn to trust that as he uses my family to be hospitable, he will be the fortress around us, that he will truly protect my husband and kids. Sweet relief. 

"I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I remain in you, you will bear much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:5

And for Second Mile? Well, we are growing! There are so many new faces each Sunday that it is difficult to meet everyone, and Second Milers are engaging with these people! It isn't left on Chad's or my shoulders. In fact, we can hardly meet anyone new because so many people are talking with them! It's fresh, beautiful fruit! I'm thankful and waiting with a holy awe of what God is doing among us.

To top it off, we just finished our annual week of prayer and fasting. More people than ever fully participated as we prayed for wisdom, for potential changes, for the ability to be radically hospitable. After our prayer gathering I was standing around 5-7 young people in their twenties, all of whom had fasted for an entire week. Rich, beautiful, God-pleasing fruit. 

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples." John 15:8

In my very biased opinion, Chad has been bringing it on Sunday evenings! I think his teaching is getting better and better. My friend, Anna, once said about Chad's teaching, that she loves the times when it is obvious when Chad is talking but she knows it's actually the Holy Spirit speaking. I love it, too.  If you want to learn more about Jesus through the book of Hebrews, I encourage you to watch or listen to the series

However, in the spirit of learning to allow God to be my protector, I'm going to take this opportunity to defend myself. Wait. What? But in all silliness, in Chad's amazing teaching there have been a couple of times recently that he only half represented me to all the new people that are coming to Second Mile which brought good laughter from the crowd. I want to finish off this post by offering the rest of the story, an extra piece of fruit, if you will. Don't worry, I am not hurt in the least. If you listen to Chad talking about me and can't tell that he loves me, you aren't really listening. 

A few Sundays ago he was talking about my ability to relate with people. He often greatly encourages and praises me for my relational skills. I love when he points out some way I've specifically loved someone. He's my biggest fan. My family calls me Barbara Walters because they constantly witness people I don't even know telling me very profound things about their lives and crying as they speak to me. It's true. People often cry when they talk to me. I like to think it is because they know I'm safe, that I genuinely care, that they are laying down some of the burden they carry. Chad decided he should tell everyone on a Sunday night that if they talk to me, I will make them cry. Fantastic. People avoided eye contact with me the rest of the night. Just kidding. Sort of. 

This last Sunday Chad announced to everyone that I'm especially gifted at telling my kids they deserve death and hell. That's it. Mr. Detail left out the important details! It was in the middle of good words, and there was appropriate laughter. But, listen, there is a reason this is one of my life mottos. That's right, "I/we deserve death and hell" is a life motto and, in my opinion, for a very good reason. 

Our culture is such an entitled, selfish, bratty, obese creature, so to remind myself I don't "deserve" anything, but instead remember that all good things are gifts of God's grace to me, when I get greedy and selfish I tell myself what I could be getting (death and hell) and then start to thank God for the bountiful goodness that I have. So when my kids rear their selfish sides and try to tell me what they "deserve", I simply and calmly ask them what they actually deserve (death and hell), and then ask them to tell me some things they are thankful for. My hope and goal is to raise humans that are grateful, thankful, and content instead of little "I deserve" monsters. Capeesh? 

What's the point of these words spilling out of my heart? A few things: 

Pruning in me is producing a deeper dependance on God with a commitment to love people and serve the church. It is good and I like it.  

Second Mile is growing. People are going deeper in their own faith, and many new people are blessing us with their presence. I'm hoping people will want to link arms with us and do big things for Jesus in Tucson and the world. 

If you are new, I will try really hard not to make you cry or tell you that you deserve death and hell. 

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What about you? Have you experienced any pruning lately? What are you learning? Do you having any funny quirks you would be willing to share with us? 

Much pruning and many blessings to you! 

To Not Be the Same

Thursday, January 01, 2015  ::   19 important comments

One of the good things that happened in 2014 is that I took a beginner's running class. The coaches helped and encouraged me along to my first goal of running a 5K in November. Many people have asked me how I did in the race. Well, I made the classic first race mistake and went out too fast in the beginning, and then by the end I needed to go to the restroom so bad I wasn't sure I would make it to the finish line or the bathroom. Yikes. So, my answer to all the askers became, "Well, I finished and I didn't poop my pants, so I did great!" You should see the faces at my response. It's fantastic. 

When I first started running (what I really mean is jogging at a pace that you could probably walk next to me), my head was filled with negativity. I asked Kyle what he thinks about while running, and he pretty much just thinks about running. I told him about my ugly self thoughts and he gently put his hand on my shoulder, and with tenderness and compassion spoke truth to me. "Mom, you have to stop doing that. You can do this!" He was so right, so I focused on new thought-life exercises while I exercised my body. I prayed for everything I could think of. I thanked God for every single thing that came to mind. And my favorite, I started reviewing every verse I could remember that I've ever memorized. Guess what? My negative self-chastisement no longer plagues me while I'm running. I can run free in my mind. 

Psalm 121 and Psalm 139 have been mediated on and quoted in my mind and heart over and over and over since my running journey began. I've had both passages memorized since college, but this fall, God showed me new and powerful truths in each passage. Once again God has used scripture memory in my life to bring about transformation, and I am humbled and grateful. 

This past Sunday, my wonderful, intelligent, bible-loving, pastor, husband stuck it to me through his message. The title grabbed me immediately: Longing and Expecting to Not Be the Same. He used verse after verse to remind me how much I need and want transformation of ideas and images I hold that are lie-based or culturally-based and not founded on the truth of Christ. Through the message I was once again challenged to press into the Word of God through reading, listening, studying, meditating, and memorizing. 

Therefore, I decided to start up the scripture memory accountability we shared on this blog a couple of years ago. This is going to be so good for us! Each month on the first, I will post some sort of blog about scripture memory, what I'm learning, suggested verses to memorize...anything that comes to my random mind. Then every month on the first or the few days following, you will leave a comment with the one or two verses you are memorizing for the month. Make sense? 

You should set a goal for how many verses you want to learn each month. I would suggest with starting with two verses per month for the first two to three months. If you find it's too easy, then maybe decide to learn one per week. When I was in college I memorized a verse a day, and retained them by reviewing them regularly. You can do this. Please don't tell me you can't or I get all Jillian Michaels on you and start encouraging/yelling at you that YES YOU CAN AND I DON'T WANT TO EVER HEAR THE WORDS "I CAN'T" AGAIN! But if you're too tender for a Jillian experience, I will just hold your hand and tell you that you absolutely can because God wants to transform your heart and mind so he will enable you to do this. 

If you would like more information on the process of how this will work, please go to this blog post that I wrote in January of 2011. It will be helpful. If you have questions, leave them in the comments or send me a personal message. I am absolutely wanting to help you grow and become more like Christ. One thing I know for sure is I'm passionate about mentoring and this is a very practical way to mentor many of you at the same time. 

One last thing, for the next few months I will be working on memorizing one of my life passages. It is funny that I've never committed this to memory, so it is time for me to stop making excuses and make it happen. For January I will work on 2 Timothy 3:1-2.

2 Timothy 3:1-2 
But understand this,  that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy

Such an encouraging passage to start 2015 with, don't you think? Whoa. 

Ok, here we go! I can't overstate it. I'm excited to do this with you! Please comment with what you are memorizing and any other lovely things you would like to say. And don't forget to let me know if you need help. Helping is my favorite. 

Blessings to each of you as we start brand spanking new year!