A Beautiful Mysterious Cycle

Tuesday, November 24, 2015  ::   2 important comments

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  Ephesians 1:16

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and strengthen in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  1 Thessalonians 5:18

A little over a month ago, I taught about some verses in Ephesians chapter one at Retreat de Moxie. On my knees, I begged and begged God to do deep, rich work in the lives of the women with whom I would journey to the mountain. Now, I imagine him smiling at me while I prayed, whispering, "Just wait until you see the deep, rich work I'm doing in your life, dear one." 

During the retreat the theme "Continually thankful, continually prayerful" came up over and over again. I can't begin to express what these words have come to mean to me. 
The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. The one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!  Psalm 50:23

I've questioned the meaning of thanksgiving as a sacrifice since I memorized the verse over a year ago. What could it mean? How is being thankful sacrificial? Sacrifice means to give something up that you especially want to keep. What would it look like in my life to be sacrificially thankful in order to glorify God? 

Bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition sometimes taunt me. James 3 uses these words to describe the wisdom of the world that is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. Comparison, hurt feelings by not being considered the way I hope to in friendships, frustrations as a leader, or even simply wanting to be included rob me of experiencing wisdom that "comes from above." 

As the Holy Spirit worked in my heart over the last few months, I'm experientially learning deep in my guts that thankfulness increases wisdom. 

          Wisdom in how I respond in relationships.
          Wisdom in keeping my gaze on Jesus and not on the world. 
          Wisdom in joy as I journey this life. 
          Wisdom in thankfulness as I pray for anything and everything that pops into my mind.

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17 

Offering thanksgiving consistently, sincerely, and continually teaches me to give up to God what I hold most dear. Thanking God for my family reminds my soul they are his. Being thankful for the ability to run, cook, host, mentor, and do all I love to do reminds me that he created me and I belong to him. Offering thanksgiving for the people in my life, the people I pass day to day, the bagger at the grocery store who talks with me each time he sees me reminds me God loves people more than my mind can fathom. Thanking God for the times of great difficulty in my life reminds me he works through adversity to make me like his Son. 

The sacrifice of thankfulness continues to acknowledge all we have is his. He gives to us out of his goodness. He takes from us out of his goodness. When we are thankful it is an act of acknowledging apart from him, we have no good thing. And then, all he gives to us, we freely sacrifice back to him as a worshipful act of thanksgiving. It's a beautiful, mysterious cycle that glorifies God. 

Is it beginning to make sense? Are we thankful for the sake of gaining our own warm fuzzies or are we thankful in order to testify to his benevolence in our lives and our sacrifice of all things we hold dear to follow him? 

In my experience these few months, as I've been more thankful, prayer has increased. As gratitude increases contentment increases. As appreciativeness grows I'm more open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit. When contented thanksgiving fills my heart, I feel peaceable and gentle. The fruit of his Spirit increases, and bitterness, envy, and selfish ambition in my life decrease. 

Thankfulness grows, prayer grows. Prayer grows, thankfulness grows. And the fruit I didn't anticipate in all of this is wisdom from above which is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."
How are you growing in thankfulness? When you find yourself frustrated with someone or something would you be willing to try to spend a moment being thankful instead of hurt? In what ways have you grown in your ability to be continually thankful and continually prayerful? 

I'm so thankful for you, dear one. It blesses me richly when you read my words. 

Static Stories Die

Tuesday, November 17, 2015  ::   1 important comment

A few months ago my good friend, John DeSoto, preached a message at Second Mile about the power of story. As an Emmy award winning camera man, he continues to cultivate his craft of story telling, mostly through video. John's temperament is gentle, compelling, warm, and engaging. When I'm around him I find myself calm and content. His videos of the story of people's lives create the same calm, content response in my heart and mind. Here is one of my favorite examples:

ADVENT 01_HOPE from John DeSoto on Vimeo.

One sentence from John's message endures in my mind:

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."

I'm constantly a walking paradox, and in this instance the truth of my inward battle rings true. On one hand, the thought of a life, a family, a church that lacks movement and vitality makes me nauseous. Stagnant water stinks, therefore, I believe a stagnant life also stinks. On the other hand, I often balk at change because of fear of the unknown or lack of control it creates. But, at the end of the day would I rather swim in a mirky, green, smelly pond or a beautiful, clear, fresh water oasis?
The answer should be obvious, but the truth is I often desire to choose the stagnant life.

As my family grows and changes, the unknown freaks me out as I obsess about the future.

As my relationships grow and change, insecurity rears its ugly head.

As my marriage grows and changes, difficulties in learning to communicate effectively challenges me to my core.

As my church grows and changes, fear of 'can we even keep up with it all' overwhelms me.

I know I'm not alone in these sentiments. Change is so very difficult for some of us. It threatens our sense of belonging, our entitlements to how we've always done things, our desire to be in the know, and our perceived importance and rank.

But, thanks be to God he did not leave me as he found me.

Philippians 1:6 
Be confident of this that he who who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion unit the day of Christ Jesus. 

Isaiah 43:19 
Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wildness and streams in the desert. 

1 Corinthians 6:11 
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of our God. 

He calms my soul in the midst of great change as I rest in the fact that he never changesHe is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and he never changes his mind.

Rest assured, dear ones, change is good. If relationships and circumstances go static, the story dies. Let's link arms and celebrate change in each other's lives as it is the goodness of God working and acting in us to make us more like Jesus. Let it be so of me!

Here is an incomplete list of good, difficult, refining changes happening in and around me:

  • My kids are growing more and more independent.
  • Kyle is about to be driving.
  • Esther no longer lives under my roof.
  • Our house is in constant renovation.
  • Chad and I have been married for 20 years and our communication, especially in conflict, provides opportunity for growth.
  • Friends move away.
  • New friends come into my life.
  • Old friends leave my life.
  • Second Mile is growing in people, in responsibility, and in depth.
  • Second Mile has its own building which provides great change in so many areas.
  • Learning to lead in the big picture and not only in relationships stretches me.
The list could go on, as I'm sure your list of life changes could, too. And, by all means, my heart and soul eagerly hope for the fresh waters of change, but the weakness of my heart and flesh often jump in the murky waters of sameness.  Our only hope is to trust God who wills and acts in our lives according to his good purpose.

"Change is fundamental in stories. If things go static, the story dies."


How do you deal with change? Do you embrace it or flee? How do you train yourself to get out of the stagnant waters and embrace fresh water? What changes are you facing now, personal or otherwise? What character trait of God do you cling to in times of change? 

Comments are my love language so feel free to jump in and add your two cents and/or answer one or more of the questions. 

Many blessings to you as God brings change in your life to help you depend on him more deeply! 

Bandwagons and My Crazy Flag

Wednesday, November 04, 2015  ::   5 important comments

For twelve years I sweat my way through teaching a wide variety of fitness classes. Step aerobics, weight training, spinning, and even chair classes. Engaging with people and learning their stories was my favorite. Helping people grow in physical health by kicking their butts in class gave me great pleasure.

Every January I had a love/hate relationship with the various clubs in which I instructed classes. To see so many newly resolved exercisers bearing down with grit, determination, and focus created the best kind of fitness energy. But, I also experienced loss when all my new bffs fell off the work-out wagon in March.

It's all too easy to jump on a train bound for personal growth. However, when you realize the train is actually only going around the corner to drop you off with some gloves, a shovel, and an instruction manual detailing the fact you have to work it out, grit disappears, determination turns to dreariness, and focus blurs to indifference.

A month ago, 80 of us retreated to the mountains for our annual getaway. For a few months leading up to the retreat, God stirred in my heart a desire to spur women towards deeper intimacy with him through scripture, prayer, and community. To be honest, I had pulled way back on my wearing sackcloth and eating locusts in the desert raving lunatic way of life. I feared I was wasting my breath, getting on people's nerves, or worse, wounding people who struggled deeply.

Thanks to the work of God in my life and to my good friend, Beth Moore, I'm over it. I've put my itchy prophet clothes back on and I'm out waving my crazy flag again. Aren't you so glad?

Through the teaching of Beth, God reminded me that loving people isn't enough. Truth is an important part of the equilibrium of investment. Without truth, love becomes an idol, an excuse, and even an enabler. Truth is not oppressive or crushing. Truth and love bring restoration and rest for our souls.

So, friends, let me say it again with fresh fervor: discipline results in growth, health, contentment, and freedom.

As you know, I believe scripture memory is a key discipline in taking in the Bible. When you use it in conjunction with reading, studying, hearing, and meditation, your life will be transformed. I know too many people for whom this is true, so you cannot argue with me. You can try, but I won't listen. Make all the excuses you want, but while you're wallowing in the mire, I'll be over here beckoning you to get out of the poop and into biblical life/mind/heart transformation.

At the retreat, around 50 women shocked me by showing up to a little side seminar to learn my scripture memory system. Yesterday someone told me that a young woman is still at it, and has jumped to two verses a week because I said if one was too easy, add another! Yes!

When you are sitting around with a bunch of friends, the scripture memory bandwagon beckons. But, being back in your job, studying for exams, taking care of family quickly jumps in front of the importance of caring for your own soul. Like all my bffs in my fitness classes, let me compel you to keep at it. Don't give up. If you are tempted to give up, memorize Galatians 6:9 this month. The train has dropped you off with your gloves, shovel, and instruction manual. Don't be surprised. Just get to work. I'll be right beside you. We can cheer one another on.

Are you still at it? How's your grit, determination, and focus? How many of you still need a packet? Does anyone need more cards? Do you need help? I love to help with this because I can't do it for you. It's all you and Jesus, the very best teacher and only true life-changer.

Through November I'm memorizing a couple of verses. I took my own advice after the retreat and memorized an extra one in October because my brain was up for the challenge. Maybe I can do the same in November. We shall see. Here are my November verses:

2 Timothy 4:7 
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 

I so want this to be true of my life, so I'm writing it on my heart to focus my hopes into discipline and determination.

Acts 2:17 
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 

I often focus on the last days being difficult times, so I'm memorizing this as a reminder that the God gives us everything we need for life and godliness through his Spirit.


What about you? Let's encourage each other by posting our verses. Comment here or leave a comment on Facebook. Again, please let me know if you need help. 

I'm so continually thankful and continually prayerful for each of you. I'll keep asking God to enlighten the eyes of our hearts!