Monday, August 14, 2017

A Wisdom Seeker and a Heart Keeper

Oh, how I want to be a "wisdom seeker and a heart keeper." Below, I share the ways I'm being led to practice just that in my life. Do I fail? Oh, yes. But I'm determined to keep practicing! 

  • Seek wisdom. 

In times of conflict, confusion and chaos no matter where it's played out - in my own heart, family or community - I want to pray & receive wisdom. Then, use that wisdom to determine what and when to speak up or when to keep silent. 

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere." - James 3:17 

  • Examine motivation. 

Everyone is motivated by something. Don't be blind to this. The motivation may be pure and loving or it may be self-serving and attention seeking. More often it's a mix. But before I'm too harsh with what I perceive the motivation of others, I ought to examine my own.

"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23 

  • Detest pride. 

I'm not talking about healthy confidence but "pride" in oneself that causes you to have a "know it all" or "never wrong" or "my way's better" attitude. First, I ought to deplore that kind of pride when I see it in myself. 

"A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them." - Proverbs 14:3 

  • Don't rush to judgment. 

Rarely is truth revealed right away. When we rush to judgment before a matter has unfolded, we usually end up falling in a ditch - either on one "side" or the "other." It's tempting to jump up on my little soapbox and spout off what I perceive "all ya'll" ought to do. It's better to "pause and pray before I sway" others with my words. I could be wrong. Possibly. It happens. 

"Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” - John 7:24 

These are disciplines I'm trying my best to work into my life. I've been guilty of snap judgments in the past. Then I've needed to repent. I've been guilty of opening my big ol' mouth when I should have remembered sometimes silence really is golden. I've been guilty of getting my dander stirred when I should have walked away.  But maybe that's just me. All I know is, as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ, His Spirit IN me can make me better than "me."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When You Can't Feel Your Way Out, Behave Your Way Out!

I'm convinced that every person who has lived a few years has, at some point, felt passed over.
You didn't get the job, the promotion, the role, the recognition...the (fill in the _________).

Whatever it is you want, desire, or feel is "right" that you don't get, hurts. The feeling may be disguised as anger but at the heart - it's "hurt."

And hurt is hard to just get over. And yet you must. Because worse than "hurt" is "bitter." Hurt that is not dealt with can easily lead to bitterness.

Bitterness is divisive, destructive - dangerous.

For a Christian, the priority must always be a pure heart before God AND right relationships with other believers. These two issues are so much more important than any other single thing.

When "pure" is used in the New Testament, it is the Greek word, "katharos" and it means "clean," "blameless," and "unstained of guilt." It can refer to that which is purified by fire or by pruning.

Cultivating a pure heart > real hurt. 

Regardless of how you feel, no matter if you're right or wrong or simply have a different viewpoint, if you don't deal with your "hurt," in a godly way, you risk the root of bitterness destroying any fruit you've produced.

Read that again.

Regardless of how you feel, no matter if you're right or wrong or simply have a different viewpoint, if you don't deal with your "hurt," in a godly way, you risk the root of bitterness destroying any fruit you've produced. 

So, you're dealing with your hurt feelings and possibly confusion and, yes, even anger. You can't help how you feel but you can help how you respond. You've heard that a time or twenty, right?! It's easy to spout but oh so hard to walk out.

I've been praying about the "walking it out" part, myself!

When you can't "feel your way out" of a bitter attitude, BEHAVE your way out!

I've prayerfully listed ways to help myself (you, too!) when hurt feelings threaten to turn bitter.

  • Own up to your feelings - to God and perhaps a trusted confidante.

Pour out your heart before God. He made you. He knows you better than anyone. He gave you the desires of your heart and He can give you new desires in new seasons.

  • Give God the "go ahead" to change YOU even if the situation does not.

  • Determine that no matter what, your priority is a pure heart and right relationships.

  • Pursue peace within yourself. You may have to take your thoughts captive often. Do it as often as you must.

  • Pursue peace with others. "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18 NJKV).

Pursuing peace often requires setting boundaries in place. Pray about what those might be. But pray in humility - not going into prayer with preconceived notions. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you what those boundaries should be. 

  • Detest pride. Put it down in whatever form it may creep into your head and heart.

Are you handling your "hurt" in a godly way? Are you battling bitterness? I've been there, friend.

Just this morning I prayed, "God, You are the One who gives and the One who takes away...but if this  "taking away" is not of You, then do something for me." Yes, I prayed that way. After all, God is my defender and the battle is His.

My desire is a pure heart and I'll confess that it's often a fight with my flesh.

I can't pray away what is my responsibility to slay away.  

Crucifying the flesh is my job, albeit a painful one. But it must be done.
Because above all else - greater than what I perceive as fair...more than what I feel is right - is my desire to "see God."

Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God," (Matthew 5:8 NKJV).

More than anything, I want to see God - see Him moving in my life and know His anointing on me. And that is worth every effort to put aside hurt feelings, prevent the root of bitterness and pursue peace and a pure heart.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

At Ease

It all started as it often does - in restlessness. I was looking around for something new...something different...something hot off the presses to inspire me in a fresh way spiritually.

I scanned my bookshelves, gave Amazon a quick once-over and resisted the urge to ask facebook friends for a recommendation.

After meditating on it for a few days, I decided to go to The Book of all books - the Bible. From experience I knew that the ancient text was as fresh as the daily presence of the Holy Spirit within me. I decided to simply read the book of John and not only that, but to write the book of John. Even then I had to resist the urge to create a John Journal and "art" it up. I mean, that would be really cute and creative, right?! The problem is I'd tried that in the past and ended up focusing on cute and creative and letting the Scriptures slide.

I see all those amazing Bible journals on Pinterest and Instagram and once I almost ordered a special Bible with wide margins just for the purpose of having fun with colored pencils and watercolors. But I know me. And me is the kind of gal who would get too caught up in the margins and lose sight of the meat in the middle!

So I went with simple. I grabbed a note pad, the pen within reach and began reading and writing. I'm still not finished with John. I read. I write. I make some notes along the way. Because there's an ease to it, I do it. Any pen, any color, any time of day - just read and write it down. It's not cute. It's not art. But it is authentic to me. Oh, I do admire the Bible journals with all the pretty watercolors - 'cause you guys know I love my watercolors - and I enjoy all the creativity of combining Bible chapters with such color and line! Maybe one day, I'll give it a try and be able to still focus on the faith-filled words on the page - but #nottoday.

Julie Gillies writes about walking through this life "with authentic dignity and holy ease" in her latest book, From Hot Mess to Blessed . I wrote about my take on "authentic dignity" a few days ago. I hope you take five minutes and read it. 😘

Holy Ease - From years of Bible teaching and studying, I know that "holy" is to be set apart and "ease" is the absence of difficulty or labor.

Just typing the word "ease" allows me pause to breathe deeply and gain fresh insight into the discipline of taking time to simply read the Bible and write it down. Both the reading of the physical page and the writing by longhand (rather than the staccato tap, tap, tap of typing on my laptop) slows me down and helps me listen to The Teacher and absorb the old text that is ever new.

One bit of insight I've gained from reading and writing from John is a phrase from chapter one. John (the Baptist) is questioned by the priests and Levites sent from Jerusalem. They arrive to scope out what in the world is going on with all his preaching about repentance and a greater One coming after Him because He came before him! 

They ask the Baptizer, "Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" (John 1:22 NJKV)

What do you say about yourself? 

Well...what do you say?

What do I say?

What do we say about ourselves?

Admittedly, sometimes I say mean things about myself. I talk ugly to me.

I say things to myself about myself that I'd never say to someone else. I try to guard my heart when it comes to what I hear. There are certain stories I don't read when I see the link on social media. I guard my eyes and my ears and I really try to watch the words that come out of my mouth about others.

But what do I say about myself to myself?

Do I unwittingly, or perhaps just carelessly, play right into the hands of my enemy when I talk ugly to me?

What if I took a cue from the man wearing camel's hair clothes and eating locusts and wild honey?
John said the truth about himself. He knew his purpose and his place in the Kingdom of God. I don't think John wasted his breath berating himself or saying mean things about himself. Can you imagine? It sounds pretty silly, doesn't it?

John didn't respond, "I'm the weirdo wearing the hand me downs from a camel." Ridiculous, right?

But how ridiculous have I been lately? I've said things like this in the past month alone: "I guess my time is over." "Maybe I'm just not good enough for that anymore." "I'm being so terrible! What's wrong with me?"

Typing those words makes me feel pretty silly. What do I say about myself? <insert tears>

When I, or you, start saying those kinds of things about us, maybe it's time to go to God and ask Him to give us some better words.

Oh, God! That you would remind us of our place and our purpose in Your Kingdom! Let us not waste the breath you gave us in berating ourselves but in bettering our hearts to honor You in every word we speak. May the words of our mouths be acceptable in Your sight. And that includes the words we say about ourselves.

Lovingly Yours,