Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Which Prayer Are You Praying?

Ever learn a lesson, be excited to learn it, only to find you are immediately tested in it?

Recently, I attended a conference with some amazing speakers.  It was in a breakout session that I was introduced to P. Brian Noble from Peacemaker Ministries.  I could write at least a dozen blog posts and videos just from the information he shared alone.  Dealing with tension in our lives and in our world in a healthy manner is a necessary skill set that is in danger of extinction in the United States in 2018.

Prayer is something I talk about a lot so a distinction he made on prayer, caught my attention. He identified two types of prayer - faith prayer and fear prayer.  As he described the difference, I sat in humility as I realized I am often guilty of praying fear prayers.  What are faith and fear prayers?

Faith prayers recognize the goodness of God, and state that, as we seek to follow God, in the midst of a world that is less than perfect and often filled with pain.  If the purpose of prayer is tuning into God's heart and seeking him in the process of life, then faith prayer is the best way to accomplish this.   So if this is faith prayer, then fear prayer is just the opposite and this is where I was tested.

Sunday morning our group woke up and we headed to the beach before going to church.  As we drove over a speed bump in the beach parking lot, my check engine light clicked on.  I was instantly freaking out.  Fear is a reflex that seems to be first at bat in my mind when life happens. I immediately was worried about not making it home with a van full of teenagers.

I started to start the "please God help..." but then I remembered what I had learned.  Fear prayers come out of panic,  and its a reflex knee jerk to life that has us questioning God and his goodness.  Its almost like saying, "uh oh, God, you dropped the ball and now I'm in trouble, rescue me and do your job."

Instead I said, "Lord, I am fearful right now, and I confess it to you.  You knew this would happen and I've been praying for this trip so I know you will grant me the wisdom to know how to proceed. Lord, thank you for all you are doing and help me to stand in a place of faith instead of running to fear."

Fear stood next to me but I continued to tell it no! I called my husband and discovered by talking with him and a mechanic at our church that as long as it wasn't driving differently and the light wasn't flashing, I should be able to make the three-hour drive home.  No matter the outcome, God had it.  He had a plan and I had to make a choice:

Would I trust him or would I live in fear? I chose to trust him.

Which prayer are you praying?  Can you think of a time you prayed a fear prayer?  How could you change it to be a faith prayer?  Thanking God for what his already doing and asking him to help you to walk it are a great faith prayer in any situation.  Sure, its hard when we stand in ruin or loss, to say, "God is good," but it is true. Truth is always the best place to start in life because it leads to a path of peace.  God is bigger than what we face.  The outcome may not always be what we hoped for, but he never leaves us and always works our best in the midst of pain and heartache. I am praying for you as you allow God to teach you his truths.  God bless.  Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Deception of Suicide

A couple of years ago, I wrote on the topic of suicide in the wake of Robin Williams' tragic death.  Every time I hear someone else has lost the battle with suicide, it breaks my heart.  Beyond the obvious reasons, it breaks my heart because I have contemplated suicide and I know that struggle.

 I fight thoughts that this world would be better off without me.  Please know, I know that simply isn't true.  That thought is a lie, but its one I grapple with in life.  I see my glaring flaws and think, "I'm ruining my kids, they would be better off without the damage I inflict on them."  I begin to think my absence wouldn't be noticed in our world.  These lies run through my mind and I have to be proactive about replacing them with true statements.  I have to tell those voices to shut up and nurture voices that echo my value as a person, in spite of my flaws. 

We can't stop fighting.  We must reach for what is good.  The Bible says in Philippians 4:8

 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

I used to think that was only about moral good, like the stuff I watched on tv, but its also about fighting against the lies our enemy births and we tell ourselves.

This weekend I attended a conference, "The Gospel & Justice." Joshua Ryan Butler discussed many issues in our world that Christians need to get involved in, but as he shared he shared about our identity.  It sparked further thoughts of my own. 

God made us with purpose, he loves us and seeks to see us live in freedom.  God isn't the only one that has an identity to give us. Beyond the general mission of our enemy that the Bible tells us about in John 10:10, to steal, kill and destroy, Satan has crafted a unique lie and correlating identity for us.  We can choose to accept it and crumble beneath its burden, or instead we can choose to reject it and listen for what God says, and embrace the abundant life he offers.

Satan tells me I'm not good enough, and that I am not worth much.  Satan whispers in the face of rejection that something is wrong with me.  Crazy, damaged, broken are all identities the enemy has handed me. 

God tells me I am enough the way he made me, and lets me know I am worth more than precious gems.  He shows me that I am worthy, strong, loving and healed.  God lets me see the love he wants to share through me.  I am gifted in loving others and seeing their souls.  I am gifted in drawing out the heart and touching it with the love of Christ.

Suicide is a deception.  Its believing that our faults define us and that our worth is contingent upon shifting factors.  The deception of suicide goes beyond a lying identity to another lie - the lie that we are alone in our struggle.  We begin to believe if we share our inner abyss, we will be rejected which just leads to emotional isolation. 

If the body of Christ teaches us anything, its that we need each other.  Yes, we need companionship, but having people in your life, you can be transparent with, helps protect you from the lies.  The deception of suicide is more than just the "not good enough" its also a deception that no one will understand and you must carry the burden alone. 

To overcome we also must share the burden with people we trust so they can help point us to the truth.  We are loved!! 

My latest bout with self-worth doubt ended in a very interesting way.  Not only did I hear the voice of God and my own mantras but I heard the voices of those in my life.  I knew they would tell me my value in their lives.  It was the shortest lie moment I've had and I saw victory in it.  I'm sharing this with the world to let you know if this is a struggle for you, you aren't alone.  Find the truth of who God says you are and lean into it.  Be intentional in relationships and find someone(s) you can share your inner heart with - set yourself up for success!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Five Minute Solution

I think I'm a pretty likable person and I know God has gifted me with a good amount of talents, but I am also aware of my faults.  Rising to the top of that list is the fact that I am easily distracted.  While I have the ability to focus, my desire to do a lot, means there is always a ton of stuff floating around my head.  That easily distracted trait has left me with a propensity to run late and often find myself procrastinating. 

Over the years I have discovered some solutions to this issue.  The latest solution proved very profitable so I thought I would share it with you! 

Have you ever made a list of the tasks you had to do, only to get distracted on your phone?  Or maybe you started to do one thing only to be met with five other tasks in the midst of doing the first task? Getting lost in the many lists of life can be easy to do!  However, that to-do list only gets done if you attack it. 

I'd heard about making a list of five, ten & fifteen minute jobs around the house (or even the office) so when you have a free moment you get a chance to knock your list out.  The list is great, because without it, you will end up wasting the free time in figuring out what you should do. 

Last week, my family left for AWANA.  I had an hour and a half to get something done and I knew it would be easy to get lost in Instagram and find myself with five minutes to spare running through my house trying to accomplish something before the garage door opened. 

I decided to make a list of five minute jobs.  It wasn't long before I realized the list included tasks that clearly lasted longer than five minutes.  But I left them on it anyway.  I did stick with the five minutes though and set the timer on my phone.  If I got done with the five minutes and the task wasn't finished, I simply reset the timer and kept on going.  I managed eighteen, five minute, time blocks in the moments before my family returned.  While I may not have gotten eighteen different jobs accomplished, doing this birthed a wonderful result - I got a lot done! 

Dividing an hour and a half into five minute time blocks kept me from getting distracted.  If I got distracted half-way into a task, the five minute timer ensured, I would quickly be awakened back into my task-list reality.  It was amazing!!! 

I encourage you if you are easily distracted or just need to stay motivated to get'er done, that you try this method.  Live a few hours, five minutes at a time and see if your productivity doesn't go up.  If you need to answer a text or email, just give it one five minute slot then power on back to the list. 

I'd love to hear how this worked for you.  So try it and comment or message me your results!  I can't wait to hear what you got done!!

Bonus: Message me with the number of times I said five minute/s in this post (don't forget title and labels) and I will send you some happy mail (so make sure I have your address too)!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Two Unplanned Lessons

Sunday,  was our last youth group of the school year.  I wanted to do something fun to end the year so I found an idea online and ran with it.  I had the teens meet me at our local Goodwill.  Each teen was given a $7 limit and drew a name of someone else in the group.  Then I let them go pick out an outfit for their selected person.  The challenge was to make it crazy.  Then we would get dressed in our purchased attire and go grab dinner together as a group of silly dressed misfits.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the selection process.  Green tags were 99 cents so we were scanning for what we could find on the cheap.  Everyone went to the front to pay and then took turns changing outfits.  It was then that the mood took a turn from festive to fearful.


I heard people saying, "I'm not wearing this." "Do we have to go to dinner?"  "I just want to stay here, you guys can go without me."  My reply was a loving, but firm, "We are all doing this."  I didn't have a lesson planned but one was organically developing right before my eyes. 

Everyone changed, we took photos and then threw our normal wear in my car.  The Goodwill in our town is located on a busy street with lots of restaurant options. The plan was to trek it to In-N-Out for some great burgers, but then we hit another snafu.  One member started crying and didn't want to go.  She was describing her experience as a panic attack.  

I didn't want to appear heartless because, honestly,  I could relate to what she was experiencing and I love this young lady, so I didn't want to push her too far, but I didn't have many options.  I explained to her that as the only adult, I couldn't leave her alone at a store that was closing shortly, and if I allowed her to call her parent and we waited for her to be picked up the rest of group wouldn't have time to get dinner.  She had to go.  

She obliged and I spoke the group about going to a dinner spot a bit closer.  We landed on Jimmy Johns and when we arrived we were the lone group in the empty restaurant, save the 4 males behind the counter.  We ended up sharing with the employee at the register what we were doing to which he pointed to the outfits and gave his opinion of them each.  When he got to the young lady who had been terrified to go in public dressed as she was, he commented specifically of the normalcy of her outfit.  He was sculpting this lesson with even more detail.

As we sat and ate, we had a very nice discussion about our time together.  We noted two things: 

1.  We care too much about the opinions of others and often when we care too much we are prey to the bullies around us.  Confidence, while it can be a target, often puts to rest any negativity because we aren't giving heed to the neigh sayers.  People tend to be attracted to the personality, giving no notice to the details of dress.  

2.  What seems crazy to me might be normal to you.  There are enough people with variations of personalities, style and opinions that you really have nothing to fear.  If you like it, someone else will, you just have to find those people.  

We also discussed how we were in this together.  No one was going alone, instead we were protected by our group.  We talked about learning to be more confident in who were, and owning it instead of waiting to be rubber stamp by the general population.  We also discussed comfort zones and how hard it is to walk outside them.   I can't put down the girl who was scared at the prospect of going out in her crazy outfit because even though it didn't bother me, something else with a different set of circumstances might.  If I throw any stones her way, I'm just giving her ammo to lob them back at me when the shoe is on the other foot.  

I was proud of this group of students who learned something new and had fun even outside their comfort zones.  They all got on board and became team players.  It ended up a fun night!  

I am sharing all of this because I know these lessons apply to all of us.  Fear of being judged is huge, probably more of an issue that fear of missing out.  But please know that no one can label you unless you let it stick.  If that label doesn't fit, take it off and keep going.  Embrace others for who they are and encourage them to grow from where they are not from where you are.  Encourage someone to leave their comfort zone with the promise that you won't leave them, and do something that makes you a little uncomfortable.  Those moments usually make for a good time!  

On a side note, I thought this exercise would make for a fun first date.  Just a note to anyone single out there.  What a way to get to know someone and have fun! Happy Wednesday to you all!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

One Word Can Make A Difference!

This Sunday I sat in church listening to part two of a sermon series we are currently going through on the Armor of God.  I was blown away by one word. 

Before I tell you what that word was, let me say, I love our pastor, and not just because he's my dad, but also because he has an understanding of scripture from the perspective of the Jewish culture that has transformed the way I see the Bible.  Remember those posters in the 90's that if you stared at it just right you could make out a 3-D image?  That is how adding my Jewish roots has added my understanding of the Bible and my Christian faith.  

Pastor Mike shared with us the Ephesians 6 passage on the Armor of God from the Peshitta Bible in comparision with the King James Version.  

If you are like me, you might be saying, the Peshwhata?  The Peshitta is a translation of the Syriac Bible from the Ancient Eastern Text.  If you want to know more, you can read about it on Wikipedia or Britannica or do more research on it yourself at your local library.  

In my internet search, I also read some criticisms of the Peshitta - so please don't go home and throw out your NIV or KJV Bible.  My advice is to use something like this to supplement your Bible Study.  Many great Bible scholars throughout time disagreed on various doctrine so asserting that your way is the only way on secondary issues within Christianity is not what I am advocating. I am advocating you go deeper in your study of scripture.  

What I loved about the reading comparison was the use of the word - "just." By itself, that word doesn't sound very monumental, but its use in the sentence added a layer of meaning that I had never heard before.  

In the NIV or many other common translations, Ephesians 6:12 reads something like this: 

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

in the Peshitta it said: 

"For our struggle is not just against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Did you catch it?  Did you see that word, "just?"  It fits because we do struggle against flesh and blood.  My thought life can be crazy; when I get sick, tired or hungry life is a struggle.  Taking care of myself is important so that "just" helps illuminate that fact.  

When someone doesn't know where their next meal is coming from or they are in the middle of a battle of cancer, they are fighting the flesh & blood (tangible, human needs).  We can't ignore the physical needs or dismiss them.  

In contrast, as Christians we can't live in the limitations of our flesh and blood, which is why this spiritual component is crucial.   Unfortunately, we often ignore the spiritual battle.  So much of life we don't see, can't know and have no control over, but as a Christian, we can arm up for battle and go get it spiritually.  Its amazing to see someone surrender to God's will and wait on him, and find provision in ways they never dreamed!   

Our bodies are temples of the holy spirit so we must care for our needs but we also have to understand we only see a small part of what is actually going on around us, we must be prepared with the Armor of God.  

Where are you lacking?  Do you need to give yourself some grace in this season of life?  Are you expecting too much in a season of great physical needs?  Are you prepared for life with the spiritual weapons God gives us?  Having them on helps us to look past the things we can't control and realize God's got it!  Maybe you need to delve more into scripture and study the Bible? I don't know what your take away is, but I'd love to hear it!  Happy Wednesday!