Sorry I fell off the face of the earth. I had two speaking events last week and found myself having a hard time keeping my head above water. Something had to give, and it was blogging.
I missed our Sunday school class yesterday, because I was doing the last session with the beautiful women of First Presbyterian of Midland, TX. Here's something that jostled loose in my memory as I wrote last week that pertains to peace making, though.
I wrote last week about how hard it is to remember the things we love about the people we love when we're embroiled in conflict. Here's one of the best pieces of marriage advice that I ever received, and it could apply to any relationship.
My pastor Bob Felts said, "When your spouse offends you, ask yourself the question, 'Is that consistent with his character?'"
So if Barry is having a bad day and he snaps at me, instead of holding on to the offense and beginning a string of negative thoughts, I can choose to realize that he is very rarely snappy. Most often he's low-key and patient. I can choose to remember that I have bad days too and give him a break.
Addressing patterns of behavior is a whole other thing, but forgiveness is easier when I remind myself of my husband's/friend's/co-worker's general character.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Sorry I fell off the face of the earth. I had two speaking events last week and found myself having a hard time keeping my head above water. Something had to give, and it was blogging.
Monday, January 24, 2011
"I want you to take responsibility for your actions."
A certain young man I know (who shall remain nameless) has trouble with taking responsibility. When confronted with an offense, he most often has a list of excuses and others to blame for the unfortunate situation. He's making great strides and growing in this area of taking responsibility, but when face with another "unfortunate situation" recently he said my opening quote before I even had to say it myself. :) He knew what was coming!
"Getting the log out of your own eye" is the second principle of conflict resolution given by Peacemaker Ministries. In Matthew 7, Jesus gives us this command very clearly, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye. You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Tara said this, "Jesus is not forbidding confrontation. He is forbidding premature confrontation."
It's hard for all of us, isn't it? Just like that sweet young man in my life, we most often look at conflict through a tailor made set of rose colored glasses. These glasses magnify the other's offense and turn our own part into something minuscule.
It's so easy to begin to see the other person only through the lens of the offense. Even if the other person in the conflict is someone that we love, suddenly they may seem like a monster. All the loving things they've done in the past are forgotten, overshadowed by the current offense.
Our first job then in seeing the conflict in its true light is to slip off the rose colored glasses, to look honestly at the offense, and to search for our contribution so that we can own it and repent. I think that repentance is a 2 parter--first to God and then to the person with whom we're in conflict.
Powerful but difficult stuff. I'm imagining how different my next conflict will be if I was stop and intentionally 1. Glorify God 2. Get the log out of my own eye. It's going to be amazing.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I had several big "aha" moments last week as I worked through the first three chapters of Made to Crave.
There were several times in the participant's guide when I wondered "Where is Lysa going with this line of questions?" Every time, I got to the end, and went OHHHH! One of those times when she was talking about our emotions when we turned to unhealthy choices.
I just told someone recently, "Oh, I'm not an emotional eater. I just love food."
That's not strictly true.
I didn't mean to lie, but that line of questions revealed to me that I substitute food for comfort. A. Lot.
I have never been a worrier before, but I've been in quite a battle against worry for the last two years. Nothing in particular, but stuck in worry about anything and everything very often.
As I pondered the reality of my situation, God whispered this truth into my heart, "Do you see, Amy, how the habit of trying to substitute food for comfort keeps you stuck and unfulfilled. If you will turn to me for comfort, not only will you receive true comfort but you'll get solutions and direction. You'll get unstuck."
Wow! Now I realize that it's kind of a "Duh!" moment, but I hadn't thought about the cycle in those terms.
Love me a little bit of freedom.
That was my big realization for the week. What was yours?
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
She ran right by me.
Blond, lean and dressed like a real runner, her long, smooth stride quickly overtook my fluffy, huffing and puffing figure. She was a natural.
As I watched her run toward the horizon, I imagined myself (not blond) as a "real runner". Maybe someday my strides will look effortless. I'll never be a natural, but I know that even she had to work up to a continuous run at some point.
In the meantime, I'm a wunner (walking with spurts of running).
Maybe so I could forget about the effort this wun was taking, I began thinking about the spiritual applications. To some, the Christian life seems effortless. Faith comes easily and goodness seems a natural outpouring of a sunny personality.
For others, following Jesus is full of doubts, struggles and forays into dark places. Angst, brokeness and wrestlin seem more pervasive in some.
Which one is the better Christian? It's so tempting to say that "The Natural" seems like the better answer. The bright smiles that plaster our churches as pain and sin boil underneath tell me that most people are trying to reach the goal of at least looking like "The Natural".
Here's what I Peter 1:6-7 says, "In this you greatly rejoice [our salvation], though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
Broken, struggling, suffering--that is the Christian who will have a faith that in the end is of great worth than gold.
So I'll keep on wunning even though I probably scare anybody watching, and I'll keep on working to live authentically with joy shining out through the broken places rather than acting like "The Natural".
Monday, January 17, 2011
What is your first thought or motivation that rises to the top when you become involved in a conflict?
"How can I win?" or "How can I prove that I'm right?" are probably the unprocessed questions that motivate my next action or words. Just being honest. If you're being honest, that's probably close to what you'd say.
God is in the business of renewing our minds, though. As my friend Lysa TerKeurst like to say, God wants to give us a new script full of His truth with which to fill our minds. So what is our new script to be when we come face to face with conflict?
How can I please and honor God in this situation?
The authors of Peace Making Women remind us that every conflict is a chance to live and show God's love and grace. It's counter cultural, counter intuitive and counter to all our fallen nature screams at us (Protect! Attack! Perserve!) when conflict comes, but can you imagine the difference? At work? In our homes? In our churches?
Friday, January 14, 2011
Fear of failure.
This morning as I worked through today's Made to Crave exercises in the participant's guide, I once again felt that hard place of resistance in my heart. "What's that about?" I wondered.
It's fear of failure. I've often joked (while others laugh and I self-flagellate) that I've been Weigh Down and Weigh Back Up. I've done Weight Watchers and Cake Watchers--several times. I have been to the Southbeach and then back to the Northbeach where all the fluffy people bask in the sun.
I've done this journey before. Why will this be different?
I have an answer to that question this morning. It's different, because we're addressing my heart and not just my eating habits.
Here's the question that brought my "aha moment" this morning: "For each temptation you wrote down (Lysa has us record our temptations that come with the cravings, lust of the eyes and boasting), how would you describe the craving--what you wanted most of all--behind the temptation?"
Ohhhhh...now we're talking a language that I understand. God's been speaking to me about it for weeks now. Do you know what I mean from previous posts?
Idols. Those wrong cravings are idols.
What are mine? The desire to have my own way without any consequences and the desire for luxurious comfort.
I'm not without hope though. Lysa points this out about how Eve and Jesus were both tempted:
"Eve and Jesus had similar responses to their temptations--they both kept a laser-like focus on their desires. The difference between them was what they wanted most of all--what they craved. Eve's cravings displaced God and made Him secondary to her other desires....Jesus' cravings asserted God supremacy over every other desire, even a legitimate desire for food...."
I've prayed for God to "change my wanter" before, but back then I was praying for Him to change my desire for sugar-laden goodies to fruits and veggies. Today I'm praying for my wanter to change from wanting my own way to desiring His way above all else. That's going to change several areas of my life!
What's your "aha moment" from Made to Crave this week?
Thursday, January 13, 2011
My first piece of book news has me dancing in the chair! My wonderful friend, Lysa TerKeurst, just found out that her newest book Made to Crave is #14 on the NY Times best seller list. A-mazing!!!! She calls it a Cinderella story. I love that she's a princess that longs to tell the King's story wherever she goes, and it's overwhelmingly awe-inspiring to watch how the King exalts His own story.
Tomorrow I'll share what God is teaching me through our group's first week in Made to Crave.
My second newsflash is that I'm converting my dear friend Holly to fiction. Over a year ago I was at Holly's house and asked if she had anything good to read that I could borrow. She led me to her book case where--horrors of horrors--I found all non-fiction.
I'm such a junkie for a story that I felt it necessary to involve her in my addiction. Holly is now the proud reader of two Christian fiction books in the last month, and she's on a roll. Sniff...I'm so proud.
Nancy Rue is the latest author that I'm recommending to everybody. Healing Stones and Healing Waters are two of my favorites. Rue skillfully crafts page-turning story lines while weaving in all kinds of truth about spiritual and emotional healing. Her main character in this series is Sullivan Crisp, a psychologist so busy trying to lead others to healing that he almost has a breakdown avoiding his own tragic past.
If you're looking for a great read in the Christian fiction genre, check out these books.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Peace-making is not optional for a Christian.
Hmmm...that's a strong statement, but is it true?
After weeks of laying the foundation of peace with God and peace with ourselves, our class is finally to the nuts and bolts of peace making from Peace Making Women. (I've had several of you ask about this study so here's a link to the materials. You can get the book and read it on its own. There's quite a bit of overlap with the DVDs.) I believe that the statement above is true, because loving relationships were foremost on Jesus' mind as He headed toward the cross.
John 17:20,23 says, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you....May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
If unity is important to Jesus, then it must be important to me. I love Him and want to follow Him closely, so all my issues, idols, selfishness and sin has to be dealt with and set aside to pursue unity.
The curriculum then describes three responses to conflict: escape, peacemaking and attack. I know which one I tend toward in general, do you? I may not ever confront you (my family members may be laughing right now--sorry!), but you might not ever see me again either. :)
It's hard to stay, hang in there, find humility and work things out. It's hard to choose peacemaking over avoidance or a knock-down-drag-out, but it's the mandate of God.
The authors describe several situations where people outside the church commented on the bad behavior of those in the church and how it had future solidified their distaste for "religion". It made my heart grieve to wonder how many times I've contributed to the hardening of someone's heart against Jesus.
I'm resolved, though, to seek God's character and power in developing reconciliation skills. I may be an old(ish) dog, but I'm determined to master this new trick!
I'm so proud of my friend, Lysa TerKeurst, that I could about burst with joy! Her newest book, Made to Crave, has hit Amazon's #8 on the best-seller list. Tonight you can watch her webcast for free from 8-9 at www.madetocrave.org. If you live in Wake Co. NC, please come join our group which will start this Wednesday Jan. 12 from 6:30-7:30 at Apex Baptist.
Friday, January 7, 2011
"Having mini-retreats with Jesus is something that I plan to do now at least twice a year. In the midst of ministry and a full life, it’s necessary to intentionally set extended time aside to seek His face and worship Him."
That's a line out of a devotion that I wrote over a year ago. I had good intentions of having these mini-spiritual retreats every six months, but I just did my second one this Monday.
It was a reminder of why I want and need to do it every six months.
Here's a re-run of the devotion I wrote after my first attempt at building a mini-monatary in an empty Sunday school room. I'd love to hear about ways that you carve out time to hear from God.
Retreat with Jesus
I couldn’t help but gasp at the end of my friend Caroline’s story. When a new neighbor moved in next door, Caroline had rallied the troops in her neighborhood to prepare a warm greeting. She and her friend had planned a feast to take over to welcome the newcomer to their community. Caroline called the new neighbor and was surprised when her hospitality was met with suspicion.
“Why did you say that you wanted to bring me dinner?” the new neighbor questioned. Caroline explained that it was a tradition in their area and that they’d like to deliver dinner to welcome her personally. The neighbor responded, “I tell you what. I’ll give you a call when I’m hungry.” Click.
Shocking! Caroline then reflected on how many times we treat God the same way that her new neighbor treated her. Each day God lays out a feast and invites every believer to come eat our fill. I had to ask myself an important question. How many days do I rush by God’s table and throw an “I’ll come when I’m hungry!” back over my shoulder? I think I’m full, but God knows that I’m simply ignoring my hunger. I need to sit down daily to eat and be filled from God’s table. Luke 1: 53 says, “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” (NIV)
I long to have a heart to approach Him daily as I am—poor and hungry. He invites me to come to Him so that I can leave rich and full. What a glorious exchange! What a divine pleasure!
Daily time enjoying God is essential, but sometimes God gives us an invitation to a private, extended feast. I am envious of one of my pastors. He takes a week each year for a spiritual retreat to a monastery. He goes where it’s quiet and simple and spends a week with Jesus. Maybe someday when my children are older and I’m caught up on laundry I’ll be able to do that, but recently God led me to do something equally wonderful on a smaller scale. I took a spiritual retreat during the school day in a room at my church.
As I walked up the stairs to the empty room, I felt nervous. I had spent hours in prayer with others, but I had never spent this long alone with God before. Would I have enough to say to Him? Would He speak to me in the silence? Would the minutes drag by? Would I walk out unchanged or disappointed?
At the end of the day, my questions were answered. God met me there. We filled our time together with prayer, Bible reading and worship. God spoke words of direction to me in the silence. I came in knowing that I was hungry, and He was faithful to fill me. Having mini-retreats with Jesus is something that I plan to do now at least twice a year. In the midst of ministry and a full life, it’s necessary to intentionally set extended time aside to seek His face and worship Him. I’ll still look forward to a week in an abbey, but in the meantime I’ll bask in a school day retreat as I renew my relationship with God and feast on His goodness!
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Although I still want to share about my retreat with Jesus that I had on Monday (He really showed up, and it was awesome!), I thought it was more important today to say a short word about freedom.
One of the commenters on Monday said that a post about idols on a Monday was sure a heavy way to start the week. That made me laugh, and boy was she right!
The part that I left out was an essential part, so let's lighten up and talk about destroying idols today.
As Tara taught us on the DVD Sunday morning (boy do I wish I could sit under her teaching in person!), she used a quote from John Calvin which labeled all humans as "idol factories". How true! God not only made us in His own image, He made us with a deep-rooted nature that MUST worship something.
Left to our own fallen sin nature, that translates really badly. Without the redemptive work of God in our lives, we are doomed to create and worship one destructive idol after another. Like me, you might have felt that same despair as God used the questions from the post on Monday to start revealing your idols to you.
Here's the very Good News, though. We have not been left without God's redemptive work in us. If we have believed in our hearts and confessed with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, He is very much alive and working in us to destroy idols and restore us to the highest human calling of loving Him.
So, in Tara's words, here is the antidote for idol worship:
"Right worship of God--a growing love for God--displaces wrong worship of idols."
Good stuff, right?
I'd like to add my own words to that:
"Right worship of God--a growing love for God and a growing understanding of His love for me--displaces wrong worship of idols."
I'm reminded about an Indian pastor's description to our American group about the baptism of new believers in India. The new believers would come to the pool of baptism with their arms laden with the carved gods and goddesses that had filled their home. All these idols would be lined up on one side of the pool. The new believers would turn their backs on them and then be baptised. Afterward, the idols would be collected by a member of the church and trashed.
What a beautiful picture! As we turn our backs on our idols and turn toward God, we'll be cleansed and renewed. That's a wonderful promise for a Wednesday.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Oh happy day! It was good to rest from blogging, and it's good to be back. I hope each of you had a wonderful Christmas and are ready to leap into a new year. After I post today, I'm off to a personal prayer retreat for the school day. I'll share on Wednesday about how it went and how you can do your own personal retreat with Jesus.
Back to Peace Making...it actually worked out perfectly. Because of an unprecedented Christmas snow here in NC, we didn't have church last week. Here are some pics that show why:
We're right on schedule with Peace Making, and it's a good thing. This was a week that I couldn't miss writing about, because God has seriously been rocking my world with this topic.
I remember years ago being in India SURROUNDED by the idols of Hinduism. There are 314 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism, and they permeate every aspect of Indian culture. All those visible idols made me feel a little superior until God began a list in my heart of my culture's invisible idols--materialism, power, sex, children, "me time", pleasure, comfort... You and I both know that the list could go on and on.
In Peace Making Women the authors say that every Christian should have a list of the 4 or 5 idols with which they are struggling. "4 or 5!!" I said to myself when I first read that strong statement. "Surely not!"
Well, you know how faithful God is to lovingly but firmly keep us moving toward Himself. He began revealing my list to me soon after. I'll share a few:
- Food-- I'd like to deny this, but the truth is that I want what I want when I want it. My insistence in having my own way reveals an idol.
- Friendship--He's revealed my unbalanced desire for significance from my friendships.
- Control--He was even faithful enough to mess with me on our family's Disney trip (can't we leave my character alone when we're at DISNEY? haha) and show me a place that needed serious repentance.
There are a few more that I'd like to process a little more before I share, but do any of those resound with you? You see, I'm realizing how idols can be made even from good things. It's loving those things disproportionately that makes them an idol.
Why is it important to identify and repent of our own idols before addressing the area of conflict and peace? When I think about my own idols, I realize that they are the areas that produce the most conflict in my life, both within my relationship to God and myself and to others.
I'll end with a list of questions that Tara Barthel gives that helps us to identify things that we have over-loved or made idols. It's a very insightful list of questions, and I'd love for you to share if they boil up any idols in your life.
What pleasure will I not easily give up?
How do you respond to disappointment related to it?
If you could force someone to do one thing, what would it be?
Is there something you don't even want to pray about because "God might say no?" (An idolatrous heart says, "My will be done." A heart of right worship says, "Thy will be done, Lord.")
What am I willing to sin to get? To sin if I don't get it?
An act of punishment, a demand for vengeance, or lasting bitterness always reveals the presence of an idol.