Wrecked and burning the bridges – A story of 2015

burningship

If you have at any point followed this blog you know that i was at one time obsessively on top of it,  documenting the things that were at the forefront of my life.  But then life sped up, and the already limited time spent writing was suspended for the tyranny of the urgent.   In the midst of working a full time job for a salary, keeping a full time business flowing (i still dont get paid a paycheck for that one yet), keeping my house (if you can call it that), keepin my hubby organized as much as I can and keeping the dogs in control … would you believe i still love to read as much as i can get my eyes on.  Daily reading keeps the mind sharp and satisfies that need to learn, be challenged and to grow.

Life long learning is a serious theme of my life.  I have a bucket list of things I want to accomplish before  heaven is real.

I have wanted to work out this unresolved upheaval of my life and the stripping of any sense of normalcy that occurred in 2010 when we lost our income, our standard of living, and our purpose (short run).  This year (2015) was the one to lay down the grieving for what was, and fully embrace the life that is now. If you have ever been there it’s not easy to make that turn. Thank God for movement with this- because for so long it has felt like I was straddling a fence with one leg in the past, the other in the future and the present was the pokey fence digging and gauging into the middle of me.

But the truth is 2010 and those mosterous losses were a gift.  A scarey as hell gift that cast us out into deep water with only the provision God would bring. Like a scene from 1519 and ships burning in a harbor port somewhere in the Yucatan peninsula, I identified with Cortez.  There was no turning back- it is forward to the unknown with only the meager provisions, and the grace of God.

There was a freeing of a part of my soul that had been denied for decades, numbed to a whimper by the necessity to work a job, and live like 99% of college educated Americans. Years of obedience, timely-ness and accuracy, of learning to work with a full spectrum of personalities, some of which left deep scars, all making bigger and greater demands of my life, my time, and talent in exchange for a meager portion each pay.

Don’t get me wrong… I really love my experiences (well, I was not so fond of the years working for a women we called hitler’s little sister, but all of the work was interesting.  I am thankful for those years too because they taught me how to recognize and treasure that is working for good people, and to see the the kindnesses, the blessings.

But as the ship of ease and income hit the rocks of the harsh recession it was clear the ship was no longer sail able.  The recession had driven my ship to the rocks, wrecked, forever altered beyond repair.  So burn the ships and let’s conquer new land.  In one quick stroke i struck the match, turned to the dry hulk and lit it up.

That ship had more passengers than i thought.

Fear, my old traveling companion, was big and heavy baggage that had to be cut loose too. Fear always appeared when there was a moment of question, or a change of scenery.  Loud and exhausting to travel with, fear often held me down, gripped with a deep sense of overwhelming emotion.  Fear is a bully.  Fear is a liar.  Lets call this traveling companion what he is… a distortion, a betrayal to what is true, shackles on my feet, and someone who overstayed their welcome in my life.  Fear had traveled these 50 some years with me but it was time… he had to go.  So there in sight of the burning hulk of my former life I parted ways with old Gripping Fear. He chased after me for a long time, but I would not take him back-no, never again would I sit debilitated by him again.

Doubting Doubt, a more quiet of the traveling companions, was always there when we rounded the bend of a new portion of the journey.  Doubt always had strong opinions too, loved to express disbelief in my life, or God’s ability to lead and provide for it.  Doubt brought along others – Shyness, Insecurity, and Procrastination.  Doubt, while quiet, was one of the most destructive voices… often engaging my whole energy, and altering my responses to life itself.  When I first lost my job doubt was there to assure me i would probably not make it, and something hideous was to come next. Doubt often planned, organized and threw lavish parties in my living space, ushering in procrastination who was always dating insecurity.  They kept me up at night, spending long hours speaking to me of anything but truth and peace.

Raging Resentment was a dangerous guest, bubbling through the surface and constantly trying to get me to remember injustices, and events that were not fair.  Like a cruel animal constantly taunting its prey, Resentment kept on coming.  But i knew better.  One small sip of resentment would be deadly poison to my soul.   For you see, I believe every thing that happens in life is filtered through the gentle hands of our great God.  And i believe there are lessons to learn about life, and my own sick soul, which require tough doses of medicine to protect myself from such poison.  Resentment still tries to whisper soft and velvety smooth thoughts about how injustices should be repaid.  But she lies.  She speaks only in ways that will bring death to my soul.  I meet her with my new friend Forgiveness, who reminds her that every event is an opportunity to let go, love and move forward.  Resentment runs away, licks her wounds and regroups… She is a challenging enemy of my soul.  Yes, she must go too.

One challenging companion that lingered was Guarded Grief, who at every opportunity lamented and was found weeping over the burning hulk of what once was.  She was not consolable, and there was no common ground to be found to negotiate with her . Almost like a pouting and tired child that demands their voice, Grief continued to grab the emotional reigns, and remains fixed on the trauma, the loss, the change.  Truth can be found in Grief.  And Grief must be handled with great consideration for she brings a perspective that is tough medicine.  But she must be dealt with gently and properly, or she will not go, and she will leave you stuck in places that drive others away.  So Grief demands her turn at the dance.  She offers compelling reason to drop back, assess, get angry, find a way of copng with factors beyond your control, and she waits for periods of time, an almost silent companion that walks with you in this place of loss.  Her company is bitter sweet because she brings a richness to a side of life few people want to deal with… and she can bring crystal clear vision, although often she puts on thick lenses of emotion.  Everyone offers advice for dealing with Grief.  I won;t add to it.  I can only say that it is up to you to find that place where the emotions and the deep senses of loss give way to a new found purpose, and a new normal.  Grief can have a cruel side too…. like the smell of baking bread harkens me to memories of my mom, and the intense sense of loss even though it has been 23 years she is in heaven.  Grief seeks to poke and prod with reminders that are essentially good things.  She is a master of tweeking emotions when we least expect it.

Have you ever imagined the traveling companions that have shared your journey? Some of these were old friends, a part of my life for as long as i could remember.  It would be odd to release them, and move forward without them.  But this is what needed to occur.  And this is what happened.

Yes, there on the beach, feet from the burning hulk of my former life I announced my separation from these companions.  I announced my complete break from them, and refuse to travel one more step together.  And there, on the sandy beaches of a new life I gazed at the ship burning, thanked God for the new life to come, and accepted his invitation to travel on abandoned to God.

In those moments of decision, of burning up the ship, abandoning the toxic companions of my past and of taking a deep sigh as i accepted the offer to travel with God there was a peace, and a sense of calm beyond words.  Abandoned, wrecked, but at peace.

While i have know Jesus, and have had a strong relationship with him for 30 years now, this was a deeper calling.  The call was to lay down my trust in myself and my ability to earn and squirrel away money, but instead to watch, pray and ask for my needs because he would provide.  And he has. Over and over, in amazing ways the resources to pay bills, meet needs and survive have been there.  Sometimes seemingly impossible, often simply, and always to his Glory.

 

This is indeed a gift.  It is an opportunity to let go of everything, and let the priorities become reset, not to my own priorities, but to the greater good of a loving God.

I wanted to write this for a few reasons, but i must confess that it is very scary to write about coping with a major life event and subsequent transition because it is personal.  In a human sense it could be deemed an epic failure.   Or it makes people uncomfortable because they fear the struggle and loss is contagious. No, a thousand times no, it is not contagious.  If you have not sensed the deep water of loss, nor struggled to find a new normal in your life I cannot explain in a way you would relate to fully.   These life changes are something individual, personal, yet if you will not be disabled by them, they are transformational.  The depth of grief and loss caused me to dig deeper, love greater, set better priorities, and follow harder after God.

Something changed in me.  The stripping away of all the extraneous was not the only thing.  The process made me see how this life is fleeting, and we only have a finite time her to bring glory to God, and allow him to use our lives to build his kingdom.  The burning ship reminded me that just about everything in our life is subject to that test.  Will my character, my word, my actions stand the test of fire to bring forth silver and gold  for the master, or will they go up like the ship, burned to a crisp with nothing to remain?

This gift comes with a price.  It becomes challenging to be around people who have not embraced such change, or who have not been called to this change, yet this is where I am. And this is who i am.

 

Advertisements

Hunger for heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, – Philippians 3:20

As this sin scarred earth grows older, and each of us grow in our faith it seems like we are differentiated from the world in greater and greater ways.  Like a citizen of a foreign country visiting Cleveland it is noticable they are not from around here.  They may not speak the language, or understand the culture.  They may have no clue about how our government, or politics work, the sports we watch, the arts we enjoy, the food we eat.

We, the believers of Jesus, live on the earth among a world that wants to run to pleasure, selfish gain, idols and self centered lives.  How we live, practice our business, and  raise our families should look different because we are different.  We are just passing through. This is boot camp to strengthen us and build our faith up.

We know we are here for just a time… and one day we will be either called home to heaven, or we will see Jesus return to take us home.  We are called to watch and pray, wait for the redemption of our souls.  This day will come.  Until then we are ambassadors of the most high, and we must demonstrate in our life, our speech, and our choices that our citizenship is in heaven.  With the power of our great God we can to that!

 

Blessings and Curses

Been doing alot more reading, and study in preparation for something later in the month… and the thought that words have power keeps echoing back through all that i read.  Words can build us up, or cut us down.  Words, not just letters on a page, but audible sounds that we recognize as language can be spoken to bring life, or take it.

We are all guilty of either speaking things that are not life, or receiving such things.  The bible calls anything that is negative, and destructive a curse.  Curses have power.

So i ask you today – what was spoken over you, to you, about you, by you?  Were the words uplifting, inspiring, and a shining example that you followed to this point?  Or were they words that limited you, sensitized you to some area of life, words you grew into, or words that prophecized that you would never amount to anything.

I think we need the good ear of Jesus as we bear our hearts before him, and take time to remember these curses… not to give them more power but to share them with Jesus, and turn them over to him… clean house, get rid of them.  Like those boxes of stuff we all accumulate, curses sit heavy on our hears and minds.  They reduce the capacity we were designed for. They limit who we have become.  And they ought not.

 

So what have you been called?  What were you told you would never be free of?  In my life it was weight… i was often told i would never be anything but fat.  As a child, as an adolescent, and certainly as an adult.

It is a falacy to recite that kids ditty “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Names hurt… they sting deep into the core of our being.  They break down who we are designed to be.  They limit.  The give life to curses.

So today, in the name of Jesus i give you Jesus, all of the curses spoken over me by others. spoken to myself, and those lived out.  Your body was broken and poured out for our sins.  You were called cursed for hanging on a tree… I send these curses to you and ask that you wash this life clean, break every curse, and the grip they have had on my life, our lives…. amen

Jan 17 – Name above all names

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.  – Phillipeans 2:9-11

What is in a name?  Everything.  Our name is a very important indicator of who we are.  Several years ago it was very fashionable to find out what your name means and the origin of that name.

For example, Barbara means dark stranger, and comes from names given to the Barbarians.  Specifically the web tells us that Barbara is from the Greek barbaros meaning foreign or strange, traveler from a foreign land. Popular in medieval Britain after the 3rd century martyr St Barbara. In Catholic custom St. Barbara is a protectress against fire and lightning.  

And yet another internet site lists the meaning as: This name means “foreign”, but understandably when applied only in the Greek context, refers to anyone who does not speek Greek. There was a Christian martyr named Saint Barbara, who was the patroness of engineers and architects. The name reached such great heights of popularity in the 19th to 20th centuries that today, it remains strongly identified with that particular era. Today, the name is well associated with Barbra Streisand, an extremely successful singer-entertainer.

It is unclear if the name defines the person, or the person learns to be defined by the name.  But thanks be to God that His Name is beyond what we will understand or know.  He is not defined by human wisdom, nor is He limited by the wisdom of man.  His name, his very reputation, is beyond anything we can imagine.  His power is above that of the most powerful person who has ever lived, and his wisdom is greater than the most intelligent person on earth.

The passage above is a portion of what is known as the Kenosis.  It is a “high water mark” when it comes to the character and mission of Jesus.  Jesus, fully God, came down, and relinquished his divine power, and capabilities to live as a man.  This emptying of himself and limiting himself is regarded as one of the most defining characteristics of our great God.  It has challenged everyone who took the time to soak in the thought.  If I were all powerful would I step out of my perfection, and put on the rags of humanity, give up the power and glory, and veil it for a season so that I could understand and know the sufferings and trials of humans?  Someone once wrote about this and used a more modern day example of a septic tank.  Would i be willing to step into the horrendous stench and dirt of a septic tank, if it were to have an impact on others future?

I still am in awe and wonder that such a pure and holy God would wish to come down to earth, and live as one of us.  Certainly his name is great, and his reputation is beyond what anyone would understand.

At the end of this passage comes the theme of this post… God elevated him to the highest honor, giving Him the name  that is above all names.  It is not us that gave that distinction… it is God himself that chose that title.

“Name above all names,  Mighty one, Merciful One, help us to remember you are above and beyond all we can understand. Your love and your act of coming to earth, laying aside your glory to live as a man, and your willingness to die a horrible death to pay for my sin is above all i can fully understand.  Today i think you for your wonderful name, given by God himself. I thank you that you exceed all of the understanding of humanity.  And yet you choose to love us and pursue us.  Thank you. Amen”

 

January 6 – Beautiful

Beautiful – It is a challenging term to those of us who are less than cover girl perfect, who do not bear that hourglass figure, or resemble the perfection of creation.  But Beautiful is Jesus personified through our lives.  He invented beauty, created all we see to be pristine, stimulating, wonderous and awe inspiring.  From the beauty of the first rays of the sun, to the sounds of birds singing, rainbows after a rain, or the magesty of mountain ranges… everything was created by the one who is Beautiful.

Today I wanted to offer inspiration to the title “Beautiful” with a favorite worship chorus – Beautiful by Phil Wickham

Listen while you read!

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say You’re beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It’s all proclaiming who You are, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then You died
And then You rose again for me
Now You are sitting on Your Heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful

We’re singing loud

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together
And we’ll sing You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful

I see Your face, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful
I see Your face, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see Your face, I see Your face
I see Your face, You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

January 4 – Beloved

Beloved, a tender term, reserved for an intimate relationship, such as with a husband and wife.  The word carries the idea of a sweet and special role that noone else can share.  It carries the idea of a young couple honeymooning, where they are so captivated with each other that nothing else matters or is noticed.

Beloved, an endearing term that is used of those who are believers, who have surrendered their lives to their Savior, Jesus Christ.    We forget often how much we are loved, pursued, desired and chosen.  We were bought with a price, the randsom of heaven was paid to free us from the snaggles of sin.  Freeing us to be with our beloved forever more.

January 1- Alpha

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, says the Lord, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” – Revelation 1:8

I have determined in my heart and mind to try to post something each day for 2014 involving the names of God.  Fitting for the first day of the year is Alpha – the first.

I can’t urge you too often to meditate on the staggering truth that God is the absolute Alpha. Find some serene moment of your life and let the truth take hold of you that God is the FIRST—the BEGINNING. Before him there was nothing. There was no “before him.” Just think of it! For millions and billions and trillions of unending years God existed and never had a beginning. He is the beginning. From everlasting to everlasting, he is God (Psalm 90:2). There never was a time when he was not.  – John Piper

Alpha is the first letter of the greek alphabet.  It is the start of everything.  Jesus could pick no better way of describing himself than to say Alpha because He created everything.  He is the artist who hung the stars in space, and set the planets in their orbits.  He designed each and every life form on our planet, including us.  He began before we can understand beginning.  He has always been.

The verse I used above to illustrate this name of God is quite a remarkable one.  If you remember in the context it is written that John is exiled to the island of Patmos, where he witnesses this vision of the Lord walking among 7 candlesticks, declaring who he is.  He is the beginning and he is the end.  It is quite a vision.  The passage goes on to say that John fell as a dead man at his feet.  No doubt – the image of the risen Christ, the God who came down to visit man would drop any of us to our face.

I must tell you a story about this passage.  It still overwhelms me to this day, yet i understand that it was God’s timing.  In the mid 90s  Steve and I were junior high leaders.  Our small band of kids met on Sunday evenings.  It was a small, but growing serious, group of kids.  One Sunday in later winter we gathered, and it was the kick off of a new series.  The book of Revelation was one that interested them, so we decided to spend a few months working through the highlights of the book.  That Sunday the group was eager to hear and learn.  One girl, Diana, a Spanish girl that lived next door to the church asked to read the first half of chapter 1.  She read slowly, enunciating the words in a reflective way, as though this was the first time she had heard this.  The discussion was one of awe and wonder… the description of Jesus – hair white as wool, eyes of fire, feet like bronze, gird about with a belt of gold… wow.  Everyone agreed that this would be quite the life changing encounter to witness.  Little did we know, that night Diana would get up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water, slip on her brother’s toy, and suffer life threatening head injuries.  After three days on life support, the doctors were gentle, but firm.  Her life was ebbing away, and the damage was too seviere.  Diana passed away.   As we gathered for the wake the entire junior high group had one reaction…. “Barb, you know when she read that passage sunday it was like she was preparing to meet Jesus.  He had allowed her a glimpse of who he is.  She was ready for Him.”  One kid after another told me that same thought.  Oddly, Steve and I felt exactly that same thought about that time, and that passage.  God ordained timing.  God used his word to breathe hope and life into a very tragic event.

Alpha tells us that God is the chief being of all! God is the pre-eminent one.  (Colossians 1:18-19) Because He is pre-eminent, His name is above all other names.  (Philippians 2:9-11) As a result of being pre-eminent, God has all power and authority  over everything. (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:19-22)  God knew the path Diana’s life would take, and that her faith, her hunger for God, and her death would bring others to a deeper faith.  It was a hard lesson to learn of the authority and power of God, yet there was a deep abiding comfort in knowing that as she slipped from the bonds of this earth into heaven that she would meet The Alpha, and she would know the love in his eyes, the peace in his care, and the mercy of his love.  Diana, we miss you here, but we are praising God that your eternity is with The Alpha.

“Alpha, the beginning of all things, the one who holds all things in your hands, we worship you on this first day of the new year.  We thank you that you are the beginning,  that you are before all things.  Reign soverign in our lives, and lead us through this life with your grace and truth.  This new year is a fresh opportunity to learn and grow with you.  Thank you for being pre-eminemt, God Almighty.  Amen”

Authority, leadership and challenge

Have you ever felt like the fly on the wall…. unable to effect change in a situation but completely aware of the situation?  For the past few months i have been observing something that is perplexing, and at the root a very spiritual matter.  There seems to be a growing lack of respect for one another, and a growing gap in strong leadership.  We see this with our nation, and the devastating economic decisions our current president has put in place.  But it rolls down to even the local church.  For the last decade there has been much written about Cleveland being void of strong leadership, whether in business, civic affairs, government or in the faith community.  There are some shining stars with strong communicative skills, but you must agree with me that there is a void.

Lets go back to basic physics – when there is a void, a vacuum will draw in what it can to neutralize and standardize pressure to match that which is without.  In civic life we are seeing power hungry people who may not always use power and position well…. Take the recent cuyahoga county scandals as an example that position does not beget good moral character.  Yes, these leaders make decisions that shape our lives in small and great ways.

In the church we are seeing that vacuum being filled with people who self appoint to ministry.  We are seeing people who do not have the gifting for leadership attempting to cease power, and accomplish ministry often in their own strength and wisdom.   Dangerous place to be…. both for those leaders, and for the rest of the church.   Some of these people  have not wrestled deeply with their own sin scars first.  Some lead with their own wisdom, not  thinking of the impact it has on others.  Scripture is clear that the church is to be guarded, and those who are brought into leadership should be scrutinized, “fruit inspected” for evidence that they are mature, knowledgeable and teachable, yet strongly able to uphold the solid doctrines of God’s Word as they point people to Jesus.  There must always be a gentle yet firm protection of the flocks of God.

I take scripture seriously.  I know that many passages about leadership are written with the utmost warning to not be eager to rush into the role because there will be a greater scrutiny, a greater judgement because of the role.  And every action, word, and way of dealing with life should fall into the complete surrender of Jesus first.  Ministry should come out of a greater work done by the Lord in our life and used as a gift to the church to draw people to the Lord.  Joni Erickson Tada speaks to a world about the hope in spite disability; Ravi Zacharias reaches the intellectual world with clear logic and the power of God’s word to break through the barriers of humanwisdom; Billy Graham reached out to the world with the simplicity of the gospel, and we have seen the spirit of God move a world to seek God.  Lives yielded to God, surrendering to leadership of the spirit of God, willing to learn, grow, be discipled, and in turn give to the church those gifts they have received from God.  Each leader should have key qualities:

  • The heart of a Servant – Following the example of Jesus, a good leader is surrendered to Jesus, and willing to serve, never holding themselves above another.  They are willing to do what it takes to advance the kingdom.  Leadership may be very public, or the quiet strength behind the scenes, but the heart attitude is one of humble willingness.
  • Teacher/Mentor – Always thinking of each situation as a teachable moment, willing to pour into others what God has given them, modeling how to live rightly, communicating the principles of the scripture with clarity through not just speech, but through how they live.  Always desiring to point people to Jesus.  (“He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. – Titus 1:9-14)
  • Protector/Stewart – Each believer should take seriously the importance of holding God’s Word rightly: Knowing the truth of scripture, actively learning and studying to know what the truth is, and fiercely guarding that truth in order to prevent error from slipping in.  We are responsible for what we learn, and how it is shared with others.
  • Have good moral character – Scripture is clear that not everyone should lead.  Leaders should have shown by their lives that their moral character is stellar, their family life is in order, and they exhibit discipline.  All of this should be evident by their reputation as that of respect and honor.
  • Teachable – How many people in scripture learned the role through a process of being discipled, growing in knowledge, watching and learning how their mentor played out life.  Moses had Joshua; Elijah had Elisha; and on it goes.

These are challenging qualities that come not from self will to be like this, but through the power of God, and his annointing and direction to lead.   Leaders are called by God, powered by gifts the Spirit gives, and motivated by the move of God in their lives.

As i write this post my heart is heavy for several things i have heard of late… incidents where someone is in leadership that ought not be…yet.  They seem to disrespect their position enough to misuse it, and are causing a wake of grief, strife and hurt feelings.  My heart is heavy for these situations.  It is not good that such things happen.  The impact of one person who mishandles the position of leadership is a lot like a rock being thrown into a lake.  The waves ripple out and touch everyone in the area…  Each time a leader thinks more highly than they ought of themselves  crushing others around them, the delicate sanctity of the church family is compromised.  Each time those who are leaders overlook biblical principles and fill a void with someone that is not meeting the criteria of leadership another ripple is felt by the body.  That vacuum of leadership is not filled with what should be there, but with a compromised filler and the church is a little weaker, becomes a bit more vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, or the subtle compromise of other principles of scripture.  Each time this happens the church becomes a bit more weak, more vulnerable to spiritual attack, teaching of error, and crushing of believers.

What can we do?

  • Above all else, pray.  Take this to the Lord, and ask for intervention
  • If you are a leader, stand up to the role, take it seriously, and put on a careful sense of scrutiny of the church
  • If you are a leader, hold fast to the Word of God, study to show yourself approved, and by all means teach others.
  • Confront error in a biblical manner – speak with the person, and if they do not listen take another person and speak with them again.  If this is still unsuccessful, take them to the leadership of the church
  • Speak out for truth
  • Be responsible for your own life, your spiritual walk – and keep seeking, growing, studying so you know truth from error
  • Pray alot, pray hard, remain in prayer
  • Be responsible for mentoring someone else, and being mentored by someone.

Its a challenging age we live in, and we need to have strong leadership that will guard and protect, teach and model, and will guard truth with everything in their souls.  We as the flock of God can become responsible for growing, knowing what is truth, and for praying for our leaders.  And leaders need to step up to the role, and take it seriously.  Very seriously… because eternity hangs in the balance.

Spiritual Warfare

“Be sober, be vigilant because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking who he may devour.”  – 1 Peter 5:8

As a woman I have never thought of myself in terms of battle… until I became a Christian.  But how very sobering it is to imagine the visual image of the passage above… The devil is like a roaring lion seeking his prey.  According to Wikipedia, the average male lion weighs in at about 550 pounds, and is the second largest cat on earth.  Fierce, and muscular, with sharp teeth that can rip apart prey, lions are very dangerous.  Oddly, in nature it is the female, or lioness that is the hunter and gatherer for the family.  It seems quite impossible to imagine how I would feel or react if I were to encounter a lion in the wild.  Run, and the lion believes it is game on.  Stand still, and the lion may think that dinner is served.  There is no escaping the strength and cunning of a lion…in the earthly sense.

But in the spiritual sense we have a much greater power… God Almighty.

This passage gives us clarity on what we must do to avoid being prey for the devil…. be sober and be diligent.  Lets consider these two words more carefully.  They are commands.

Sober – greek: nēphō – a verb, to be calm in spirit, circumspect, temperate, to watch

Sober is used in the new testament 6 times – each as an action verb – a call to take great care of your life, your thoughts, your surroundings.  Two of the verses reference putting on the armour of God, gearing up for battle. (1 Thes 5:8 and 1 Peter 1:13)

Vigilant  – greek: grēgoreō – a verb, to watch, to be actively cautious, and to take heed so that no calamity befall you. Emphasis is on active, continual watch. 

Vigilant is used in the new testament 24 times – again action verb – calling us to wake up, to pay great attention, to watch with every effort.  This word is used by Jesus when he admonished us to look for his return, and of his followers to stay with him and watch and pray in the garden before his betrayal.  He encourages us today to watch for him, watch for his return.

I have always associated sober with clear thinking – not tainted by alcohol, drugs or distractions.  And vigilant has always been associated in my mind with persistance.  It is an action that continues… it is ongoing. In the context of spiritual warfare these are two key characteristics of a Christian that are critical…

Spiritual warfare is no strange thing.  It is not reserved for the few, the leaders of the world, and the church.  It is a normal part of Christian life.  For every Christian!  Paul assumes that every Christian is under regular, spiritual assault.  It is a normal part of the Christian life.  It is true.  And it is true for you.  

-S Eldridge, Captivating pg 28

Attacks of our thoughts, physical illness, relationships, economics… every imaginable way the enemy would want to defeat us, or knock us down will come.  But we have the power of Almighty God and the protection of his Spirit, his Armour, his Word, and his Presence.  We are not alone but we must be sober- clear thinking, and vigilant – relentless, as we watch and pray.

Jesus, we come to you today with the weight of this world all around us.  We bring the issues of our health, our finances, our minds, our spirits, our families, relationships, employment… and every aspect of our lives to you.  We ask you by your mighty power to cause the enemy to flee from us and grant us your peace, your presence and your provision for this battle.  We stand in the strength of you, Oh Lord, knowing that you have defeated this enemy, and he has no place in our lives.  By your power lift our eyes to you, and grant us your strength in the battle.  amen.

The simple yet profound impact of one prayer

Several years ago, in the midst of the challenging time of loosing my job and income i was reading a book written by Kay Warren, wife of the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the popular book “The Purpose Driven Life.”  The title of the book i was reading was called “Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God“.  The title might scare off the faint of heart… but it was attractive to me because I felt i was in a turning point in my life, wanting to find clarity, purpose, and strength for the journey and the call on my life.  When you go through a seemingly traumatic place of loss, transition, challenge it is clear God is moving, and redirecting.  But under the surface I was a fragile child wanting to have enough faith to believe and follow God but gripped by anxiety and fear of the unknown.  I think i had forgotten who’s i was.

ds

Between my bible and this book i was reminded who I am, and that there is a plan and purpose for my life.  In summary, Kay wrote of how she was redirected from her vision of being a speaker and teacher (like her husband) to an advocate and voice for the world regarding AIDS and the desperate state of bondage, abuse and slavery throughout the world. Kay had a plan for her life, which was far different from the one God had for her.  Through struggling, and yielding she tells of her journey to embrace his plan for her life. Encouraged by others she traveled to places that are desperate, broken, painful. And she met some of the living (now dead) examples of christ in flesh, such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta.  Some poeple have said the subtitle of this book should be “a journey toward saying Yes to God”.   As i read the pages of her book I was both drawn to the statements of surrender, of yielding to the will of God, and of obeying when it seems far from my comfort zone.  And i must be honest that I was also a bit repulsed by the idea of being taken so far from the comfort zone we have come to know.

But then, there it was – a prayer that inspired her.  A prayer I immediately printed and hung on my desk, and placed in my bible.  If you know me, you know that i run from the written prayers of someone else.  Perhaps it is my Russian Orthodox roots, or the new found freedom of being able to speak freely to my creator in my own words.  But every now and then there is a prayer penned by someone that captures thoughts, and embraces the words that need to be said.  Kay penned John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

(as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936).

Those words, penned in the 18th century, jumped from the page of that book and beckoned me to follow. Yes, this is dangerous surrender.  But dangerous only in the sense that it will take us to places uncharted, adventures not yet written, and placed God, our father, has ordained for us to go if we would yield.

John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement which spread throughout Europe and America in the 18th Century.  In my research I learned that the prayer above is not the exact words – but as close as we could come. Wesley would hold Covenant Services to draw people to focus on God, and the work of sanctifying, rededicating and renewing faith.  Often these services would be held at the end of the year in preparation for a new year and a new start.

I remember studying the words because the language is an older version of English   In plain English – we don;t talk like that now. Each line called for the laying down of my control on life, career, health and who i am.

I learned in those moments just how much of a control freak i am, how much i want to be in some sort of control of the details of my life.  Yet there i was, lost my career job, income dropped from very comfortable to very uncomfortable, and it was clear that God was showing me He holds the control on our lives.

That night when i quietly prayed this prayer, and told God i am not my own, and acknowledged that his plan is the best choice there was a quiet assurance that this was a good place to be.  My world has turned itself upside down a few times, and here i am… the words of that prayer are engraved in my very soul… And there have been some profound things that have sprung up through this prayer:

  • Freedom from having to pursue hard at a career – Work has come, and income is there now; and i have freedom to do wonderful things that I sense the lord calling me to.
  • Release of the deep ingrained fears of letting go.  Have you ever held on to something so tightly that your hands cramp?  This was my relationship with fear – in a tight grip walking daily with new fears.  I love the verse “Perfect love casts our all fear.”  This is now much more true of me – i take my fear to Jesus, and lay it down for him…. it is not mine to deal with.  Simply i must trust him and his wisdom.  Whatever he calls me to He will see me through with his strength and protection.
  • I am free from striving – the work is not mine to do, but it is God’s, and he will take care of it.

So, what started as a new book to read, became a watershed of faith, of strength to move beyond what I was to a bit more of what God wants of me.

It is my prayer for you, the reader, that you will consider this prayer. Count the cost of praying it, knowing it may turn your world upside down.  But be courageous, be bold, and if you sense that God is calling you to pray this prayer by all means do so.