Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week Ten

The Discipline of Worship

"To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God."- William Temple

I've been so incredibly blessed to experience all types of worship across the globe the past several years.  If anything it has broadened my perspective of true worship, taught me how to worship freely in His presence, and given me a little taste of what it's gonna be like in heaven one day.  I know I have only a tiny opinion of worship in the grand scheme of things, but I do hope that you receive new revelation today of God's heart through some of Richard Foster's thoughts on it as well as a few of my own stories.

I, like most of you who were also raised in the buckle of the bible belt, grew up singing from a hymn book in a well manicured tightly run southern baptist ship.  Yes... there were many beautiful things about our worship gatherings, but as a young gal I always felt like something was missing.  It wasn't until many years later that my heart was set free to receive the full revelation of His love and I was able to truly give Him my all in all- in spirit and truth. (John 4:23)

Foster says that to worship is to experience Reality, to touch Life.  It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community.  It is... being invaded by the Shekinah of God.  (Shekinah: the glory or radiance of God dwelling in the midst of his people).

He also says that worship is the human response to the divine initiative- to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father.  Its central reality is found and kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit.  Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm.  Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them.  Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.

For years I wondered if there was more... and if there was,  how or if i could attain it?  Part of me knew not to be satisfied with the bare minimum and the other part of me had no idea the great and awesome capacity inside of us to experience God in such a powerful life-altering way.  Does the depth and height of His love for us depend upon our response to Him? Absolutely not... He unfathomably loves us the same no matter our attitude.  But does our receiving of this love depend upon the position we hold before Him?  If we don't truly know this crazy love... then I do believe it also effects our response to Him.  It becomes one of repetition, religion, and reaction... rather than out of love, desire, respect, honor, and joy.

If we truly desire to see His face we must humble ourselves before the Father positioning ourselves at His feet with a repentant and hungry heart worshiping Him because of who HE REALLY IS... not how we feel or our projection of Him at the moment.  God desires for us to want MORE of Him.

Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.  Service flows out of worship. And if we long to go where God is going and do what God is doing, we will move into deeper, more authentic worship.- Foster

Now, when I walk into a gathering with others or just want to spend intimate time with the Lord on my own I picture myself walking into the throne room of God to commune with Him.  Since the veil was torn we now have the awesome privilege of entering Holy of Holies anytime, anywhere.  In the word it teaches us to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.... so this is exactly what I do.

It doesn't take long at this point for God to begin to pull things to the surface in my heart so I can be cleansed and move deeper into His presence.  And boy... when His heart touches mine I can't help but be completely overwhelmed by His love!  At this point you just can't seem to bow low enough, jump high enough, shout loud enough, or even return just a fraction of His love.  Suddenly, you are wrapped up in His beauty and taken to a whole other place.... grateful yet unmoved by your surroundings you are completely free to respond fully to this love giving Him all you have- mind, body, soul, spirit.

So Foster asks us: How do we cultivate this holy expectancy?  He believes it begins as we enter the Shekinah of the heart.  Which is the radiance or glory of God in us.  It is by us taking advantage of this amazing opportunity we have as children of God to connect and abide with our Father daily.  Sometimes this is recognizing His presence and listening for His voice in the silence, finding rest in the stillness, observing His beauty through nature, or finding ways to minister to Him through our body, mind, acts of service and honor.  Our Dad delights in us when we delight in Him.

Today I was talking to my good friend Mark about how becoming a Father has revolutionized the way He sees God.  He said that not only does He still love His children after they do something bad... but He actually wants to spend MORE time with them!  There is absolutely NOTHING they could do that would ever make him love them less.  He just wants to be with them.  And his wife Aegis agrees... in fact, her favorite time of the day is when their son wants to snuggle.  She said he just can't get close enough to her.  What makes this story even more special is that the two children they have were adopted.  I love when God gives us real life pictures of His heart for us.... His adopted and beloved children.  If we really opened ourselves up freely to this love I'm guessing we too would not be able to get close enough.

When children understand THIS kind of love... it doesn't make them want to go out and throw away their inheritance does it?  No!  It makes them want to hang out with their loving Dad even more... and do everything in the world to love and honor Him in response to who He is.

Let's let this soak in for a moment.  When we stop depending on the church, the pastor, the worship leader, the friend, the author, or the guest speaker to lead us into this place of true worship... and let go of all our guilt, sin, shame, "rights", earthly expectations, emotional fulfillments, and temporary satisfactions... and position ourselves rightly before the throne.... we will not walk away the same person.  And when we enter into a body of believers and there are several others with this same "holy expectancy".... the whole atmosphere of the room can change.

Foster gives some beautiful application to this in his book that I'd love to share with you, He truly believes- and so do I -that this can shift something in the atmosphere bringing freedom to all in worship:

1- Live throughout the week as an heir of the kingdom, listening for his voice, obeying his word.
2- Enter the service 10 min early lifting your heart in adoration to the King of glory.
3- Lift up the pastor, worship leaders, and other leaders to the power of the Lord.
4- Start interceding for people who enter the room, especially those who look down and out.

"Meet together in the name of Jesus... He is your Prophet, your Shepherd, your Bishop, your Priest, in the midst of you, to open you, and to sanctify you, and to feed you with Life, and to quicken you with Life" - George Fox

Foster also states that If Jesus is our Leader (and is present), then miracles should be expected to occur in worship.  Healings, both inward and outward, will be the rule... not the exception.  That the book of Acts will not just be something we read about, but something we are experiencing!

Every time I pray for someone now I am assured that even though I may not see a physical change, I know that something much deeper is going.  For God cares more about the heart than anything else.  Spiritual freedom and healing is greater than an other... even though I do believe God wants us to experience this in all areas.  Something that my good friend Allyson always says that I think is so relevant to what we're discussing is: "God just wants us to show up... then get out of the way so He can do His thing."  His "thing" that He does is so grand that we can hardly fathom it, and because He does love us so much... He allows us to be apart of His story.  In this place we are thoroughly blessed.

"God calls for worship that involves our whole being- body, mind, spirit and emotions should all be laid on the alter or worship.  The bible also describes worship in physical terms.  The root meaning for the Hebrew word of worship is "to prostrate."  The word bless literally means "to kneel".  Thanksgiving refers to "an extension of the hand."  In scripture there are many physical postures in connection with worship: lying prostrate, standing, kneeling, lifting hands, clapping hands, lifting head, bowing head, dancing, and wearing sackcloth and ashes.  Point is that we are to offer God our bodies as well as the rest of our being.  To sit still looking dour is simply not appropriate for praise.  Kneeling, bowing the head, lying prostrate are postures consistent with the spirit of adoration and humility."- Foster

Several years ago I was in Thailand with one of my YWAM teams.  A few of us were downstairs in the prayer room when all of the sudden I really felt the presence of my Lord sitting next to me.  As if that isn't strange enough for most people... Jesus seemed to be a tiny man dangling His legs off of the ledge on the wall.  I started laughing to myself about this image I had just gotten and realized that there were others in the room praying and I didn't want to distract them.  I felt in this moment that God said He wanted to bring me pure joy in this moment because that is what my heart needed the most.  Then He said that He was dealing with my friend David in a more somber manner.  About this time David looked up at me and asked what I was laughing at.  I told Him about the picture and what Jesus was telling me.  He said God was telling Him the exact same thing.  Just then I began to have the revelation of true worship.  I realized that in any given moment in a worship service we could have someone experiencing the joy of the Father, another experiencing brokenness, another revelation of God's love, another pain of sin, and yet another in a completely different way!  I began to wonder if this is what we called "charismatics".

"We are to give each other freedom to respond to the moving of God upon the heart."- Foster

Richard Foster was kind enough to give a few simple steps that He hopes will help in our experience of worship, let others know what you think as you apply them to your lives:

1-Learn to practice the presence of God daily. Punctuate every moment with inward whisperings of adoration, praise, and thanksgiving; personal times of inner worship and confession.  Attentiveness to Christ, your present teacher.  All this will heighten your expectancy in public worship.
2-Have many different experiences of worship.  Be alone, have small home groups, and find creative outlets to worship Him as well.  It will impact and empower larger gatherings.
3-Find ways to prepare for the gathered worship.  Go to bed early the night before, have inward examination of self preparing heart, be in prayer and enter worship center early to pray filling the room with the presence of God.
4- Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord.  Let go of your own agenda and concern.  Submission to one another and the ways of God.  Become of one mind, one accord.
5- Cultivate holy dependency.... completely dependent on God for anything significant to happen.  The work is all God's, not ours.
6- Absorb distractions with gratitude.  Learn to take frustrating things in and conquer them.
7- Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship.  Many times we don't "feel" it... go anyway.
Go, praying.  Go, expecting.  Go, looking for God to do a new and living work among you.

"Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience.  If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship.  To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.  In worship an increased power steals its way into the heart sanctuary, an increased compassion grows in the soul.  To worship is to change."- Foster

The life of Thaddaus (aka Jude)

It was a little harder to find info on this guy than the other disciples. And for some reason the stuff I did read I didn't really identify with.  One thing that did stick out to me was that He is/was often confused with Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. 

Just this morning my pastor was talking about Jacob in the bible and I was thinking about my friend Jacob in the audience and how He feels when He hears His name.  Then I thought about what it would be like if there was a Lindsey in the bible and I heard her name from the pulpit a lot.  What if the stories were bad about her and simply because we shared a name I received dirty looks from others?  Having the same name as a person who is not liked is not very fun I'm sure.  I bet you can even think of a few names that you wouldn't trust if you met because of some past history with other people with that name.

Well... I just wonder how Jude might have handled this, being someone that DID love the Lord very much.... but being confused for a guy who betrayed Him.  In the end... Jude too was martyred for His faith.  No matter the hardships, struggles, wrongful associations and accusations... Jude along with the other disciples worshipped the Lord with their WHOLE lives... even in their death.  They may not have had much to be grateful for physically, but they knew He was worth it and for that thrived eternally.  He KNOWS your name.

Training for the Half-marathon

So... technically the race is over, but I am late in writing this blog so I'm gonna leave you hangin' for a little bit until I finish studying the spiritual disciplines :) 

I'm still drawing so many parallels from training for this thing that I would recommend EVERYONE train for a marathon, even if you don't actually run it.  I know it sounds crazy, but I've learned SO MUCH about myself, myself in God and God's character through this challenge. 

The last few weeks before the race were difficult to say the least.  I feel like it was so hard to get a good run in.   Obstacles and distractions continued to pile up in front of me and the momentum began to slow down.  I could even see how this was strangly parallel to my spiritual life.  Even though I was still thinking and talking about God, I was slacking in my "daily dig".  I was getting a little lazy with reading my word and meditating on it.  Pretty soon my balance became off too.  At this point I was starting to doubt my ability to run, but still had a tiny glimmer of hope.

One day while I was on the road with a friend I had the opportunity to run at the beach.  It was glorious.  Although my body had slowed down a bit from not training as much, I recognized God's awesome grace as He revealed so much beauty during that jog. 

It's funny how we tend to shy away from worshipping our Dad when we feel like are not living up to His expectations for us.  Just like Adam and Even we wanna run and hide.  It's so crazy that we actually still believe sometimes that His love for us depends upon our actions.  When I see His love packaged in this beautiful earth It just makes me want to get up when I fall and run harder and faster towards Him instead of farther away.  He is so so good.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Week (weak) Nine

The discipline of confession

It seems like the more I sit and meditate on the goodness of God, the more I see Him as a good GOOD God. The more I observe His wonders and search out the depths of His mysteries, the more wondrous He becomes to me. Still I’m only scratching the surface of who He REALLY is…. And THAT, my friends, blows my little earthly mind. The crazy thing is that we actually have the capacity- in Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit- to tap into something so magnificent while still walking around on this beautiful planet we’ve been given. He gives us the keys to the kingdom, and because God is good and wonderful and mysterious and unfathomable… we can access this kingdom now.

It’s funny how we read those verses in the bible but then mistakenly believe its some far off fairy tale that is an unreachable destination until death. Or it’s just so inconceivable that the very thought of it’s endless capabilities frighten us. I guess the main point here is that salvation is not JUST a ticket to heaven. Oh no… there is so so SO MUCH more in store for those who are hungry. The more we feast on His divine self and open ourselves up for God’s rich nourishment, the more He exposes our “old self” as stinky flesh hungry for toxic things. He also beautifully reveals our “new self” or “spirit-man” in His promises as we begin to see the kingdom come to life!

What exactly does this have to do with Confession? Well… In a nutshell, God LOVES us nuts (haha)… but really REALLY hates sin. Easy enough, right? But for some reason we are still attaching ourselves to the sin, when Christ lived and died to detach us from it. God will go to great lengths to destroy sin in this world, but so desires to save His children from that very sin that entangles, enslaves, and destroys us. Now do you see why He loathes it so?

“At the heart of God is the desire to give and to forgive. Because of this, he set into motion the entire redemptive process that culminated in the cross and was confirmed in the resurrection…. Love, not anger, brought Jesus to the cross. Golgotha came as a result of God’s great desire to forgive, not his reluctance. Jesus knew that by his vicarious suffering he could actually absorb all the evil of humanity and so heal it, forgive it, redeem it. This redemptive process is a great mystery hidden in the heart of God, but I know that it is true. It is the ground upon which we can know that confession and forgiveness are realities that transform us. It involves an objective change in our relationship with God and a subjective change in us. It is a means of healing and transforming the inner spirit.”- Richard Foster

So if confession is so good for us, our relationship with the Lord and others… why is it such a dirty word in the church? Why don’t we jump at the chance to bring to light all of our hidden thoughts, terrible emotions, stupid mistakes, and secret addictions? I’ll tell ya why… cuz it’s down right terrifying!!! We’d much rather keep our lives private even at the destructive cost of allowing the darkness to slowly eat away at our soul. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But I’ve been there ok? Haha. I’ve seen small hidden seeds of “innocent fun” grow into giant weeds suffocating the very foundation of my faith in God!!! I tell ya, these weeds are deadly! They’ll wrap around your heart so fast you can hardly catch your breath and then rapidly find yourself in a state of dire emergency.

When these weeds are just tiny seeds they may be hard to catch unless you are truly “abiding” in the Lord and cleaning house daily. This even goes back to the “wholeness” thing I love to talk about. What are we allowing in? And just as important, what are we investing in? Do we read, see, eat, or take part in toxic things? Where are our time, energy, and resources going?

The wonderful and scary thing about God is that He searches and knows our hearts. Yes He very much cares about the core of who we are and who He’s destined us to be… but He also sees the contradiction when we simply see ourselves for who we think we are, the world says we are… or worse, accept the lies of the enemy. Confession is verbally recognizing and repenting for our approval of these lies, detaching ourselves from the darkness of hidden things…. And running into the light of God letting Him lovingly drench you with His grace, beauty, forgiveness, kindness, and love.

Once we begin to see His heart for us and what “confession” actually does, it becomes a pleasure to throw off the crap that enslaves us and walk as a son or daughter confident in their Dad who will do and has always done anything and everything to keep us from the sickness of sin. When we confess and repent… it’s done. There’s no need to keep asking, just walk. No more guilt or shame. Just walk… towards Him in the light where seeds are exposed and the enemy can’t hide.

No matter where you are today, or what you are going through… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Not only have thousands if not millions before you gone through it, I’m sure I have as well (and I’m ALWAYS available to share my story and listen to yours!!!) This is yet another reason why it’s so great to have accountability partners in your life. It’s not just so you will never sin again (because you probably will)… but so you will have someone that you trust that you can talk to when there is some sort of sin in your life so will not stay hidden and grow but be challenged by the light therefore helping us see our inheritance once again. I pray there is at least one person in your life that you can trust WITH your life. If not, you start praying for them… they are out there, trust me. Also, look for ways to BE this person to others. We NEED each other, and we need each other to keep telling us that we are in desperate NEED of a Savior.

This also helps when you find yourself in a weak moment. You have a physical representation of someone who knows EVERYTHING about you (other than God) and is waiting for the weekly or daily report. A lot of times your accountability friend will know something's up, but most times it will help you avoid the situation knowing the conversation you could be having later. We don't become strong by trying harder... we become strong in the spirit by feeding the spirit. The temptations will always be there... but the justifications will be harder to conjure up when you've got truth on the brain and God's massive love in your heart. Allowing God to nourish all areas quickly weakens our flesh... He is so good.

“But if we know that the people of God are first a fellowship of sinners, we are freed to hear the unconditional call of God’s love and to confess our needs openly before our brothers and sisters. We know we are not alone in our sin. The fear and pride that cling to us like barnacles cling to others also. We are sinners together. In acts of mutual confession we release the power that heals. Our humanity is no longer denied, but transformed.” – Richard Foster

St. Alphonsus Liguori writes: “For a good confession three things are necessary: an examination of conscience, sorrow, and a determination to avoid sin.”

For many years I lived my life the way that felt good to me. I had good intentions on being the woman that God had called me to be… but my decisions along the way were very destructive. I had little seeds growing weeds all over the place, but on the outside I gave the impression that my life was truly a beautiful garden. I did a pretty good job at hiding things I knew loved ones would disapprove of, but for myself I had numbed or severed part of my conscience. I did what I wanted and it strangely stopped affecting me. Slowly but surely, as I continued down that path, I lost the heart of God for me. I also became too prideful for even guilt, shame or conviction to enter in. I surely don’t believe God wants us to live in those places at all… but they are also good indicators that we are on dangerous ground and need to move out quickly.

So even as a “believer” I had no conscience, no sorrow, and no determination to avoid the sin in my life… in fact, I sought it out. Perhaps some would say I wasn’t a Christian during this time if they had known my lifestyle… but I assure you that I loved Jesus. How can this be? A few wake up calls later… I finally began to see how HUGE God’s love was for His children and how far from His heart I had run. I also began to have a very healthy fear of the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the expanding universe and his hatred for sin.

“Today we take our offenses to the love of God far too lightly. If we had only a tinge of the sense of revulsion that God feels toward sin, we would be moved to holier living.”- Foster

Even if you don’t think you know of any sin in your life… I’d take a second look around to see if any toxic things have made a home inside of you. All that does is weigh us down and keep us from being free so that we can accept even more of God inside of us! We can not serve two masters…. Even down to every single cell of our body. A cell cannot be toxic and nourished at the same time, it’s one or the other. So in order for it to be nourished it has to be detoxed. Confession and repentance are hands-down the top of the line detox for our mind, spirit, soul and body!!! Isn’t that wonderful news??? God really does know what’s best and desires what’s best for every single one of us, so what are we waiting for???

“The discipline of confession brings an end to pretense. God is calling us into being a Church that can openly confess its frail humanity and know the forgiving and empowering graces of Christ. Honesty leads to confession, and confession leads to change. May God give grace to the Church once again to recover the Discipline of confession.”- Foster

training for the half-marathon

It’s been amazing to see how God has given me more endurance than I ever could have imagined and in such a short time. This is truly a miracle people. I’ve never run over a mile without stopping… IN MY LIFE. The most I’ve ever gone in one day was 10 miles in college, but I walked most of it… probably sipping on some soda or something (yuck).
The other day I decided to see if I could run 6 miles. I started very slow… but I ran 3, took a small break… and ran 3 more (with a little bit of walking)!!! I could not hardly believe it!

As I was running I was sharing with a friend my revelation about how God had asked me to be a long distance runner for Him. In that moment the light bulb came on and I realized what He was REALLY talking about. God definitely had a beautiful will in mind for my life, as He does us all… and although my intentions were on finishing the race well, I was definitely not running it well at all. If I was comparing my spiritual life to a real race it might look like: myself never training a day in my life, constantly trailing off the main course when anything shiny drew my attention, eating crappy foods along the way, running fast then needing cpr, falling and probably causing others to stumble.

But this is one thing I’ve learned: Running the race does not make me a runner, but living the lifestyle of the runner does. Man does this hit hard. Not only was I a “sprinter” for the Lord, but I was a terrible one at that. “Doing” what the bible said and “trying” to be a Christian was exhausting because I was really all talk and no walk. Once I heard his voice though and surrendered to the training of a “runner” the “race” was no longer a chore or a hindrance, but a joyful adventure!!! I realized that “running with endurance” wasn’t just something we wake up with… but it’s something we train for.

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned thus far is that God has set a pace and desires for us to comply with it. I noticed in my training that the quicker my pace the faster my heart, lungs and other body parts would tire out. Not only is this extremely uncomfortable, but it is very dangerous as well. However, when I slowed way down I was able to run for a lot longer and not be tired at all.

In the past few weeks we’ve talked a lot about stillness in Him. In that place of silence we hear His voice… “Be still and know that I am God.” The only way He can keep our heart in check and in perfect alignment with His is if we choose to go at His pace. It is here that we find much needed rest, freedom from anxiety and stress, beauty in observation, welcomed revelation, wholeness, health, endurance, and quality life. There is no more fear in failure or loss, no need to be someone else, little desire to stray off the beaten path seeking counterfeit to fulfill some empty place, less chance to be fooled by the enemies tricks and illusions, and no rat race, but instead- an AUTHENTIC hunger, need and desire for Jesus to not only finish the race… but to run it well.

The life of Thomas

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.4 From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:1-7

I absolutely love this dialogue for several reasons. But mostly in this space and time because we are talking about Thomas here. How many of you have ever heard the term “doubting Thomas”? Show of hands? Now how many of you have ever asked legitimate questions before?? Or have ever had a doubt in your mind? Seems a little harsh that one man would be tagged with such a name that would stick around until Jesus came back. I’d sure hate to be known by “doubting Lindsey”.

Yet what I LOVE about this passage is if He hadn’t had asked that question, would we had ever heard Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life… no one comes to the Father except through me”? I mean… that’s probably one of the most quoted verses in history!!! And it was all provoked by one man’s curiosity.

Another thing I love about this is when Jesus says, “FROM NOW ON… you DO know Him and have seen him.” No matter what humans say about Thomas, he is who God says He is. The world may still mock him… but Jesus redeemed and transformed Him. Now, think for a second about the many other things we could be called on earth because of what we’ve done.


HE calls you child, He calls you beloved, He calls you whole, He calls you trustworthy, He calls you free, He calls you healed, He calls you to LIFE. HE-CALLS-YOU by name.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Week Eight

The Discipline of Service

"Learn the lesson that, if you are to do the work of a prophet, what you need is not a scepter but a hoe."- Bernard of Clairvaux

This week I began by asking God for divine appointments- that He would open my eyes to people's needs and show me how to love and serve them as He would have me to. When I am intentional about this prayer it seems as though the opportunities become endless. It becomes such an awesome adventure when you literally began to look for reasons to go out of your way to help someone else with no expectation of anything in return. But it hardly starts off that way, especially for me. It never fails... somewhere along the way God reveals some ugly place in my heart, so i simply just ask for Him to wipe away those smudges and use me in my incompleteness. That's why this journey is such a blessing, because we began to identify with Him and come to know His heart even more as He molds us to be more like Him.

Like the man in this picture, I too find myself in this begging position from time to time... asking God to take my heart and make it pure before Him. I read about humility in the word and desire to be humble, but you can not seek it and find it. Rather it is only found in an authentic lifestyle of servanthood. I feel like i'm offering up all I have, which isn't much, and He gladly takes it... shines His glory on it, and with His mercy turns it in to something I could never have imagined. Wow... God is so so so so good.

I love what Foster says about true service vs. self-righteous service..." Self-righteous service comes through human effort. True service comes from a relationship with the divine ONE deep inside. We serve out of whispered promptings, divine urgings. Energy is expended but it is not the frantic energy of the flesh. Self- righteous service is impressed with the 'big deal' and requires external rewards. True service rests contented in hiddenness. It does not fear the lights and blare of attention, but it does not seek them either... the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient. Self-righteous service is highly concerned with results whereas true service is free of he need to calculate them. It can serve enemies as freely as friends, but self-righteous service picks and chooses who to serve. Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims, but true service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.... it is a life-style. And lastly self- righteous service fractures community because it can potentially put others in "debt" and manipulate them... but true service BUILDS community- it draws, binds, heals and builds."

After reading this I realized how many times I was a self-righteous servant for "the lord." One of the things I love about studying these spiritual disciplines is that it is constantly keeping your heart in check. I may have "tried" to act these biblical principles out before... but it was simply coming from my own human efforts and for my own benefit rather than glorifying the kingdom as my heart was aligned with His heart for the world submitting to His will... and modeled after His character and nature. It's not even that you are enlightened with the truth or have more knowledge of it that REALLY alters your lifestyle. It's that you come to KNOW HIM.... as a Father... and when you do- that's what changes EVERYTHING. You now how the complete FREEDOM to give it all and the DESIRE to do so!!!

So last week I had the wonderful opportunity to serve my family and some other friends who had stayed out our house throughout the week. It was such a joy to make a good healthy dinner most nights and see tummy's filled with goodness and happy faces! Even though it was a small thing, I got so much pleasure out of being used by the Lord that way!

Also last week my dad was working on a wall behind our house. It is a huge job for one man, especially one in is mid to late 60's! But God knew what He was doing and laid it on the hearts some of our friends and neighbors to come over and help. They got the wall finished in no time and had fun living in REAL community while doing it! Isn't serving each other what it's all about? Not the hokey pokey? Haha. Anyway... it's such a beautiful thing to see people serving people to give God all the glory and honor!

Another opportunity God gave me was to drive my sweet dear friend to her doctors appointment a few hours away. I was so blessed to be able to spend some quality time with her as well as meet people along the way that we ended up also being blessed by!!! We had the best time spreading God's joy throughout the state of Arkansas that day and honestly felt like we walked away more blessed than anyone!!!

Here's something we tend to forget or not talk about too much, and probably because it's such a hard pill to swallow. But Foster paints a beautiful picture of the heart of Jesus in this excerpt:

"Gathered at the Passover feast, the disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others' feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So there they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least. Then Jesus took a towel and a basin and redefined greatness....."

WOW. I hardly know where to go from here. THE KING of the universe... who could've sat on a throne of gold on earth with a gold sceptor and a gold crown, basically says "I'm not here to be fancy, i'm here to fellowship.... i'm not here to have many servants, but to serve....i'm not here to care about gold for it's only worthy of paving our streets in heaven." OH MY. It's kinda hard to fathom a man like this.

For it is the discipline of service that brings humility into our lives. "If we want humility, he counsels us to '... condescend to all the weaknesses and infirmities of your fellow-creatures, cover their frailties, love their excellencies, encourage their virtues, relieve their wants, rejoice in their prosperities, compassionate their distress, receive their friendship, overlook their unkindness, forgive their malice, be a servant of servants, and condescend to do the lowest offices to the lowest of mankind.' -Foster

"To do specific acts of service is not the same thing as living the discipline of service, " says Foster... so here are several "services" he mentions in his book that you may come across as you continue to walk out your own personal journey with Christ...

-the service of hiddenness: serving without acknowledgement is a rebuke to the flesh and a can deal a fatal death blow to pride, also can inspire the one on the receiving end who can thank no one person to a deeper devotion; this can also send ripples of joy and celebration through any community!!!!

-the service of small things: in the realm of the spirit we soon discover that the real issues are found in the tiny, insignificant corners of life, this service will put us at odds with our sloth and idlenss, "be faithful in the small".

- the service of guarding the reputation of others, or the service of "charity": not just holding our tongue but actually speaking LIFE over and about someone we may or may not necessarily agree with. Personally I've found it easier to encourage than condemn when we understand God has a heart of redemption rather than failure.

-the service of being served: it is definitely an act of submission and recognizes the "kingdom authority" over us. Jesus washed the disciples feet... if we refuse to be served we are pridefully failing to submit to the divinely appointed leadership in the kingdom of God.

-the service of common courtesy: the specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same- to acknowledge others and affirm their worth... this service is sorely needed in our increasingly computerized and depersonalized society.

-the service of hospitality: we limit our ability to give in this way a lot of times because of fear or we just make it too complicated. It's pretty easy to open up our homes and possessions to family, friends and even strangers... we just don't always freely take that pleasurable opportunity here in the western world. I can tell you that the poorest people in third world countries don't worry about their carpet being cleaned before you come over because it's dirt anyway. And they don't run out to wal-mart and buy the perfect foods... they fix you some tea and pull a mango off the tree. They find joy in simple being with you.

-the service of listening: the most important requirements for this are compassion and patience. To listen to others quiets and disciplines the mind to listen to God and creates an inward working upon the heart that transforms the affections, even the priorities, of life.

-the service of bearing the burdens of each other: We can learn to uphold the burdens and sorrows of others without being destroyed by them. Rather than dashing out to bear the burdens of the whole world, let us begin more humbly... in some small corner somewhere and learn. Jesus will be our teacher.

-the service of sharing the word of Life with one another: When we retreat to those beautiful moments of solitude and silence with the Lord, He speaks. Often times we hold back the words He has spoken, but there is a time and a place... and if those words bring forth life, vision, encouragement.... the other individuals need to hear what God has said. He is the one who has spoken it, now we are to put hands and feet to it. Like Jesus did. Let's be confident in what He's sharing with us to share with others.

I don't know about you, but to me it seems that if we just did these things... and began a lifestyle of service as a community of believers, the world might begin to see the church a little differently.

training for the half-marathon
Now.... on to THE RACE.

This weeks lesson of service sort of colorfully melts into the race that i've been training for physically and spiritually. Last friday I spent some time up at the pregnancy resource center with some incredible women!!! Initially I had hoped to be able to actually counsel women out of abortion and encourage them to choose life instead. Well... the first few weeks were watching videos and reading manuals. Then, as I was watching a video one day I began to pray for the girl in the room next to me who was being counseled. That was a big day! Not only did she choose life for her baby, but she found freedom in Christ as well!!!!

This past week I asked if there was any "busy work" i could do... and so I ended up cleaning toilets. I remember telling my YWAM students years ago that when they returned home they would want to jump into ministries and take all that they had learned on the field. We encourage them to be satisfied with even the dirtiest work because God will honor the servant heart... and besides all that it blesses Him to see you humbly serve in that way with a smile on your face all for Him.

Well... it was actually fun! It really didn't matter what I did anyway, i just wanted to serve that place and those people!!! Anyway... I had been asked by another volunteer if I was a runner. I told her I had sort of become one because God had told me to train for the half-marathon, but I didn't have the money for it so I decided not to run. At the very end of the day... one of the ladies handed me a check and said "you are supposed to run the race." WOW! This is crazy!!!!
God is so amazing and cool how He chooses to bless. He gets me every time!!!

So the next day I had a new motivation. I knew there was nothing left inside of me that was selfishly motivating me to run. I prayed before doing a small run in my neighborhood to get back in the groove of things... and before I knew it, i had run over 3 miles without stopping or getting tired! I'm going to try to get up to 7 this week, 9 next week, and 11 the next before the race. Please be praying for me... and if you'd like to support "Hands and Feet Project" I am running for them, so please just shoot me an email: ... Thanks!!!!

The life of the disciple Matthew

I love the story of Matthew... mainly because the Pharisees and scribes hated it. Jesus did not overlook anyone because of their choice of lifestyle... He only saw them for their potential to see themselves for who they were really created to be- sons and daughters. How many times have we passed by a homeless person, a drinker, a punk, a thief, a prisoner, a person addicted to something, a smoker... and thought "well they've chosen their bed so they deserve to lie in it." Wow... that sounds pretty harsh right? But if we're being honest, has that actually been something that's helped us justify the fact that it's just a little too uncomfortable to talk to that person because... well... we have nothing in common with them????

If we know who we are in Christ... and see our daily need for redemption, restoration, and repentance... then we have so much more than we ever could imagine in common with "them". Too often we place ourselves on a different "level" when we are saved finding it much easier to associate with like minded people, when now.... we are so full of hope and grace and love from being rescued ourselves that all we should desire to do is to take that hope to the streets!!!! Right??? And I've seen many people live this out and it's so amazing to see our church in action!

Well, that's what Jesus did anyway... and if he hadn't Matthew may had never been a disciple for Him and we may not even have come to know who Jesus is if it weren't for Matthew following in Jesus footsteps and accepting the Great Commission as a command and a joy! As soon as Matthew speaks with Jesus and is asked to follow he throws a big party to honor Him and the other disciples. That sounds like so much fun!!!! What's even more hilarious is how the pharisees and scribes stood outside and made judgmental notes about Jesus eating and drinking with sinners. I imagine Jesus peaking out the window explaining to the disciples and Matthew what was going on as they continued to enjoy the food and fellowship.

Jesus came to hang out with the sinners and the sick and to show them the freedom and healing they could have in and through Him. This is something the "religious" people didn't get, probably because they were more imprisoned to law than the relationship of Christ.

From the research of many scholars it looks as though Matthew traveled to many countries sharing the gospel of Christ as well as dying a martyr's death. What a life of abandonment to this world He led once Jesus confidently approached him in the midst of his sin and showed him his destiny as an adopted and beloved son.

I'm convinced that we are all so loved by God that we can't even fathom a tiny fraction of that. But as our eyes are more and more opened to this love we began to see ourselves as how he sees us and what he created us to be. We see ourselves as His adopted kids with the incredible opportunity to live FREELY and FULLY in His presence on this earth and into eternity. Some are blinded by legalism, some are blinded by earthly possessions, others are blinded by religion, or denomination, or pride, or abandonment, or anger... the list goes on and on. But if we could just take the word at face value... see Jesus as God in flesh who came down to physically touch our lives and breath life in us so we could live.... then might we also want to lay down ALL hinderances to know Him more??? It's not just about HOW we live... it's really about WHO are we living for. And when we decide who we are truly living for... the way in which we live is completely altered for the rest of our earthly existence.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Week Seven

The discipline of Solitude

“Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself”- Teresa of Avila

I love how Jesus was often retreating to a place of solitude with the Father. I imagine it was His lifeline. We forget that although He was God, He was FULLY man with the same human limitations that we have. And He died… not so we could just have just any relationship with the Father, but so we could actually have HIS relationship with the Father. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just assumed that was unattainable and didn’t take full advantage of my God-given ability to connect with the creator of the whole world in this way! He IS our lifeline.

As He walked and taught and lived on earth, He still teaches us today. He is calling us from a place of loneliness to solitude. We will all feel lonely at times and if we don’t chances are we are masking that loneliness with temporary satisfactions. But instead of us going to those things that only place obstacles in our lives from fully receiving the love He is pouring out, He desires intimacy for all of us. This happens in this place called solitude.

Interestingly enough, we don’t have to have complete silence to do this… although I find it easier to attain in that place it’s not always available. Foster says it best:

“We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment. Solitude is more a state of mind and heart than it is a place. There is a solitude of the heart that can be maintained at all times. If we possess inward solitude we do not fear being alone, for we know that we are not alone. Neither do we fear being with others, for they do not control us. In the midst of noise and confusion we are settled into a deep inner silence. Whether alone or among people, we always carry with us a portable sanctuary of the heart…. There is a freedom to be alone, not in order to be away from people but in order to hear the divine Whisper better.”

I love Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s intellectual interpretation of the paradox and balance of the essential elements of spirituality: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community…Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.” Well said Bonhoeffer Oh, and by the way… I think you covered everything and every person. Don’t you just love conviction of the heart? I’m actually learning to love the challenge of letting go of things that are unnecessary to my journey and burdensome and picking up things of great value for the road ahead. We must have a good balance of both community and aloneness if we are to continue to walk in obedience safely.

“Under the discipline of silence and solitude we learn when to speak and when to refrain from speaking… and simply to refrain from talking, without a heart listening to God, is not silence. Silence always involves the act and listening,” says Foster.

I imagine by now in this blog you are thinking, “Shwew, it’s about time Lindsey learned a thing or two about listening.” Hahaha. And, you are probably right. I can always learn more! I was actually convicted this week about how much I do talk… and even write! I feel a season of silence coming soon A month or year at a convent, who knows? Haha. Anyway… I appreciate God revealing these things to me this week so that I can learn to hear His voice clearly at all times. It’s interesting how closely knit silence and trust really are.

Reaching this place of solitude and silence is not all a bed of roses… there is a line in St.John’s poem “Canciones del Alma” that says ‘my house being now all stilled’ that Foster interprets as this, “In this graphic line he indicates the importance of allowing all the physical, emotional, psychological, even spiritual senses to be silenced. Every distraction of the body, mind, and spirit must be put into a kind of suspended animation before this deep work of God upon the soul can occur. It is like an operation in which the anesthetic must take effect before the surgery can be performed. There comes inner silence, peace, stillness. During such a time Bible reading, sermons, intellectual debate- all fail to move or excited us.”

As I write this the song “cold water” comes on by Damien rice… sit and listen to the words…. If you notice the tension of your “self” wanting to fight and not let go… just force yourself to sit, be still and wait on the Lord. I like to think of that deep background voice as God speaking directly to me.

I love what Graham Cooke says about God, "He will never respond to us in the same volume we shout out to Him... His voice is most of the time found in a whisper."

Another thing Foster mentions is important is noticing and taking advantage of the “little solitudes” throughout our day. “These little snatches are often lost to us. They can and should be redeemed. They are little moments that help us to be genuinely present where we are.”

He even recommends withdrawing to a retreat place at least once a year… which is sort of what I’m doing right now as I write this. I think people with families and important jobs have a lot more obstacles in getting a sacred time like this to happen, but it is well worth the effort you put forth to get here. And I do believe God would show up for you in a big way.

“Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure of his Presence? It is the discipline of solitude that will open the door. You are welcome to come in and ‘listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all-embracing silence’.” Foster

I posted my crazy journal of my week of solitude below. Overall I enjoyed the time getting to know Him even more.


DAY 1:

I realize solitude is a little bit easier for me than others because I’ve had 32 years to really discover my identity without anyone else to think about. As I’ve come to know myself, God’s uncovered all of these passions- that I believe are in each and every one of us. Although I am very passionate about other people, their stories, and loving and serving them… there are countless things I’ve found I am able do joyfully do with no one else around. I absolutely love reading, studying, discovering, writing, journaling, learning, thinking, praying, exercising, and meditating. It’s possible to do these activities with people around but the depth at which you can go spiritually with the Lord seems to be so much greater when you find yourself completely alone with HIM.

Part of the reason this is is because you are utterly dependent on Him for everything! We are made for intimacy and our tendency is (just like water) to find the quickest, easiest avenue for this. I have had no man in my life for years to give me the affection and love that I so desired. When someone comes along that is willing to freely give me that attention I suddenly feel some sort of worth and companionship I’d been dying for. Nevertheless, the fulfillment of those desires on earth can never truly satisfy my need for intimacy only found in Him. Sadly, most of us never take the opportunity to find it in Him because of other things that have momentarily filled that need therefore our soul remains desperate. I mean, I’m single and I still have a hard time seeking Him for it.

Deciding to take this week of solitude took absolutely no effort on my part. I was just excited to get some things done I’ve needed to do for a long time that seem hindered when I’m available to the world. The difficult part came when I began to feel sick. Yesterday afternoon I started to feel all achy and had a low-grade fever. I know my body is trying to fight off something and I’m doing what I know to assist it in that. Again, just another reason I HAVE to trust in my heavenly Father. I guess in a way I literally am trusting Him with my life. I realize many things could happen while I’m out here alone, but instead of letting fear creep in- I have to choose not to believe the lies the enemy tells and TRUST.

I’ve had a hard time sleeping at night, but not because I’m scared at all… I feel quite safe here. For some reason I wake up every few hours and feel like I’m in the middle of some battle. Then when I finally do get up, my body hurts all over. No matter what, I believe that I’m learning something out here that the enemy just doesn’t like. I also believe that God is doing a great work in me as I seek Him and His mysterious ways are uncovered to my soul. More than anything… I just want to be in His presence. Even if nothing else profound happens, I will be satisfied with knowing that I simply met God here in this little cabin in the woods. I can’t imagine walking away from this the same person.

Lord, take out anything in me that may hinder my heart, mind, body, and soul from receiving your love. I want to be completely deficient of all this world has to offer so I am desperate for more of you.

DAY 2:

Yesterday began with aches and pains. Not quite sure if it was the nice firm bed or the fact I’m trying to get rid of this parasite or a combination of the two plus or minus a few things. I didn’t sleep well either. I did have a good little morning yoga stretch on the back porch and some long needed moments of meditation.

Here are some things I really enjoy about this place: The silence, the mornings, the cool breeze, the warm sun, the birds song, the wild turkeys, being able to think and write with none of life’s interruptions, doing yoga on the deck, singing or dancing if I want, letting the music be my soundtrack, watching Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Honestly, I love pretty much everything about this time. I do wonder if I could actually make it as a mountain woman. I know I can’t kill my own food yet but last night I came pretty close…. So I mentioned there are about a billion things I love, but last night those few things I do dislike…ok hate… ok pretty much fear, came to life. I had just finished watching the 3rd LOTR. My least favorite part of that whole trilogy is when the giant spider is chasing, attacking and spinning Frodo preparing him for death. Ew. I hate spiders! Especially giant ones. I mean, I don’t know many people who’d want to sleep next to them… but they’re pretty high on my “why were these creatures invented, God?” list. Flies, centipedes, cockroaches, any insect that flies pretty much, anything with more than six legs (although that cuts it close), and anything bigger than my hand that is supposed to be an insect (not something out of a horror flick), are all also on this list.

Keep in mind… last week my best friend Aegis decided to put her giant furry Halloween spider on my bed for a nice surprise when I returned home one night. I almost peed my pants. That night I meant to get her back, but instead scared her hubby. Poor Mark got caught in the crossfire, as usual. The next day this thing was in my bathtub with the curtains closed…. Waiting, lurking…. As any giant frightening stuffed spider would. I swear this thing could move at any second… nothing about it looks fake- except it’s giant cheap furry exterior and eyes of beads. Other than that, it’s completely realistic! Well, that night… I think I did pee in my pants a little, and perhaps said a few words I wouldn’t say in front of small children. Fast forward to last night… Watched Frodo being attacked, relived my experience at Aegis’s house… then went to brush my teeth. Right after I was finished I looked over and in the tub was a HUGE real spider. Ok, not as big as the fake one, but a pretty darn big REAL spider… that scurried fast. Ah!!! Sick. I immediately grabbed gun i brought. Ok... not really, but the nearest poisonous cleaner i could find and started shooting. It was half nasty and half satisfying to watch this thing suffer. I figured until God reveals to me why those certain creatures on my list exist I shall kill them if they enter my territory uninvited. I mean, you don’t see me hanging out at the local web late enjoying a few flies for dinner just waiting for mr and mrs spider to come home to my human scare tactics. Anyway… it now sits at the bottom of my trash can all shrivled up in a paper towel in a few plastic bags.

So, another little “incident” happened last night. Thankfully my dad left me a gun and taught me how to shoot it before he left. I thought it was pretty cool at the time, not really thinking that I’d actually need to use it. Well, last night I came pretty close. It was about 230 or so and I had almost drifted off when I thought I heard something like footsteps on the front porch. Sidenote: you know those times when you’re alone and it could be a coke can rolling across the porch and you’d imagine it to be a big hairy man with a knife and a cigarette? This like, for real… sounded like footsteps. I figured I could freeze in fear, hide under the bed… or do the most logical thing. So I grabbed the gun, turned on the floodlights and baracaded the door to my room After that I made a plan of escape if someone were to actually try to come in, I prayed… gave it to God then went fast asleep Best sleep so far actually.

The days are pretty easy here, and I actually wish I had more hours in the day to write. The nights are fine, but I am definitely challenged a bit with the dark creepy noises while in the cabin in the woods in the hills of Arkansas alone. But honestly, I love challenges… and if I never did anything like this I’d never learn to depend on my DAD in this way. I do feel so blessed to be here!

A big part of me wanted God to do some revolutionary work in my life this week… or to write this brilliant book… or something! The other day I got a text from one of my accountability partners and she so wisely said, “just surrender to what God has before you in this time”. I love that. Seems so easy, but letting go of our will is sometimes one of the hardest things we can do… but definitely the most rewarding. Once I did that, it took the pressure off for ME to accomplish anything, and for God to do everything that he wanted to do in me.

I’m starting to lose track of what day it is… that’s kinda nice too.

DAY 3:

So today was great. My only complaint is that the end of my time here is coming too quickly. I think I could use about a month locked up in a cabin to get anything done. It has certainly been refreshing though! After writing for a few hours this morning I decided to find this river I’d heard so much about. I knew it was gonna be quite a little hike, but I was ready for a little physical challenge.

I set out to find my precious river found the road and about 15 minutes later had run all the way there. On the gravel road, however, I had heard all kings of noises and been told to look out for snakes. As I ran along I would hear these loud crunching noises and seriously got my phone ready to capture bigfoot in action. As as the tiny squirrel hopped across the road I thought about how LOUD and obnoxious the devil sounds sometimes as we are walking down our path minding our own business... but how small and helpless he really is. Anyway... about 15 min later I arrived at a small little dirt road, followed a little path through some woods and found myself at the banks of a beautiful quiet river!

It was a place on the river totally empty of any life form except me, some birds and possibly a few other animals. I waded out to the middle, sat on some dry rocks in silence for awhile, enjoyed the majestic waters flowing around me and had a few revalations.

Going up the mountain was a different story. The first few minutes I tried to run up the hill and then started getting severe pains in my side. It probably had something to do the parasites I’m trying to kill off. Anyway… it took me twice as long to get back and man, I was parched! Painful, but totally worth it!

Got re-fueled up and booby- trapped the porch for the evening, no one getting in this joint! Haha.

DAY 4:

“Sabbath rest”- Hebrews 4: 8-13

Silence- let my words be few. More power in less words if they come from a place of ultimate rest, most likely purely connected to the source!

I felt as though I was finally learning one of the reasons why God brought me out here on this day. It wasn’t so I could be “productive” and write a best seller, or even so I could organize all my thoughts, or catch up on work, or to conquer the great outdoors all by myself. Those might have been good things, but the root of my absence from civilization, business, codependency, and comfort was to find stillness and true rest in Him and him alone.

What I learned from the river yesterday was priceless… as I sit upon this dry place with the water surrounding me I find myself all alone on an island that I’ve chosen to be. Just be. I imagined my hunger and thirst driving me to the source of the river and when I found it the more I drank, the more I became thirsty for Him. Then, the more power that flowed from this source throughout the path dug out by nature. The course of this river may have been determined, and the power and might of the water was always there… but it wasn’t until I tapped into this source that the dam began to open wider sending all of it’s might and strength out… covering all my rocks and boulders of sin with such grace and mercy. Eventually those places became the most beautiful along the river where others could sit and glorify God for what He’d done in my life, taking the ugly pain of past mistakes and making them beautiful rapids of his love and glory. Pretty soon every dry place was covered and all I could do was submerse myself in the river and be restored and refreshed letting it move me throughout the rest of time.

Today I learned that even when I go back to the “real world” and have to face life, business, people and their issues, brokenness, temptation, sadness, etc… I know that I have this river of peace steady and ever-flowing in my heart. No matter the chaos that surrounds me I have this image of God ordained power and might flowing over all of my inequities as I continue to tap into the source in my life.

DAY 5:

This morning I was practicing some balancing moves on my yoga mat on the back deck. I felt stronger and more balanced than I had in a while. My gaze was fixed on Him, I was aligned with the word, and fully engaged in what God wanted to show me. The only problem were these stupid giant flies with beady eyes that kept landing on me. At first I began to get upset and as predicted would fall out of pose. They were taking my attention off of my focus, therefore re-directing it to them fueling my anger.

Man, what a picture of the enemy right there. Loves to get God’s kids off kilter and out of balance in life by annoying us enough to draw our focus from the one who calls us Be-loved, to the one who calls our bluff. I felt as though these nasty flies were sayin “sure you say you believe, but let’s see what you got”. It was then I started to get it. Ok, either I’m crazy… or. Hahaha. No, really. That’s exactly his plan, to bug the fire out of us… and I wasn’t gonna let that happen. Before too long I just expected them to buzz around and land on me, but instead of getting angry (it’s a fly for crying out loud) I was gonna keep my focus and swat if I had to. Sure, they deserved to die. But if my focus is off of the Lord, I lose the point of it all. Right? Even if I’m honorably fighting off the enemy. Now I know to expect the enemy to annoy the living day lights out of me… and I’m gonna swat for sure, but not at the cost of my focus…. The cross… that cost him everything.

Another thing is I’m really learning just to worship the Lord in silence WITH His creation and in honor of what He’s done among this earth. I had this horrible feeling that there have been seasons I was out of touch with nature and didn’t give God the credit He deserved. There are other times where I knew I was honoring God by simply observing all He’s done in nature. I see how every tree’s limbs are reaching out in worship to Him as they are growing and learning to just be trees that know and love and honor their creator. They do not push or shove, they do not speak ill or hurt others with their actions, they take up no more room than they are given and they allow birds to make homes in their space, squirrels to play, insects to crawl… they see their space as a gift which can be freely given. And we come along and take their innocent life away… and make paper to write these type of words on. It’s a great paradox.

A butterfly flew over and sat in my chair on the deck. It seemed hesitant on whether or not to stay put and every few moments it would fly around and come back. It’s almost as if it thought it didn’t deserve to land anywhere it wanted to land. I wondered how a tiny little creature like that… flapping it’s humble wings… could possibly contain so much beauty and innocence. Then I thought about all it’s done for me in this world. There is actually an element of our existence that depends on the purpose of a butterfly. So, instead of shewing it away and taking over my little thrown I made it the chair of honor for the butterfly to enjoy in peace.

After days of trying to prove myself to God and others at home, I was able to fully relax in the beauty and simplicity of everything around me doing what it was created to do. I’ll in fact miss the silence and perfection of worship at its core. I only wish I had more hands to worship Him with, more hands to serve Him with, more feet to run with, more lives to live abundantly in. Alas, there is a reason I have only two hands, two feet, and one heart. I have a feeling I might be tempted to use some of those hands and feet for my glory, therefore living a life not honoring of Him. We ONLY have one life. And we only have this small amount of time here on earth to worship Him in our lack… and just BE a child.

The Life of Bartholomew

There is not a whole lot that I could find on this man other than also going by the name Nathaniel. Seems that there are some schools of thought that believe he did a lot of mission work in India in his life until his martyr. There are a few ideas on what may have happened to him. One says that He was kidnapped, beaten and thrown into the sea to drown. Another said that He was crucified upside down... and then another that said he was skinned alive and beheaded near turkey.

Boy... I had no idea the disciples had gone through so much. Now I'm starting to wonder if there is a reason we don't speak about all of the ways in which the disciples died. Because so far... most of them were killed because of their ACTIVE faith. It didn't matter what happened to them really, they knew the message that had to be sent out and they were willing to give their lives for it. I'm actually inspired in many ways, not only in their life but in their death as well.

I had a revelation earlier about us thinking that this earth and our lives are such concrete reality and the heavenly kingdom is so far off and hard to fathom. But if THAT is really what IS reality... then what are we if we don't truly connect with that reality and LIVE in it. What IS most important in eternity is our relationship with the Father... and as we see our battles are not of this world, we gain victory as sons and daughters and are able to walk in the spirit in the kingdom on earth... and then see others eyes open to the revelation of His love because of how we LIVE and DIE. We live as though we are dead to the worlds desires so we are able to FULLY LIVE completely abandoned to him... and we die fearless because we are already walking in the kingdom and know our Dad so well. This side of heaven is so short... and I sure don't want to reach the other side having lived a mediocre live filled with fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. WHat an awesome Dad we serve!!!!

Training for the half-marathon

Still same story as last week :) Continuing to run, but deciding what to do. I feel that towards the end of April my training season (in more ways than one...) is morphing into more of a season of work. Excited to see what this look likes and what develops from it! Thank you all for visiting this blog, I love walking with you on this life long journey!

Week Six

The Discipline of Simplicity

Just to be funny I was gonna 'simply' state the title and leave this blog empty like the tomb, but I learned too much during this week to short change you like that. Haha. So let's get on with it shall we?

“The Christian Discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that results in an outward life-style.” Richard Foster

Going into this week I arrogantly believed that I was one of the simplest people I know, ha. But not until I began to study this discipline did I find just how complex and complicated of a person I can be… even in the midst of desiring to “look” so simple. Sure, there are some areas of my life in which simplicity has become second nature. I’ve actually started to find MORE comfort over the years in having little… compared to others. But in that comparison I had unknowingly taken the central focus off of the ONE who desires to bring ultimate freedom and by doing that I had yet again become enslaved. If I learned anything this week it was the fact that freedom in Christ is the ultimate goal of simplicity, not simply learning and mastering the discipline itself. Although becoming “simple” will bring the average person some level of freedom, it only serves as an illusion if our heart is not to honor HIM, know HIM more in this process of purging, and desiring that our life reveal HIS glory as we receive more of HIS beautiful love.

On the subject of comparison… one massive reason why it doesn’t work (especially for the western world) is because we are a small percentage of the world that uses most of the world’s resources. I may look simple to the average American Joe having only two small closets, one vehicle, a bunch of books and journals, a computer, phone, ipod..etc. But when I compare what I have with my brothers and sisters around the globe, I feel quite shameful. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years that this must’ve been what drove people like St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, Brother Lawrence, George Mueller, and Gandhi to give up EVERYTHING for the sake of the lives of others.

“Live simply so that others can simply live.”-Mother Theresa

“Experiencing the inward reality of simplicity liberates us outwardly. Speech becomes truthful and honest. The lust for status and position is gone because we no longer need status ad position. We cease from showy extravagance not on the grounds of being unable to afford it, but on the grounds of principle. Our goods become available to others..... It is time to awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick. Until we see how unbalanced our culture has become at this point, we will not be able to deal with the mammon spirit within ourselves nor will we desire Christian simplicity.” Foster

If indeed God cares more about our heart than anything else, then what we need in fact is a spiritual transplant... if you will. As I’ve been reading this chapter I just keep asking God for a transformation in my thinking, feeling, and doing. That I abandon all forms of comparison and align myself right up next to the word of God, no exceptions or justifications. What I’m finding is that there are many things permissible to God, but very few of those things are worthy of our time, energy, money and thought... and He knew that but gives us choice. I realize to be simple is to have more space for God to move and breath life and love…. And less room for watered down illusions the world so gladly and freely gives in order for us to be enslaved just like them.

“The Spiritual Discipline of simplicity provides the needed perspective. Simplicity sets us free to receive the provision of God as a gift that is not ours to keep and can be freely shared with others. Once we recognize that the Bible denounces the materialist and the ascetic with equal vigor, we are prepared to turn our attention to the framing of a Christian understanding of simplicity.” Foster

Foster believes that the reason most Christians have never even wrestled with the issue of simplicity is because it directly poses challenge to our interests in an affluent life-style. The point being: as a believer and follower of Christ I can not possibly accept the parts that fit neatly into my particular way of life avoiding those other “uncomfortable” issues that might cause me to make some unwanted sacrifices. We are in a heart crisis and justification seems to be culprit ultimately giving the enemy more authority to expose us to the dangers of sin in this world, rather than the safety we find in the promises of Jesus.

The reality is – the kingdom of God (in your heart) is at stake. The throne of God is and never will be threatened in this world… but in your heart, who are you bowing to? According to Foster the main point of ALL of this is to “seek FIRST the kingdom of God” and then everything necessary will come in its proper order. “Nothing must come before the kingdom of god, including the desire for a simple life-style”.

“When, in fact, the kingdom of God is genuinely placed first, ecological concerns, the poor, the equitable distribution of wealth, and many other things will be given their proper attention.” Foster

We NEED an inward spirit of TRUST. Whether we have A LOT… or we have NOTHING MUCH, we all have the same earthly tendency to put our faith in our belongings rather than the ONE that we belong to. I’ve known people who have pennies to their name or people who have millions and both worry just the same. On the other hand I’ve seen others live with absolutely nothing to their name, but walk in complete trust daily and watch as all their needs are met. I’ve also been encouraged by folks who have seen a crazy amount of money come under their stewardship… and they’ve chosen to live simply so others could have a chance. If we don’t truly understand or seek this trust then we will always be plagued with fear, anxiety and the desire for more.

Richard Foster says that FREEDOM from this type of anxiety can be characterized by three main inner attitudes: 1- Receive everything you have as a gift. 2- What we have is to be cared for by God. 3- What we have is available to others.

Here are a few principles I’ve chosen to live by over the years that I believe have given me this same freedom. 1- I see something I desire then I spend at least a few weeks in prayer before purchasing this thing. Most of the time, if I patiently wait, God finds a cool way to give me something close to what I prayed for...usually better! So over time I’ve learned to ask God first. If He wants me to have it, He’ll give it to me personally. If this doesn’t happen I wait for a peace to come. If the peace never comes I do without and normally forget about it before too long. 2- I avoid buying things that are probably made by people in the slave trade industry, or unfair wages or conditions. This is very hard to do being that most of our clothes and food come from slave laborious conditions. If you do research and know what to look for it will definitely cut down on your spending and you’ll look for ways to INVEST in others freedom… not in their slavery. 3- I just made a little rule once that every time I bought something… I would get rid of two things. Worked well for awhile, but haven’t practiced this lately… it’s time for a little purge I think. 4- I also try to never buy anything that I couldn’t give away. In other countries you tell someone you like their shirt and they’re willing to give it to you right on the spot. I’ve experienced some of the most amazing generous people in the poorest countries in the world. If we have something in our possession too valuable to us to ever let go of, that is sure fire indication that it has some control over you in some way… and I’d get rid of the sucker to experience true freedom from stuff. 5- I try and hold loosely to everything practicing the gift of giving as often as I cannot placing any expectations on them to treat the thing a certain way, but instead giving with no expectancy of anything in return.

“We are dependent upon God for the simplest elements of life: air, water, sun. What we have is not the result of our labor, but of the gracious care of our God”. Foster

Foster then leaves us in this chapter with ten controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity. Keep in mind these should never be used as laws but only as an attempt to flesh out the meaning of simplicity for today.

Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.

Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.

Develop a habit of giving things away.

Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.

Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Be able to share things.

Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.

Look with a healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes.

Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech. Yes be yes, no be no.

Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.

Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

“May God give you- and me- the courage, the wisdom, the strength always to hold the kingdom of God as the number one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity.” Foster

Here's an educational look at yet another reason to be simple. Although I don't know the heart of those who created this, I do know that we do desire to honor God with our time, resources, body, soul, spirit and mind. Are we REALLY respecting our God and choosing to be a good steward?? Are we investing in the future? Is what we partake in investing in other people's freedom or enslaving them even more? Good questions to ask and ponder over...

The life of Philip

What I'm learning is that we have the awesome privilege of having the stories of the lives of Jesus' disciples at our fingertips. Unfortunately, I don't have a lengthy book written about each one that goes deep into the thought patterns of these men... but I imagine it would look a lot like ours. Although as they got to know their Father's heart through Jesus, they became more obsessed with a sacrificial lifestyle truly abandoning all for the sake of Christ. As I read about each one of these fellas it seems as though they began with blind faith, figured things out along the way as they began to see the faithfulness of Jesus in their lives and others, and then towards the end lived beautiful reckless lives for the one who died and gave everything so we could have an eternal relationship with the Father that begins now.

Most disciples, including Philip, also died for their faith. It is said that they were actually crucified and Philip upside down even. So now I'm asking myself where I'm at in that journey. Am I even moving? I'm wondering if some of us get stuck at the "blind faith" stage but still have a tendency to blame God or ask Him "why"? When in reality that question may never be answered this side of heaven. Instead, we are to move past our infant stage of "accepting" what He did for us into one of maturity- standing firm in the knowledge that HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS, no matter what. And you are the child He says you are. So perhaps... like the disciples we should start at least asking "How" God? Or better yet "when"? Or even "where"? Most likely He'll answer with a "just follow me" response like He did with Philip in John:

"The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, 'Follow me.'" After this encounter with Jesus, Philip immediately urged Nathanael to come and see Jesus: "Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'" (John 1:45).

Jesus tests Philip in John 6:5-7: "When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?' I think he didn't just want to "test" him, but perhaps involve him in the miracle. Philip answered him, 'Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!'" Jesus went on to feed the multitude with five loaves and two small fish. Most people probably think Philip's answer revealed his lack of faith, but he was stating the very obvious. In fact, it's said that Philip was very greek which makes me think He was a little more heady than the others and probably had calculations for Jesus all day long. We all have at least one of these in our lives... it's hard for me to understand them, but there is such a need for that balance as well. The tendency if you are one of these is to trust in your knowledge rather than His heart, which I feel may have been Philip's struggle at times.

The cool thing is that Greek men request to see Jesus and Philip is able to minister to them. I imagine they saw him and identified with him in many ways building a bridge to the beautiful relationship they could have in Jesus. If only they could get their heart to connect. In John 12:20-21 it says, "Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. 'Sir,' they said, 'we would like to see Jesus.'" Following this encounter, Jesus teaches the people about glorification, surrendering one's life, and serving the Lord. How beautiful this is.

In John 14:8, Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." In the following verses we read Jesus' reply: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."

Even here is seems as though Philip needed some sort of physical evidence once more. I understand some humans desire for this "evidence" of sorts, but we must learn what complete faith in Jesus asks of us. Obviously, like Philip... He always meets us where we are at in our journey. But when He does meet us in that place, that is evidence enough to abandon all for His kingdom. Every moment like that is a stake in the ground that remains a place in your faith you never have to cross back over. If you are having trouble you can go back to that stake and fall on your knees. It's time for some of us to grow up, move on from our infant faith... and stand firm on His promises.

Philip continued on with a servant's heart doing missionary work in parts of Asia until His apparent crucifixion.

Training for the half-marathon

Well, for the past two weeks i've been traveling and have had little time and space to run. The marathon is going to be here in less than a month and I will continue to train. Whether I actually run or not I do not know yet... another thing is I also don't have the money for the race yet. So, we'll see what happens! I'll keep you posted!!!