Shameless rip off again…but this IS good!

1bestkeptsecret



SOMETIMES YOU HEAR SOMETHING OR READ SOMETHING AND ALL YOU CAN SAY IS, "YES!"  IF YOU ARE LIKE ME, THERE ARE TIMES IN OUR LIVES WHERE WE COULD NOT IN ANY WAY HAVE SAID ANYTHING BETTER THAN ANOTHER PERSON.  THAT'S WHY THERE ARE SUCH THINGS AS QUOTATIONS IN LITERATURE.  GIVING SOMEONE CREDIT FOR WHAT THEY SAY IS IMPORTANT. THIS DEVOTIONAL STRUCK A SERIOUS CORD IN MY HEART!  SO, I THOUGHT I WOULD PASS IT ON!  IF YOU ARE LIKE ME, AND MANY OF YOU ARE, THIS IS A GIFT OF GRACE AND FREEDOM!  

I open my eyes to a new day and a long list of to-do's. Before I'm even out of bed, I notice a cobweb in the corner. Guilt creeps under the covers with me. I think of other women with cobweb-free corners (in their homes and hearts). I vow that today I'll try harder…  Can you relate that that pattern? If so, you're familiar with what I like to call the Guilt Cycle. It's like a little hamster wheel in our hearts that we run around again and again. It looks like this:

Guilt Cycle

Guilt Cycle 

Another day I wake up and take a deep breath of grace. I'm loved and known and whatever happens today I will be okay. I slip into the kitchen with a smile for my first cup of coffee. I sit at the table with my to-do list and ask God for His perspective on it. It seems like I can feel Him with me as I check off the first item…  Can you relate to that pattern? If so, you're familiar with what I like to call the Grace Cycle. Instead of a hamster wheel, it's a safe space for our hearts to rest and thrive.

Grace Cycle

Grace Cycle   

If you're like me, the Guilt Cycle is one of my biggest struggles. I go into it without even realizing it until the end of the day when I'm exhausted. I'm asking God to teach me to live differently. To trade guilt for grace. How does that happen? Here's a start…

Getting from the Guilt Cycle to the Grace Cycle…

First, pause and identify which cycle you're in.  If it's the Guilt Cycle, listen for the lie. What are you telling yourself that isn't true? For example, "I'm not doing enough."  Then replace that lie with grace-filled truth. For example, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But He never asks me to do it all!"  Ask for help. Whisper a prayer saying, "Jesus, I'm on the hamster wheel of the Guilt Cycle again. I want to step off of it and back into grace. Please forgive me and help me receive what I need to from You right now."

Then do it again tomorrow.

I don't have this down. It's still a daily choice. How about you-can you relate? What helps you live in grace instead of guilt? I'd love for you to leave a comment and let me know what works for you….

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Another shameless “rip off” from another blog…”Say goodbye to busy”

Amr-busy-webI had to post this for my own good.  I've shared before on this blog that busy-ness has been my main life addiction.  The rush (of a personal sense of accomplishment and false feeling of "importance") is easy to embed within your heart and being busy is its main delivery system for that "drug."  This blog states what many of us want to do – say goodbye to being yet we can't because we are too busy!  So, this convicting blog post is something I decided to print here because I need to read it again…and again…and again!  

I know Busy. (the original post and blog-Holly Gerth)

I spent years listening to her. I woke up to the sound of her voice in the morning calling me from the too-full calendar.

I drifted off to sleep with her whispering in my ear that it still hadn’t been enough.

Busy isn’t especially nice.

But I kept her around. For a long, long time.

Because she told me this:

“I’m proof that you’re important. If you don’t have me in your life, what will people think?”

So I put up with her demands. Her bossiness. Her accusations.

Then, over time and with lots of healing, I slowly stopped listening to her. My calendar got cleaner. My breaths got deeper. My life got better.

One morning, sitting over a journal with a cup of coffee in my hand (a luxury of time I denied myself for years), I took a moment to consider what had changed. What had I started believing instead?

I realized at some point I’d heard Jesus whisper this to my heart…Your work is not your worth.

And day by day, month by month, year by year, I’d begun to believe like it was true–and then eventually to start acting like it too.

On this morning, I asked quietly, “What is my work then?”

And I wrote this: My work is an expression of love for the One I serve.

Grateful tears welled up in my eyes. For who but Jesus can change a heart that much?

But somehow it had happened. And it has changed everything for me.

Oh, I still struggle. Yes, ma’am. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were still days of being overwhelmed. But more and more of the time, Busy isn’t around.

When she’s not with me, I’m not sure where she goes…and I’m worried she may have snuck off to bother you.

So if she’s there, my friend, let me tell you: She’s not what she seems. And she can’t deliver what she promises. Escort her to the door and lock it behind you. You don’t need her.

You are loved, chosen, valued already and just as you are. Say good-bye to Busy and smack her on the behind as she heads out the door just for me.

Silly Busy.  Don’t worry about her–she’ll find more to do.

And you?  Find that journal and cup of coffee.  Then sit down with the Author of life who’s waiting to write new things on your heart…and your calendar.

52 Weeks of not just taking and giving thanks but GIVING while giving thanks!

Kirsten Carlson and her family (Mike, Emma and AJ) are part of our faith community @ Peace. Kirsten is not only a mom, author, Little Dove's "Little Ones" teacher/leader, and exceedingly well trained former Air Force Pilot but a passionate follower of Jesus.  On her new blog, she has posted a YEAR LONG challenge in giving (click on that line to go to her blog).  I read it and decided as soon as ingested it that THIS IS WHAT WE ALL NEED TO DO! So, I'm shamelessly ripping off Kirsten's words (of course, since her words are contextual to her blog, I'm adapting and editing some of it for MY purposes – thanks Kirsten!).  Here's where I am on this…part of our faith community's values is our prayer and lifestyle to live "OUT" in the world with the presence of God's Kingdom.  I could go on and on about this but I'm simply going to allow Kirsten's words to speak for themselves.  THIS is what joining God's mission is all about.  Other than that, check it out.  Sign up for Kirsten's blog, email reminders, and build a lifestyle of thanksgiving by imitating Jesus who so loved that HE gave!

Changed

"Ok, with all the hullabaloo surrounding this past week's election, and the fighting over which side has a better plan to support Americans, I realized something: neither side has got it right, and We The People are a huge part of the problem. I think very few of us are truly satisfied with anyone in government, but how can the apex of a country be strong, when its foundation is cracked, broken and weak? I think it is time for a change, but instead of focusing at the top, I think it's time to rebuild our foundation, but more on that in a bit…

While I truly believe proponents of both the left and right sides of the aisle want to help those less fortunate, we are all selfishly motivated, and nobody actually wants to take it upon themselves to get the job done. Both sides are lazy, expecting someone else to deal with the problem. Here's the reality:

We are a nation of riches, and yet we hoard things for ourselves and expect someone else to deal with the poor. Both sides do this. I will argue that if you are wealthy and not helping those in need, you are wrong. But I will also state that if you believe it is the rich, and not you, who must give more, you might want to rethink your definition of rich as you read what I have to say next:

 I attended a church service one morning where an African-born priest challenged his congregation saying, "I will give $20 to anyone who can come forward and name every possession they own in one minute." Can you do that? Can you name every single possession you own? He could when he was a child in Africa. Of course no one could do it at this church-including myself-and I am willing to bet you wouldn't be able to either. If you can't pass that test, I am going to label you as wealthy, because the reality is, you are.

Let me say, if you have a roof over your head, food, gadgets, a car, and/or anything else in excess, there is someone looking at you thinking, "That person has so much, and yet he or she gives so little." 

So, as you expect others to give their fair share, may I ask what you are doing for those people less fortunate than you? Are giving consistently to the causes you so vocally support? I hope so, but I fear most are not. Whether you expect the government, or someone else, to be the humanitarians that we are called to be for each other, you are wrong. I know it sounds harsh, but either way, if you are not taking it upon yourself to help in your community, you are the lazy and selfish one.

So, with that said, are you ready to give your fair share to others? I think it's time we all stop accumulating massive amounts of "things" for ourselves and start trying to support others. It doesn't have to be a lot-I'm not asking you to never buy something for yourself again or give away all your possessions and become a monk-but if everyone focused on giving something of themselves to others once a week, think how much better we could make our little communities-our foundation-and how that could translate to our states and nation (we'll go for the world next year! Lol!)

So, I am starting a 52 Weeks of Giving Challenge.

Each week I will post a new idea on how you can give back. There will also be a second idea to take the giving challenge a step further. It might be donating more money, or perhaps extra time. You can choose whichever level fits you and that level may change from week to week, but I encourage everyone to take part. You may not be able to give every week, and that's ok too! Just participating when you can will make a difference! 

I will leave you on this last note. When I started volunteering for different charities, I went in with a heart wanting to change people's lives for the better. Turns out, it is my life that has changed for the better. With each home I visit, contribution I make, smile I offer, card I send, it is I who walks away blessed. I pray that you too will experience the same amazing blessing on this journey. Our first challenge IS POSTED HERE (click on that link).  

Yes, I have friends! And yes, they are doing great things in living God’s Kingdom as HIS disciple!

Awriting-2As I said in the title of this post, "YES, I have friends."  Surprise, huh?  I have a few friends who are more than aspiring artists but they are actually jumping into the deep end of the pool and risking sharing their art, perspectives, passions, and spirit with the world.  Last year, our friend Deanna wrote a book based upon her reflections on the Fruit of the Spirit.  That book was filled with personal antedotes of how God works in a life…how daily experiences have consequence and how the Spirit molds a life through what seems to some as the mundane!  Besides being a great book, Deanna took the risk of revealing much of herself and her family by sharing with the world through her writing.  That was not only praise worthy but courageous.  

Then a couple of colleagues at Azusa Pacific University took a BIG BITE on the scriputres in their book, What Christians believe about the Bible.  Don and Keith give an approachable overview of how to read, interpret and "trust" the applicability of the bible's truth to life.  Although originally written with a more "academic" setting in mind, I found the book very readable and "recommend" worthy.  

Now, I have other friends who are prolific authors…I would count Scot McKnight as a friend though we have not spent considerable time together, I communicate with him regularly via email, Twitter and Facebook.  Scot's blog and books are great.  Jesus Creed, The Blue Parakeet and King Jesus Gospel are all just "tastes" of Scot's ability to embrace mystery, power and transformational nature of the Bible and the Gospel of the Kingdom.  

I have other great friends who are authors, speakers, teachers and mentors – Jim Burns and Alan Hirsch are among those select people who have been very influential in how God is moving in relationships and in Mission.  Jim, I've know for years…he has been a friend, co-worker, traveling buddy as well as small group brother.  His influence on radio, teaching and literature on kids and families is more than impressive…it is praise worthy as well.  Alan, I've talked to him and emailed him regulary.  He has steered me in great directions and has, informally through his writings and speaking, greatly influenced my thinking ecclesiastically and missionally.  I've never met him face to face…but I would regard him as a friend.  Others?  NT Wright, Richard Rohr, James Dunn, Lance Ford, Peter Enns, Brennan Manning, Ortberg, Luther, Lewis…all "Friends" who continue to speak into my life.

But I have a NEW friend who is venturing into the glorious risk of revealing her heart and passion for Jesus in and through literature.  If you have NEVER written anything (even a blog) every time you move your fingers over a keyboard with the intention of "publishing" your thoughts and opening your spirit to the world it is a HUGE risk.  It involves courage, nerve and sometimes what I would call, "emotional naivete", meaning, that you simply don't know how people are going to respond to what your have written yet you take the risk in laying out your life for all to see.  That's not for the faint in heart.  Trust me, I've been encouraged, blasted, condemeneded, affirmed, and humbled in how people have responded to what I've written.  I've even lost a couple of opportunities for jobs because people were able to track my intellectual and spiritual "musings" on line.  I say it again, writing is NOT for the faint in heart.  There is a part of each writer that I know that is more frightened than excited.  Even so, when somebody has something to say…with the world of publishing changing so rapidly that an individual can release their literary efforts to the world without having to run the gauntlet of the publishing world and its restrictions…when somebody has something to say it is, again, praise worthy.

Kirsten Carlson is a friend of mine.  She is intelligent and gifted.  She wanted to write a book…in fact, she wants to write many in the future.  She's been told good things and rotten things about what is on her heart in terms of writing.  But she has what it takes to do what needs to be done in being faithful to the message that God has given to an open and willing "spokesperson"…she has the guts to get it out for people to enjoy, absorb, and critque.  I read her upcoming book in its formative stages and enjoyed and was challenged by it.  I'll look forward to reading it once it is in its published form simply because I want to own a part of what my friends are putting out to the world.  Every person of faith that dares to share their "word" from the Holy Spirit joins the lineage of prophets and teachers throughout history who have been admired and ridiculed, heeded and ignored, listened to and persecuted.  All a person with a "word" can do is get it out.  That's the call of the Lord in situations like Kirsten is embracing.  I admire that and look forward to how God will honor that risk.  So, take a peek at her new website.  The book is coming out soon.  Check that out too!  Yep, I do have friends and, yep, every one of them is doing work in and for God's Kingdom!   

What about THE Vote? Some “opinions” about what a Christ-follower can do!

What about THE Vote? What is a Christ follower to do?

This might be a devotional that pushes the "envelope" in terms of what many of you would regard as "spiritual encouragement." Even so, I'm going to state these points succinctly and NOT attempt to pontificate, lecture, cajole, or challenge anyone in a manner that would NOT be appropriate. I'm just going to write down for you some things to consider before you make your election decisions. Here are some GENERAL principles that the bible shares in terms of what a Christ follower is to take seriously when it comes time to vote.

1. Both political parties go to "church." In other words, God is NOT a democrat or republican. God stands on BOTH sides of a political argument. Since God reveals and embodies TRUTH, we must say that EACH party represents some aspect of the "heart of God." There are parts of EACH platform that affirms what the bible says. SO, the bible takes NO side.

What about THE Vote? Some “opinions” about what a Christ-follower can do!

What about THE Vote?  What is a Christ follower to do?

This might be a devotional that pushes the "envelope" in terms of what many of you would regard as "spiritual encouragement." Even so, I'm going to state these points succinctly and NOT attempt to pontificate, lecture, cajole, or challenge anyone in a manner that would NOT be appropriate. I'm just going to write down for you some things to consider before you make your election decisions.

Here are some GENERAL principles that the bible shares in terms of what a Christ follower is to take seriously when it comes time to vote.

1. Both political parties go to "church." In other words, God is NOT a democrat or republican. God stands on BOTH sides of a political argument. Since God reveals and embodies TRUTH, we must say that EACH party represents some aspect of the "heart of God." There are parts of EACH platform that affirms what the bible says. SO, the bible takes NO side.

2. Both political parties go to "church." In other words, there are brothers and sisters in the faith that we all have who will vote along with you and whom will contradict what you feel is the "right" political choice. One of the things that I sincerely believe is that NO EARTHLY KINGDOM POWER is that which owed our allegiance. We are those who serve a KING and a KINGDOM…though we are part of this world, we acknowledge that JESUS IS LORD! So although there are consequences to every vote, Jesus will still be Lord. Jesus will still be calling us to loving each other and serving Him as we live out our lives in relationship with others. We are "related" to every Jesus follower who will vote…and despite our frequent political disagreements, we will all bow the knee to Jesus as well as be stuck with each other for eternity!

3. Political talk and news are out for ratings…in other words, media outlets (print, online, television, etc.) THRIVE on controversy, argument, and dissension. Personalities get wealthy turning people against each other and "demonizing" everyone who doesn't agree with what they consider to be the sole political stance that is correct. IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY to not take anyone at their word but to think, process our own information, be an investigator of the truth, and to not base our decisions on one particular ideology or political gossip. Remember, everyone has an opinion…it is difficult to be completely objective in anything political…know people's biases and make YOUR OWN DECISION AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT.

4. Those who argue over politics don't love their country more than others. They just love to argue more than others. Strife and quarreling are symptoms of of an immature faith walk (Proverbs 10:12; 2 Timothy 2:23-25; James 4:1) and are among the things the Lord "detests." We need to rise above the vitriol and learn to love our neighbors the way God commanded us. We need to love our atheist neighbor who wants to keep creationism out of schools; our Democrat neighbor who wants to make gay marriage and abortion legal; our Republican neighbor who celebrates death penalty statistics; and yes, even the presidential candidate from the other side. Makes you uncomfortable, doesn't it? It isn't always easy to be a follower of Jesus.

5. Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (2 Timothy 2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7). Translation: if we mock our governing leaders, the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them. God commands us to pray for our leaders-for their wisdom, for their hearts and for them to be led by Him.

6. Don't be paranoid. The country is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Stand up and demonstrate what God has given you. America has functioned-albeit, at varying levels of success-for years. Ask God to bless our country NO MATTER WHAT! Oh, and by the way, I love what that great HYMN, "A Mighty Fortress" says because it communicates the TRUTH – God reigns NO matter what may come:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
the body they may kill; God's truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.

7. Now on to some consistent guidance – let your VALUES guide your decision. Judge your candidate by their CHARACTER more than their public persona, or how their opponent projects them to be or how some TV commercial portrays them. It is actually nonsense to believe commercials because they are ALL exaggerated, ALL slanted, ALL over the top, and ALL most likely using a bit of the truth to falsely hammer an opponent. Like I said above, use your intelligence and God-given wisdom to discern how YOU understand your walk with Jesus and how THAT RELATIONSHIP guides and informs your decisions. Christ followers on the opposite end of the spectrum of any political decision are NOT enemies…just fellow travelers in this world who submit all of who we are and what we believe to the Lordship of Jesus.

So, that's it! I know I may have missed a few more things that could have been said but I stand here knowing that we are facing a time where all of us need to participate in the political process as faithfully and humbly as we can! May the Lord bless us and all who govern at this important time in history – remember, history is really HIS-Story?