Sunday, September 11, 2011

Believing, Prioritizing, Transforming

Three themes have been running on parallel tracks through my mind for the last two weeks:


God has not audibly spoken these themes over my life (oh that He would!), but they have become obvious to me through multiple encounters of each topic. Over the last fourteen days or so, these specific words have popped up separately and unsolicited all around me. Through devotionals, articles, the words of friends, and magazines (even Woman's Day...which I still question how I got on their subscription list...). God has made it evident to me that I have issues to address regarding these areas.

Believing, Prioritizing, and Transforming do not necessarily relate to each other, but God has divinely weaved each of these into my life in such a way that I clearly see how they are not mutually exclusive in my life during this point in time.

Believe: a verb meaning "to have confidence in the assertions of (a person or God)"; to have a conviction that (God) is, has been, or will be engaged in a given action.

First off, I do believe! Don't I remember when my 7 year old self walked down the aisle of Double Branch Baptist and accepted Jesus into my heart? Of course I did, and that is a non-trivial belief. I have come to realize, however, that believing God now and tomorrow is not automatically included in the God's gift of salvation. Additionally, believing God is deeper than believing in His existence. Many people believe He exists, but God calls me to believe He will do in my grace-soaked life more than I could ever fathom (Ephesians 3:20). Sure, I believe in His Heavenly Kingdom and I believe that I will spend eternity in a beautiful place He has prepared for me. Yet, do I believe Him for the humanly impossible while I still physically reside in my home on Spanish Forest Lane in Houston, Texas? Do I pray with confidence that He hears and has the power to change those circumstances I bring before His throne? Do I believe that His love for me really and truly has not-one-thing to do with my performance?

God, the Master of the Universe, the One who holds sway over ALL things, has invited me (and you) to get to know him as Lord and friend. The Only True God, who has the power to raise the dead to life, is willing and ready and ABLE to act on my behalf and on your behalf when we ask and believe He is capable of delivering the object of our request.

Priorities: (priority in it's plural form). noun. The state or quality of being earlier in occurence; the right to precede others in order, rank; precedence; something given special, first in line attention.

If you have had any kind of conversation with me over the last 12 months, I probably gave you some indication of how spastic-crazy-overwhelmingly busy I have been at work. Did I say overwhelmingly? From 5:10 a.m. when my alarm goes off until 11:30 - 12:00 a.m. when I finally turn off my laptop, I don't stop. Not once. Lunches are normally eaten as I sit at my desk preparing for the next phone call, and the invention of the cell phone enables me to hold meetings during my daily commute. Facebook status updates are written either at a stoplight, while on hold, or as I walk from one task to the next. The allotted time to check and respond to personal email is while I'm waiting in line in a fast-food drive thru. I know you're thinking this is a psychotic pace, but I am willing to bet some or all of you have (to some degree) similar schedules.

I was not surprised when the Lord confronted me with a priority check. Just like the subject of believing Him, I started hearing from Him about my priorities in numerous forms and by several modes of communication. The most recent was this morning, and it was so apparent that I immediately dropped to my knees so that I could make sure I was hearing Him correctly (you would think I didn't have to be told for the 24th time). The last 12 months of my life flashed before my eyes: images of "family time" with my laptop in the place where Luke's head would normally rest; vacations where I made phone calls when I should have been enjoying the beach; dinners I have missed because there was a report due the next day; pre-school parties where I had an achingly hurtful absence because of a "very important call". Last, but not least, I see my husband sleeply soundly in our bed, after waiting for an hour or more for the laptop to click shut. Suffice it to say, God could not have spelled it out more succintly than He did with that mental montage He rolled through my mind.

Instead of being racked with guilt about my upside down priority list, I am thankful God loves me so much that He pursues change in me. He has persistently put up red flags all over the place, because He knows I am missing my best life when I pursue emptiness. You see, sacrificing my family relationships is one thing; but beyond that, He wants me. Jesus Christ wants to be Lord over my time, my money, my work life, my thoughts, my friendships. He saved me so that I could live under the freedom of His Lordship. When I am running at such a maniacal pace where I literally schedule restroom breaks (no exaggeration), there is something wrong with my priorities. There is something "off" in my motives because GOD, even GOD, rested.

Transforming: verb. to change in condition, nature, character or structure. metamorphose.

Tranformation means "to change".

My all-or-nothing, win-or-lose, tendency towards perfectionism insists that transformation is (or should be) instantaneous. To be certain, when Jesus saved me from eternal death apart from Him, He instantly transferred me from death to life. However the process of transformation...of sanctification...will not be fully complete until I stand before God in heaven. In the here and now, God transforms me from glory to glory: sometimes little by little and, at times, huge by huge.

Without going into detail, part of this most recent theme of transformation in my life has included butterflies, which literally show up in unexpected places. God is so cool like that, because you read that correctly. Butterflies. Everywhere. The metamorphisis of caterpillars into butterflies is one of the most common examples of transformation we have to symbolize the process of change in the life of a believer. Paul says in Romans 12:2 that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We go through a process of change when we submit ourselves to the Truth of God's Word. If we are actively pursuing God's Word, believing it to the point that it affects our daily lives (in thought, conduct, behavior) - then we cannot be "un-transformed".

Still, I want it now. I don't want to wait. So I try in my own might to be different: to say the things a good Christian would say, to act wisely and speak graciously like a perfect Christian should! Then the Lord mercifully reminds me that true transformation is impossible without Him. I can alter my behavior from time to time, but it only takes a conversation with my husband for you to discover some things never truly change without the radical transforming power of God. (This woman who so desperately longs for perfection really does not like to admit that, by the way!)

Jesus is the Master Transformer. Unless I humble myself and allow Him to transform me moment by moment, choice by choice, day by day...from glory to glory, then I will remain the same. Who wants to be the same?

My mind-set is tracking from a different perspective these days. God cares enough about us to speak to us about issues in our life He would like to lovingly change. He does this for our good and His glory. When we are attentive to Him and willingly welcome His refining fire, we live smack dab in the middle of the abudant life He promised to us. The great news is, we don't have to be ship-shape-holy to live in relationship with Jesus! If that were the case, there would be no human eligible for a seat next to Him! We can stand confidently in His presence based on the blood of Jesus alone. My soul leaps (literally) when I acknowledge that my ideal dream of perfection is meaningless in the light of Jesus' salvation! Praise God, I can NEVER be perfect without His righteousness...I can never be so stain-free that I don't need Him.

It's clear God and I have much to talk about these days. I have a good idea that as I listen to Him, I will be believe Him more. I would bet my house that believing Him will lead to "priority realignment". Doesn't that mean He is transforming me...?

Believing God is willing and able.
Prioritizing my life according to His purpose for me.
Transforming my life by the renewing of my mind.

I am just flat-out happy that He loves me.

That's all.
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Monday, May 30, 2011

If you want something - you have to intentionally go after it.

Growing up. Maturing. Getting wiser.

One would ideally learn how to "do life" wisely at a younger age than 33. I have never been the "ideal", so let's toss that expectation out the window.

To view my life on a timeline, you would see numerous fits and starts, starts and stops, wind-ups and wind-downs, detours and u-turns. Needless to say, if there is a lesson to be learned, I will find the hardest way to learn it. If you ask my parents or my husband, they can vouch that these lessons can be very expensive...and often experienced and paid for at least three times before my hard head "gets it". Which is the number one reason I am amazed by the grace of God.

God gave me an undeniable vision for my life when I was 21 years old. This vision was etched so clearly onto my heart that I have never doubted God's divine purpose for me. Even as I type this, my heart beats double time at the thought that He picked me for a reason. But God's vision for my life and the life I have chosen to live have often not collaborated. If you are anything like me, when you want something, you want it now. For instance, FedEx overnight takes too long and Amazon one-click for iPhone is a delightful invention because you can make impulsive purchases without waiting until you are at your computer. Clearly, I have a problem with the "waiting" part in the definition of patience.

Here I am, 12 long years after God initially planted this vision in the depths of my soul...and no, I'm still not "there" yet. I sit here laughing to myself, because although that vision has not exploded into reality at this immediate point in time, I can see His gracious leadership all over those detours and left turns I have chosen. Many of those pit stops on the scatter plot have been where my sin-sick flesh directed all of my choices; and the u-turns are where He would lovingly draw me back.

All of this time, He has not been taken aback with surprise at my missteps or my willful attempts to self-indulge. Rather, He has continued to faithfully weave His plan together for how my life will bring Him the most glory. Despite my adamant belief in His designs for my life, this messy path I have walked has certainly birthed much indignation, frustration and insecurity. I have often floated from self-righteous shouts of, "I know this is what He's made me then why can't He just blink me into that person?" to cries of insecurity and unbelief, "He can't even use my pathetic life at all. I'll never be what He made me to be!"

As of May 31, 2011, I'm still waiting; but I'm not passively waiting with the attitude that God just sprinkles me with fairy dust to make my dreams come true. I can look back over the past year and a half and see specific paradigm shifts which have inspired change and significant growth. I see new relationships which have served to challenge me and hold me accountable to moving towards the vision for my life. I see the triple-huge blessing of my mentor, Tanya Whitaker, whose path intersected with mine in a way that can be described only as chosen and purposed by God. I also see a date on my calendar of June 26, 2011, which is nothing less than a divinely gifted opportunity for me to use my God-made talents. It's a small opportunity...certainly not what one could mistake as "the big time" by any means. Yet, for me, it's proof that God has not ever changed His mind about me. It is proof that each step I have taken since that day 12 years ago has not been meaningless.

You might be wondering why I am writing about this; and you may even wonder if I often sit around obsessing about where I am versus where I should be. For the record, I don't...and the impetus of this post is not random at all. I'm going to be joining my niece (well, technically she is my niece because she is my husband's brother's son's wife. She's just six years younger than I am, it's kind of weird to call her my niece; but I digress.) in a study by her pastor, Craig Groeschel, called The Chazown Experience. The following quote by Craig sums up the purpose of the study:

"Jesus did not die for us so that we could stumble around ignorant of our reason for existence."
~Craig Groeschel

Forgive the superficial overview, but the basis of the study is to determine how to live out God's vision for your life. Chazown is a Hebrew word translated as "dream, revelation, or vision". The Bible says that when people lack vision, they lack self-restraint (Proverbs 29:18). If people don't dream and plan and intentionally set out towards a goal...then there is no end goal, therefore no achievement; and thus, there is no discipline involved in seeking out that achievement. Anyone who knows me would tell you I wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of planning; and I admittedly concede that I tend to be excessive with my planning at times. Regardless of my personal extremities, failing to plan is a plan in itself: a plan to go nowhere.

I don't believe in coincidence, so the fact that God put this study in front of my face at this very point in my life is humbling to me. He knows right where I am and what I am ready to embrace. He knows that I can't wait to see what He does next. He knows that without vision and direction - His people will perish. (He also knows that when He created Amy McGehee Dalke, He gave her an innate desire to love plans and anything requiring organization and strcuture.) If you have read any blog entry of mine over the last two plus years, you have likely seen a few of my "starts and stops"...and unfinished "plans". I did have lovely intentions, but unfortunately, those intentions were coupled with a lack of commitment and a measure of ADD.
Mainly those were my pitiful attempts to jump ahead of God (because He obviously was not keeping a fast enough clip on my timeline!).

So here goes: I've caught a brief glimpse of the vision God has for His glory in my life; and I am deliberately going after it. I want to see more of God and experience more of Him - and I want to be committed and intentional in this pursuit. I am wise enough (dear Lord, finally!) to know I have not one ounce of ability on my own. The great news is that I know God has all the ability I could possibly ever need.

It would thrill me to me toes if someone joined me in this study. I'll be your best friend if you will...(okay, so I said I have matured....but I didn't say how much!).

p.s. you should check out Allison's blog, too: The Intentional Peace. Talk about someone who is mature for 27 years old...she's kind of mind-blowingly awesome (although I swear she would blush if you ever told her that).
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's all about focus..(and that's hard if you're ADD)

"You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to you, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You." Isaiah 26:3 (Amplified Bible)
I have no idea if any person reading this will relate to me, but I have a focus problem. I undoubtedly carry a heaping-helping of the ADD gene, but this particular focal crisis is not about my inability to light my mind in one place. It's about the determination to light my mind in the right place.
Isaiah 26:3 is a verse I turn to over and over when I need to settle my mind on Truth. And do I ever need to settle my mind on Truth. If you are like me at all, your mind can jump from worry and hyper-analysis, to fear or dissatisfaction in less than a heartbeat. When I am not actively meditating on God's word and letting Him fill my mind with Him, I'm a mess. Once I left my eyes fall from the throne of grace, it doesn't take long for me to start looking for something else to satisfy me. I memorized this verse years ago in the NIV, ("You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You,"), but today I came across the Amplified version (above). I assure you that I will be analyzing every single word and phrase in that verse during my quiet times this week. [This is totally a sidebar comment, but I love the way "stayed on You" sounds. It's one of those phrases that just melts my heart...and maybe because my heart longs so badly to be "stayed on" one thing!]
Isaiah chapter 26 is a song of trust in God's protection. It declares that absolute dependance on God is the only way to roll. Isaiah says that the perfect peace we long for comes from completely leaning on (looking at!) the Lord. This passage was part of Isaiah's prophecy that the remnant would return to their land of promise; and when they did - they would wholeheartedly testify that perfect and constant peace is only found in believing God.
So where does the focus issue come into play? Have I just gone on a tangent halfway through this post? No, I really do have a point!
The ancient Israelites had a focus problem! Tracing all the way back to Moses' era, they would no sooner experience one miraculously G0d-given deliverance after another - before they would be throwing in all the gold they had to craft the image of a cow! He gave them everything they needed, but how quickly their minds darted to the worship of something paltry in comparison!
They took their minds off of Yahweh, and turned them to what they could see. Just like me, their gaze became fixed on the tangible; they stared at the circumstances without taking into account the power of the God who Delivered. The God who Delivers. The God who will Deliver.
Those fellow humans of ours made the same mistake over and over and over...for years! Therefore I can only imagine that when Isaiah penned this particular song, he reflected on the power of focus. We know it didn't take long for them to lose sight of the One True God...and as a result, it was snap before they were whining at the consequences. But when they were returned...once they were back in the safety of God's protection, I bet they would tell you with authority that you risk your life (physically in their case; spirtually in ours) when you turn your eyes to another savior.
Given that idolatry can be described as excessive adoration, it's clear that what we focus on drives who we are (in character, in action, in daily life). When our focus is rightly fixed on the One who is worthy of our adoration and our worship, our mind is settled in peace. perfect peace. constant peace.
There used to me a radio commerical about one of those herbal supplements called Focus Factor. I never took it - even though Larry hinted that he wished I would. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have worked, but I'm challenging you to let the Word be your Focus Factor this week. If you commit to even 10 minutes every morning...simply reading one verse over and over...rolling it around...looking at it backwards and forwards....upside down/inside out, your focus will be re-leveled.
And sometimes, a little focal shift is all we need.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mental War Games

The first line in my journal today says, "God, is this what crazy feels like?"

I could be an informercial today for PMS. No doubt. Just ask Larry, or even Luke. As the saying goes, "when momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy..." They can testify to the accuracy of that statement.

This entire weekend, I have been in the midst of a mental war game so intense, so heated, that this morning I was forced to my knees in desperation of deliverance. The wonderful hormonal shifts that I am experiencing right now were no added benefit, but they weren't the root of this battle. This war's original battle took place years ago, when Satan first began to whisper deception into my welcoming ears. Although long fought and hard won, the master deceiver still gets jabs in every now and then when I'm weak and "uncovered".

We went to church last night, so this Sunday morning started later than usual. I rolled out of bed (prompted by an incessantly "ready" 5 year old boy) and desperately sought out my beloved coffee. No sooner than I sat down at the bar with my peanut butter and jelly toast, the temptations began assaulting me. As the battle heated, my mind felt like the setting for an old civil war movie. One lie, one temptation after another were thrown at me; and instead of automatically fighting back with TRUTH, I tried fighting on my own. This was not a pretty picture, because when I'm fighting on my own, I just become angry. I snap. I grown. I complain. I whine about "how it's so hard.."

My sweet husband grabbed me, hugged me with all his might, and authoratively reminded me that I needed God's word to fight this. So I stubbornly marched myself into the bedroom, pulled out my bible and sat. Angrily. After a few seconds of sulking, I flipped open the word of God and just bawled my puffy eyes out. I begged Him to just reach down and pull me out of this fight. For crying out loud, God, can't You just grab me up and pull me out of this battlefield?

In a matter of minutes, a soft wind of His faithfulness blew right across my mind. In the depths of my spirit, He gently whispered that my weapons of warfare are not fleshly weapons.

Immediately I went to 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5, "..for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations (lies!) and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..."

I began to imagine myself being assaulted by flaming blasts of untruths, Satan's way of leading me into disaster. As the fiery darts of his lies were coming at me, I realized I had a shield. The shield of faith, wherewith I have the ability to stand up and defend myself from the brutal weapons of the enemy. Instead of sitting back and allowing myself to be brainwashed, I can wield spiritual weapons that have the power to demolish fortresses of deceit.

Not only that, GOD is my Mighty Fortress of Strength. Of TRUTH. Of Victory. In the ugliest point of battle, I ran to Him. I ran to my Rock of comfort and deliverance. And now I'm sitting here telling on the enemy. Telling others how he didn't win this time. Telling others that though he can get me down to a point of "crazy", God has my back.

Take heart. Though the battle wages long and victory seems impossible, our weapons are not wimpy weapons. We can powerfully fight with the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God..the Truth), and when we fight with Truth - Satan always loses. He's a loser by his very nature, and listening to him and believing we are hopeless is a ludicrous fallacy.

Instead of moping around today and reacting to every situation with a short fuse, I am going to spend the day with my precious son and loving husband. We will certainly all rejoice at this particular win...because when momma is happy, we're all happy. When mommy stands up to the voice of the enemy and yells, "Liar!!", the whole family is refreshed by the fragrance of victory.

If you know me, you know I'm as competitive as it victory is even that much sweeter. There will undoubtedly be many more battles in this war. But I won this one...and I'll win the next one, as long as I choose to run to the only Fortress that is Jesus.

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