What I Really Want

What I Really Want

It’s RARE I have a morning alone.  But today is one of those blessed days.   I mean, I love my kiddos and my man — don’t get me wrong — but the kids spent the night at Aunt Jessica’s (after a day of negotiating and some serious 10-year old manipulation.  That kid should be a lawyer!), and the husband had an early morning appointment with a pool.

So, I’ve had some time to study and plan and reflect (and clean) and the Lord has softly spoken to my heart and asked me to share.  I’ll make this quick because the troops will march back home any minute.

Jesus is my first love.  I don’t understand exactly how He has won me over, but He has.  By His grace.  Because heaven knows I’m self-centered and arrogant and without the grace of God I’d be a hot mess.  But His pursuit is real and the more I surrender, the more I change.  And this morning I can honestly say that more than anything in life I desperately WANT EVERYTHING God has for me.  I want to know Him.  I want to be used by Him.  I want to make a difference in the lives of people around me for His glory.  I really do.  My heart aches toward that goal everyday.  And I’m asking Him for it.  Finally.

Everyday.

I don’t always obey.  I don’t always get it.  I fail more than I even want to think about.  I’m so far from perfect and so far from being like Jesus I don’t even know how any of it is possible, but it IS what I want.

Here’s what hit me as I was watering some plants on my balcony: MOST people don’t.  My heart physically hurts this morning, burdened by the reality that most people I interact with on  a daily and weekly basis, at their core do not care about what God wants for them.  At least not enough for it to matter.

Many of them are Christians.  At least they say or think they are one.

It makes me so sad.  Sad is the best word to describe it.  Not like a “You’re so sad you make me sick” attitude.  No.  A genuine sadness born out of God’s love for others.  He so beautifully and willingly wants people’s hearts, wants to bless, wants to give, wants to have a relationship with them, wants to change them, wants to heal them, wants to give them a life of purpose and abundance, wants to LOVE them — but no.

People don’t want what God wants.  People don’t really want God.  They may want the blessings of God, but they don’t really want Him and they don’t want more than anything else the things He wants.

And I’m guilty too.

Which also makes me sad.

There are days that I MORE want success in business, affirmation from people and security in life.  Safety.  Comfort . The American Dream.  I want those things sometimes.  But, once God gets a true hold on your heart and His truth has penetrated your mind, you can’t really stay there.  You go back to Him and slowly but surely your desires change and you just want Him.

I don’t know how it all looks.  I don’t know how it all will work itself out. I just know that with every fiber of my being I want all God has for me and I want it for you too.

What do you really want?


Soak up the SON

I feel like I’ve been in recovery for the last nine days.  March 10th came and went like a SHINEtastic whirlwind of emotion, exhilaration and exhaustion.  Ministering to over 500 teen girls and their mamas is no easy task, but so very worth it.

Every time I invest myself in planning and executing an event, really of any scale, I always learn more than I’m privileged to teach.  This time was no exception.  While I could carry on for hours about all God taught me through the process, I just want to focus on one really important, foundational thing.  It was point number one in my second session, SERVE, and the one point I’ve been stuck on and stuck to ever since.

Soak up the SON. 

My goal was to challenge the girls to get serious about learning about Jesus and being willing to do whatever that takes.  Go to church.  Get in a Bible study.  Download resources.  Use those resources.  Find a mentor.  Whatever it takes, just soak up more of the Son of God.  Why?

Jesus is simply the one and only.  There are SO MANY topics, issues, struggles, choices, and voices our children face.  Our culture is dark in many ways, but truly Jesus is the answer.  Sounds so —cheesy—churchy, cliché, underwhelming, understated, underestimated, too simple; but nothing could be more profound and more true.   You may be asking, “the answer to what exactly?”  That’s just it.  That’s the crazy thing.  Jesus is the answer to whatever it is you need.  Fill in the blank.  Whatever “it” is, if you get Jesus involved you’ll figure it out.  What we need most, what our children need most, what I NEED MOST is to soak up some more Jesus.  I need His truth equally in my heart and mind.  I need to know better who He was, what He did, what He said, how He lived and what it all means.

Then, BAM!,  suddenly He becomes THE answer.  He just is.

I just need Him.  More of Him.

So do you.

Jesus being the answer is easy to claim, but hard to learn.  Hard to teach and often even harder to convince others of.  So, how do we begin?  Or if you are like me, begin AGAIN.

Well, why not start here.  Answer these questions:

1) Do I think I need Jesus?  Like, really need Jesus.  Or do I pretty much have things/life figured out on my own?

2) How desperate are you?  So long as life is easy, smooth, COMFORTABLE, you won’t really seek Him and therefore, you won’t really know Him and therefore, the answer to whatever it is you’re missing will always allude you.

3) Do your actions match your claims?  This one gets me.  If I say I really need Him, what do I actually do to back that up.  Do I study His word, His life, His story?  Do I surround myself with the influence of other Jesus followers or am I too busy “following” everyone else and seeking to be “followed” myself?  I mean, all those LIKES and SHARES matter.  Right?

4) When I do learn about Jesus, does it matter to me?  Do I change?  Anything?

I hope you’ll take some time just to ponder these questions.  Take a deep look inside.  How is your heart?  Who sits on the throne?   The answers will come.

Perhaps it is time to consider something new.  Make room and then there will be room for THE answer to come.

Soak Him up.

Shine On.


Insecure, I Think

God has been stretching me — pushing me to my limits spiritually, emotionally and mentally.  It’s crazy.  If I’m honest, the push should inspire, strengthen and grow me.  However, more often than not I’ve been struggling with insecurities.  I always thought I’d be most confident and secure in my thirties! Not so.  I feel the Lord expanding my territory, increasing responsibility and requiring more than I ever imagined.  Of course, nothing is possible without Him. That much is clear.

What else is clear is that I’m not going to make it.  I need Him.  I need the Holy Spirit to correct me and make me into the person He needs to live out His purposes.  Over and over again, the Lord is reminding me of the influence of my mind.  Our minds are so uniquely powerful.  How and what we think transforms us.  Romans says, “be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Philippians gives us criteria for what kinds of things to think about. The list includes things that are:

  • TRUE
  • HONORABLE (NOBLE)
  • JUST (PURE)
  • LOVELY
  • COMMENDABLE (GOOD REPORT)
  • EXCELLENT (VIRTUOUS)
  • PRAISEWORTHY

Seems I might consider changing the way I think!  A fellow speaker and friend, Brooks Harper, always says “the most important conversation you have everyday is the one you have with yourself.” I need to speak TRUTH — not just to an audience — but to myself.  I need to be more intentional about filling my mind with God’s word, His truth, and allow it to transform the rest.

So,  along that line, over a year ago I read a book called “Self Talk, Soul Talk” by Jennifer Rothschild.  It was great.  Through my recent struggles, many of her ideas have resurfaced.

Thought you might enjoy this interview about the book.  There’s great insight here. Take a few minutes to think about what she says…

Q&A with Jennifer Rothschild

Author of Self Talk, Soul Talk

What is soul talk?

Over the years, I have gradually learned what to say when I talk to myself, and that has truly made all the difference in my life. After years of struggling beneath the weight of my own slander and lies, I have learned to speak truth into my soul. It’s what I call soul talk.

How does soul talk work?

Everybody practices self talk, but few of us actually take time to think about the things we say to ourselves. The process is so natural we don’t even notice it. Amazingly, much of our self talk is false. The words we say shape the way we think about ourselves. They influence our emotions, our thoughts, and our decisions. They resurface in our conversations with other people. They can spur us on to live meaningful, productive lives, or they can drag us down to lethargy and despair. Soul talk is about replacing the lies you may have been telling yourself with the truth.

What kinds of struggles with self talk have you had personally?

My steady flow of disapproving thoughts and self talk once formed a constant stream. I badgered, nagged, devalued, and said cutting words to myself. At times, all those dark, negative put-downs have felt like a raging river, tossing me mercilessly until I thought I might drown in my own self-condemnation.

What was the physical setback that you faced in your teens?

At the age of 15, I became legally blind due to a disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Even though I received that difficulty with grace and resolve, the extra challenges of the disability and the knowledge that blindness was inevitable brought even more opportunities for me to struggle with negative thoughts and destructive self talk. For me, blindness is a circumstance that opens the door to a host of other bewildering issues. One of the biggest daily realities I face is the stress of not being able to drive, read, or enjoy independence. 

What is the paradox of emotions?

If you try to think with your feelings, you’ll fall into all manner of false conclusions. Emotions are supposed to serve and strengthen us. Left to themselves, however, they enslave and deplete us. We need a thought closet well stocked with timeless truth, or we will clothe ourselves with the feelings of the moment.

How important is physical well-being including exercise and healthy eating?

Living a healthy lifestyle is so important to our mental well-being. Never discount the impact of physical wellness on our souls’ wellness. Feelings of despair might really be our bodies’ signal that we need to meet some basic needs. Your body needs adequate rest, healthy food, and moderate exercise.

How important is mental well-being? How can we stimulate this?

Brains like to be challenged. Your mind needs to have something to do, or it will create something to do—something that might not be so constructive. If you don’t fully strengthen your brain, it will wiggle and jiggle itself just to alleviate the dullness and find a channel for all its energy. Spend a few minutes each day reading something that interests and challenges you. Pick up a journal and record your thoughts and questions.  Join a book club or audit a class from your local university. Feed your curiosity and you’ll stimulate an enjoyable, insatiable hunger.

How important is our spiritual well-being?

Hopelessness, fear and depression often grow out of unsatisfied longings. C.S. Lewis said, “If I can find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” We can try to fill the longing with relationships, religion, volunteerism, or just being good. But the deep ache from the bottom of our souls can only be satisfied in a relationship with God.

Is it healthy to remember the past? What memories should we revisit?

The real power of any moment is fully realized when it is remembered. The experience might have been painful or pleasant, but its intensity and meaning grow when we remember and reflect upon it. Remembering is essential to the health of our souls. So we must tell our souls to look back often. Memories store great anthologies of stories that tell us who we are. They become intimate reminders of our personal histories. However, tell your soul to look back only at what is profitable. Profitable memories are those that add to your soul wellness rather than subtract from it.

How destructive can fear become in our lives? What’s the alternative?

We can’t ever side with fear, because fear is never on our side. And we can’t let fear and despair shake and intimidate us. Fear betrays; hope never does. Fear and despair make us quiver; hope makes us unshakable. Rather than giving into fear and despair, we tell our souls to hope. Hope will always be on your side, cheering you on and defending you. Hope anchors us because it provides spiritual grounding. Hope brings stability to every part of our being: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. We speak the language of hope when we tell our souls to look up.

How can we cope with our busy lifestyles? Where can we find time to rest?

Life is busy. The demands are great, and we seem to have no time for rest. So much of our self-talk is directed at revving ourselves up. Excessive revving up, however, only leads to petering out. Daily we must tell ourselves to chill out. Rest isn’t only for our tired bodies. Weary souls need it too—our wills, our minds, and our emotions. The choice to rest is ours.

How can we press on despite fear and failure?

Steady, small actions will slowly reduce the big feeling that is paralyzing you. Just because you have failed at something does not mean you are a failure. If you quit, the world will be lacking what you alone bring to it. If you continue to feed your feelings of failure and defeat, those dark emotions will grow, creeping across your soul like long winter shadows. But if you begin to starve those feelings, they will slowly die.

How can we become less selfish and “others centered”?

It’s our nature to lift ourselves up, to be egocentric. Looking back at my life, I can say for sure that the most miserable times of my life have been when I was the most self-centered, self-aware and self-promoting. When we tell our souls to get the spotlight off our own preoccupations and onto the needs of others, we reopen the potential for joy in our lives. Only selfless, other-centered people are truly happy. They have learned the all-important key. When we lift others up, we grow stronger, healthier and happier.

If you’re interested in the book, you can find it online at http://www.jenniferrothschild.com/.

Blessings!


Quote that Scripture (Secretly…)

Believe it or not, I have found that most non-believers agree with almost all of what the Bible says – especially when it comes to the pitiful state of humanity and the need for transformation – as long as they don’t know that the Bible says it.

For example: Take anyone struggling with any kind of addiction or self-control problem. Chances are if you said, “I know what you mean, it’s like that which I want to do, I don’t do and that which I do, I don’t want to do!” they would say “exactly.” You could then follow up with something to the effect of, “wouldn’t it be great if we could just be totally changed into a new person, almost like being born all over again with a second chance?” Likely, you’ll get a positive response. And if that person seems to be jiving with what you’re saying, you now have a perfectly open door to humbly, gently introduce them to Jesus with a “you know, that’s what my faith is all about – being made new.”

I could give 1,000 examples like this, and not one of them might fit a situation you know of. However, I’m sure you have someone on your heart that needs to hear the Truth of the Word. Just remember that the power of God’s Word isn’t dependent on making sure someone knows that they can turn to page 2,597 of the KJV to read it. God’s Word is powerful. Period.

In I Cor. 9:20-23, Paul talked about adjusting his approach of sharing the gospel so that he could be as effective as possible and not needlessly offensive.
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (ESV)

Last week, I wrote about how the Bible stands the test of truth and relevancy, regardless of whether a person thinks it is of God or not. This should give us confidence to use the messages of the Bible in “normal” conversation. If we are going to become weak (and I use the word “weak” here to describe not physical weakness, but spiritual or emotional weakness) in order to win the weak, we need to meet the weak humbly, and on their level.
When a person is struggling with life, family, spiritual or other problems and you have a chance to comfort or counsel them, it might not be the best idea to lead off with “Well, the Bible says…” Some people aren’t always ready to hear that. Some people have been hurt by Christians, others might be skeptical and others might just want to feel like someone is actually listening and cares for them and isn’t just trying to convert them.

This does not mean we can’t share the truth of the Word with them. In fact, you can still quote relevant Scripture, just don’t give a reference immediately. Have you ever been reading your Bible and come across text that all of the sudden is in a completely different font and format? Chances are, you’re reading a Biblical author quote another part of Scripture, but they might not give you the reference for it and you’ll have to look at the footnotes to find out where that quote comes from. It happens a lot in the Bible!
We need to be able to help people understand what the Bible says – this idea fits with the very nature of the writing of the New Testament itself!

Jesus spoke primarily in Aramaic. I’m sure he spoke Hebrew and probably some Greek and Latin as well. However, the entire New Testament was originally written in Greek! Why? Because it was the lingua franca, the common language, of the world the NT writer’s lived in. When translating and telling of all Jesus said and did, it would have been impossible to translate everything from Aramaic to Greek in a 1-to-1, word-for-word basis. But it was definitely possible to convey the meaning of all Jesus taught in one language, to another, and the disciples and Paul wanted as many people as possible to understand, not just know the good news. We know that God’s Word does not “return void,” (Isa. 55:11) but does that mean that if we walk into downtown Little Rock quoting scripture in Norwegian, and nobody around speaks Norwegian, that it will produce an abundant harvest?

I am convinced that memorizing Bible verses is important, but not nearly as important as grasping the concepts and principles they convey – and those principles are universally understood by the human heart.


Tired of being told to “Love God More?”

Love God more.

What does that even mean?  If you are like me, maybe you can relate to this:

You are sitting in church, and the pastor says that the most important thing is to love God the most.  You agree, so you decide right then and there that you are going to do just that.  You don’t know exactly what it looks like, but “in your heart” you are just going to will yourself to love God more and that’s that.

Basically, what has happened is that we have reduced love to an intellectual decision.  I think I love God more than anything, therefore I do.  But is that what it really means to love God?  I suppose that it is definitely true that you should think of God above all, but that’s a little dry.  The problem is that our English word “Love” really encompasses a lot of things.  So I’m going to throw out some new words for you.

Infatuated with.  Passionate about.  Appreciate.  Admire.  Fun. Find interesting.   How would like to truly be able to describe your relationship with God in terms like these?  I know these sound more like terms that remind you of your first girlfriend/boyfriend, but that is EXACTLY what I’m going for.

“Read More”

If you have ever had a significant other, you know that the early days of that relationship are EXCITING!  That person is all you can think about.  You talk about him/her with you friends.  You call them.  You look through all of their Facebook pictures.  Every day is a new adventure, and, whatever you think it means, you start to fall in love with them.

Unfortunately, most of us have never felt this way about God.  But you can.  And he wants you to.  But you will never feel this way about God by willing yourself to “love him more.”

What you need to do is study.  Yes, study.  It sounds yucky and reminds you of school, but hear me out.  That honeymoon phase with your earthly significant other was exciting because you are constantly learning about them, and they are excited to learn about you too.  I’m sure you can think of a time where you had a bad first impression of someone, but came to love them by learning more about them.  Or maybe you thought some type of art or music was dumb, but learned to appreciate it later in life.  Knowledge leads to love.

Unfortunately many of us believe — or go to a church that believes — they have it all figured out when it comes to God.

But you/they/we don’t.

I’ve got news for you, your theology and understanding of the Bible and the great mysteries of God will never be perfect.  Ever.

Maybe the reason you aren’t totally infatuated/in love with/interested in God is because you don’t realize there is so much more to know!  Do you think you truly understand the depths of his love? You don’t.  Do you think you know all there is to know about his character? Nope.  Do you really understand how God is weaving the events of history to the benefit of those who love him? Really.  Can you fathom the intricacies of how God holds this universe together just so you can have life?

The fact is, that God is so majestic and wonderful and holy, yet so personal that there is never an end to “getting to know” or dare I say, “dating” him.

Of course there are doctrines that are set in stone, such as Jesus’ s death on the cross.  And we can be confident of this because they are straightforward in the Bible, and pass the logical tests for truth.  But that doesn’t mean you fully understand it.  It doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to learn, or that some of your doctrines need questioning.

There is a difference between questioning God and his word and questioning your understanding of it.  And if you are willing to humble yourself and let God teach you through his Holy Spirit, he will reveal himself to you in BRAND NEW  ways and you will, in fact, begin to love God more.