Category Archives: Discipline

focuses on the spiritual disciplines

As if I wasn’t challenged enough…

Even though things like untangling my bracelets is kind of an everyday challenge for me, I have somehow managed to commit myself to several more group type challenges for the holiday season.

The first one was self-imposed and gleaned from attending the Declare Conference.

I was introduced to the idea of a 30 Day Writing Challenge and have set a goal to write 1,000 words every day for the month of November.

The plan is to end up with 30,000 words of subject matter and then I can take a look at it and see if it is worth putting together into some sort of book form or maybe just something I needed to get out of my system.

A thousand words may seem like a lot, but ask Russ…no problemo for me.

Not only can I say that many on a walk around the block with him, I actually write 500-700 a day for this so it is doable….

if it wasn’t for the fact that ever since I stated that I would be setting November aside to do this…

every spare second has been sucked out of the universe.

Then there was the next challenge that came down the pike.

A fitness and health challenge for the holidays offered by Melanie Brown of  Motivated by More. See what she is up to here …. http://motivatedbymore.net

Melanie leads the twice weekly exercise class I attend and is an encourager extraordinaire.

So when she offered a Holiday Challenge group, I signed up and we are on Week 2 of this adventure.

This little junket into healthy eating and exercise accompanied by daily devotions had barely started when I received the 7 days of Black and White picture challenge I spoke of on Friday.

And that was a blast….but still has me scrolling through Facebook to make sure I have caught everyone else’s clever and oh so artsy pics.

And then Sunday morning, I received a new challenge in church.

Pastor Brian shared a truly helpful and applicable sermon on the Lord’s Prayer and how he uses it in his devotion time.

Check out Part 2 of the Be Still series at  http://firstdecatur.org/sermons

The challenge is to use the model of the Lord’s Prayer every day through the end of the year.

Brian broke down the sections of the Lord’s Prayer and showed us how we can use it to shape our prayers to God based on Jesus answer to the disciples request for Him to teach them how to pray the way He did.

This sermon gives fresh insight into using this prayer and ends with offering an opportunity to commit to the discipline of prayer at a set time and place each day as 2017 winds to a close.

Something I have been learning through all of these different challenges is the great addition of accountability.

For the writing challenge, I have a couple of other writers I am checking in with who also committed to some kind of regular writing throughout these 30 days.

With a little text message here and there, we have been checking in on each other. Some days we share our frustration that we haven’t written, or just a shout out to do whatever we can.

The same is true for the Holiday Challenge.

Melanie sends out emails every day, menu plans once a week and has connected us all on an app that I just finally figured out I should be connecting more regularly.

On the app, there is a thread of conversations about wins when temptation was overcome or fessing up when we gave in. Members are sharing recipes and such.

I have found these comments to be so inspiring to me to keep me on the right path with making healthier choices for food intake and exercise.

And now with the Lord’s Prayer challenge…this one…I want to hold myself accountable to you.

I hope you will join me and if I glean anything sharable along the way of this challenge, I do commit to pass it along to you. I may even start a category for this one…we shall see…but…

The main thing is, if you have set goals for yourself, it’s not cheating to gather a few like-minded support people around you and devise a way to encourage each other even as you hold each other accountable.

Be blessed today in whatever you set your heart and mind to do <3

 

The comfortable rut of comparison and why we want to choose a better path <3

I had a random thought the other day about our human propensity to compare our performance, status, circumstances or appearance to others.

We are prone to look around at friends, co-workers, acquaintences and even total strangers we encounter out there in our every day or via the internet and size up how we are doing with how they are doing.

And we walk away feeling better or worse or affirmed or threatened.

But not transformed.

We take pride that we aren’t as decadent as the celebrities while we feel deprived that our “hot mess” isn’t as cute and charming as that Instagram post we just read.

And I think that is why we have a love-hate relationship with this habit of the flesh.

Because it is comfortable and familiar and easier to cope with feelings of being less than this one and superior to that one, and so we continue observing others in light of our own haves and have-nots.

By remaining in the safe zone of measuring ourselves against other frail humans, we never have to set the standard any higher than what we deem to be the best and worst of what is currently available in our peripheral vision.

And God says … stop it.

I find a better way to view and compare in Galatians 6:1-5

Is someone around me having a sin problem?

Gently work to restore that one and be aware and careful because I can well be tempted by the same sin.

Is someone going through a difficult season filled with pain and loss, illness or trial?

Prayerfully ask how I can be used to help shoulder the burden with this one.

Am I looking at how others are doing so I can measure my own successes and failures by those standards?

Honestly assess how I am stewarding the gifts and talents I have been given in light of my generous and glorious and amazing God who has given them to me and bring my shortcomings to the One who extends grace and mercy; the One who patiently shapes and molds me more and more into the image of His dear Son. And work this out with Him and Him alone.

It is effortless and useless to allow ourselves to remain in this cycle of comparison to others.

It is far more profitable and takes more work to begin to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Truth alone.

If we are going to measure ourselves to anything it must be according to God’s standards and not the best or worst of what we see in the people around us.

Here are a few Scriptures to ponder in light of this thought today:

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.  

2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

2 Corinthians 13:5   ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12: 2-3   ESV

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Exodus 20:17   ESV

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 

Hebrews 4:12-13   ESV

As I meditate on these passages, I begin to see how wasteful it is to look at the lives and patterns of people around me to measure the course of my journey.

God has fitted me and purposed me to run my race only.

To stay in my lane.

To keep my eyes fixed on Him, the author and perfecter of my faith.

And I am only to look to you to cheer you on in your race. To offer a gentle hand when you stumble. And to accept yours extended to me when I do the same.

Let’s do the greater work of comparing ourselves to God’s standard and leave the comfortable rut of the comparison game behind us <3

 

 

 

 

 

Only so much room for storage <3

I know we have discussed my capacity to over save memories.

Exhibit A: I currently have 35,978 items in the iPhoto area of this desktop computer.

That doesn’t include the untold numbers safely tucked in a file called “Reimer Transfer” that the nice young man who sold me this computer painstakingly downloaded from our old tower memory.

Then there are the same 35,978 items downloaded to the MacBook Pro….and then saved to an external hard drive…not to mention….

3,408 photos resting on my phone.

Of which all have been downloaded to both of the above mentioned computers and might also possibly be duplicated and living on a cloud out there somewhere.

So when I was finally feeling released to delete a good portion of these treasures off my phone and yet still showing low storage capacity, I realized that after I delete them…they transfer to another file called…

“Recently deleted photos”…where they live for a month just in case I need to retrieve something.

It occurs to me that I only have so much digital, emotional, mental, physical space to accumulate and document and store the experiences and moments  of life…my life and life that goes on around me.

But how do we delete the deleted files?

Now, I realize this example falls short because I am talking about photos that I have saved verses memories that stir up old wounds but hang with me here….

How do we effectively erase the images that lurk in places and, while we are typically unaware of them in the course of our daily living, crop up and suck the life out of us at the oddest times?

They were deleted because they no longer served a beneficial purpose and yet…there they are. Taking up space in the memory, casting a shadow on our moving forward today.

As I ponder this for myself, I realize I have several options.

I can gaze intently at the image of a deleted memory and allow myself to be refreshed anew in guilt, grief, sorrow, loss, regret….whatever emotions accompanied the event.

I can take the image to close friends and I can ask them to join me as I look on. I can describe vividly to them the details of the pain or shame or the injustice and spend my energy enlisting their help in giving new life to this event…help me retrieve it back into the active memory files…and hopefully get them on board to hold in their own data banks.

Or

I can hold it up to the only One who can truly erase the past. The One who permanently deletes…by casting it into an ocean deep with mercy.

I can take Him at His Word when He says though my sins be red as the deepest reds, He will make them like the new fallen snow.

That when He forgives, He remembers no more.

That He binds up the broken hearted and heals the shattered heart.

That He is the same yesterday, today and forever and He alone is the only One who can safely bury the past.

Until a thing is buried in Him, it has the capacity to linger and haunt the present and cast shadows on the future.

Is it easy, this turning over of long-held thoughts and memories to Him?

No.

But what walk of faith is ever easy?

May the Lord Himself strengthen us to open up wide the hidden places in our hearts and minds where old wounds, sins and sorrows have tucked themselves into our souls…that He might be invited in to clean house in the deepest places within us.

3-6 The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Of trigger points and pain and such <3

I have had a tight spot in my upper back for several days and when I mentioned it to a friend today she said both she and her husband were experiencing pain in the exact same spot.

We marveled that all three of us had this same localized pain and, being prone to extremely imaginative hypochondriac tendencies, I began formulating possible viruses and bizarre scenarios of how this could be.

And then another friend came by who happens to be a nurse and when we described it to her, she nodded her head knowingly and informed us that area is called a trigger point; a centralized area where many nerves and muscles come together and sometimes these get knotted up causing the painful condition we were experiencing.

She explained that it needed pressure to work out the tightened muscles and associated nerves and suggested a few ways to accomplish that.

It occurs to me that I have trigger points in my emotions as well.

Places where there is a high concentration of collected memories and the feelings associated with them that when tweaked by everyday circumstances can render me debilitated by unexpected discomfort.

Something will trigger a fresh awareness of some emotions I think I have moved beyond and suddenly I am basically sidelined from being productive as I struggle with fresh waves of old wounds.

Suddenly I have a tight ball of pain that is taking up all of my time and attention; causing me to lose focus on anything beyond my personal discomfort.

Entering the holidays can set off just such a situation as my expectations for time with family and friends, plus memories from the past and realities of what life looks like now collide with a calendar that steadily fills up with commitments or…just as difficult…remains somewhat empty.

One of the suggestions made to me regarding loosening this area in my back was to raise my arms like a goal post and take deep breaths as I open up the chest area. (Thank you to Sarah for that one).

I have been thinking that this same posture most likely could be applied to my emotional trigger points as we begin this roller coaster holiday season that will end 2017.

Raise my hands…in surrender.

Open wide my heart…to allow God to enter in and direct all activities.

Breathe deeply….let His Spirit flow into me as I release all my emotions and feelings in one big exhale.

How about you?

What’s the trigger point in your soul?

What is that set of circumstances where your thoughts can get commandeered by your emotions and feelings and you can feel it all tightening into a rock hard place of tension and pain?

Perhaps if you find yourself getting balled up in a mood today or this week, you might try raising your arms and inhaling deeply as you release everything to the One who holds it all together all the time <3

Just a quick note

Are you familiar with Romans 12:1 and 2…the verses that talk to us about how the best way we can worship God is to lay our lives down?

When I meditate on this passage, it seems I have committed the version from the NIV to memory.

Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.    Romans 12:1-2 NIV

Because words make pictures in my head, I have always imagined that Paul was encouraging us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice on account of God’s mercy….

so more in these terms…

Therefore, I want to strongly encourage you brothers and sisters, out of motivation based on God’s mercy, that you would offer your bodies as a living sacrifice….etc etc etc

But I have been reading a sweet book called The Mercy Prayer by Robert Gelinas and I am taking a whole new look at mercy and how much we need it just to live here on planet earth; and also how much God gives it to us with abundance when we ask for it.

And I look back at that passage and I see these words in a new way…a different way….

the part about “in view of”…I start to see it not as “because of” but more like “in the sight of” … the “being seen in light of” …

that God looks upon me and you with a mercy outlook.

Therefore, I want to encourage you brothers and sisters, as you are being seen by God with the lens of His mercy toward you….

Does that make a difference to you?

That we are not being asked to lay down our lives as a payback for His mercy, we are being encouraged to lay down our lives in the safety and love and grace OF that infinite mercy that is viewing us and all we do.

We can trust that our efforts to lay down our lives each day will not depend on how well we do it, but that we are offering all that we are in faith that His mercy will cover over our imperfections with grace so that our flawed selves will become holy and acceptable, as we attempt to give Him the glory and honor due Him in a way that is pleasing to Him.

I love looking at different translations and the one from Eugene Peterson’s The Message has great wording for my simple mind:

So here’s what I want you to do,

God helping you 

(Do you see that? Can you see that His mercy is there to help us?)

Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.

Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 

(There it is again…His mercy…watching us as we make the effort to let go of the reins of our lives and allow Him to reign over us ALL under His eyes/sight/attending MERCY)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.

Instead, fix your attention on God.

You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  

 Romans 12:1-2 The Message 

It is in view of His mercy that we offer our lives…

it is in the looking-on of His mercy that we separate ourselves out of the mess of and …

oh please…

the immaturity of a culture run rogue…

and allow God to bring out the best in each of us.

We can be mature and we can be wise as we lay down our agendas, plans, and preferences IN THE Sight OF His mercy and allow God to fit us not only for His Kingdom but to be influencers for good in this present day.

So brothers and sisters, today I urge you…be aware of God’s mercy toward you, understanding He is viewing you through eyes of MERCY….

as you offer your daily activities to Him, fixing your attention on Him.

Perhaps if we focused more on His mercy and less on the “level of immaturity” that abounds…we truly would begin to be the best version of us.