#memoryverse Psalm 139:23-24 ~ search me, oh God.

psalm 139 23 24 Search Me O God over water#memoryverse

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

One of my go-to questions when I meet with someone as a communication/life coach is:

“How do you receive and process negative feedback and constructive criticism?”

Sometimes, people know the answer. Sometimes I have to provide a few multiple choice options:

(1) Do you usually deny it? Assume it’s not true?

(2) Do you get depressed? Maybe shut down or give up?

(3) Do you get fired up? Determined to prove the criticizer wrong or to overcome whatever weakness the feedback and criticism points to?

(4) or do you get depressed, shut down and THEN get fired up and determined?

The most difficult to deal with are the two extremes of denying and shutting down.

I don’t know about you, but my knee jerk reaction is to deny. Way back in college, my favorite interpersonal communication professor, Dr. Grasty, assured me I wasn’t alone by confirming that:

“When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive.”

And then he gave us this sage advice:

“Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.”

This is one of those occasions where the words “the truth hurts” ring loud and true.

I’ve learned that in order to grow – personally, professionally, mentally, physically and most importantly, spiritually, I have to face the truth of where I am right now.

Praying for God to search my heart.
Asking Him to give me the courage to look at what He reveals.
Begging Him to comfort me when He shows me the ugly that’s hiding in there, layered in rationalizations and rainbows.
And praying for Him to equip me with the motivation and stamina needed to purge from my life the things that separate me from Him.

#memoryverse Jeremiah 32:17 ~ nothing (nobody) is too hard (headed) for God.

Jeremiah 32 17 waterfall background#memoryverse

“Ah, Sovereign LORD,
you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

I’m a fixer.

When I see something that needs fixed I want to fix it, whether it be a crooked picture on the wall or a broken relationship. But some things are beyond my capabilities, especially if the thing that’s broken isn’t seen as broken by people “in charge” of it.

In many cases, the first thing that needs to be changed is a mindset.

That’s a whole lotta vague, isn’t it? As I read back over it, I see application in multiple situations. In each of those situations, someone either doesn’t see or refuses to see that there’s a problem in the first place.

And before anyone even goes there, I know I’m one of those people, so as you read, know that I’m including my own oblivion and denial and not just pointing at someone else’s. I need to consistently ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me problems I don’t see.

And in those situations where I want to help but the people I want to help don’t think they need any help, I need to pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to them the problems THEY don’t see. If someone has blocked out all possibility for constructive criticism and/or surrounded themselves with “yes men” and rainbow blowing yea-sayers, there’s no avenue for me to help because there’s no perceived need or even an openness for possible improvement. In those situations, there’s absolutely nothing I can say or do to make someone aware of a problem, much less motivate them to explore and implement change.

And again, I’m including my own oblivion and denial when I say that.

That’s when I need to rely on God. God can do ANYthing, even open a closed mind, dedicated to the self-preservation of being “right.” For a while now, I’ve been asking the sovereign and almighty God who made the heavens and the earth to do some things I know can’t do on my own:
(1) reveal to me that my perception of some problems is incorrect,
(2) bless me with a peace about doing nothing to intercede,
(3) and/or reveal to someone that there are problems and provide me an opportunity to help.

Because standing by and watching is beyond frustrating.

#memoryverse Psalms 121:2 ~ decisions and steps.

Beth Moore quote Where God can go with a scared ill equipped vessel#memoryverse

“My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:2 (NIV)

Are you at the door to an opportunity but haven’t taken the step through because you don’t have confidence in your ability to succeed?

Pray.

Make sure the opportunity is within the moral will of God as revealed to us in scripture.

Pray.

Seek counsel with wise and objective brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t have anything to lose or gain from your decision.

Pray.

Genuinely ask the Lord to exponentially increase your desire to move forward if the path IS within His will for you.
Ask Him to pursue you relentlessly if it IS His will for you.

Genuinely ask Him to lessen and remove your conscious thoughts of this possible path if it ISN’T His will for you.
Ask him to re-direct your thoughts to a different course of action if this one ISN’T His will for you.

Pray.

And then take action.

Don’t wait for Him to say “GO,” take one step after another while diligently and prayerfully watching for Him to say “NO.”

Remember, if you could do it alone, you wouldn’t need His help. Remember where your help comes from.

#memoryverse Psalms 121:2 ~ muse. shmoose. I need the Holy Spirit.

God has not calle me to be successful but faithful Mother Teresa#memoryverse

“My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:2 (NIV)

In the fall of last year, I began leading two Bible/Discipleship studies and after taking a break over the holidays, I’m seeing more people sign up to join us as we start back next week. My first thought was “EXCELLENT!”

Followed immediately by a humbling shot of “uh oh. WHAT am I going to say for 17 weeks? What if I run out of “stuff” to teach?”

And then the Holy Spirit nudged me: “Yeah, you’ll run out of ‘stuff.’ If you teach all by yourself. You need to depend on ME.

I know from experience that if I stay grounded in close fellowship with God and continuously offer my preparation as a living sacrifice, He will give me HIS message every week, from the timeless truth of scripture to the practical application of it in our lives today. From the supporting stories to suggestions for personal challenges.

I know that if I continuously pray for the people participating in the study, HE will incline their hearts and minds to HIS message and He will draw each one closer to Himself in a way that is unique and needed for each and every one of them.

Time and time again – when I’ve depended on HIM as my source and my guide – He has led me to share something very specific to meet someone right where they are that day, that moment.

I know that if I’m obedient in planting and sowing the seed where and how he leads me, He will send the rain and the sunshine and harvest in His own perfect timing.

I’ll need the Holy Spirit to remind me of that last part again and again because I know my natural tenancy is equate responses from people as affirmation that the messages I relay are “effective.” In reality, I’m confident He’s reached people who have never given me even one ioda of feedback that something I’ve shared has spoken to them or impacted their choices.

I need to remember – persistently – that HE is the source of all I ever teach, or speak or write. Without Him, my voice is a “clanging cymbal.”

#memoryverse Psalms 121:2 ~ knowledge and wisdom.

Psalm 121 2 My help comes from the Lord pastel bkg#memoryverse

“My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:2 (NIV)

For as long as I remember, I’ve believed that knowledge can help me solve problems and overcome obstacles. It’s one of the reasons I read so much non-fiction.

Authors are teachers.

Witnesses.

Mentors.

You may have heard me say this before, but I don’t believe I’m all that special. I believe that any problem I face has been faced by someone else before and most of the time, I’ve found that at least one of those people has written about it.

So when I find myself face to face with a problem, I research. I learn.

But I’ve found that knowledge isn’t enough. I need wisdom.

Two very different things.

Some have said “knowledge speaks, wisdom listens.” There’s a whole lotta truth in that. But in my experience, wisdom is the effective application of knowledge. Some say that wisdom is derived from experience and intuition. That’s giving me WAAAAY too much credit. I can take the credit, don’t get me wrong.

But I know better. I know where my help comes from.

Every time I find an answer, I know the Holy Spirit led me to it. I can take the credit for finding it all on my own, but I know better. I know where my help comes from, regardless of whether it’s the discovery of information or my ability to apply that information effectively in a given situation.

One of the most common reminders of God’s leading in my life is when I can freakishly recall something from my distance past that will help me in my current situation, whether it’s something I read or saw, something I experienced or a conversation I had with someone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been completely stumped about what to do or say and after silently praying, right in the middle of an active conversation or challenge, God has revealed an answer, a word, a thought.

If not for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I wouldn’t remember half of what I learn and I wouldn’t be able to apply diddly or squat of it in the conversations and interactions of my daily life.

I know where my help comes from.

practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum)

In The Risk of Discipleship Practices, the second post in this blog series on the difference Between “a Good Christian Life” and Abundant Life in Christ, I talked about Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, and how he practiced the presence of God, no matter where he went or what he was doing.

I decided to try it.

I failed and thats goodI failed.

chronically.

But it was okay. I wasn’t surprised. Brother Lawrence failed too. In trying to practice the presence of God, his pattern was:

practice the presence of God.
forget God.
remember God.
repent
Repeat, Buzz Lightyear style (to infinity, and beyond).

I had read about Brother Lawrence’s failings before I even began, so failure wasn’t unexpected. I wasn’t discouraged. If he couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. I’ve previously quoted what was said of him when he failed, but I’ll repeat it here for convenience:

[When Brother Lawrence] “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God,
‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself;
’tis You must hinder my falling,and mend what is amiss.’
That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

Since “just remembering” wasn’t working for me, I decided to try something a little unorthodox. I decided to pretend Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. He sat next to me at the kitchen table, at my desk, and on my loveseat with me when I read my Bible and wrote in my prayer journal. He leaned on the counter while I cooked dinner and loaded the dishwasher (which reminded me to thank him for providing for us). He sat in the passenger seat of my van (which reminded me to thank him for his mercy and protection) and he stood next to me when I tucked my kids into bed and said prayers with them (which reminded me to thank Him for so.many.things.).

And yes. He even hung out with me in the bathroom.

Imagining Jesus physically present with me began to make me aware that God was listening when I talked. I knew He was listening, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time, I wasn’t conscious of it. When I practiced God’s presence, I was more mindful of my thoughts, words and actions. I imagined His hand on my shoulder, pressing slightly when I began to say something unedifying. I imagined his hand at the small of my back, gently guiding me where He wanted me to go. I found myself speaking less. I found myself listening more. To other people and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

reminder - string on your fingerIn the beginning, this exercise was the equivalent of a spiritual string on my finger. Imagining Jesus physically next to me was a mechanism I used to remind me of God’s presence and movement in my life. I probably could have just as easily set reminder alarms on my phone to bring me back to an awareness of His presence at multiple time during the day.

But as the days passed, the spiritual string began to grow into a foundation of confidence in the promise of Joshua 1:9, that God was actually “with me wherever I go” As I became more and more aware of God’s presence, I found myself relying on Him more and on myself less. I started to see people and situations differently, through God’s greater perspective rather than through my own limited and skewed vantage point.

My chronic problem was the same one Brother Lawrence experienced. I continued to forget Jesus was with me.

I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed help.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

[I assigned this exercise as homework to the participants of a weekly Bible study I lead on discipleship. If you’ve never practiced the presence of God in this way this before, I encourage you to give it a try for one week. Expect to forget God. often. And check back to see what I assigned as the next week’s homework assignment. Here’s a hint: It has something to do with my realization that I couldn’t do it by myself and needed help.]

where philanthropy falls short.

I was recently part of a discussion about a church supported service project. A number of different ideas were on the table, none of them mine. The project itself wasn’t my priority. They were all good ideas. All needed. All would “do good.”

My concern, what I had been thinking and praying about for over a week prior to this meeting was that whatever service project we decided upon, it would track back to Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I’ve observed and/or been a part of a number of church supported service projects, at a number of churches – very, very few of which led to an open door to share the gospel.

All were good. All were needed. All did “good things.”

But serving those in need without tracking back to Christ is just philanthropy, not Christian mission.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

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