Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Daring Greatly

Back when I was in high school God hit me over the head and changed the course of my life with a revelation of my purpose which I have been fine tuning ever since. But I continually make the mistake of attaching my identity to my purpose which only manages to distort that purpose as well as makes the stakes too high to actually pursue my calling because... what if I fail?

Brene Brown writes in her book Daring Greatly
"When our self-worth isn't on the line, we are far more willing to be courageous and risk sharing our raw talents and gifts... A sense of worthiness inspires us to be vulnerable, share openly, and persevere." 

This really hits home for me as I am sure it does for many people. Here is what I believe, though I frequently have to remind myself... I am enough. And I know this because the One who sees behind all the masks of perfection I try to portray says so. He says I am enough and I am so incredibly valuable just as I am, that he was willing to sacrifice Himself for me. 

"But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
 ~Romans 5:8

My self worth is not tied to my purpose, my performance, or anyone elses acceptance of me. And that is freeing! That allows me to be me and use my gifts and talents and pursue my passions because failure may hurt but it does not define me.

Failure may hurt but it does not define me.

For some reason I have the re-learn this continually even though I was blessed to be raised by parents who always made me feel like enough and am blessed to be married to a man who makes me feel like more than enough and I am blessed to have friends who love me for who I am. And yet somehow I often believe that I have fooled them all. But I cannot fool my Creator which is why it is so important for me to daily listen to Him tell me that He loves me exactly how I am, exactly who I am, exactly who He created me to be.

Brene goes on to describe shame,
"Shame is fear of disconnection-- it's the fear that something we've done or failed to do, an ideal that we've not lived up to, or a goal that we've not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection."

The gospel message again sets me free from that fear. The truth is, I haven't lived up to God's glorious standard, but Jesus made a way for me to connect with God despite my failure. He makes me enough.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ."
~Romans 3:23-24

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."
~Romans 8:1

In a TEDxHouston talk, Brene describes courage as telling the story of who you are with your whole heart. I am learning to love my own story, and the gospel gives me the courage to tell it because I am already loved. Whether anyone likes my story or cares about my story, whether my story makes one bit of difference to anyone else, it is the only story I have and the saddest thing I can imagine is living my life too afraid to tell it. 

Aside from living my own story, nothing makes me more fascinated or inspired than seeing others courageously live their own stories. 

Brene writes in summary of her decade of research on shame and vulnerability, 
"The greatest lesson is this: If we're going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we're supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly."

Changing our culture with courage and daring to be vulnerable and tell the story of who we really are with our whole hearts might be the most important thing we do as parents, spouses, friends, teachers, etc. Our courageousness might just allow and encourage others to do the same when we recognize that we are all loved and we do not need to compete with one another. 

Let's set our children, spouses, friends, students, etc. free from measuring up, free from connecting their self-worth to what they produce. God has already accomplished this with the gospel but we don't live like it. Let's live like it and experience the inspiring stories of a culture set free from shame!

If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend Brene Brown's book "Daring Greatly." I also highly recommend the Bible. I think their messages are complimentary :) 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Goal Setting in Light of the Brevity of Our Lives

There is wisdom to be found when we realize that our life is really very brief. For many people, this wisdom isn’t found until it is too late; when they are approaching the end of their days and looking back at what they wish they had done with their limited time. You might be surprised to know the number one regret of those with terminal illnesses in the last weeks of their lives. You might expect it to be “working too much” which is actually number two. The number one regret is not having the courage to live true to themselves instead of how they were expected to live. 

I believe each of us is given the gift of life for a reason. We are each created with unique talents and passions meant to be used for a purpose that will glorify God and bring us great joy and fulfillment as well. But it can be somewhat terrifying to muster the courage to be true to ourselves, particularly when other people whom we love and respect question the validity of our calling. So often times we wait, we bid our time, we do what is expected of us, and figure there will always be time for our crazy passion later. But who really knows how much time we have left? And no matter how much time we have left, there is never enough time to make up for wasting one precious moment being anything other than who we were created to be. 

Moses prays in Psalm 90:12,
"So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom." (NASB)

This verse was written during the time the Israelites were wandering in the desert and they had been told that their bodies would fall in the wilderness and not see the promised land because of their lack of faith. Just like people today in the last weeks of their lives, they knew the end was coming and Moses wanted them to live in the light of the limited time they had left.  
Moses completes his prayer with a plea for God's favor so that their earthly efforts would not be in vain;
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands, Yes, confirm the work of our hands" (Ps. 90:17). 

When we realize the brevity of life, we focus on the things that matter most, we seek out what makes it meaningful, and we are forced to see a bigger picture than just our own short life. When our thoughts and actions shift from ourselves to eternity, as they might when we realize the brevity of our life, wisdom develops in us. I can't help but see the wisdom contained just in the organization of Psalm 90.

The psalm is organized into 4 parts:
vs. 1-2 comfort in our place in God
vs. 3-6 humility before God
vs. 7-11 submission to God's will
vs. 12-17 prayer for mercy, grace, and favor
I believe wisdom is found in recognizing who God is, recognizing who we are in light of who God is, submitting ourselves to God's will, and praying for mercy, grace and favor. 

So what is on your heart this year?

What matters most in light of who God is, who He made you to be, and the calling He has given you?

Will spend your time wisely and cultivate the courage to be true to yourself this year?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Goal Setting in Light of the Ultimate Goal

It is the start of the New Year and I have literally spent hours assessing the past year and setting new goals for 2016 using this guide. This is important because if we don’t know where we are going, how will we get there? As I am spending these first couple of weeks in 2016 fasting and praying and committing to seek His plans rather than my own, I am curious...

What does the Bible have to say about goal setting?

Well, in my quiet time this morning I read Philippians 3. These verses give us the ultimate goal of the Christian life (3:7-11), a model for reaching our goals (3:12-14), followed by a warning about a common pit fall in goal setting (3:18-19).

For Christians the ultimate goal is summed up here;

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I count as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” 
~Philippians 3:7-11

The goal is to gain Christ; to know Him, to fellowship with Him, to be conformed to His image.

The model laid out in verses 12-14 is simple;

1. Have a goal.
          “Not that I have already obtained it” (vs.12)

2. Single-minded focus on that goal.  
         “...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” (vs. 13)

3. Put in the effort to pursue that goal.  
         “…press on toward the goal…” (vs. 14)

Most of us know step 1 and 3. But step 2 is also critical! 
If we want to pursue our current goals well, we have to forget {neglect and no longer care for} the past and focus on the future. We have to let go of our previous failures and successes. We can only really focus on one thing at a time and the goals we are currently pursuing require our full attention if we hope to attain them. 

Heaven forbid we become like those “old-timers” always talking about their glory days. We should focus on making today glorious rather than reliving the past! On the other hand, heaven forbid we allow our previous failures to distract and discourage us from pursuing the work God has given us today!

This particularly hits home with me in my period in life right now where some days I totally blow it as a mom. I lose my temper with my kids and fail to be the godly example for them that I want to be. This has happened enough times that if I look back at those past failures for even a moment I am already defeated in the present. I think, “If I couldn’t keep it together then, how will I keep it together when they up the ante?” and “Why even try, I’m only going to fail.” are the choruses in my head when I turn around and look back. I have to learn to replace those voices by keeping my eyes fixed on the future and the hope of heaven and the crown of life, righteousness, and glory waiting for me there.

Finally, a warning as we set and pursue goals for the year;

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things."
~Philippians 3:18-19

How many times have I skimmed over this thinking, “Wow, how sad for those people!” when the Spirit hit me and said, “Hello, that person is you sometimes!” It grieves me to confess that, in many seasons in my Christian walk, I have been that woman, claiming Christ and seeking after my own goals. Were they evil goals? No. But the fact that I focused my heart and mind on achieving them instead of seeking Christ alone, made them idols. The truth is, I need this reminder a lot! I must remember that I am a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20) and as such, should be seeking heavenly things!

Today as I review and pray over the goals I have set for 2016, I am asking myself:
Why is this your goal?
How will acheiving this help you reach your ultimate goal of gaining Christ?

Goals are surely important because they help us effectively direct our time towards what matters most to us. And how we spend our time is how we spend our lives. So let’s make the most of our lives and pursue what matters for the ultimate goal of gaining Christ!

Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil."
~Ephesians 5:14-21

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Fast: Scripture Reading & Meal Plan

My personal 2016 Fast plan as promised!

Each day I included the Scripture I will be studying (selected from a previous Love God Greatly study called "Intentionally Focused") as well as the meals I will be eating (Daniel Fast friendly). It took me awhile to put this together so I wanted to share in case it helps simplify things for you.

I don't want the fast to be all about the food. I don't want to spend a lot of time thinking and stressing about food when I should be spending time with God. So in order to avoid that, I made a plan. I selected simple recipes and each day I eat leftovers from the day before for lunch. Later in the plan I even eat frozen leftovers I made earlier in the plan to save even more effort on food. Most of these are recipes my kids will eat too so I won't have to make two different meals and can just supplement theirs with grilled chicken breast or pasta. I will include links to the recipes below with notes on how they must be modified to fit the Daniel Fast guidelines. Check out this Food List for what you should/shouldn't eat if you are doing the Daniel Fast. 

2016 Fast
Living with Intention
Personal Plan:
Daniel Fast &
Social Media Fast

Anytime Snacks:
Fresh Juice
Fruit&Veggie Smoothies
Carrots w/ hummus

Celery w/PB
Roasted Chickpeas
Jan 3

Ephesians 5:1-14

Banana w/PB

Garden Salad

Red Beans and Rice
Jan 4

Ephesians 5:15-21

Oatmeal w/fruit

Red Beans and Rice

Chunky Veggie Chili (make extra & freeze)
Jan 5

Hebrews 12:1-3

Apple w/PB

Chunky Veggie Chili

Baba Ganoush w/beet chips
Jan 6

Philippians 3:12-14

Oatmeal w/fruit

Baba Ganoush

Lentil Soup
(make extra & freeze)
Jan 7

Psalm 90

Banana w/PB

Lentil Soup

Cranberry-Cilantro-Quinoa Salad
Jan 8

John 6:35
John 8:12
John 10:11
John 14:6
John 15:5

Oatmeal w/fruit

Cranberry-Ciliantro-Quinoa Salad

Sweet Potato-Carrot-Apple-Lentil Soup
Jan 9

John 4:1-14

Apple w/PB

Sweet potato- Carrot- Apple- Lentil Soup

Roasted Garlic Broccoli over Quinoa
Jan 10

Psalm 63:1-8

Oatmeal w/fruit

Roasted Garlic Broccoli over Quinoa

Roasted Eggplant spread with Lentil crackers
Jan 11

Hebrews 4:12-13

Banana w/PB

Eggplant spread with lentil crackers

Zoodles w/Marinara
(make extra marinara & freeze)
Jan 12

Romans 8:1-8

Oatmeal w/fruit

Zoodles w/Marinara

Red Beans and Rice Casserole with Guacamole
Jan 13

Romans 12:1-2

Apple w/PB

Red Beans and Rice Casserole with Guacamole

Garden Salad
Jan 14

Philippians 4:8

Oatmeal w/fruit

Garden Salad

Chili (from freezer)

Jan 15

2 Corinthians 10:1-5

Banana w/ PB


Lentil soup (from freezer)
Jan 16

Colossians 3:1-3

Oatmeal w/fruit

Lentil Soup

Zoodles w/Marinara (from freezer)

Recipe Links:

*omit sugar

*make sure to get unsweetened cranberries

*use olive oil instead of butter

*or buy jarred, just make sure to check ingredients for added sugar
**Zoodles are just zucchini noodles (make with a veggie peeler or spiralizer and steam for a few minutes)

If you have simple, Daniel-fast friendly recipes you love, please share in the comments for future reference! Thanks!

Fasting 101

I am not an expert on fasting. Far from it! I did not grow up in a church that taught about fasting so it has really only been in my adult life that I have begun practicing it on occasion and have been very blessed by the practice. In preparation for this upcoming fast I have studied up on it in Scripture and from people who have more experience and insight than I do so that I have a better understanding of why I should do it and what I should expect from the experience. Here is brief summary of what I have learned from my experience, from studying Scripture, and from reading about other people's practice.

Why should I fast?

Scripture calls us to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). And Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2). If Jesus needed to fast, I imagine that I, being much lesser than He, also should fast. Furthermore, Jesus talks about fasting as if it is a regular part of the Christian life, in the same way He talks about giving and praying (specifically see Matthew 6). And when asked by His disciples why they were unable to remove an unclean spirit, Jesus acknowledges that the act not only requires faith, but can only be accomplished by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21) indicating that the power of Christ at work in us can be increased through prayer and fasting in faith.

What does it accomplish?

Much of our lives are driven by our appetites. Not just what our belly wants, though that is certainly a big one, but what we most desire. When we fast, we sacrificially deny ourselves something. This discipline de-thrones our selfish appetites and helps us develop the discipline to choose short term dissatisfaction, in order to gain something greater.

De-throning your appetite:

  • Makes you more sensitive to the Spirit, enabling you to live holy
  • Prepares the way for God to give you fresh revelation, vision, and purpose
  • Prepares you for a new anointing
  • Renews you spiritually by magnifying God in your life
  • Stirs hunger in your spirit for the deeper things of God
  • Can break you free of bondages (often caused by your appetite)
{bullet points gleaned and paraphrased from Jentezen Franklin's book "Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship With God" and are backed by Scriptural examples, and line up with my own personal experience}

Matthew 5:6 tells us, 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

Hungry people are desperate people. When we desperately want more of God, He promises to satisfy us with more of Him. Fasting helps us develop that hunger so that we can experience true satisfaction, not just the temporary satisfaction of whatever we feed our appetite.

Jen Hatmaker reflects on her fasting experience after seven months of fasting various things each month in her book "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess"

"Perhaps this is why Scripture calls us to the practice of fasting- from food, from greed, from selfishness, from luxuries. It isn't just the experience, it's the discipline. It changes us. Fasting helps us develop mastery over the competing voices in our heads that urge us toward more, toward indulgence, toward emotional volatility. Like consistent discipline eventually shapes our children's behavior, so it is with us."

How to Fast

1) Commit to a time period. Our church does a corporate fast at the beginning of each year for two weeks so that is what I will be doing. But you could fast for 1 day, 10 days, 21 days, 40 days, or really any number. Just pick a duration and commit to it. 

2) Commit to a type of fast. In the Bible fasting involved abstaining from certain foods or all foods. But it is all about de-throning your appetite, so really any area of appetite that would be a sacrifice for you to give up would be acceptable. The three types of fasts encouraged by our church are liquid fasts (no food for the duration), the Daniel fast (basically a vegan diet with no sugar/sweetners or processed foods), and a Media fast (no social media, television, internet outside of work responsibilities). The important thing is that it should involve sacrifice! If it is easy for you, then it is not a fast. 

3) Commit to spending quiet time with God in Scripture and prayer. Without intentionally connecting with God, a fast is just a diet. I will be sharing my 2 week Scripture reading plan that I am using to intentionally focus my year on the blog in the next couple of days in case you would like to follow along.

If you are ready to de-throne your appetite and cultivate a greater hunger for God, I would love for you to join me and my faith community as we fast January 3-17. Please leave me a comment or shoot me message if you will be joining us so I can be praying for you!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What do you worship? Created or Creator?

Everything I do is an act of worship. The question is who am I worshipping? Creator or created?

When I feed myself to satisfy myself I worship myself. When I feed myself to take care of the body God has given me, I worship Him.

When I chose to spend my time doing things that serve my purposes, I worship myself. When I spend my time doing what serves the kingdom of God, I worship Him. 

When I work to make money for the things I want or to find personal significance or for prestige I worship myself. When I work to accomplish the things He has given me to do and to provide for the people and things He has placed in my care, I worship Him.

How I spend my time and money, how I treat people, how I take care of my possessions, how I nurture and take care of my body… these are all opportunities for worshipping either the created or the Creator.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of births and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” 
~Romans 1:21-25

When I exchange the truth of God {that He created and sustains everything} for a lie {that I am the center of my own universe}, He isn’t going to force me to worship Him. He will let me have my way when I insist upon it. But when I look at what that gets me, I don’t really want my own way.

When I eat to satisfy my appetite, I become unhealthy and suffer the consequences.
When I spend my time serving my purposes, my life is empty of meaning and purpose.
When I work to make money for the things I want or to find personal significance or for prestige, I can never get enough.

How do I avoid the trap of the lie?
Honor Him as God and give thanks.
The first step is to honor Him as God and Creator by recognizing that all I have is from Him. My health, my family, my stuff, my time… He made it, He sustains it, He gives it all as a gift to me. It belongs to Him, I just get the privilege of taking care of it for a little while. The second step is to give thanks. Gratitude changes everything. It puts things back into perspective. It puts me back into the proper position to worship the Creator. 

As the New Year approaches I am looking forward to resetting my perspective by denying myself and my appetites in pursuit of Him through a time of fasting. Do you need to refocus your life and your worship to set the course for your 2016? Feel free to join me!

Fast & Pray 2016: January 3-17

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fast 2016: Choosing Crazy

Our life started getting crazy and unpredictable a couple of years ago when Sam went back to a submarine and I really surrendered control of my life to following the Spirit's leading even when it didn't make sense and felt crazy. Now we always seem to be waiting for life to get "normal" again; get through a move and get settled, get use to new schools and new jobs, get use to Sam being out to sea, get use to Sam being back from deployment, get through the holidays, etc. I am starting to suspect that as long as we are surrendered and following the Spirit, our life is never going to be normal. Crazy is the new normal around here! Maybe your life feels a little like that too?

Here is what I know about choosing crazy:

First of all, it is a choice. I could make my life more normal. I could stop seeking the Lord's will for my life. I could ignore His direction and eventually I wouldn't even feel His direction anymore. I could choose to do what I know, what I am good at, what is safe and predictable. And sometimes, when I am not feeling particularly courageous, I do make those choices. But the choices that bring me joy and fulfillment are the crazy choices. The choice to follow God when it doesn't make sense. The choice to have faith and to do things I am fairly certain I am not qualified for because He is qualified and where He calls, He equips.

Secondly, I need some serious supernatural help when I choose crazy. The kind of supernatural help that if I do not get it, I will fail. It takes supernatural help to even make the crazy choice in the first place! How can you choose without supernatural direction? And this is the point of this whole post... I want to invite you to join me in seeking God's direction for your 2016!

Rather than making a list of resolutions of things you want to do this year, I challenge you to spend the first two weeks of the year fasting and praying for God's direction for your year. This is choosing crazy. Letting go of the plans we have and the things we think we want to accomplish and strapping ourselves in for the ride of our lives as we pursue Him and His plans for our lives.

We just celebrated Christmas and the greatest gift God ever gave us, His Son, Jesus. Doesn't that remind you that God gives good gifts? He loves us so much that He gave us His Son so that we can experience a relationship with Him. Why wouldn't we want what He wants for us? Why wouldn't we be willing to give Him the first little part of our year expecting that He will be faithful to His character and come and meet us and guide us? God doesn't want anything from you, He wants everything for you! During this fast we will deny our appetite in order to increase our hunger for God and the better things that He wants for us.

I love my crazy, unpredictable, blessed life. As I look at this coming year, I am hungry for God's presence and direction. I have tasted what life is like pursuing God and His purposes for me and I really just don't want it any other way. There is no going back. I know I need Him. I want Him.

Are you in? 
Are you ready to choose crazy? 
Are you ready to choose Him?

If your answer is yes, then join me!
Fast & Pray: January 3-17

In the next few days I will be here writing more on fasting. I will also share my personal Scripture reading plan for the fast.