Honoring the Sacrifice of Fellowship

I had someone contact me this week to interpret a dream.  Basically, she had a dream she was in college.  The next thing she heard was Leviticus 3 and 4.  The highlight of these scriptures is “… sacrifice of fellowship offerings …”

What an incredibly interesting God we serve! And He never ceases to amaze me with the way He plays with words, symbolism, and His unexpected sense of humor.

So, for the backstory, this lady (dreamer) is one of the sweetest you’ll ever meet!  She spends every ounce of her energy, time, money, etc. doing for others.  To. A. Fault.  Yet, this little missy wonders why she’s exhausted all of the time and consistently frustrated because she very seldom ever gets back from others what she pours in.  Often, not even a thank you.  For me, it is very difficult to watch.  With that being said, I pray for her often, and hope her heart doesn’t get calloused in regard to people.

Imagine my excitement when I heard her dream!

I began to explain that her dream basically means that God is “schooling” her in regard to the “honor of fellowship.”  She had read over Leviticus and had assumed God was going to ask her to donate a liver or a kidney, which I’m sure she was already trying to adjust her schedule for the time she would need off to make that happen.   I assured her that was not God’s intent.

He wants to spend the next season teaching her how to navigate relationships.  All of her relationships.  Her relationships with Him, her friends, family, acquaintances, and even folks that drain the life out of her with no interest in her best welfare.  Did I mention, she is a “giver” and is always tracked down by the “takers?”

He basically wants to teach her the beauty of navigating fellowship.  What a beautiful description of the art of learning to honor herself.

Today, I had an appointment and met with another young lady about the same age.  I mentioned the dream.  We discussed the “sacrifice of fellowship offerings.”  She was dumbfounded by the thought and excited to hear that she didn’t have to live her entire life exhausted at the cause of others.  She had also been wrestling with how to navigate a busy career, a young one, husband, and a nationwide privilege of attending and teaching at conferences.  Even before our session, she had actually reached out to me to help her navigate through the guilt of leaving her little one at home while she was away for the weekend.

We chatted about the privileges God gives us.  For each of these young ladies, they have incredibly successful careers, wonderful husbands, and littles.  Throw in health, family, friends, and self-care, and it begins to seem unnavigable or overwhelming, at best.  It seems that something has to give, or at least that’s what they both seemed to think.

Christian Inner Healing
Photo by Jonny Swales at Unsplash

My response to both of them is this:  Do you enjoy all of the things that are on your list?  If the answer is yes, it’s not about removing your passions.   It is, however, more about culling out the things that don’t bring you joy.

Don’t get me wrong, just because cleaning your house doesn’t bring you joy, doesn’t mean you can’t stop doing it.  But you can change your perspective about it.  For example, if God has given you the privilege of traveling the USA and teaching your trade, and you enjoy that, then by all means, do it!  Just don’t sacrifice your family, health, and welfare for it.  Don’t aspire to be a worldwide phenomenon at the sacrifice of your home and family.  But do it as you can and as you are able to enjoy.  It’s all about balance.

I can’t imagine either of these young ladies not operating in their gifting and talent regarding their careers but I pray they don’t let their careers lead their lives.  If your career is about chasing fame, power, or money – your relationships will suffer.  You will probably gain those things you’re seeking, but you will gain them at the altar of your children and possibly your marriage.

I do believe that you and your family benefit from following your dreams in a way that is acceptable for everyone. And scripture says that where there is unity, God commands a blessing (Psalm 133:1-3).  So, if your husband supports what you do, then you should go and kill it.  If you pine away the entire time you’re gone, are not able to be fully present and enjoy yourself, then you should refrain.  It’s all about “honoring the fellowship.” The key is to be “fully present” where you are.

I have several friends that I often take trips with.  Some of my friends will only go away for a day, some a couple of days, and one or two that I think would sell their wares and travel the world with me if I were to ask.

My one particular friend is good for about 5 days.  She’s married to a wonderful man who encourages her to travel with me.  One day, a couple of our friends and I loaded our kayaks in my hubby’s truck and went to pick her up to head to a beautiful cabin in the woods.  He was so excited to load her up that I became a little concerned.  He seemed more excited to ship her off than she was to go.  So, of course, I mentioned what I had observed and my concern.

His response was, “I am very excited for her to go on your girls’ trip!  She always comes home a better person!”

I almost cried.  What a gift he gives her in knowing that she enjoys our little jaunts and she comes back refreshed and renewed in her relationship with herself and with him.  It is so true!  After a few days with a couple of old ladies, she’s ready to get home to her man and back to life “better than.”  That is a perfect example of “the sacrifice of honoring fellowship.”

So, for the next little season, God is going to teach my sweet little dreamer the privilege of learning how to honor who she is in relationship to others.  Ideally, she will learn that often the enemy will keep you busy doing good. But if you stop and seek Him, God will only give you what is best.  The enemy will convince you to sacrifice your family for a career.  He will even coax you into believing that working 80 hours a week is good so your kids won’t “lack.”  While you’re traveling on a fun trip, he will make you feel guilty that you aren’t home. But when you are home, he will make you bitter because you can’t travel.

Bottom line is to learn to be present!  Wherever you are – there you are!  And if you abide in the Lord, He will ordain your steps so you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  If you are miserable, then you probably missed Him and you need to “recalibrate” your choices moving forward.  (Unless you are always miserable.  If you are, then you may need to assess whether or not you are just choosing to be a miserable cow.  If you have good friends, they will tell you.)

Bottom line, wherever you are, be fully there!  If you have a bratty little one who’s going through a hard time, it might seem like a relief to wish she were old enough to get her own snack or do her own homework.  Don’t fall for it.  Spending time with her during snack and helping her with her homework is the “honoring of fellowship.”  One day you’ll look back and would give anything to join her in snack and the process of mathematics (never thought I would say that?!) But it’s true, that is the best of life.  That little one is soaking up every little thing you think about her.  Whether you say it out loud or not, she knows if you enjoy her company.

In scripture, the definition of joy means “I am glad to be with you” (Psalm 16:11).  And that is the epitome of the honoring of fellowship. It means I have made the sacrifice of all other things, and I am glad to be with you.

So, here’s the skinny on “the sacrifice of fellowship offerings:”

  1. Honor your time alone.
  2. Honor your time with others. Give because you want to, not because you feel you owe anybody.  God has blessed us to be a blessing, not to be indebted to others.
  3. Honor your company, whether you are alone or with friends.
  4. Choose friends who make you a better person. The world is hell bent on making you a bitter person.  Don’t take the bait.
  5. Practice gratitude.
  6. Don’t be a miserable cow.
  7. Breathe. And Rest.
  8. Honor a Sabbath, with or without others. It refreshes your soul.
  9. Have no worry for tomorrow or thought for yesterday.
  10. Wherever you are, be fully present.

 

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Sabbatismos!

If you’ve been around me for any amount of time, you’ll know that one of my favorite words is “katartismos.”  This Greek word comes out of Ephesians 4:12 and refers to “fitting together in proper order” (referring to gifts, etc. in the Body of Christ).

Another definition of this word (which is my personal favorite) is “a chiropractic adjustment in the Spirit.”  Many of you experienced this during our most recent retreat.  You will also experience it many times during your ongoing prayer ministry sessions.

Today, however, I would like to introduce you to my new favorite word!!! “Sabbatismos!”  (Ref. Hebrews 4:10.)

As you begin to familiarize yourself with me and this ministry, you’ll quickly recognize that one of my goals for you is to learn to rest in the Spirit of the Lord.  That has a two-fold meaning:  1. To live in a place of rest.  2.  To move, and live, and have your being in the Holy Spirit.

This week while reading Hebrews, I came across the word “Sabbatismos.”  Oh!  My word!!!  I can’t tell you how excited I was to now have a word that perfectly describes our goal.

“Sabbatismos” means “living in the Sabbath rest,” which is exactly what we should desire.  Most folks think the Sabbath is only relegated to a day, but in fact, it is a promised lifestyle for us as Christians!!!

Inner healing, sabbath rest, peace
Photo by Javardh at Unsplash

Ideally, we all should grow in our spiritual maturity to the degree that we are completely unaffected by our surroundings, our environment, and our circumstances.  We then can choose instead – and are able – to live in perfect Peace.  (Notice the capital letter that begins Peace – which means we live in the personhood of Peace, promised to us by the cross and blood of Christ, in the promises of the Word of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit).

So, if we know all of that and believe all of that, then we should aspire to live in it.  And that is one of the goals we have in this Journey.  Which brings us to the next point.

How do we choose to live in Sabbatismos?  First, we have to acknowledge that it is a promise of God.  Not only does He instruct us to “take a day of Sabbath” (one day a week), but He also offers us this every day.

For me to learn this process, He first showed me the importance of honoring a Sabbath day.  I realized the difference in my life with just that small shift in my heart and mind.

After I realized the incredible results that the Sabbath had on my life, I started trying to bring that into the other aspects of my life.

Then, I realized this is His desire for me – to live absolutely unaffected by the things in the world.  Ideally, nothing should steal my Peace.  Nothing should affect my ability to remain in Presence.

The second thing He introduced me to was to practice “centering prayer” or “contemplative prayer.”  (They are the same thing.)  This form of prayer requires you to sit quietly focusing on the Kingdom of God within you.

(You can download a centering prayer app to help you with this process.  It’s located under Health & Fitness in the Apple store and is offered free.  You can also read about centering prayer and other contemplative processes in Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline.  I highly recommend reading that book as it offers many of the disciplines that I suggest for growing in this Peace journey.)

The process of centering prayer not only offers the Peace that is promised, but also it actually rewires your brain to peace.  I’ll teach on that a little later, but for now, just trust that any and all forms of prayer re-train your brain to return to the “Joy center” of your brain which is where peace and rest are for you.  I call this “coming back to peace” or “coming home.”

Once you recognize this place is accessible for you, then you can practice it and choose it anytime and anywhere.  Then you will become so familiar with it that you will not want to be anywhere but in perfect peace.

While you’re in traffic you can “decide” to go to peace.  When there is chaos in your environment, you can choose to go to peace.  Before long you will realize that you are living there without even consciously making a decision to do so.

Out of practicing a Sabbath and practicing prayer, you can choose to live in this place of rest (body, soul, and spirit) no matter where you are or what you are doing.  You just have to choose over and over to bring yourself back to peace.

I believe this is the promise of living in Sabbatismos!!!  And we are going to become residents of this promise!!!

 

“Still / Live at Peace on Earth” by Amanda Cook

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Questioning Everything

Inner healing, identity, and dark night of the soul
Photo by _Marion at Pixabay

Have you ever felt like one day you woke up and everything you believed was in question? I’m experiencing this right now but am quite sure I am not yet even fully awake. So, not only am I questioning all of the things that I have always “known” for sure, but I am also groggy from the process of getting here. It took a lot of upheaval to get me here.

About three years ago, after a series of very traumatic events, I found myself questioning everything I had ever believed. I questioned myself, my identity, my “calling,” my choices, my beliefs, my faith, and oftentimes, even God. All those things I had always felt so secure in suddenly weren’t. And, quite honestly, I didn’t know how to respond.

In my quest to stop the spinning (envision the little icon on your computer when it can’t settle), I felt like the only way I could get any peace was to be very still and quiet. Before long, quiet was the only thing I desired. I was completely raw inside and out. My brain felt foggy, my body lethargic, and my heart broken. I didn’t know how to get out of this experience.

Generally, when I have had a circumstance of upheaval in my life, whether emotional or spiritual, I would just read all of the books, articles, etc. on how to deal with it. This time I had no energy to read, and if I did attempt to read, I was unable to process information. I knew I needed help, so I reached out to a few friends that I trusted knew me enough to help me navigate this chasm of chaos.

I called on those friends to sit in the darkness with me. I didn’t want to be around anyone very often because I found that conversation was exhausting. However, I had been through depression before and just needed to make sure I was safe, still somewhat sane, and didn’t need professional help. “Taking my emotional pulse” kind of friends. I knew these folks wouldn’t discount me when I needed to rant, cuss, spit, and growl. They had no idea what they were in for. God bless them for persevering. I ranted, spat, cussed, and cried for a couple of years. They were enduring to say the least. Most importantly, they didn’t try to fix me. They just sat with me in my pain.

Sometimes we would sit at the barn with the horses, a stray cat, chickens, and a rooster that I’m sure needed deliverance. Or we would sit by the creek with a bottle of wine. Sometimes Susan would treat us to her homemade cookies and infamous chicken salad. They seemed to be completely content just sitting and listening. Wherever we were, no matter what we were doing or not doing, they seemed content to sit in my mess with me.

I called on another couple of friends to counsel me into or out of this experience that I began to think was a mid-life crisis. I didn’t really want to admit it, but that thought ran through my mind. I didn’t google what I was going through. I just knew it was pain. Deep emotional pain. And, quite honestly, I couldn’t remedy it with the things that had worked before: eating, drinking, art, good music, nature, etc. It just kept hanging on like a bad cold. It affected me like a bad cold too. No energy, stuffy headed, just wanted to rest and be quiet.

After a couple of prayer ministry sessions with friends of mine, I began to understand that what I was going through was called the Dark Night of the Soul. The dark night of the soul is just that – a place where your soul questions everything and the Teacher is quiet. The thing that stood out like a siren was the silence of the Lord. I had never gone for such a long time without hearing, being led by, or enjoying the Lord. Not only did I not hear Him or sense Him, but also I certainly didn’t feel His peace or presence. I thought He had abandoned me at my worst.

So, for three years, almost four now, I have been sitting, waiting, resting, arguing, growling, contemplating, wondering where the Lord is and what His intention is in allowing me to be in this place. I still don’t know. But what I do know is that I am not affected by dumb things as much as I used to be. I have way more sensitivities to the things that do matter. I am more at rest. More at peace. I have more tolerance for “stupid” (the one conclusion from the doctor out of my psych test when I went into ministry was that I had no tolerance for “stupid”). I was perplexed (and still am) as I had no idea I was supposed to tolerate “stupid.” Hey, I was just glad for documented evidence that I wasn’t crazy.

Inner healing, identity, and dark night of the soul
Photo by Comfreak at Pixabay

The dark night of the soul is the process of the Lord stripping you of the things that are really irrelevant regarding the issues of your heart. He wants to bring you out of any of the crutches you have depended on in your relationship with Him. He wants you to give up your faith and give up what works and what doesn’t work. He wants to tear down the falsehoods you believe about yourself, others, and mostly the falsehoods you believe about Him. Take you back to the beginning, so to speak, in your relationship with Him. No pretense, no knowledge, just the decision to walk alongside Him blindly without trying to figure things out. Pulling down all strongholds of belief about your religion, your denomination, your worship. He even took away my interest in reading and studying about Him. I just wanted to be still and quiet. And still do.

I understand that anybody who has asked that the Lord use them to any capacity will go through this, and I did ask that. I have always prayed that I wanted to serve Him more than anything. Now, in hindsight, I question what that means. And what did I commit to?

I used to love preaching more than ice cream. I haven’t been able to do that but a few times in the past couple of years. I have always loved leading a group of folks into their best spiritual selves, and He is restoring that opportunity. But I still long for the old days where I sensed Him, heard Him, and almost knew His will. Or did I?

Now I don’t know much of anything except that He desires that I live in this quiet, restful place even among others, amidst chaos, and even when I don’t feel like it. That’s His best. I am much more observant these days, and I watch folks buzzing around with miserable scowls on their faces. Then I think to myself – Is that what I look like? Is that how I affect my environment? If so, I don’t want to any longer. I want to bring peace and rest wherever I go. Most importantly, I want to love well.

I am in the process of recalibrating, trying to follow the Lord as best I can. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I have the best company (a couple of friends, good prayer ministers, a wonderful family, and a couple of dogs – we finally had to lay to rest the demonic rooster). And if I don’t hear Him, sense Him, or feel Him, I can trust that He works all things to good for those who are called according to His purpose. I’m called, and I have a purpose. For right now, I need to be okay with being still and in peace.

 

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Dark Night of the Soul

I’ve been wanting to share something that I’ve experienced personally in the past few years. I have noticed a few others going through something similar, so I believe now would be a great time to share.

A few years ago, I went through the greatest season of loss I have experienced (since a divorce 20 years ago). This season has been very similar to a divorce but of greater capacity. This season of loss was not only of my job, but also of a great family of friends and many of those I loved in my own community.

Most detrimental (at the time, but now one that I am learning to be grateful for) was the loss of my identity. I pretty much lost everything that I ever knew to rely and depend on. What was one of the darkest seasons of my life led me to what I later learned was referred to as the dark night of the soul.

The dark night of the soul is when you come to a place spiritually (usually as a result of some sort of dramatic/traumatic shift) when nothing you have depended on before sustains you any longer. 2015 – 2018 was/has certainly been a season of the dark night of the soul for me. It has (in reflection) been one of the worst and greatest experiences of my adult life.

After having been in ministry for over 20 years, I was beginning to dread all sorts of participation in the “process.” I felt my prayer time was not productive. I dreaded leading the service that I was pastor of. I even began to dread worship (which has always been one of my greatest loves) or, at best, longed for something more in worship – more connecting, more transformational, more impacting. I began to feel like I was dead to all things “spiritual.” I no longer enjoyed things that had previously inspired me and revived me.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the folks that I pastored but was starting to question the process of “church” altogether and felt like most of us were going through motions without true transformation. I decided, with much prayer and fasting (and a lot of other circumstances that I won’t go into) to resign from my pastoral position.

Immediately after resigning, I was invited to come on board with a large charismatic church in a nearby county. I was offered an opportunity to grow with an amazing staff who shared a like vision for transformation and living a consecrated lifestyle.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was contacted by a couple who lived in my community and was given a building in the downtown area of my hometown very near the college campus. I have had a dream of ministering to college kids who were searching for healing of their body, soul, and spirit and felt like this was the beginning of that becoming a reality.

Shortly thereafter, I was invited to join an international ministry that I had worked with for over two decades. I felt this was an opportunity to shift some things spiritually and move into a new season of challenge and change, not only for myself but for many others that I had been networking with for over 20 years. I took that position only to resign after a few short months.

Before long, I felt like I had no energy to do anything. I began to feel that I couldn’t carry out what I had so longed for. I slowly began to resign from every encounter that presented itself. I began to resign from ministry altogether, and then, life, altogether.

And with that came the onslaught of many long difficult years of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” I began what I felt like a wrestling with God that I’m still not sure is over. I couldn’t imagine that 20 years of ministry would leave me having so many questions and feeling so unfulfilled. I was angry and upset that I had sacrificed my life for something that was less fulfilling than a career where I could’ve at least made lots of money. I began an intense battle with God and my identity.

I felt I had “showed up” spiritually for the past few years and was really searching for something more than just “showing up.” Quite honestly, I felt I owed something more to myself than just showing up and I was sure God wanted something more of me than to just show up. So, I didn’t. I basically didn’t show up for anything except my family for at least three years.

I didn’t really do anything. Let me rephrase that. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read (something I have always – at least in my adult life – thoroughly enjoyed). I couldn’t even listen to music. The only thing I felt I was capable of doing was just being. And, most often, just being quiet. And for those of you that think you know me that wasn’t something that came easily. But that’s what I began doing. Just being quiet.

I found it very comforting to sit in my yard, on my porch, by the creek, pool, inside, outside, in my car, anywhere … just as long as it was quiet. I didn’t want to talk to anybody or do anything. I just wanted (needed desperately) to be quiet. I had a lack of interest in anything. Not even art! And art had been a place of solace for me my entire life. I only wanted to be with my family and hopefully, they would be quiet.

I also had a couple of friends who insisted in relationship (if it were my choice I probably would’ve removed myself from them as well but they were very tenacious). Instead of dragging me out of my quiet, they joined me in it. We started meeting for “church” in the barn of my neighbor’s property where one friend kept her horses. Every Sunday a.m. we would have a quiet service amongst the chickens, horses, a black cat, and a rooster who needed deliverance.

In hindsight, if it weren’t for my tenacious friends and my saint of a husband, I would’ve dived straight into the throes of depression. I had never been quiet and still before and it was very discomforting. Actually, it felt very much like depression, but not. (I went through severe depression after my divorce in the 90s and this was very similar but very different).

I just wanted everything and everybody to be still and be quiet. I felt like my very being demanded that everything in my environment be very quiet and very still. It was as close to satisfaction as I could get. And it wasn’t very satisfying but somehow seemingly necessary. I learned from my very dear friends who counseled me that this was the dark night of the soul.

I persisted (or should I say, God wrangled me) in my quiet for almost three years. In that place, a shift began to take place: My passions. My objectives. My heart. And, absolutely, the core of my identity. I was experiencing a death to self that I had not invited. And, without the help of friends, probably would not have endured. It was the most painful experience of my life. For the first time in my life, I felt like God had left me.

Now before you go getting all religious on me, let me clarify, I felt like God left me. He did not. But, I felt like it. Much like Jesus when He cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” I very much felt like God had forsaken me. I heard nothing from Him, nor sensed Him for over three years. I say over three years because I am still learning this new place in Him. It’s not like before. It’s very different, very quiet.

I don’t know how to explain it. Before, I would do something because I felt like it was what I was supposed to do: the right thing, so to speak. Now, I don’t really do anything, unless He moves me to do it.

It is a very strange place in that I can sense Him, hear Him, move on behalf for others. But for myself, it’s different. As a matter of fact, in ministry I can certainly see Him as being more powerful than ever, more specific than ever, for others. But for me, it’s a different story. I am still being quiet and still.

I often wonder how long will this last for me? I don’t know. Maybe forever? I know of one pastor who went through the dark night of the soul for nine years and another for almost a decade. I’m not excited about that, but I am hopeful. And that is a change. I, at one point, lost all hope. In everything: people, “church,” even God and His plan for me. I’m getting back to that. It’s been hard. Unless I get real still. When I’m still, I feel like I’m making progress.

I’m still unsure about my identity. I’ve lost a lot of friends, my church. I still have a lot of questions about “the church” and a lot of other things that I thought I was sure of. I’m not sure of much now, other than the fact that God is good and He will work all things to good. But for now, I’m just being still. Being quiet and waiting.

I used to think I knew what His plan was. I don’t. Probably never did, but that’s okay. I do know that I don’t want to just “show up.” I want to be exactly who He desires me to be, doing exactly what He wants me to do. I know who my real friends are, and God is broadening that circle. There are a lot of us out there who are searching for our true identity. (I’m amazed how many aren’t and who are satisfied just going through the motions.) I know my husband is a saint. And I know I’m going to be okay. Who knows – maybe I was supposed to be still and quiet all along?

Now that I’m at least reading again, I’ve learned that there is a name for this place. It’s called “liminal space.” It’s the “place between the before and the after.” Jesus went here, at the cross, before the resurrection. Elijah went here in the cave, before his ascension. Jonah, in the whale before Ninevah, etc. – You get the gist.

I think we all will get to go here, if we are truly seeking God’s best for our lives. It’s a great and terrible place, but I wanted to write this so if you go here, you will know that you are not alone and it’s not a bad place (if you make it out, lol). I, we, you will learn that it’s not about us. It’s a place we all get to go for God to redirect our attention, our interests, most importantly our motives. And, if we all learn to sit quietly, we will learn, it’s all Him. It is all about Him. Once we learn that, He will take care of the rest. And, meanwhile, I’ll be resting. In Him.

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Follow the Pain

Have you ever wondered why we go through painful experiences? What purpose does it serve?

First, we need to remember it’s not about us. It’s all about God. When you go through a painful experience, God is trying to bring you to the end of yourself, so He can take over. He wants to stretch you and make you depend on Him. That doesn’t mean He causes the painful event, but He will certainly use it.

Did you know real emotional pain lasts only two minutes? The rest is perceived pain. We have a choice of how we respond to that perceived pain. It matters greatly what you do with your pain. Pain will point you to the path of your healing. Do you want to be healed? Follow the pain.

If God is God, why do we have to experience pain? That’s a question people ask often. The short answer is “free will.” God doesn’t cause the things we go through. But He does meet us in our pain. He uses pain to teach us how to come into His presence.

Another common question is, “Why do children have to suffer?” Children suffer because of sin in the world. Also, generational sin and troubles in the womb cause suffering in children. What bad fruit in your life do you also see in your kids?

When you go through a painful experience, or when you think back on a painful event, ask the Lord, “What did I do to cause this pain?” Practice asking the Lord. Listen for His response. Then repent, forgive, embrace, invite, endure. God will use the pain to get you healed.

By seeking God in the midst of your pain, you can learn from the experience. You will get to know God and His ways, and you will get to know yourself really well. You will start growing in the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). And you will get healed, get real, and get free. When you look at your pain, what is a new thing you can learn about God?

So, how do you get through the pain, so you can grow from it?

You start with Jesus. Invite His presence. Acknowledge your pain and invite Him to meet you in the middle of it. Be still. Let Him just be with you in your pain.

Then allow pain to do its work. Don’t keep trying to escape it. Don’t seek false refuges to avoid those two minutes of pain. Just be present with God in your pain.

We all have false refuges that we’re tempted to seek out in pain. False refuges are the things we turn to when we want to escape pain. What do you use when you are in pain? Can you exchange that for God? Seek Him instead? Remember that God will use your pain to get you healed, so you can be free.

Here is one of my favorite passages of scripture. The Apostle Paul talks about the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. Meditate on this passage and ask God what this means for you during your times of pain:

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:7-14 NKJV

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Keys to Being Real

God’s plan for freedom is beautifully simple. He gives us these keys to find healing in our hearts:

Repentance

When we repent for specific ways we have judged people, and for the lies we have taken into our hearts, we find freedom. Repentance allows us to break out of the enemy’s hold on our hearts. We replace lies with truth.

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the most powerful healing tools God has given us. When we forgive, we release others to be who God has created them to be. And we free ourselves to step into healing of our hearts. The article Wash, Rinse, Repeat will help you learn more about the process of forgiveness.

Presence

We have the privilege every day to just sit still and be in God’s presence. Quieten yourself. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do for your life. Don’t expect it to get easier. It never changes. It’s always hard. But the results are life-saving. Presence. Don’t leave home without it.

Accountability

Find people, a tribe, a community that will help you when you’re good, bad, or indifferent. You can’t navigate your authenticity without it, because you lie to yourself, and the enemy reinforces those lies. You lie to yourself about yourself, so the reality is you only have the Word of God and your people to help you navigate what’s true about you.

Truth

Truth is your greatest weapon against the lies that have taken root in your heart. A lot of people avoid truth because it seems harsh. Here’s the reality: If truth can save your life, and heal you, don’t hide from it. If I went to my doctor’s office, and he discovered I had cancer, wouldn’t I want to know, so I can be healed? What if the doctor didn’t tell me because he was afraid the truth would “hurt” me? Let God’s truth do its work in your heart.

Peace

Peace is a Person (Ephesians 2:14-18; Isaiah 9:6.). As you develop the practice of peace, He, the Prince of Peace (Jesus) will walk with you and teach you how to live in the now (present), in the moment. Shalom is mind, body, spirit in complete unity and rest.

Wisdom

Wisdom is also a Person (Proverbs 1:20-33). She will take up residence and walk with you, after you search her out in God.

Sabbath

God rested on the seventh day. So should we. Not necessarily the literal seventh but at least one of every seven. One hour of every seventh hour during the day.

What does it mean to rest? Quieten yourself, do things you enjoy: art, nature, music, presence. Quiet. Fun. Adventure. Friends. Puppies. Whatever brings you joy … recalibrates you … resets you mind, body, spirit … resynchronizes you with the Creator in rest.

You have the keys to your identity. God has given you everything you need. You are ready to walk out your identity quest with Him.

This is the last article in the Identity Quest series, and I hope you have enjoyed this series. To see all of the Identity Quest articles, you can follow this link.

To read more articles on the topic of Identity (including the Identity Quest articles), you will find all of my Identity-related articles here. God bless you on your identity quest!

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Personality, Talents, Passions

Personality, talents, and passions direct you into who God created you to be. God has innately deposited a plumb line into your being – a plumb line of your perfect created self. You can seek that out by pursuing things you enjoy that line up with His will, His Word, and His Spirit.

For example, obviously, drugs and alcohol may make you feel good, but they don’t line up with God’s will, His Word, and His Spirit. But hobbies, talents, giftings, or the pursuit/enjoyment of, help you to see and affirm who He has created you to be.

For example, when you listen to music, or you participate in art, in mindless creative artistic projects, you check out of your mind and into your spirit. And so your spirit is in His Spirit, and His Spirit is in your spirit. You are united with Him in the creative process. When you finish, you will realize you’ve spent time with Him, spirit to Spirit. It affirms God as the creator in you, and affirms His identity in you.

As you begin to step into your true identity, you may notice some lies and dysfunctional behaviors holding you back. That is the work of the enemy – the ultimate identity thief. To learn more about spiritual and emotional identity theft, and how to step into healing, this article on Spiritual Identity Theft can help you see what is weighing you down.

To read the next article in this series, please visit Spiritual Identity Theft.

The following link will take you to all articles in the Identity Quest series.

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Living out of Your Creative Self

If you are searching for your identity, it’s important to learn how to live out of your creative self. This is living from the perspective of the Creator, so that you’re consciously aware of colors and smells and your senses are heightened. When you live this way, you’re smelling, seeing, hearing, touching, feeling your feet on the ground, and aware consciously of your environment in the moment.

The Word says we all are creative beings, and all uniquely in synch with each other. What is our part in nature? How does nature recalibrate us? How are we recalibrated in line with the Lord? How is our spirit in synch, how does our song tune in with nature and God, how are we a conduit for Him?

The Word says rocks will cry out and every being has a song, so how do we tune into that and calibrate ourselves in line with nature and God … as individuals … in peace and rest … coming out of disharmony, addiction, emotional discord, and hatred. How do we come into the shalom of who, what, and where we are in the universe as a whole?

When you begin answering those questions with your life, you move closer to your true identity.

To read the next article in this series, please visit Personality, Talents, Passions.

To see all of the articles in the Identity Quest series, please follow this link.

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Art of Identity

If you are searching for your identity, here are some steps that I hope will help you. To find your true identity, you have to recognize your false identities, and you need to discover the things that keep you locked into those lies. You also need to listen to your heart, and listen to God. He knows your real identity. He created your true identity when He created you!

It is God’s desire to help you strip away all the junk that’s been piled up in your heart all these years – your junk, family junk, the world’s junk, the enemy’s junk. He wants you to let go of all that. Recognize where you’ve held onto things that block the truth. Find forgiveness for those who have dishonored your identity. And then walk with Jesus through the cross. That’s where you’ll exchange the lies for the truth of who you really are.

God wants more than anything to restore your true identity to you. Then you can be free to live as who you are meant to be; to enjoy all the desires God has put into your heart. And you can help others find the same freedom He offers.

Are you ready for freedom and true identity?

Here are some ways to start listening to God, and listening to your heart.

Exchanging Good For Bad

Take a pen and paper. Find a quiet place, preferably outside.

Be still.

Be quiet.

Take inventory of your emotions, good and bad.

Make two columns: Good. Bad.

Ask God to show you each emotion.

As He shows you, write the emotion, and ask Him where it came from. One at a time.

Forgive or release the person or the circumstance that caused each negative emotion.

Lay it at the cross.

Thank Him for the good. Offer Him the bad.

Ask God to show you what He wants you to have instead of the bad.

Write that down.

Re-check the negative emotion. Is it still there? If so, repeat the process, writing what you hear on each step.

Where Is Jesus?

Take out your creative journal.

Write your negative emotions, giving them a negative visual appearance.

Write your positive emotions, and give them a positive appearance.

Now draw what’s happening that would have put you in the places where you’re struggling.

Whatever the Lord shows you about the things you are wrestling with, draw that, and include yourself in the picture.

Now ask Jesus where He is.

Draw Him into the picture.

Ask the Lord what He wants to show you about that scene.

Thank Him for the answers.

What Are Your Passions?

Write down your passions, hobbies, ideal job(s). Now give those to the Lord and ask Him how to incorporate this into who He has called you to be. If you had a free pass to create your ideal work responsibility, what would it be? Now present it to the Lord and ask Him to open the doors.

How Do You Hear God?

As you go through this creative process, you might be asking, “How do I hear God?”

He’s not going to speak audibly. He speaks more loudly in silence. You would most likely have an unction to do something, or no sense of peace in moving. That’s how He speaks generally. If you don’t “hear” Him, you’d better not move. Or you’re going to have a whole lot of undoing.

P.S. The more you know Him, the less likely you are to feel Him, either. He will use anything. If a cardinal is symbolic for you, He will send a cardinal. That’s an example of the Lord using your environment to speak to you. A flower, an animal, a cloud, a puppy, newspaper headline, something somebody says.

If you wake up in the morning and you focus on God and read His Word, and ask Him to affirm His Word in your environment throughout the day, and then open your senses to awareness of those opportunities, you’ll start to see God affirm what He gave you in scripture that morning throughout your day.

To read the next article in this series, please visit Living out of Your Creative Self.

You can find all the Identity Quest series articles by following this link.

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“Why Is Cleaning Unsettling?”

Question: “I just spent 3 days cleaning my entire apartment. Inside-out. Got rid of boxes/closets/drawers full of stuff that’s been there since I moved in 5 years ago. You would think (and it’s usually the case for me) that after such a huge cleaning I would feel amazing. Instead, I feel very unsettled, disoriented, vulnerable. I have no idea why. I didn’t get rid of anything important, just years worth of old junk.”

Great question! And congrats on “cleaning out your closet” (so to speak). Just imagine that what you are doing spiritually is parallel to the natural. And what usually happens when you clean out your closets or behind your bed, etc.? You find lots of dust bunnies (or at least I do). And what else happens? You stir up a lot of “dust.” Anytime we make attempts to “bring things into order” whether it be physically, or emotionally, we stir things up. And this also stirs things up in the spirit.

We attach a lot of “value” to our “things.” And when we let things go, we often feel vulnerable and “discombobulated.” The same thing happens in our soul. When we dig around in the area of our heart we feel unsettled (for a little while). Give it a couple of days and see how you feel. I would encourage you to anoint your new clean space with oil, invite Holy Spirit to come in and fill the new space … wouldn’t even hurt to open a window and just covenant with a new season of fresh wind and purity in the name of Jesus!!!

 

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