Archives For personal growth

You know that saying garbage in, garbage out? Well, I’m trusting in the flip side of that as I participate in Mega Memory Month, hosted by Ann Kroeker. For the month of January, I’m taking in Romans 5 in the hope that Romans 5 will seep out into my regular living—truth in, truth out.

Although it’s already 18 days into the challenge, I was out for about a week, so I’m giving myself a bit of grace on my progress. Verses 1–5 have been my focus so far.

Strange thing is, I can review the verses with my cards and it seems like it’s sticking . . . then I take the cards away, and the verses scatter and hide. It’s so discouraging! My mind gets all foggy as if I’ve put no truth in there at all.

But then, when I use the first-letter prompt card to review, I’m spot on—no stumbles, no errors. Woo hoo!

So the verses are in there, somewhere. They must think we’re playing hide-and-seek.

Here’s my progress summary as of today:

5 :: verses taken in
16 :: verses remaining in Romans 5
14 :: days remaining in MMM

It would be nice if there were more verses in that first tally, but I’m not completely discouraged. If, by the end of January, I could get most of Romans 5 coaxed out of me using the first-letter prompts, I would be quite pleased.

This week I’m going to work on the next set of verses. Either this new bunch will keep the other one in line or I’ll just have more gamers loose in my brain. I guess that’s not all bad though—my goal is to have truth in there, and that’s what MMM helps me to do.

Stop by next week to see what truth gets in and what truth comes out.

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It’s not too late to join MMM! Choose something to memorize—a speech, a poem, a song, a Scripture passage, geography, etc.—and visit MMM HQ for details.

From Rut Digging to Rut Filling

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 — 2 Comments

In my previous post, I announced to the blogosphere my intention to dig some new ruts in my thought life using God’s Word. My hope was to get my brain to travel on a line of thought that was true, noble, pure, profitable, and the like.

Today, as I picked up my rut-digging tool of choice (Romans 5), I came needy for help and truth. I find myself in an especially deep rut of wrong, self-defeating and Christ-ignoring thinking. Here I stand with Romans 5, not on a smooth plain ready to dig a new road but at the bottom of a well-worn path with sides growing tall on every side.

What do I do with my rut-digging analogy here? Dig deeper until this ugly path strikes gold?

I sat staring at the first verse of Romans 5, which tells me I have peace with God. I mull that over again and again, letting it fill my thoughts, letting it fill the rut I am in. His peace fills the pockets of ache in this age-old rut.

And it occurred to me that, yes, this is another way to look at the power of God’s Word—it fills the ruts I am currently stuck in. God’s Word is like grout for the soul, filling in the cracked, broken places. That’s the power of God’s Word. And this rut-filled heart is in desperate need of all it can get!

You may be wondering how I’m going about this memorization process. Although I’ve mentioned it during previous MMM challenges, here’s a recap. First, I create verse cards and bookmarks so I have the verses at my access in spare moments. Then I find about 10 minutes each day to work on the verses, using these general steps:

  • read the verse through several times
  • speak the verse aloud, only glancing back to the cards as needed
  • use first-letter prompts to speak the verse aloud until I can repeat it without looking to the cards
  • write/type out the verse using the first-letter prompts
  • speak and write out the verse by memory

By the end of January, I may not have all of Romans 5 memorized perfectly. But that’s OK—my goal isn’t perfection but movement. If my ruts can be filled and transformed with truth, that’s well worth it.

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It’s not too late to join MMM! Choose something to memorize—a speech, a poem, a song, a Scripture passage, geography, etc.—and visit MMM HQ for details.

What Is a True Woman, Anyway?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 — 2 Comments

Many of you joined me here last week for my blogging adventure to the True Woman ’10 conference in Indianapolis. Thanks for your visits, comments (here and on my Facebook), e-mails, phone calls, and text messages! I felt loved.

Today, I’m looking at my notes, remembering the messages I heard, reviewing the conversations I had . . . and I’m completely heart-happy. What a great experience!

If you can arrange it, there is a True Woman conference in Fort Worth, Texas, October 14–16. I highly recommend it—it will be water to your soul.

With many conference opportunities, you may be wondering why you should make an effort for this one in particular. What is a True Woman, anyway? Well, the True Woman Web site gives this overview:

A true woman is willing, serious, and determined to reflect the beauty and heart of Christ to her world. She seeks to live a God-centered life, trusting Him and saying, “Yes, Lord!” She knows this is only possible by His grace, and seeks to do so in community, which is why we’re so glad you stopped by!

And what does it mean to me to be a true woman? I would describe a true woman like this:

A true woman is one who leans hard into Jesus by seeking Him in the Word, through prayer, and in deep, transparent community with others who are seeking Him likewise.

A true woman plants roots in the Word (studying, meditating, reading) and lives by it—turning to the Word for wisdom on how to make decisions, calm the heart, repair relationships, break addictions, manage time, and so on.

A true woman is in process—not perfect, but not stuck in the same patterns year-in, year-out. She seeks God’s refining to close the gaps between what she believes and how she behaves.

My heart burns with excitement after gathering my thoughts here! I want these statements to describe me in increasing measure.

This year’s conference reset my heart and mind in places that have gotten off-kilter—places I hadn’t even noticed were unbalanced.

Interestingly enough, a powerful moment for me was during the reading the True Woman Manifesto. Nothing has changed in that Word-drenched document from 2008’s reading. But the Lord used it to pierce my soul and highlight the places He wants to work in me. If there will be two years before the next conference, that’s probably good, because it may take that long for these changes to come to fruition!

Becoming a true woman is both simple and complex. It’s about God’s sanctifying work in us, but it’s also about us getting serious about loving God fully. It’s a high calling, a lovely calling, one that is big enough to live for a lifetime and to count for eternity.

Come with me! It will be more fun if we’re in it together.

This post was started January 3. I meant to post it that first week of the new year . . . oops.

Well, there are still 11 days left in month 1 of the Social Justice Challenge (SJC). So let’s make the most of it, shall we?

The goal of the SJC is to read and pursue understanding of the monthly topic, and then to put feet to that newfound knowledge through some sort of action. (Learning is the easy part; it’s the action that’s difficult!)

To kick off month 1 and the topic of Religious Freedom, the SJC hosts posted a few introductory questions for participants to answer. I recommend visiting SJC’s site to review other participant responses—it’s fascinating and helpful to hear how other people view the topic! And I was so encouraged to see that this challenge has attracted people of many faiths and beliefs. We have much to learn from each other.

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SJC: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of religious freedom?

I think of it in terms of its absence, what life is like for people who do not have freedom—I think of oppression, fear, loss, false accusations, coercion, imprisonment, torture, and death.

SJC: Why does religious freedom matter to you?

Spiritual matters are housed in the heart and soul; to have religion managed or forced or limited or coerced in any external way distorts it. To know how someone believes and thinks is the core of who that person is.

For example, my faith in Jesus Christ defines me. To know me is to know the love I have for the God who made me, loves me, and redeemed me. Religious freedom allows me to express freely and openly who I am and then pursue knowing God without oppression, fear, loss, false accusations, coercion, imprisonment, torture, and death.

It matters to me that people around the world experience tremendous loss and fear and suffering because they do not have this same sort of religious freedom.

Such news of oppression and fear and death breaks my heart—when I keep abreast of what is happening. And that is the challenge: Will I open myself to the ache of the oppressed in this world? My prayer is that the SJC will soften my heart to ways I can make a difference in such matters, whether through prayer, writing, giving or serving, so that others have the freedoms we enjoy.

SJC: What knowledge do you have of present threats to religious freedom in our world today?

Some of the editing and proofreading work I do for KMA Direct Communications allows me to learn of present threats to religious freedom throughout the world, although my level of awareness is paltry at best. I also receive e-mail news updates and prayer alerts from Open Doors USA. In the past, my church has participated in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, so I have learned about various countries that are known for their harsh religious intolerance.

Ultimately, if I am to know more about these things, I know I must purposely expose myself to it—hence, my commitment to the 2010 SJC.

SJC: Have you chosen a book or resource to read for this month?

I have selected The Book Thief by Markus Zasak, primarily because it came recommended by my nieces.

Of all the books on SJC’s reading list, I’ve read just two: Silence (Shusaku Endo) and The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne). Two other books I’ve read that seem to fit the topic are God’s Smuggler by Brother Lawrence (founder of Open Doors) and Jesus Freaks by dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. An inspiring documentary that fits for this month (as well as for the June’s topic of genocide) is the first in the Nomad Show series, which features Sara Groves.

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Join the SJC! Let’s read, act, and change together in 2010. Visit SJC HQ for details.

The trouble with being a writer is that the craft requires you to be alone with your thoughts. On days when your thoughts are behaving themselves, writing goes well. But on days when your thoughts are being rather bratty, writing goes nowhere.

This week my thoughts have been unruly at best. My writing has stalled out. I’ve stalled out.

But all is not lost, for even this stretch of misbehaving thoughts can be redeemed in the hands of the Author of all. But I’m getting ahead of myself—let’s go back to those unruly thoughts for a bit.

Writers may have more thoughts than nonwriters—or maybe just quirkier ones—so we must learn how to corral these notions to get them where we need them to go. I see myself as a shepherdess with her flock of wild thoughts. I call to them, coax them along, encourage them to follow where I am leading.

Sometimes I turn around and the whole flock is coming along just fine. All my shepherding tricks are working, as they should.

Other days, I turn around, and the whole lot of them are running amuck, getting lost, getting into tight spaces. I hurriedly backtrack, scurrying to let this little one out of the mud and help that one off the high cliff. It’s exhausting. But rescuing my little lambs is all part of the work that I love.

This week I turned around to find . . . nothing. Where did they go? Here one minute, gone the next . . . what sort of shepherdess am I? I stood still, straining to hear the whimpering cries of my little ones. My ears were filled only with silence . . .

My unruly bunch had run off. I was abandoned.

Abandonment of any form knocks on the door of my heart, poking on all the childish places in me. It rushes me back to many yesterdays when I was too young to process life and abandonment bullied itself into my heart. Huge chunks of abandonment have been ousted by the Lord’s presence in my life. But its icky residue is not fully cleaned out yet, so when current day mirrors long ago, my abandonment reactions kick in. And in the present, I project all these reactions and feelings erroneously upon God.

So I whimpered about a bit, kicking my toe in the dirt, wondering why I felt alone, why my ideas had abandoned me, why I had thought myself a writer, why I had thought my ideas worthwhile, why I had thought God had placed this gift in my hands.

Mercifully, abandonment broke when God reminded me who I am—well, mainly who He is. He is the Author of all; and He has made me to echo His story. He flooded my mind with truth that soaked up the yuck that had oozed to the surface. All my wonderings come to rest in all that Jesus is.

Last night, I was listening to my favorite Bebo Norman cd, Ten Thousand Days, and the song “A Page Is Turned” was playing. This verse has always caught my heart:

A page is turned in this world to reveal a little girl
With a heart that’s bigger, as it is unfurled
By the language in her soul, that’s teaching her to grow
With a careful cover of love that will not fail

I am that little girl, even now, called to unfurl my heart by the language in my soul. My unruly, scattered flock has much to teach me, much to say. And with the Author of all redeeming me, redeeming my ragamuffin bunch of ideas, I am covered, safe, and mightily loved.

I’m off to gather up my runaway lambs.

Quirky People for Jesus

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 — 1 Comment

Of the many mysteries in life that intrigue and baffle me, one in particular has captured my interest lately. It is the mystery of God’s renewing work in His people.

God has conquered sin’s grip on us through Jesus’ death on the cross, so we now have a winning chance against the things that tempt us to be less than godly. As God teaches us to say no to things that bring harm and say yes to things that honor Him, we become like Jesus Christ.

Even as this same work progresses in every Christ follower, it’s not as if God is stripping out our individuality in order to install the Person of Jesus. No, somehow the process of becoming more like Christ enhances and embraces the uniqueness of each individual. Amazing!

You would think that making a bunch of people more like Jesus Christ would result in a mass of flat, emotionless, clone-like people. But that’s not the work that God is doing.

Somehow He retains the unique individual and transforms them to be more like Christ Jesus without sacrificing the personality and quirks and oddities we each have.

Michael Card explains it like this in his book The Fragile Stone:

“All of us bring out ‘presets’ with us into our walk with Jesus. I believe he intends it to be so. So Paul brought with him bits and pieces of his Pharisaism, his passion, his desire for correct theology integrated into life. Peter too brought his agrarian simplicity, his practical approach, and, as we shall see in the story of Cornelius, his Jewish concern for ritual purity.”

These presets are the accumulation of our lives—all we have had and all we have lacked rolled into the same package. Card projects that God wants to take all that makes us unique and use that to accomplish a bit of His will on earth.

Perhaps Paul was a bit unyielding—God worked with him anyway. Maybe Peter was swayed too much by tradition—God used that bent to benefit others. And I am prone to insecurities and introversion—God can find some creative use for that too.

God works with imperfect people like us even as He causes us and calls us to grow and leave old, immature ways behind us.

Some would look at followers of Christ and balk at the failures and inconsistencies, assuming it to be proof that God doesn’t exist or isn’t involved in the life of mere humans.

But I look at how people cling to God because of their failures and inconsistencies, and I see a God who has unending patience with odd people and creatively uses all that we are to His glory.

Does God work with quirky people? Thankfully—yes (not that He has another option).

I’m living proof. [To my family and friends: Thanks for your patience.]

Resolutions with substance

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 — 1 Comment

How happy to know that I’m not the only one yet mulling over 2008 resolutions! My blog stats show that readers are still frequenting these topics (see this one) and even continuing to search for them through tags.

Well, I’m still thinking of resolutions too! It’s only Day 15 of 2008 . . . and I certainly hope our attention spans are longer than a mere 15 days. I trust they are, so here’s one more musing about setting the heart and mind for action and discipline in the new year ahead.

On a previous post I mentioned the use of just one overarching resolution from which all others might flow. Implementing the 80/20 rule of restraint for reasoned-living not only makes sense, it places the responsibility in my hands and heart—it’s a progression rather than perfection, and I must decide to do what is most healthy for me and what is most glorifying to God (these happen to be the same thing!). For instance, yielding to temptation whenever it calls—whether that be food, laziness, and the like—ever weakens resolve and self-restraint. Long-term indulgence is poison to inner strength. Now I am seeing snacks and lounging as treats (rather than deserved perks for living my life); I’m looking ahead to those good things already on the calendar and setting my focus there, making it easier to make good choices in the moment.

This seems to differ from resolutions of mine from previous years, in which the goal is something a bit more surfacey (wanting to be ready for warm-weather clothing or a vacation, for example). The 80/20 sole resolution has at its root a heart issue: it’s the resolve to develop self-discipline and a mature mindset that is able to choose that which is most pleasing to God.

Maybe you have read the 70 resolutions of Jonathan Edwards that he adhered to as an ongoing practice—now these are resolutions worth keeping and renewing! How I would love to work toward a heart that produces resolves like that! The one I continue to ponder is:

25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it.

This, along with my general 80/20 rule, would be a great focus for me in 2008. For when I doubt the love of God, I make bad choices and my heart wavers in trust toward Him. When I trust God’s love and care and provision, I can rise above the crisis of the moment and make choices that align with truth. Oswald Chambers said this:

“Launch out in reckless, unrestrained belief that the redemption is complete.”

I love that! When I am trusting God’s hand to be sovereign over all and His Word to be true in regard to me, then I can launch out, reckless and free to truly live a life worth living. That’s what I want for 2008.

2008: Big aspirations

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 — Leave a comment

Ah, the new year. It’s that time when everyone is assessing the progress of 2007 and dreaming of perfection for 2008. And that leads us to New Year’s resolutions. These little phrases offer commitments and promises that will somehow make this year different from the last.

Personally, I love resolutions. Something about them rings of hope and determination—and because I love transformation of all sorts, resolutions have always been of interest to me. They seem to be little seeds containing newness of life just waiting to burst forth.

And I can resolve with the best of them. I can make glitzy charts and write inspirational goals. But that doesn’t make me any more apt to achieve them. I’m much better at thinking and dreaming than acting and doing. But each year, and sometimes even every few months, I come back to what I had hoped for the days ahead and try to refocus on the goal.

I am also so blessed to have dear friends to talk such things out with. We discuss what is and what could be and how we might get there. Always we yearn to lean harder upon God and see His strength come forth to bring about the change we long for.

Such a conversation happened a few years back. Two friends and I were discussing goals and progress over some ice cream (I’m sure we discussed health and fitness goals as we happily ate our frozen treats). One of these dear gals was eating and talking and happened to pause for a bite at just the moment when her phrase seemed it could be complete—at that point, at that pause, it formed some sort of odd confession:

“I have always had big as . . . s . . .”

[This is when slow motion in real time occurred. Her pause seemed so lengthy that it gave me time to process her comment and wonder and question why she would so harshly, so openly berate herself. What I thought she was saying didn’t click with her character, or her manner of speech, which is never improper or crass—nor did this comment align with her physical appearance. All around, this comment was as strange as it could be. Confusion washed over me because I couldn’t imagine such a comment coming from her. I quickly looked to my other friend and found the same baffled expression—our eyes met, questioning, Did she just say what we think she said? We soon discovered that no, she did not, as the remainder of her thought came forth.]

“. . . pirations and then something derails me.”

She said she always had big aspirations. Her pause, unbeknownst to her, had delivered an alternate, unintended message—much to our amusement. My listening friend and I burst into uncontainable laughter, not only at our mishearing but also at the thought that our friend would ever speak so brashly. We did our best to explain what we thought we heard, but it was rather lost—my confessing friend knew what she was trying to say, and she knew she was not attempting to profess a large posterior.

This event happened years ago, but just the mention of having “big aspirations” is enough to send us into fits of laughter. My confessing friend is kind enough to keep talking to us.

The truth of it is that the new year surfaces the big aspirations in all of us. The new year feels crisp and new and clean, like a change of bed sheets or a new journal. It feels like the days stretch out before us empty and free. I think the possibilities of what might be provide so much inspiration! What if we dreamed big and set our minds and hearts to action? What could change? What growth could come forth?

Like I said, I am blessed with wonderful kindred-spirit friends, with which I get to hash out such things with. I like to do that not only because the input of others sets my gaze a bit higher and calls me to strive harder, but also because I like to hear what is whispering the hearts of others. And I like to hear what other people are striving for, to see if I would like to add that to my list.

So what are your big aspirations, fellow bloggers?

What fun it would be to compare and encourage and motivate and inspire. I have more to say on inspirational resolutions, but I’ll save that for another day. So check back soon.