“Hold your minds in a state of undistracted attention.” 2 Peter 1:1b (The Message)
As I look back at 2014, it was a year of great distraction and trials. “Undistracted attention” wasn’t on the menu very many days last year. It’s not a state of mind that comes naturally to me on a good day. The best ways I’ve found of maintaining undistracted attention on Jesus Christ are:
To look for and record daily gifts of grace.
This requires two things:
- First, awareness - eyes, ears, heart and mind wide open.
- Second, gratitude - about which many books have been written. Ann Voskamp leads the way beautifully in her book and teachings titled One Thousand Gifts.
To read the Bible daily . . . something . . . anything.
Some days it’s hard to focus for those of us whose brains occasionally short-circuit. That’s when we can and should call on the Holy Spirit for focus and clarity. He’s always willing to help.
To write our prayers – yes, in a journal.
On days when I beat myself up over my perception of a poor prayer life – lies, all lies – my journals are sweet proof of the truth. The discovery that prayer is, and has been, present is attitude changing. Some days it looks and sounds different from others. That’s OK!
To memorize and rehearse Scripture
Over and over again. A friend recently told how she rehearses verses on the way to work each morning.
My verse for 2015 is Isaiah 40:28-31: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.I’m clinging to God’s promises of strength and an increase in His power in me this year after a very weak and incapacitated 2014. What’s your 2015 verse?
To talk with others who love the Lord
The more open they are about their relationship with God, the more encouraging I find the conversation.Would you like the hope that follows closely behind "undistracted attention?"What gifts of grace do you see?What are you reading?Where's your journal?
What's your verse(s)?Who's your go-to friend for rich faith conversation?
Please share how you keep your eyes focused on Jesus!
Fall is a beautiful time of year . . . for some.
For others, like myself, it may be a reminder of death and those who have gone on before us.
Inevitably, as September draws to a close, I become mopey. Even after twenty-one years, I don’t see it coming. Then something will bring Daddy to mind. A memory, a conversation with my sister, an unframed picture that falls off the shelf near my laptop. (I think I leave them unframed just so this can happen.)
“Oh, it’s October,” I'll think. Often just acknowledging the anniversary of my father’s graduation to immortality is enough to blow the dark mood away.
Yesterday, as I led a Setting Boundaries for Women
group at Abundant Joy CWM
, “my Margaret” was a topic of conversation. Ours was a life-changing relationship. We adopted one another—grandmother and granddaughter of the heart. Margaret also graduated in the fall.
So, needless to say, I’ve been a little moody lately. But along with the psalmist, I can still say “but I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.
I was blessed to have these and other loved ones in my life, so I have much to sing to the Lord about. I do rejoice in the fact that my father and my Margaret received God’s salvation so many years ago, and that I can be sure I will see
them again one day.
Truly, “there is a time for everything.”
Frankly, though, I don’t find this particularly comforting at the funeral of a loved one.
But as time passes, life continues, and hope rises once again, this reminder helps me settle. Then I can pump my fist and say “Amen” when reading “I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it
and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”
(Eccl. 3:14) God created Daddy and Margaret. God also saved them. And what God does will endure forever.
Four days with 7,000 people involved in the world of Christian counseling at the American Association of Christian Counseling (AACC
Ravi Zacharias, Mercy Me, Dr. David Jeremiah, Mark Driscoll , Max Lucado, Dr. James Dobson, George Barna, Eric Metaxas, Michael O. Brien, Matthew West (performs Hello My Name Is
), John Ortberg, Diane Langberg, Tullian Tchividjian, Margaret Feinberg (Bible study titled Scouting the Divine
), John Eldredge, Gabe Lyons . . . and the list goes on and on and on. . .
Needless to say, my little brain is overloaded and it will take weeks to revisit and process all I heard. The precious pearl that continues to sing is that “identity proceeds productivity.” Mark Driscoll spoke to the issue of identity in an inspiring and griping way.
May I stop being the dog chasing my own tail and remember that the very thing I long for as I seek control and power in my life – that is, to be like
God (Gen. 3:5) – is the wonderful gift that God gave me, and you, in the very beginning (Gen. 1:26). What a nasty endless cycle the Enemy started humanity on with that first lie!
I haven’t read his book yet, but based on his presentation, I can’t wait to dig into Mark Driscoll’s book titled Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ. It just might help me reclaim the life I already had!
One thing God has spoken,
two things have I heard:
that you, O God, are strong,
and that you, O Lord are loving.
His High Places, Boone, NC
“Lord, help me trust you more.”
That is a prayer I prayed recently. And I discovered it is a prayer God is more than willing to answer. How he may answer, however, is not the neat package I imagined. Something supernatural . . . a pouring into me without great effort on my part . . . that’s what I was hoping for. Not a difficult, emotion-filled week. Not great angst. Not wondering if I got it right or not. None of those things were in my thoughts when I prayed that prayer.
However, I received all that and so much more. Let me say that again. SO MUCH MORE!
This particular lesson left me spent, yet more sure that my God is trustworthy, and more in love with Jesus than ever before. I began a week of work at His High Places with a moderate level of anxiety and I chastised myself over and over for being anxious. I sat quietly and opened my Bible to Psalms 62. The verses above spoke to my heart and quieted my spirit – a love gift from God.
As the week proceeded, I realized I didn’t have the answers for a hurting woman of God. It was at this point of abject weakness that my lesson in “trusting more” began. I was forced to my knees over and over by my lack of answers and insight. I paced the balcony and cried out to God for his healing and wisdom. I read Psalm 62 daily. I listened for God’s words of wisdom and encouragement.
What may have looked like a choke-hold of doubt to some, grew into a beautiful picture of obedience, courage, healing and, yes, trust. Trusting more as I listened. Trusting more as I asked for confirmation and received it! Trusting more with wonder and awe as Jesus Christ did what he, and only he, does best—healing the brokenhearted, setting captives free and giving sight to the blind (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61).
I’m a bit of a bottom line person. I like lists and bullet points. If you happen to be that kind of person too, here’s seven steps toward trusting more.
Try it and enjoy the wonder and awe as you watch God move!
- Quiet time
- Reading the Word
Transition equals change.
And change is often perceived as loss, whether good change or bad change. It is especially difficult when we cannot see the future outcome of a particular time of transition in our life. What makes transitions so challenging for us?
The unknown – or rather the fear
of the unknown.
Also, the fear (I see a pattern) of losing something we value, such as:
Fear of being hurt
Fear of failure
Fear of others’ opinions when we change courseBottom line . . . fear.
For several years I hesitated to close my interior design business and move into Christian ministry. Bit by bit as I emptied my cabinets of fabric books and samples “but I might need this" was an oft repeated phrase. It was only when the Lord led me to a staff position at a local pregnancy center that I took a deep breath and firmly closed that door. My resolve was tested when past clients called with juicy projects. “No” was not my natural response; it took resolve to stick with my decision. A decision that I believed was a step of obedience. Secretly, I feared losing my identity as a designer.
Now, five years later, I look back and realize I experienced several other transitions during this time:
- Moved from a volunteer position to Asst. Client Services Director at my local pregnancy center.
- Stepped down from that position when my health screamed it was time to rest.
- Stepped into a part-time position as a personal assistant . . . and gained tremendous knowledge about the Cloud and all things techie. But my heart was in women’s ministry.
- Stepped down to make room for a long-term assistant.
- Pursued speaking opportunities at women’s retreats and conferences.
- Trained as a Counseling Volunteer at Abundant Joy Center for Women’s Ministries (www.abundantjoycwm.com) and offered assistance as that new ministry for women got off the ground.
- Trained with His High Places.
- Accepted the invitation to counsel women at His High Places (www.hishighplaces.org).
These are only my work and/or ministry related transitions. This list doesn't include my youngest child going to college, another child married, a month with limited vision, learning to live with chronic sciatica, and moving my mother into assisted living.
As I type this list, I realize that either I can’t stick with anything for very long (which a 25 year career in design doesn't substantiate), or that transitions are part of the natural rhythm of life. Transitions are not an aberration to be gotten through so I can get back to normal, although I long for normal.
It appears that, in God’s economy, the status quo is transition. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland,”
God says (Isaiah 43:19).
A “new thing” . . . transition . . . change. For God this is the way of life—creativity in action 100% of the time. New ideas, new thoughts, new hearts, new spirits, new minds, new assignments, new plans, new paths, new adventures. I'm reminded of several transitions in the Bible. Joseph who went from favored son to slave to prominent leader to prisoner and finally to top man in command under Pharaoh in Egypt. Hannah who mourned her infertility, prayed for a child, was blessed with a child, and who dedicated her son to God and allowed him to live with the priest for training. The Bible is full of such stories. So, should I be surprised by transitions in my life? No, I should be expectant, watching to see what the next new thing will be. Step into transition and step out of fear
– that’s what God asks each of us to do. And with his help we can take the next new step.
For you: Consider your circumstances the past two years. What transitions have you experienced? What fears? What resolved fears?
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. ~ Psalm 37:4
January gave us many dreary days. Damp days, depressing days. Then one morning
the sun shone again, brilliantly, gloriously. I can describe the feeling it stirred in me only as delight. Delight with a capital D. The cloud that dripped on my emotions lifted and once again delight lit up my day.
Delight is often a momentary experience. However, God intends it to be our way of life; to be the expression of our relationship with the Lord, just as it is His experience in us.
According to Psalm 37:4, there are blessings we receive as we delight in the Lord. In fact, when reading it in our English translations, it sounds as if it is the prescription for getting the things we ask for. When I delved deeper into the meaning of delight in this verse, I discovered some clues that point to a different understanding. Something more than finding pleasure in, as wonderful as that may be. Something deeper and finer . . .
As we place ourselves in God’s hands, becoming “soft, pliable, delicate, dainty” (words that define “delight” in Psalm 37), the results are beautiful. We open our hearts to God and allow him to mold us like soft clay as we walk through life.
As God does the molding, we become . . . become more delicate, more pleasing . . . more “beautifully fine in texture, quality, or workmanship” (as Webster says).
Delicateness- a word worthy of our attention – goes beyond fragile or easily damaged, although that is a part of its meaning. It also includes being “finely sensitive in feeling, understanding, discriminating, or responding.”
Will you place yourself in God’s hands to do the refining work needed so you may live a life of delight?
As you do, your appreciation of God will become so highly refined that your heart can only become more in tune to His heart and His will. Find pleasure in Him, desire Him above all things, make Him . . . no, allow Him . . . to be the center of your universe and you’ll receive the most amazing heart gifts in return.
The life of delight is lived on a two way street.
Our side of the street is marked with this billboard from Isaiah 61:10:
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.
God’s side of the street displays an even more brilliant and glorious billboard:
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save,
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.
What a joyous street party!
"The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble heart and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:15
We had a lively Thanksgiving holiday at our house. All five children were in and out at various times, along with spouses and grandchildren. Suitcases filled every empty corner, and an air mattress and sofa served as extra beds.
Sunday has arrived. Everyone has scattered to their own homes. Ours is especially quiet after the fun and celebrations. And, as I consider all that I have to be thankful for, I’m especially grateful for seed.
- Seed of faith – sown by my parents and grandparents in my life from a young age.
- Seed scattered randomly and lavishly by friends and strangers.
- The Seed which is the Word of God – which changed the course of my life.
- Seed of truth – spoken by teachers, pastors, Bible study authors and leaders.
- Seed sown in prayer – especially those who prayed me out of . . . well . . . and into a beautiful, spacious place.
- Seed of love – sown by my husband, and re-sown when the enemy stole them away.
- Seed of grace – lavishly sown by God into my life.
- Seed that have fallen on rocky soil. (Someone cared!)
- Seed that have been trampled on the path of life. (Ditto!)
- Seed that landed in good soil, sprouted, and produced good fruit in my life – after being lavishly watered and nourished by God.
Thank you to all who have blessed my life in so many ways.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,and the one who waters will himself be watered. ~ Proverbs 11:25 (ESV)
I’ve had two amazing weeks of biblical counseling training at His High Places (http://www.hishighplaces.org/)
with co-director Samuel McMillan. I received so much great teaching and so many new ideas that my mind and heart are ready to explode! Proverbs 11:25 has been lived out fully. A very generous prince of a man gifted me with a look into his life, faith and life’s work. He refreshed me and, I believe, was himself refreshed in the process. It will always be a high point in my life. Many seed were sown and I pray that not a single seed has fallen on rock where there is no water to nourish them.
Water . . . a necessity of life . . . and one of Jesus’s favorite topics. For instance, Jesus spoke of the lack of water in Luke 8:6: “Some [seed] fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because there was no moisture.” (Luke 8:6)
What does Jesus mean? The disciples asked the same question and Jesus answered it a few verses later. “Those [seed] on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” (Luke 8:13)
Dry, withered, dying – I’m ashamed to say there have been times in my life when those words described my faith perfectly.
I’m also relieved to know that Jesus doesn’t leave anyone who loves him in that parched, thirsty place. In fact, he promises that “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38 NIV)
The word stream (used in the NIV version of the Bible) reminds me of a gentle babbling brook in the North Georgia mountains where my sisters and I once played. This is not, however, what Jesus has in mind. The Greek word for streams means rivers, torrents or floods—plural and powerful! Powerful enough to carve out something as majestic as the Grand Canyon. This is what Jesus offers. What a promise; what a gift!
A word of caution is also needed. There is another who pours water into our lives. Revelation 12:15 names the enemy the serpent and says, “Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.”
Do you see it – that word river? Yep, the same Greek word Jesus spoke about in John 7:38—powerful, and in this case, very dangerous water.
This leads to a couple of very important questions:
Who is it that is pouring water into my life – into your life? Jesus or Satan? It’s always one or the other.
What kind of water is being poured? Living water . . . or poisoned water? With Jesus – powerful, forceful rivers of living water. Without Jesus – soul-wrenching thirst.
My time at His High Places was a powerful outpouring of living, life-giving water into my life. And because I believe that the Word of God is true, I’m thankful to know that another person was watered in the process.
May the cycle continue - in my life and yours!
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.
~ Luke 8:5b
My husband, Lanny, and I battle the deer to garden in our backyard. In fact, three years ago Lanny put up a six foot fence so that I can grow flowers instead of deer candy. Now there are once-mangled azaleas, lilies and hydrangeas and beautiful impatiens blooming.
However, there are still thieves that sneak in and attempt to steal my beautiful flowers. Last summer rabbits scooted under the fence and had a feast, so I tied black plastic netting to keep them out. It worked pretty well, but it also trapped the occasional black snake. Smelly!! This year inch worms covered my roses and could clean the leaves off a bush overnight. Thieves, thieves . . . trying to steal the beauty of God’s creation!
In my last post, we talked about sowing seed – and I pray you are sowing lavishly. Be aware
. . . there is danger ahead for those tiny seed. As in my garden, there is a thief waiting to devour them. Jesus names the enemy – a well-known name – the devil. He explains that “those [seed] along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:12)
We have an enemy - and our enemy has two goals in mind:
- To keep us from believing in God
- To be sure we are not saved – that we do not have the hope of eternal life with Jesus.
Do you experience doubt and lack of trust? It’s no wonder, there’s a mighty enemy pulling you in the other direction.
Are you unsure about what comes after death? Same enemy – different goal. If the devil can steal your hope, leaving you to live in darkness and despair, he has won a battle—but not the war. Jesus has the final word! Because Jesus has already won the war on the cross, we can say goodbye to despair and hello to joy.
Jesus also names the seed . . . the Word of God. A treasure so valuable that the devil wants to steal it away from you. A treasure that can change your heart and the world around you as you share it with others.
Yes, as we reach out to others and share the reason for our hope, there’s danger lurking. Be aware . . . but don’t see the danger sign and run away. Keep reading the Bible. Continue talking about it with others. Sow with eyes open—not running in fear! Jesus only asks that you scatter seed. Their growth is in God’s hands. He waters, he protects, he fertilizes. God alone produces growth and fruit!
There are wounded hearts all around you. Keep scattering. You’ll see a gorgeous garden in full bloom one day! I'd love to hear all about it!
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to scatter his seed. . ." ~ Luke 8:4-5aDownload Today's Journal Page
When our granddaughter visits the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC, the "seed tower" in the Catch the Wind section is her favorite activity. She launches giant seed pods made of paper with magnets on the back and watches them float to the ground, squealing and prancing trying to catch them before they land.
"The longer the seed stays in the air, the further the wind can carry it from the parent plant and the better chance it has of surviving", says the Museum's website (www.ncmls.org/exhibits/catch-the-wind
In nature, scattering seed is a natural and constant activity. In the life of a Jesus follower, it's not so natural, but Jesus teaches that it should be a constant part of our lives. In fact, when we read "a man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7), it becomes apparent that we are all sowing seed of some sort--they just may not be the life-giving kind of seed.
Another translation of the Bible, The Message, says it this way: "What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.” ~ Galatians 6:7-8
How do we scatter? With big goals, good goals, grand goals in place.
No weeds! Tulips, roses and strawberries instead. I want to grow something beautiful, don’t you?
Let the scattering begin!