You are Stronger than You Think

The other day, two things happened.  I saw this video and I realized I’m stronger than I think.

No, I’m never going to be a pull-up dancer. I know this might surprise you.  I’m not strong in that way.

But as I was driving along a person came to mind who brought me great pain in the past, and I felt…indifference!  Then I thought of an experience that had had great destructive power in my life, and I felt…fine!  Actually, I felt great!  I could think about the experience and appreciate what I learned without reliving the pain. I was strong in a new way!  Stronger than I thought.  I bet you are too.

STRONGER is my One Word this year, so it was weird when it struck me that there are areas where I’ve already grown stronger over the years.

Stronger can sneak up on you when you’re not looking.  We can say “Aha, Stronger!  I recognize you!”

Yes, it requires discipline and truth-telling and exercising flabby muscles over time. It’s a daily 3 mile run rather than a dash into the grocery store.  We do our work and God does His work and somehow we get better. Stronger.

We let weak win when we give power to people or experiences in our lives that don’t deserve it.

We get stronger when we say “Nope!” over and over again. “The only One who deserves power in my life to define me or carry me or approve me or interpret life for me is Jesus.”

We’re I’m so paranoid about seeming braggy that I sometimes neglect to celebrate the small victories of change. But the other day I felt it was time to celebrate and thank God for stronger.

So, what’s one area of your life where you can celebrate growth?  What is one way you’ve grown stronger?

 

When You’re Heavy with Too Much to Pray About

“I look at God, I look at you, and I keep looking at God.” —Julian of Norwich

I’m in the ministry so I naturally get a lot of prayer requests.  People figure it’s in my job description.

But lately it seems like there are so many more prayers than ever. So much pain, so much heaviness.

There’s all the cancer (which, let’s face it, could fill a prayer book alone), and infertility and loneliness, and job-searching, and broken relationships, not to mention that world-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket stuff.

I go to sleep praying and when I wake in the middle of the night I figure it’s God poking me and it’s time to pray again.  I get a note or a phone call or I see someone and I try to pray in the moment. But sometimes it just feels soooo heavy.  Like too much.

But here’s what I think we get wrong. We talk about feeling “burdened” by prayer and certainly we are concerned about our loved ones who are hurting, but do we get a little mixed up and somehow think prayer means we need to FIGURE OUT ALL THE THINGS AND TELL GOD?

Sometimes I realize that I think prayer is playing tug ‘o war with God. It’s like prayer is the work of trying to pull Him over to my side. Why in the world would I do that if I truly believe He is God and I am not???!!! Wouldn’t I want to be on His side?

Ruth Haley Barton wrote a brilliant series of eReflections on intercession that have been super helpful to me.  She writes:

“I realize now that intercessory prayer is not primarily about thinking I know what someone else needs and trying to wrestle it from God. Rather, it is being present to God on another’s behalf, listening for the prayer of the Holy Spirit that is already being prayed for that person before the throne of grace. It is being willing to join God in that prayer.”

 

“I have also become more thoughtful about how I use prayer lists. Now, as I sit quietly in God’s presence daily, I seek to be open to whomever God brings to my mind and heart. As individuals or situations come into my awareness, I consciously invite them into that place where God’s Spirit and my spirit are communing, and we sit together with that person.  I don’t feel burdened by the need to figure anything out or to say words that indicate I somehow have a handle on the situation, or even know what is needed. It is enough to hold them in the love, the rest and the care of God and to trust God’s love for them.”

So I try to create time and space to be in God’s presence on behalf of others, but I rest in the assurance that it’s not a tug ‘o war, and it’s not my burden to figure it out, or tell God how to fix it.  I can honestly lay my desires before Him and ask Him to bring them in line with His will, knowing He is good, He is strong, and He is sufficient.

What’s an image that comes to mind to replace a tug ‘o war picture as you pray?

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Everything Counts

Thanks to my friend Nancy Beach for prompting this post and for her great reminders this weekend!

I love Jesus, but I’m not the “share-the-Gospel-with-the-person-sitting-next-to-you-on-the-plane-and-pray-THE PRAYER-with-them-on-the-one-hour-flight-to-Chicago” kind of person.

Don’t get me wrong. I think any way we can authentically communicate the overwhelming love and grace of Jesus is cool. I’m super intimidated inspired by those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism.  That’s just not me.

My “evangelistic” efforts look more like “Hi, tell me about…” and “Want to come over for…” and “Can I help?”  Hesitant baby steps of relationship building.  I’m often tempted to think this doesn’t “count” in the world of REAL EVANGELISM.

Confession: I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had the privilege of praying with someone as they said the actual words, “Jesus thank you for your forgiveness.  I want you to be Lord of my life.”

But the other day I heard from one of them – a high school girl I prayed with at a Young Life Camp 35 years ago. And when I read her note I cried, because I think God wanted to remind me that He is so much bigger than my bumbling efforts and everything, yes EVERYTHING counts.

First, let me say LOUD AND STRONG I was so inadequate as I tried to tell those teens how they were separated from God through sin, but that He loved them SOOOO much and they could have this amazing eternal relationship with them because Jesus had died to take the punishment for their sins.

I’m sure “ummmed” and “What I mean to say-ed” and probably scrambled to find verses in my Bible.  I stumbled and didn’t say it “right” and I was nervous, wanting to be a good “front man” for Jesus.  But here’s the note I got the other day:

As I am coming upon the celebration of the time when I came to Christ, December 19th, 1978, I want to express to you how grateful I am that you said “yes” to the Holy Spirit’s beckoning to talk with me that night in Colorado.

 

Not only did you lovingly obey the HS leading, but you were faithful in following me up as a new believer. You faithfully met with me to disciple me into the beginnings of understanding the “norm” as believers is to be disciple-makers for God’s glory. I am sending you the following just so you know more details of what the Father is doing among the nations.

Here’s the thing…This note makes me sound so together, and I was so NOT!!  I loved Jesus and I was just trying to help her know Him too.

Here’s the other thing – the truly amazing thing… This young teenager went on to get married and go into ministry, living and serving among one of the most unreached people groups in the world – the Sumbanese in Eastern Indonesia for the past 30 years

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I don’t have the gift of evangelism, but Rhonda and her husband do.  And when she writes me story after story of persecution, but also victory as they are brave in sharing, and others are brave in responding, and the Holy Spirit continues to work, I marvel. And I think, “Little ol’ bumbling me without the gift of evangelism…I get to be a small part of that big evangelistic movement. Part of the hundreds who have come to Christ over the years in a tiny remote area of the world”

Because once, a long time ago, I just showed up, totally “not enough” but made “enough” by Jesus, and I did what I could to share His love it made a difference.  It counted.

Whatever you do today to share the love of Jesus that you think is not enough, it is. Because He is.  And every tiny act of love counts.  It’s part of a ripple that moves outward and you many never know where it ends up.

Stronger in Marriage

The other night two things happened.  I had my favorite salad at a cute little candlelit wine bar with friends, and John and I needed a do-over.

In the salad is sweet potatoes, spinach, pomegranate seeds, apples, golden raisins, goat cheese, bacon, and sunflower seeds.  I would never have thought to put all that different stuff together, but it’s awesome!

And that’s the kind of marriage John and I have.  We’re really different, but we naturally go together well.  I think we have a super strong marriage and although there have been seasons when I thought we could use a little less goat cheese in our salad, all in all we’ve had it pretty easy..photo-1

Which actually can be a negative because we can get lulled into complacency.

Maybe, it’s because it’s usually easy that it was a little surprising when John and I hit a little hiccup the other day…a misunderstanding in how to love each other well and we ended up hurting each other instead of helping each other.

It was an opportunity for us to say “How can we grow stronger in our marriage?” Continue reading

4 Habits of Happy People

The Huffington post had a fascinating article recently called 7 Habits of Unhappy People.  In it the author quotes Psychology Today research that states “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.”

Looking at those negative habits, I’ve been thinking about the habits that lead to happiness, or rather, I’d say joy, because I see joy as independent of circumstances.  Anyway, potato, potahto…

Here’s what I’ve come up with: Continue reading

Why we Need the Discipline of Looking Up

Have you ever thought about what down-lookers we are?  Everyday I get stuck looking down.  Down at my to-do list, and at the pairs of feet in line in front of me. Down the city street at traffic holding me up, down at my computer screen, down at the veggies I’m cutting up for dinner, and down at my shoes striking the pavement as I run, dodging ice or slush.

That changed for awhile this week when I had the incredible joy of joining a friend for a play date in Florida.

And in addition to all kinds of play and laughter and good conversation, we took time to look up.  A lot.

We looked up, towards the stars and the sun and the horizon and the magical rhythmic dance of day and night and day again.

We watched the sunset every night and marveled at the shape and color of the clouds and the crazy pelicans above, who in one moment can glide gracefully in formation over the water like the Blue Angels, and in the next minute plop straight down onto the water to catch a fish in the most UNgraceful mini cannonball move. IMG_9214 IMG_9222

As I was watching the sunrise this morning, and thinking how it was nighttime for my friends on the other side of the world, I also thought how this looking up is one of the most important disciplines of my life with God.FullSizeRender-2 Continue reading

A New Resource For Encouragement

Am I crazy or does it seem like there are more people than ever hurting, struggling, wounded, waiting and praying for healing, new life, a meaningful job, or direction…?

At different moments we are either in a barren, thirsty, get-me-the-heck-out-of-this- desert time or walking alongside someone who is.

As hard as it is to be the one in it, the walking alongside role is also challenging.  We want so much to say the “right thing”, DO anything to fix the situation or alleviate the pain.

I’ve written before about my deficiencies in the mercy department, but I’ve learned some by being on the receiving end of thoughtful expressions of love when I was at my lowest.

Of course I was grateful for faithful friends who would call and just listen.  I needed safe people with whom I could process all my crap with ugly cries.  But there were also those who gave me meaningful pictures of their hope for me.

One of those was a pot of rocks with a bulb planted in it.  The note said “I know this looks really barren and ugly right now, a little like a picture of how your life feels.  But I’m trusting God to do a new thing…to transform this hard thing into one of beauty.  I pray as this bulb starts to grow and flower it will be a reminder of the beauty God wants to bring out of your ashes.”  This was visible hope and it strengthened me. Continue reading

When You Feel Unvaluable

My top three strengths are “activator” and “achiever” and “woo”. That means I really, really, really want to do ALL OF THE THINGS, to be awesome, and to have you like me.

So it stung, hearing the words. Out loud.  Again. A phrase similar to others I’ve heard over the years.

My husband John was recounting his day and a meeting he had had with a member of the church who had listened and given insight on the future of our faith community. John and his colleague in the meeting asked this awesomely awesome guest to return for another hour of conversation.

Of course this will be pay-rolled!  We value your gifts and talents and expertise, so ABSOLUTELY we’ll pay you for your time!”

“Said no one to me ever”, is the place my slightly over-dramatic mind went to as I listened to him.

Validation. Whether you’re twenty-something, or….well, not… we all long for it and even when we get it in one form, we want more, or different.  We’re desperate to know we matter.  We add value.  We make a difference. Continue reading

5 Questions About Your Time

Time.  I’ve always felt like it’s there in limitless supply.

Oh, yeah, there are stress-filled days where there don’t seem to be enough minutes in 24 hours to get everything done, but there’s always Tuesday and Wednesday and June 25th 2020, full to the brim with more of life to live.

I buy into the conviction that I need to be responsible for stewarding my time well, but I also live like a perpetually bullet-proof twenty-something.

Over the past nine months John and I have had a friend teach us much about living and dying, about heaven and earth, time and eternity.  HIs name is Steve and he is dying of Pancreatic cancer.  He and his wife, Sharol, have walked this hard road with authenticity, faith, courage and vulnerability.  I asked Steve if I could share some of his thoughts on time in the post today.  These reflections come from a place of physical weakness and a greater awareness of limited time. Continue reading

Two Ways to Lean Into Your One Word

My friend Nancy has like the most awesome, toned arms of anyone I know.  And she’s my age which, let’s just say isn’t twenty-something.  When she is on stage sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on what she’s saying because I’m wondering what I’d have to do to get those well-sculpted arms in place of my soft, wobbly ones that cause me to shy away from anything sleeveless.

I know, it sounds a little whacky, but tell me you’ve never coveted a specific body part of someone else!  Anyway, stick with me here.

It’s not magic.  Nancy didn’t drift into arm amazingness. Just like people don’t drift into spiritual maturity.  Just like you and I aren’t going to drift into our One Word for 2015.

Change is a greedy, stubborn varmint.  He requires intention and attention if he’s gonna come through for us with sculpted arms, or growth in character.

I told you about my One Word fail last year, so I’m doing things a little differently this year with my One Word – STRONGER. Continue reading