Life This Week

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I want to be less self-centered this week. I want to be Christ-centered and other-centered. You know how sometimes you do things for other people and you view them as a departure from what you had planned or expected that day? You had a list of agenda items and that one act of service threw you off, and you feel a little less accomplished for the day? Serving that person was an interruption. I think maybe we’ve got this whole thing backwards, like the agenda is the departure and interruption, not the other way around. Perhaps “I am a servant” is the answer to that ubiquitous question, “What do you do?” rather than the answer to “What are your hobbies?”

God is very clear in Isaiah 58:6-7 that fasting from our own agendas and plans so we have room to serve is what he considers obedience. He is also very clear that what comes from this serving is freedom and light instead of the night and darkness slavery to our agendas brings.

“…[I]f you spend yourselves in behalf of
the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the
noonday.”  (Isaiah 58:10)

Here’s what I’m doing this week to refocus and stay centered on what God has for me:

I’m wearing a servant’s towel. I’m shifting my whole view so that my job is servant. In everything, what if I were servant instead of achiever/accomplisher?

I’m spending myself. I’m not a half-way kind of person typically. But, I must say that I tend to stop short of spending myself fully. I hold some back. What if I instead believed God’s word and spent myself on behalf of the hungry?

I’m singing “Overwhelmed” out loud to God. This song by Big Daddy Weave has captured me. And I’m singing it.

I’m praying for someone. I don’t mean in my alone time (which I will also do), but I mean if someone needs prayer, in faith and with their permission, I’m praying with them right then and there, whether I’ve got the right words or not.

What does your week look like?

Could you change your answer to “What do you do?”

How to Quit Stuff

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There are many verses in Scripture that encourage us to stand firm and not give up (Acts 20:24; 1 Corin. 15:58; 1 Corin. 16:13; Gal. 6:9Eph. 4:1; Heb. 12:1; 2 Peter 1:10), so the idea of quitting seems contrary to how we are to be as followers of Jesus.  But the Scriptures make clear that we are to stay firm in our faith, our calling, and doing good.  I do all kinds of things that do not squarely fall into these categories.  Does that mean I need to quit them?  Bob Goff says he quits something every Thursday; it’s part of his rhythm of life.  I love this idea because I am often overwhelmed by busyness and stretched thin by various demands on my time, sometimes to the point that I cannot manage to take care of basic things in my life.  But I needed to think through how to quit stuff, so I came up with a series of questions to ask and bring to God in prayer to figure out whether a certain activity is something I need to quit.

Does the activity:

  • bring me life or drain me?
  • create space or demand space?
  • refresh or tire me?
  • enable or inhibit my ability to live out my calling?
  • build my faith or undermine it?
  • calm my mind and heart?
  • trigger discontent with my life?
  • lift me up or bring me down?
  • cause me to be more loving or more judgmental?
  • lead me into a particular temptation?
  • make me less or more likely to hear God’s whispers?
  • take time away from a family member or friend who needs me?

Sometimes a “no” to just one of these questions leads me to quit that particular activity.  Sometimes the answer is not that clear, but learning to ask the questions is a game-changer.

Is there something you need to quit?

What other questions would you ask to determine if you need to quit something?

 

Life This Week

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Last week was a little strange because my daughter was in London all week; I was in Louisiana.  She returns home today.  I’ve missed her so much, but I have cherished her text messages with multiple exclamation points following all the things she has experienced while traveling.  I can’t wait to hug and kiss her, listen to her stories, and be in her presence again.  I have been thinking about what I reflect to her through my behavior and practices.  And in that vein, here is my plan for the week:

I’m forgoing the need to be right.  Right before my daughter left for London, she and I were having a debate about whether one of her cousins lived in Paris or New Orleans.  I believed Paris, she said it was New Orleans.  I knew I was right and when we were able to verify it, I was.  And, it was important to me.  Later, I reflected on this and wondered why I wanted to be right so badly.  What difference did it make?  In me, the need to be right comes from an unhealthy, unloving place.  Usually, it stems from wanting to be in control, to exert power over someone else, or to prove my value.  So much better to be wise and loving.  I’m praying for wisdom and the strength to be loving instead of right.

I’m paying attention to what I’m feeding myself. “A Native American grandfather was talking to his grandson about the tragedy on September 11.  He said, ‘I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart.  One wolf is vengeful, angry, and violent.  The other one is loving and compassionate.’  The grandson asked, ‘Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?’  The grandfather answered, ‘The one I feed.’”  (Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and friends)  This story deeply resonated in me.  Have you noticed how so many news events turn into vitriolic polarizing screaming matches?  There is so little room for love and grace.  We prefer retribution to restoration.  And there is so much food for that wolf.  I want to bring love and compassion only, always.  So, I’m praying God increases my ability to love and show compassion, and I’m reading books, listening to music, and watching shows or movies that feed love and increase my compassion.

I’m noticing where I seek praise from people.  In Romans 2, Paul says, “a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”  (Romans 2:29b)  I mostly seek praise from other people.  I’m praying God will continue to change my heart and my desires so that I seek his praise alone.

I’m reading a Psalm before bed instead of email and Facebook.  I fall asleep in prayer, sleep peacefully, and wake up more refreshed when I read Scripture right before bed.  When I read Facebook or emails before bed, I am anxious and worried about the next day’s tasks.  Reading any Scripture is good, but I find Psalms best because they are self-contained, whereas a passage from Samuel or Hebrews is hard to just jump into in the middle.

What does your week look like?

What are you reflecting to those around you?

From whom are you seeking praise most?

Life This Week

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Trust and thankfulness.  Small words, difficult practices.  Trust means placing confidence in the integrity, strength, ability or surety of a person or thing.  Thankfulness means being grateful or appreciative.  There is an object to both of these practices.  We trust in something or someone and are thankful to something or someone.  Scripture is full of these two topics, maybe because they are both so hard.  How often I place my trust in things or people other than God!  How frequently I am looking to the next moment and forgetting to be thankful for the one I’m experiencing!  I’m spending some time this week cultivating and practicing trust and thankfulness.  Here’s how:

I’m asking for help.  I’m praying this simple prayer: Father in heaven, please cultivate in me a thankful heart that trusts you in every moment and every experience.  Help me have eyes that see all the ways you love me and a mouth that remembers to thank you.  Remind me that you are trustworthy, and when I place my trust in you, I find peace.

I’m repeating this to myself:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”  (Proverbs 3:5)  I am constantly leaning on my own understanding, like 90% of the time.  I’m going to try to loosen my grip.  I don’t understand that much, after all.

I’m saying or writing thankful.  There is something quite passive about “being thankful.”  I am generally thankful.  But being generally thankful somehow prevents me from being specifically thankful.  What I mean is that I am actually more full of thanks (and joy!) when I name the thing or person for which I am thankful.  The other night I was driving home from a hectic evening and Miles Davis was playing.  In my car, I said: “God, thank you for Miles Davis and this part right here of So What.”  Really, try it.  Name it.

I’m speaking the name of Jesus.  When I feel anxious, I’m going to notice, and speak Jesus’ name into the moment, trusting him with all my heart and reminding myself that my hope is not in anything but him.  When I feel rushed, I’m going to notice, and speak Jesus’ name into the moment, slowing down and thanking him for the way he is loving me right then and there.

What’s your week look like?

Are you trusting God, or something else?

Can you express your thanks for each moment?

Life this Week

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Last week of May, 2013.  My daughter turns 13 years old next month and lately I’ve been going through old pictures and memories, wondering how that could possibly be.  Mostly I am amazed by the passage of time and all that has happened in 13 years both in her and in me.  We are in a period of time in which my skills as a mom are being tested.  I’ve kind of been on a bit of a roll over the last few years.  Now, though, I’m starting to feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing at all.  There are questions I don’t know how to answer, problems I cannot solve, and feelings I can’t make come or go.  She is going on two long trips without me this summer and I’ve been scheming of ways to keep her   home, knowing what’s best for her is to let her go.  Anyway, here’s what I’m doing this week to stay focused on what matters:

I’m praying for my sweet, nearly 13-year old girl.  Of course, I pray for her every day, but this week I’m thanking God for her spirit and giving heart, and asking God for wisdom so I know when to say words and when to wrap my arms around her and just say “I don’t know.”

I’m telling ten people thank you.  In the last 13 years, there are so many people who have encouraged me, helped me, prayed for me, and been present with me.  I’m telling at least ten of them how grateful I am.

I’m thanking God for saving me.  Thirteen years ago I didn’t know about amazing grace.  I didn’t know I was loved by the one who made all things.  I didn’t know I was worth dying for.  I didn’t know.  Now I know and I’m thanking God for revealing himself to me and pulling me and my daughter into his light.

I’m reading this Scripture.  “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you…I have loved you even as the Father has loved me.  Remain in my love.  When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.  I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!  This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”  (John 15:1-4; 9-12)

I’m loaning $25 to a woman in Kenya.  Her name is Rose and she raises cattle to feed her family, but cattle feed has gotten to be so expensive, she needs some equipment to make it herself.  www.kiva.org

What do you have planned for this week?  What are you doing to keep yourself focused on what matters most?