Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Not Equipped for Hers

Welcome to Yes to God Tuesdays as I temporarily host for sweet Lelia the online study of Lysa Terkeurst's wonderful book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl.

Chapter Eight "But I Want What She Has"

Lysa begins this chapter with a pure and grateful attitude she recalled as a child, a poor child. From her reflection she was content with a Barbie doll shoebox house instead of the pink plastic house, the neighborhood ditch instead of a metal swing set, one day at the beach instead of a week. The storebought pink plastic house was too confining when she had split levels in her shoe boxes. The ditch served as a Grand Canyon for leaping, a palace for high tea, or a swimming pool of water and mud. And, a day at the beach was enough time to get burned; any longer and they'd be overcooked. But then, Lysa's family moved into their own house and Lysa thought she'd died and gone to Heaven "until the day I realized we were poor." Wow. The beauty and gift of not knowing one is poor.

Lysa didn't realize this until the governor's daughter started attending her school. Lysa never dreamed they would have anything in common let alone ever be friends. Upon being invited to play at the governor's house, Lysa's mind whirled on the luxuries: gated, fenced, huge house, security, marbled floors, fancy artwork, and things named beyond her vocabulary. Interesting enough those didn't tug on Lysa's contented heart. "It was my friend's ability to get what she wanted when she wanted it that lured my heart away from feeling like the lucky girl I'd always been." Always been. What a bubble that should never be burst. I've had my discontentment, or rather wavering contentment, crushed by jealousy or envy of another let alone full contentment stolen.

Lysa began to notice things to which she had been oblivious: sheets, clothes, toys. She began to feel poor as she held herself and her life to that of another. Comparing ourselves gets us in so much trouble. I usually think I'm a nice dresser for work until one co-worker comes to campus every so often. Dressed to kill. Not necessarily fancy but always well put together. A natural style of classy. I hate feeling less than equal, less than classy, less than "in style".

"I did what too many people do when they build themselves up against another person and walk away feeling deprived: I started resenting my life. I stopped looking for the good in my situation or appreciating what I did have." I am so guilty of that. I don't appreciate enough my life and what God has done for me. "I'm blinded to what I do have in the face of what I lack."

Desiring something other than what I have leads to a discontented and ungrateful heart. I don't want to desire for more or anything other than what I have, but the flesh is strong. His Spirit is stronger though.

"Whenever I get an overly idyllic view of someone else's circumstances, I often remind myself out loud 'I am not equipped to handle what they have--both good and bad.' "

Wow. In the last 2 1/2 years I have so often looked at every married woman, and even mothers, and wanted what they had: a husband. Just to have a life partner, true love, and soul mate. Yet, I've often done what Lysa says. I speak out loud acknowledging that any of those wives could have a terrible husband and maybe even a hateful one. That wife may be living a life of compromise. And not in a good way but rather, a compromise of herself, her value, her faith. There are worse things than being single. There are worse things than waiting for a marriage to be restored. I ask myself 'are you sure about the last one, Paula?' Yes, it is a very painful phase of limbo.

"When I want the good things someone has, I must realize that I'm also asking for the bad that comes along with it." A package deal. The good, the bad, the ugly.

Good for them doesn't mean good for me.

We aren't all equipped to handle the same good nor the same bad. We don't have the same spirit and soul. We are all equipped differently to endure the good and bad of our own circumstances but not equipped for what "they" have.

Are your thoughts controlled? 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us: For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. NIV. For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. ESV

I usually think of self-control in relation to actions, words, and emotions. Controlling our anger. Controlling our tongue. But where does our anger and tongue (words) start? It starts in our thought life before evolving to words verbalized.

Lysa is so right when she says "Too many of us live with an uncontrolled thought life." Thoughts are a choice. We can choose to combat negative, destructive thoughts and redirect them to positive, encouraging, and godly thoughts. Here's a great exercise from Lysa. "Think of something you want that someone else has. Have you ever been lured into thinking, 'If only I had ____________ like that person, my life would be great!' "

Well, yeah, I've thought that. I think that. More times than I care to admit especially when it comes to marriage and husbands. Oh, and an occasional physical body image thought. I'm nothing if I'm not honest. So now redirect those thoughts by saying:
"I am not equipped for her good.
I am not equipped for her bad.
I am not equipped to carry the weight of her victories.
I am not equipped to shoulder her burdens.
I am not equipped to be her in any way.
I am, however, perfectly equipped to be me.
Therefore, thank You, God for only entrusting me with what I have and who I am."

Did you catch that third line? Yes, victories have weight. Hmm.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

I find it no coincidence this scripture was preached on Sunday. So much rest is needed. A lighter burden desired. A yoke easier to bear.

Her burden is manageable because it's her burden for which she is equipped. Her burden placed on me could be detrimental, unbearable, and excruciating for me.

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Equipped for Mine Only,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

He Loves Me: Does She Like Me?

UPDATE: I will be guest hosting the Yes to God Tuesdays online Bible studies as my sweet friend, Lelia, is unable at this time. I have participated in all but one of her studies over the last 18 months.

We've all done the pull-the-daisy petals: he likes me, he likes me not. We expect that to work. And, if it ends on he like me not, well there are do-overs. We do it over hoping for the opposite. As women don't we also do this with females? Am I the only one who wonders if a woman likes me and values my friendship? I've often felt my friendships were lopsided. That is, that I put more value, desire, and energy into the friendship than the other person.

Take a guess at the title of chapter seven in Becoming More. That's right..."She Likes Me, She Likes Me Not". Lysa shared her childhood dreams of pappagallo flats and madras shorts, changing her name to Buffy, and grosgrain hair ribbons. It all boiled down to "I just wanted to be accepted. By someone."

I wouldn't go back to grade school or high school for anything. Too much drama of not feeling accepted, girl "fights", and wanting to fit in.

When Lysa blogged on this topic, she received numerous comments from ladies feeling this way as an adult. Many women thought they were alone in their feelings, insecurities, and wanting to be accepted and liked. We are not alone! Women are creatures specifically created for relationships, female relationships, and girl friends.

I had not thought of this but Lysa says maybe we can never be totally rid of our insecurities. "If they press us to draw closer to God, the only secure thing, then healthy doses of insecurities might not be so bad." Though, those insecurities that distract and paralyze need to be addressed.
Lysa shares that to make peace with our feelings of inadequacy, we "must operate in God's love and operate with God's love."

*Operating IN God's Love*

"Operating in God's love means understanding how His love can redefine my natural thought processes." How? With God's Word. Meditating and soaking in His Word will transform our thoughts to align with His truth about us...depleting satan's lies. "I have retrained my brain so God's truths interrupt my negative thought patterns."

"Stop looking to others for validation." Does that hit others in the heart like it does me? I look to my supervisors to validate my value as an employee. I look to my readers to validate my ability to write. I look to my friends to validate my 'likeability'. I need to veer to God's Word in front of the negative thoughts to cut them off before they start. Kind of like cutting people off when I drive. Just joking!!

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken. Isaiah 4:10

"This comforting reality helps me to not shy away from hard things but to press into God's strength and operate with more courage."

Though we may not be accepted, nor liked, nor validated, we never escape the unfailing love of the Almighty One. A 10.0 earthquake won't shake His love for us.

Infallible. Stable. Reliable. Able despite us, what we do or don't do.

Meditation. Repetition. Of God's word, His thoughts, His truth.
"Until the truth seeps in and I can leave the petal-pulling behind."

*Operating WITH God's Love*

"Operating with God's love allows me to rest in a security beyond myself. It's okay that I'm insecure if it prompts me to rely on God more fully." God can show us the way to use our insecurities for our advantage. How? Insecurities can create sensitivity and discernment in us for others with insecurities. Through a hug, an encouraging word, a comment (ON THIS BLOG...wink wink), an email, or a card (remember those from way back in the postal days?)

Robert McGee, from The Search for Significance, says: "Loneliness is one of the most dangerous and widespread problems in America...Ninety-two percent of Christians attending a recent Bible conference admitted...feelings of loneliness were a major problem...sense of despair at feeling unloved...fear of being unwanted or unaccepted."

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Allow God to use our insecurities and prompt us to love others more. "Really think about the simplicity of simply loving others and yet the absolute profound impact that it could make." Profound impact.

"One of satan's greatest tools to hold us back from telling the world about Christ is to get us to put our sense of security in the wrong place."

Look for the good. Judge less. Overlook rude actions. Be sensitive to those overlooked.

Insecurity is "a gift that should lead me to operate in God's love and with God's love."

Maybe we all need to join Lysa in replacing The Official Preppy Handbook with The Official Holy Bible.

I know that petal pushers (capris) are in style but let's not be petal pullers. Let's not focus on whether he or she likes us but that the Almighty One loves us.

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Letting God Rid Me of Petal-Pulling,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Picture is of the Ohio River.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lessons & Pineapples

After reading the first two pages of chapter six, the title is very fitting and makes perfect sense...Unlikely Lessons From a Pineapple. Probably like many people, Lysa feared the unknown of cutting a fresh pineapple to the extent that she would just not buy one. Until...until she watched a friend cut one. Then her world opened up, never to be the same again.

As a child I remember pineapples being a delicacy in our home because they were so expensive. I loved fresh pineapple but we didn't have the extra money for that. Then one day my mom bought me (us) one. I took a picture of it sitting in a chair, which I still have. I was one happy teenager.

Lysa didn't know how to cut a pineapple so she just never bought one. She uses this as a great analogy for how she first looked at studying the Bible...from afar. Choosing canned pineapple over fresh. Choosing to read books about the Bible over studying the Bible.

I would guess many of us find reading someone's experiences and thoughts on the Word to be easier than studying and learning straight from the Bible. It can be an intimidating Book but a Book which without we can't live. We should breath it.

Learning facts versus learning life applications. "Becoming more than a good Bible study girl means pursuing God's truth so passionately that it actually becomes part of our nature."

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22 Make a habit of applying God's Word.

"Knowing God's Word and doing what it says not only saves us from heartbreak and trouble, it also brings more satisfaction to our souls more than anything else ever could."

Security and satisfaction.

It's not just reading but applying God's Word. Actually, dare I say that reading becomes null and void if it's not applied? We can buy a fresh pineapple but if we don't crack it open, it becomes rotten and inedible. If we don't fully eat the Word, we are not filled with it.

"If people ever say Jesus and His biblical truths don't work, I am quick to ask how consistently they've applied what they've read. People fail; truth never does."

Lysa shares and reflects on the story of David and Goliath. I just finished A Heart Like His by Beth Moore so the life of David is still very fresh in my heart.

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Convicting for sure.

"Allowing the traits of biblical characters to cause us to do some introspective thinking will deepen our study and make what we're learning more applicable to our lives." And applying Scripture to our lives is what it is all about. Applying not just reading. It's hard, I know.

And we know our heart, and thus our character, is top priority to God. I've often asked God, if there is more He needs to do in my heart and character while I wait on Him and my desire of restoration, then please do so. I know that He has work to do on both parties before He can restore.

Lysa shares how any time something seems out of order in Scripture that we should stop and look deeper, asking why? Why was David overlooked? Why was he not even considered by his father when Samuel came searching for a king?

David didn't look like a king. He didn't smell like a king. He wasn't positioned for a king. But David had the heart God was seeking. A heart like His. Is there anything greater to be called?

"Overlooked by everyone, but handpicked by God." Wow! One pivotal fact about David but one we can also apply to our lives and thus change the outlook on our own lives. Others may reject me. Others may step over me for the task. Others may overlook me when choosing love. Others may put me last on their list of friends. But, God will always choose me. God has chosen me. God has handpicked me with His Almighty Hands.

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthian 12:10

Often when we are rejected and overlooked it is because God has chosen and handpicked us. When I am weak (or rather feel weak), He makes me strong. He makes me capable!

After being chosen as king, David was sent right back from where he came--tending his sheep. Why? To wait. A tough place for sure. "Waiting can sometimes consume a person with questions, wants, and worries." Amen, sister. I thought I was alone in asking, wanting, and worrying while I wait. I can't help but to think at least David knew he would be king one day while he waited. That had to make the wait better, didn't it? Unfortunately, I've not heard such a clear and strong call on my heart. I can only go with what I feel my convictions to be...but no clear promise as with David's anointing. What I wouldn't give to hear His call and assurance while I'm waiting. Even more than that, David wasn't ever bothered by the wait. I guess I can somewhat understand that. If I knew something was going to happen, as David did with his kingship, I think I could wait more patiently.

David didn't wonder, resist, or doubt. David rested knowing this was "the right place for right now." I believe that for myself...that is God must have a purpose and therefore this has to be the right place for right now, but only for now. I believe in His purpose of my waiting and my unfulfilled desires deep within my heart. But it doesn't seem to sooth the ache any more.

He makes me lie down in green pastures [rest]
He leads me beside quiet waters [reflection]
He restores my soul [restoration]
He guides me in paths of righteousness [right choices]
for His name's sake [it is all about God, not about David]
Psalm 23:2-3

"David chose to resist the temptation of discontentment by seeing the greater good of this waiting period."

When David finally faces Goliath, it is the training in his every day life that prepares him to fight and defeat Goliath. "God can use the tasks of my everyday life to deliver my character to the point that it matches my calling."

"Never again settle for the canned version of anything."
Ain't that the truth, especially for this fresh-fruit-lovin gal.

Trying to Learn His Lessons,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time With God: A Privilege

In Becoming More, Lysa opens chapter five, "Devotion Time Blues", by telling us of the stressful preparation for her sister's visit. High on that list of stress was discovering a mattress floating in her pond, visible for all to see.

It's no secret that if we run ourselves ragged, we will be physically drained. We run on empty when we've depleted all our physical energies. We give more than we have. The same is true for our spiritual life. If we don't revive our spiritual tank by spending time with God, we will be running on empty. To be spiritually depleted is worse than being physically depleted.

Lysa points out something very interesting. Each time Jesus proclaimed peace, whether to His disciples or to Thomas or to whomever, the writer ends it with an exclamation point. "Peace be with you!" Jesus was intentional and emphatic with urgency. So why peace? Why was Jesus so emphatic to give us peace? Lysa points out that the world can give false joy, false hope, and false love. But it cannot give false peace. Peaceful moments, maybe. Only Christ is the author, provider, and giver of peace. I believe peace to be the number one thing most all people desire in their lives. You think maybe Jesus knows that?!!

How does He give peace then? One way is through the time spent with Him. He prepares for the day ahead so we can act and react with peace at our center. I love how Lysa reminds us that "He knows things and see things for which I need to be prepared." I can forget that at 7am God already knows what I will incur at 12pm, 5pm, 8pm. Seeking God will fill me with more of Him and prepare me with what I need to handle that day. He has shown me that when I forgo our time together, I forgo my preparedness and enter chaos.

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. Psalm 139:1-4
[my emphasis]

"He loves us enough to desire to protect us from our natural-flesh responses." Oh yes Lord, how I need Your protection from my own fleshly responses, from my flesh period.

"If my heart has been prepared to receive God's most perfect help, I am able to receive it right when I need it and I'm much more likely to apply it immediately."

As Lysa says it seems so elementary to say we need to read the Bible every day and spend time with Jesus. Isn't this what we first discovered as a babe in Christ? Isn't it evident that it makes life easier to endure? Isn't this told to us all the time in sermons, devotionals, studies, etc.?

So why do we fail? Why is it hard to do? Why do we struggle with being faithful in these?

Before we explore struggling with quiet time, I want to share a couple paragraphs that I feel shows just how real Lysa is. She's been there. Done that. She shares this with such honesty and humor. How can we not: 1) shake our hands in agreement and 2) laugh at how ridiculous but true it is.

"Have you ever been at a church service when the teacher asked everyone to turn to a particular book of the Bible and you couldn't for the life of you remember where in the Bible that book is located? And for Pete's sake, have you noticed how loud Bible pages are? You start to sweat...you feel every eye...on you. Heaven forbid you actually turn to the table of contents. The reality is, some of those who so easily turned to that scripture are just sitting there with their Bibles cracked open to the wrong place pretending to follow along."

You gotta love that Lysa!

I remember when she did the survey about devotion times on her blog and found that many people struggle with their devotion time. We are not alone.

Ill-equipped. Intimidated. Mundane habit. (Those described the feelings women confessed.) One commenter, Kelli, described the struggles as "the duty of devotion rather than the desire." Instead of our time with God being out of habit and an ordinary ritual, it should be "a way that God will speak to them, help them, and equip them for a more meaningful life." I can I can sure use a dose of "meaningful."

"We underestimate the power made available to us when we spend time with God. Our earthly eyes are limited. Start embracing the incredible privilege to meet with Jesus every day."

"Devotions don't have to be perfect to be powerful and effective." This reminds me of what James tells us. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

A righteous soul just willing to be with God in prayer and devotion. He'll do the rest, directing the time we give to Him.

If I've heard it advised once, I've heard it a hundred times. Start devotion time with prayer. Pray every time before reading His Word. Do I? No, I admit it. I'm guilty of not doing this and that's a shame because I'm not allowing His full power to be released in me and my time with Him. I go in phases--sometimes I've been faithful to pray before entering His presence but unfortunately I'm not in that phase right now, yet. I try to say to myself that He knows my heart's desire when I come to Him; He know I want Him to speak to me through His Word. But He still wants us to verbalize our feelings. Asking Him into our time gives Him full permission to govern it. It should be "preparation for the great adventure God and I are about to head off on together in the hours ahead." That just puts a totally different perspective on it.

Okay. Stop the bus. Hold the traffic. Lysa shares this scripture. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. Psalm 86:11 Yeah, okay, great verse you say. But even greater is that I just finished a study with Beth Moore on David ("A Heart Like His"). One of the last days was about having an undivided heart and a wholehearted devotion.

I digressed.

I love how Lysa's friend asked her if she had considered putting the whole mattress incidence in her book. Her answer was so precious and priceless: "No, there might be too many chapters that started off with some kind of everyday life antic that put me on the edge of a breakdown only to have Jesus talk me off the coffee table and teach me something new in the process." Her friend said "Lysa isn't that where most of us live? And isn't that sort of the point of your book?" Amen. And, I'm so glad Lysa is real and shows us not only the errors of her ways but the lessons from the Lord.

"Remember we aren't after perfectly accomplishing our quiet time routine...[but] about seeing our time with God as the most precious and valuable minutes of our day."

What a refreshing and reviving perspective that this heart of mine needed.

To see what others have to say, visit Lelia.

Embracing Time With God,

© Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Picture is of my Live Forever.