Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Not that we don't have our bad days. Oh boy, do we ever! Seems my oldest and I are cut from the same cloth and tend to sin in similar ways. Makes for quite a tiff when we're not walking in step with the Spirit.
Add to that all that’s happening in the world around us and it makes me realize just how vital walking in the Light really is. My heart is heavy after looking at pictures of the devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi and elsewhere. If nothing else it reminds me how necessary it is to stay close to the Lord. This world is uncertain at best and horribly dark at worst. Either way we desperately need the Lord. In fact, I’m learning that it’s not just that we need Him, but that nothing in this world will ever truly satisfy.
Even my relationship with God doesn’t shield me from the pain of this world.
It’s bittersweet to live with my head out of the sand and to walk in the Light.
Because in the Light I see and am touched by the pain around me.
There I am also driven to my knees to pray.
It’s not a bad place to be. But it does hurt. Especially when pain touches even closer to home. All I can share freely is that someone I care about (outside of my family) has made some tough choices and my heart is still reeling and waiting to see if they survive. I hate to be so vague, but for right now I have to be. The Lord knows, so any prayers you feel led to offer, for me and for a friend of mine, would be so greatly appreciated.
All that to say, knowing WHOSE you are and WHO you are in Christ is so very necessary to walk through this tough world. My prayer is that my small offering here on this blog will help someone take another step closer to the Light and to knowing who God created them to be.
With that in mind I offer this information on the last three spiritual gifts~ Giving, Leadership, and Mercy.
Those with the gift of giving are motivated to be a part of the Lord’s work by giving of themselves and their resources. Matthew is a Biblical example of the gift of giving.
Characteristics of the giver:
Able to see resources, opportunities, and needs that others miss.
Wise and disciplined in their use of money.
Desire to give high quality, things of lasting value.
Long to know their gift is an answer to prayer.
Prefers to give in secret and without the pressure of appeals.
Motivated by God showing them where to give.
Concerned with how money is used and don't want to give in a way that people become dependent on them.
Very frugal and exercises personal thriftiness.
Give to motivate others to give also.
Walking in the Spirit
Thrifty (NOT stingy)
Walking in the flesh
Ungrateful (forget Who the Source is)
The driving force of a leader is to organize that for which they are responsible and to work hard to accomplish the goal set before them. Nehemiah is a Biblical example of the gift of leadership.
Characteristics of a leader:
Able to see the big picture and visualize the final result.
Ability to break down the major goals into smaller, achievable tasks.
Decisive and disciplined.
Ability to know what can and cannot be delegated and to whom.
Tendency to remove self from distracting details and focus on the ultimate goal.
Willingness to endure objections they know will come.
Need for loyalty and confidence from those who are being directed.
Tendency to assume responsibility if no structured leadership exists.
Desire to complete a task as soon as possible.
Joy and fulfillment in seeing all the parts come together and others enjoying the finished product.
Quick to move on to the next project when one is completed.
Walking in the Spirit
Walking in the flesh
Those with the gift of mercy are driven by deep compassion for others. John is a Biblical example of the gift of mercy.
Characteristics of the mercy giver:
Ability to feel on a level most people don’t.
Can sense a person’s emotions and identify them.
Desire to remove hurts and bring healing rather than look for the benefits of hurt.
Greater concern for mental distress rather than physical distress of others.
Attracted to and understand people who experience mental and emotional distress.
Sensitive to words and actions that hurt other people.
They are the cheerfulness and joy of the Body of Christ.
Tendency to react harshly when intimate friends are rejected.
Fiercely loyal and devoted.
Ability to sense genuine love and a have a greater vulnerability to deeper and more frequent hurts from the lack of love.
A strong need for deep friendships in which there is mutual commitment.
Measure acceptance by physical closeness and quality time.
Tendency to avoid firmness unless they see how it will bring benefit and eliminate greater hurt.
Quickly close themselves to those who are insincere or insensitive.
Walking in the Spirit
Sensitive to other’s needs
Deference (willing to submit)
Walking in the flesh
Calloused (don’t feel anything)
With all this information, one point I want to really emphasize is this: Each and every believer has been given at least one spiritual gift. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says it this way, “A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.”
Please hear that. YOU have a spiritual gift. It was given to you by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of helping the entire church. Please, please, please… ask the Lord to reveal to you what your gift is and how to walk in it for the sake of the Body of Christ.
You are so very needed!
Monday, August 22, 2005
Long time, no blog! Sorry it's been a while since my last post. I've been busy doing some really cool things and I finally have a minute to share. A little background first… August in my home traditionally means a month of high stress wrapped in chocolate. Getting home school lessons ready, preparing for a writers' conference in mid-September, and consuming far too much chocolate to survive all the late nights required. This August God added a 12th grade Sunday school teacher’s position, major house renovations, and a beach trip to prepare for in early September.
All these things (except for the chaos of house renovations) are things I’ve prayed about and longed to do for some time now. The neatest part of all is that I’m not stressing out. I’m enjoying it. With six years of home schooling under my belt, I’ve finally stepped out from boxed curriculum and am using things that fit my girls’ learning styles and me as a teacher too. It’s been a lot of work to organize, but I’ve designed a curriculum that will teach me, uhm, I mean my daughters, lots of fascinating facts and we’ll have fun doing it. ;-)
With my writing, I’m at a place where I feel confident leaving my work in the Lord’s hands and trusting His timing for a contract. I’m done trying to fit into a nice, neat category and I’m writing the stories and books God’s placed on my heart.
And teaching senior high? Let’s just say I’m loving it!!!
Why am I so excited about all these things? I believe it’s because I’m living out of who I really am and doing what I was created to do.
A lot of it has to do with the healing in my heart that God is hard at work accomplishing. The more comfortable I’ve become with being me, the more excited I am about stepping out and doing the things I love to do. Those things can be summed up in three words.
Truth-telling and teaching.
Spiritual gift inventories say I’m a prophet-teacher. I agree. Any definition I’ve heard of these two gifts fits me like a glove. All the work God's done in my heart and in my marriage has freed me to be more of who I am and to be comfortable with myself—to teach what most excites me and to write what most moves my heart. It’s an incredible place to be.
In blogs past I’ve shared a great deal about my journey to healing. It’s been a long desert walk. And there’s more walking to do. But I feel like the surroundings are changing from a desert to the beach.
Let me just say, beach sand beats the desert any day!
Something else that’s helped me grow more comfortable in my own skin is learning more about how God created me and the gifts He’s given me to use in building up the Body of Christ.
I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned through my pastor’s teaching on spiritual gifts. As I do, I hope that you will see how God has gifted you too. And in seeing your gifting, that you’ll see God’s smile as you live out of who you really are.
I’ll start with prophecy and go in the order listed in Romans 12:4-8.
The driving force of a prophet is to proclaim the truth for the purpose of motivating people to right living. Peter is a Biblical example of the gift of prophecy.
Characteristics of the prophet:
Strong need to express themselves verbally.
Rise up at an injustice, perceived or actual.
Strong sense of discernment. Can sense the character and motivation of others.
Deeply commitment to the Word of God.
Want to correct a wrong because prophets see future consequences and don’t want people to suffer when change could prevent unnecessary pain.
Not concerned with feelings, but with truth.
Wholehearted involvement. Prophets do their best to get the job done.
Little patience with indecision.
Open to correction.
Loyalty is very important.
Willing to suffer, to take a stand for what is right no matter the cost.
Know what they believe.
Speak the truth strongly because they love deeply.
Walking in the Spirit
Walking in the flesh
Those with the gift of service are driven to meet practical needs. Timothy is a Biblical example of this gift. 1 Timothy 5:23
Give of self to help others.
Very alert to people’s likes and dislikes.
Strong desire to be with other people.
Strong need for approval and appreciation.
Wants to meet needs quickly without red tape.
Likes short term goals.
Tendency to feel inadequate and unqualified for position of spiritual leadership.
Walking in the Spirit
Walking in the flesh
Unconscious of need
Teachers are driven to systematically present the truth. Luke is a Biblical example of this gift.
Orderly, exact, lead in an understandable way.
Very interested in details.
Strong desire for knowledge, truth.
Emphasize the importance of words.
Strong need to validate information and confirm accuracy.
Asks lots of questions.
Loves to learn.
Checks out teacher qualifications~ who they are and where they learned their information.
Great frustration when questions are not answered completely.
Strong need to understand why.
Alert to practical details.
Walking in the Spirit
Walking in the flesh
People with the gift of exhortation or encouragement are driven to see others reach full spiritual maturity in Christ. Paul is a Biblical example of this gift. Colossians 1:28
Able to visualize what God can do in someone’s life.
Strong desire to help people see the root problems in their lives.
Likes to prescribe steps of action to deal with an issue.
Desire to encourage.
Willingness to share personal examples to help people grow.
Welcomes opportunities to learn and grow.
Willingness to watch others suffer so that they’ll grow.
Prefers face-to-face discussion to insure a positive response.
Desires to gain spiritual insight through personal experience.
Always looking at future consequences.
Strong desire to see harmony, people growing together.
Walking in the Spirit
Walking in the flesh
Well, that’s all my tired hands can type tonight! ;-) I’ll try and get the last three gifts posted soon. If you’re interested in an online spiritual gifts inventory, a decent one can be found at www.elmertowns.com
My hope and prayer is that you’ll see yourself somewhere in this information. And in learning about your gift, that you’ll allow the Lord to reveal more of the wonderful, multifaceted treasure He created you to be!
Walking in the Spirit with the knowledge of who God is and who He created us to be is powerful. That’s what walking in the light is all about…
And it’s beautiful to see!
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Here’s an interesting “formula of sorts” that explains what it means to love boldly:
“Hungering for restoration+ revoking revenge+ pursuing goodness= forgiveness that invites repentance and the opportunity for reconciliation.”
As I’ve walked through some painful places in my ten-year marriage, none were as hard as looking in my own mirror and realizing how poorly I’ve loved. I’ve spent a lot of time having no desire for restoration and used revenge in the form of angry words and icy silence to punish when I’ve been hurt. Anger has been my protection and my comforter for a good part of my life.
But in the desert I’m walking through, I’ve seen anger for what it really is. A heavy bundle that only weakens my back for the journey. Instead of providing protection, anger insulates. It chokes the desire for restoration and in so doing deadens any hope. All the time I thought I was being kept safe by using anger I was, in truth, separating myself from healing and the life-giving forgiveness that only comes from the cross.
As I’m learning to let go of repayment for an offense, I’m more able to see what love truly is. There are a few quotes from Bold Love that say so perfectly what God is making real in my heart.
“Love may pardon an offense, but it does not ignore the ugliness and arrogance that blights beauty.”
“Love must be an intrusion of a good gift of word or deed that makes the greatest demand of life: Follow Christ and serve Him with your whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.”
“Bold love is the tenacious, irrepressible energy to do good in order to surprise and conquer evil.”
Love is not a weak emotion. It has more to do with calling people out of hiding and into Christ than the warm fuzzies we associate with it.
In my own experience this has best been done when I refuse to allow anger to control me. Instead, I address the person who’s hurt me with a love that says “I want to have a relationship with you, but we have to deal with your sin.” I spare no words in calling sin, sin. (mine or anyone else’s) At the same time, I’m learning to do so with a heart that desires change for the other person’s good. And ultimately for God’s glory.
Love draws people to life while at the same time warning them of death. An example that comes to mind is a conversation, actually many conversations, where my best friend has allowed me to spout off about a hurt I’ve received. She will listen, sympathize, and sometimes offer direction. But if I begin to badmouth the person who’s hurt me she will stop me short and say with powerful love, “You are sinning. I love you and I care that your heart is hurt. But it will not help you or honor God if you keep going down this path.”
The first time she said those words I about blew a fuse. I’m hurt and she’s pointing out my sin? Yep. That’s love. She loved me enough to point me to God and warm me of what would destroy me.
How do I do the same? Especially when I’ve been hurt badly. How do I love the person that feels at that moment like an enemy?
Bold Love defines an enemy this way: “An enemy is anyone who intentionally or unwittingly harms you for their gain.” I’ve been an enemy to those closest to me when I’ve tried to manage life without depending on God. I didn’t hurt them on purpose, but nevertheless I did hurt them because “my way” is all about me and not pointing anyone to God.
It helps to realize I’ve been an enemy when I consider loving someone who’s acting like an enemy to me. But it doesn’t quite answer the “how to” of this call to bold love.
I believe the best place to look for that answer is in the Word…
Romans 12:20 says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Now the goal here is not revenge. It’s not to inflict pain, but to offer what the enemy really needs. In giving what’s needed there may well be pain, but it’s a redemptive pain. Like that of wrestling a sick child to get the necessary medicine down his or her throat. The purpose is to give what is good. To love. Even when it doesn’t feel like it.
The way to love an enemy is through disruptive grace. Not giving an enemy what is expected (retaliation, anger, cowering to his or her demands) but giving the enemy what is needed to point them to God.
Disruptive grace is not an “I forgive you, let’s move on.” It’s an honest presentation of the problem, consequences, and a clear choice of what’s next. Like Nathan’s confrontation of King David in 2 Samuel 12. The prophet exposed David’s sin and left the king with a clear choice—get right with God or don’t. Either way the consequences were severe.
In the same way disruptive grace exposes the sin in our own hearts so that we have a clear choice—get on our face before God or don’t. If we will allow the Lord to purify and renew us, then we can be the holy tools God uses to extend His disruptive grace to those we love.
This grace longs for freedom and for both people in the relationship to know God and be changed for incredible good. It refuses to ignore the sin, but it confronts it with cleaver goodness—giving what is most needed. Kindness without compliance or minimizing the sin. Strength coupled with tenderness. These combinations only come when we are walking in God’s light and listening carefully to Him.
From Bold Love: “Goodness surprises evil because it does not fight according to the principles of brute force, power, intimidation, and shame. It is creative and unpredictable, and can be powerfully overwhelming to an enemy whose victory depends on using his skill to play the same game over and over again.”
Where do we start to learn this different way of relating?
Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
“We are to pray to the Father to act on behalf of our enemies; we are to pray for God to work in our enemies’ lives, to restrain evil, to deepen consciousness of harm, to destroy their arrogance so that life and grace might flourish. We are equally to pray for wisdom and all that blocks the development of wisdom in our life.”
“Prayer is the best way to invite God to use us and to teach us what it means to love boldly.”
Give good words. Speak words of truth that will guide an enemy to God. Be honest about your hurt and the consequences of their behavior.
“Our words of blessing are meant to arouse legitimate longing, expose emptiness, and deflate the enemy’s attempts to shame or intimidate. Blessing should be designed to open the heart of an enemy to astonishment and curiosity.”
Do good deeds.
“No matter how powerful, clever, and penetrating words are, they are never enough.”
My own experience in applying what I’ve learned in Bold Love has taken many forms. It’s included boundaries in a relationship that cut off contact until the enemy was ready to deal honestly with their heart. When I did that I was clear on my motive (to restore the relationship) and kind with my words (by God's amazing grace and control of the Holy Spirit.) Meaning I didn’t slam them, but I was honest about the reason for the no contact request. Loving boldly has also included welcoming that person back into my heart, one small step at a time.
Love is hard. It’s messy. And it doesn’t always feel like love. Often it feels more like the cross. But that’s the most perfect picture of love there is.
Even though I have a long way to go, my hope and prayer is that, as I grow closer to Christ, I’ll learn more and more how to love well.
To love boldly.
Will you join me?
John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
In atypical fashion I spent the first hour or so with God trying to avoid the issue all together. Sort of like my oldest when she’s up well past her bedtime. It goes something like this:
Me, “What are you doing out of your room at ten o’clock at night?”
My oldest, “Mommy, I just wanted you to know I think you’re the best mommy in the whole world. Can I tell you about this book I read?”
Needless to say, my little sweetheart is pointed right back to her bed and told to get some sleep. Books can be discussed another time.
Not God. He didn't tell me to head to bed. He waited. And listened. And waited some more. After a solid hour, I was tired and wanted to quit. But there were some awesome people praying for me and I’m sure their prayers kept my feet to the fire just long enough to get my heart ready to hear. (THANK YOU!)
And hear I did.
First, God started with some memories I would have rather forgotten. Scenes of a serious college relationship played through my mind. One in which I killed my heart for a little affection. I spent two years of my life trying to look good enough to compete with my boyfriend’s computer pinups. I lost. I also thought about how in arguments I yelled loud and used horrible biting words. My sharp tongue was the only thing this guy ever respected about me. But in gaining his respect, I lost my own. I gave away my heart and body. Only to have them both thrown back and stamped with the words, “not good enough.”
I’d talked to God about this relationship before. But it never dawned on me that this guy’s reaction to my anger~ respect when he respected nothing else of me~ would have been used so strongly by the enemy to write so much on my heart.
So lie by lie God revealed my sin, my shame, my foolish choices in living by the lies~ then and now. I so wanted this guy to just see me, love me, make me feel beautiful. Instead I was ignored, used, and thrown away like trash. Among many lies I believed, the one that stuck deepest was, “I’m worthless.”
God held me while I cried. And cried. And cried.
Between sobs, I shared with God a long-standing dream of mine. One in which I’d stand before a crowd of women and say, “If I could look deep into each one of your eyes, I know I would see something few of you ever notice when you look in the bathroom mirror.” I would talk about how we look at our reflection and judge so harshly our size and shape and wrinkles. But we forget the One who sees the depth of our souls in all their mess and glory. I’d tell the women, “What we most often miss in that mirror is this—God’s smile. And His loving words, ‘You, My child, are a woman of great worth.’”
I cried even more after that. “But I'll never be able to speak like that. Because no one sees that I’m a woman of worth, Lord. No one sees me!”
Then God whispered, “I do.”
When my husband spoke those simple words on our wedding day they curled my toes and made my heart skip in anticipation. And here was the God of the universe stooping down to whisper those same words to my heart.
"I do, Amy. I see you."
In that simple declaration I found my worth. I found the faith to believe it too. And the courage to make my own declaration, one that echoes the Psalmists words: “Because I am a woman of great worth in the eyes of my God, I resolve that my mouth will not sin. I will be who I am and speak accordingly.”
This morning, I opened two familiar books, The Power of a Praying Wife and The Power of a Praying Parent. Where the pages were bookmarked, I read these words:
“May Your Spirit of love reign in the words I speak.”
“Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord.”
In Praying Parent:
“A heart filled with the Holy Spirit and the truth of the Word of God will produce godly speech that brings life to the speaker as well as the listener.”
“Enable us to speak words of hope and life and to resolve that our mouths will not sin.”
These are words I’ve read and prayed for over four years now. But not until I dealt with the lies filling my heart, was I able to say them with confidence and pray them with power.
Lest I fail to be 100% honest, I’ve already stumbled a number of times. But instead of heaping guilt on my head for messing up with my mouth, I remembered. “I’m a woman of great worth.” Those words I said in frustration are not who I am nor how I want to act. So I confessed to God and to my girls and received their forgiveness.
My declaration still stands, “I’m a woman of great worth in the eyes of my God, and I resolve that my mouth will not sin.” No matter how many times I stumble, I resolve to look up and remember who I am.
As I do that, I feel my heart and my mouth being cleansed. I’m also beginning to see a clearer picture in my mirror.
What do you see your mirror?
God is smiling. His arms are open wide.
Listen closely. Hear His loving voice...
“You, My child, are a woman of great worth.”
Monday, August 01, 2005
First it was a walk in the desert. I'm still covered in sand and experiencing the burning heat of intense refining. All the way up to my eyeballs. And it isn't fun... not one little bit.
But even in the pain, it's good. God is at work.
Then God turned His spotlight on my issues with weight.
This weekend He added yet another area, my mouth. And He’s showing me how they’re all interrelated. Everything I’m experiencing can be wrapped up in one intense struggle, one question~ Am I valuable because of what I do (or say or how I look) or because of who I am?
Right now I’m wrestling this out with God. He’s winning.
At the same time, I’m still fighting Him. Still believing the lies. By the time I got to bed last night I was worn out by this struggle. I felt like a worthless failure in every facet of life. My marriage, parenting, writing, ministry, and especially the words that shouldn’t come out of my mouth but do.
In my reading earlier, I’d come across a scripture in Job 31 about making a covenant with your eyes not to look lustfully. I didn’t see how that applied to me, but God kept it on my mind. Before I fell asleep I understood why.
Job walked in integrity before God. He made a definite decision that he would not sin with his eyes and said so before God. That’s serious business. While I may not struggle with my eyes, I so struggle with my mouth. I say things with angry, bitter words instead of staying quiet and letting God speak to the pain.
Last night I hit an all-time low. And it rocked me to the core. I saw how I was letting the enemy’s lies about my worth fan the flame of my words. James 3:6 says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
I didn’t keep a reign on my words last night. I didn’t even try to. And the damage it did to my heart and that of the person receiving my words attests to the scorching world of evil an unsubmitted tongue can bring.
All I could do before I went to bed was cry out like Martin Luther did in the excellent movie about his life, “Jesus, I’m Yours. Save me! Jesus, I’m Yours. Save me!!!”
This morning, God brought Psalm 17:3-4 before my eyes. What jumped out at me were these words: “I have resolved that my mouth will not sin… by the word of your lips…” David also cried out to God in prayer saying in Psalm 19, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
I’d like to say I have made that covenant with my mouth, but I haven’t. Yet. Tonight, after my girls are asleep, I’m returning to the wrestling mat with God, praying He doesn’t have to dislocate my hip like Jacob’s before I receive His truth. I know in my head I’m valuable because I am His, but I need that in my heart. I need to hear His truth about me and make the hard choice to believe it. Then bow before Him and resolve that my mouth will not sin. Like David, I will live up to that vow only in the strength God supplies and only by keeping His Words before my eyes and ears.
Pray for me. Pray I’ll have ears to hear. And a mouth that honors God.