About Prayer

It’s not as natural as some make it out to be… As I’m learning more about prayer… I’ve been encouraged and challenged by Andy Stanley/Northpoint Community Church’s series called Red Letter Prayers. I encourage you to download the podcast on iTunes or watch online!

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Monday, Monday

Normally Mondays are not my favorite days (as with many other people), but today has been especially calm, relaxing and happy. I don’t know if it’s the feeling of fall being around the corner… with the crisp and cool air, warm colors, comforting foods… but today has been a different Monday than most. I think the things that have contributed to my happy day are:

  1. Having both a relaxing AND productive weekend (if that’s even possible to have the two together).
  2. I was motivated to wake up early this morning to begin my day (which hasn’t happened in a while – I’ve been waking up already exhausted with the day’s upcoming events lately).
  3. I got to sit and enjoy my egg white/chicken sausage/gruyere omelet and coffee with House Hunters for breakfast… without fear of having to rush to the next thing or guilt that I was putting off something important.
  4. I was able to run a few errands and then realize how much time was still left to work, read and write this afternoon! (Although I’ve spent a couple of meaningless hours on Pinterest, Facebook and dreaming of decorating a high end loft in a big city one day… haha.)
  5. I have been loving my study on Nehemiah by Kelly Minter and learning about the benefits and discipline of prayer… I’m being challenged by the words of Nehemiah and the things he did and felt for others.
  6. And sometimes it’s just nice to be able to be at home… I’ve loved that for the past few days… I think it’s refueled me enough to send me back out the next four days into a chaotic schedule of driving and meeting and talking and oh so much more.

So, happy Monday. I wish you one as good as mine.

Forgiveness (Part Two)

Forgiveness allows you to no longer be a victim of your past hurts. Willingness to forgive opens you up to the freedom to move on. Forgiveness is healthy: physically, emotionally, spiritually… People who are taught how to forgive become less angry, more hopeful, less depressed and anxious, less stressed and more confident. So how can you move toward forgiveness and overcoming hurt? How do you change your expectations to better accept that there are no guarantees in life and you cannot change the hurts and disappointments from the past?

  1. Acknowledge that you have been hurt… recognize the feeling. Realize that staying upset is because you are having difficulty releasing your expectations and desire to control outcomes. Realize that YOU are the person distressed about the problem… most likely not the person who has hurt you.
  2. Articulate the unmet expectation. Sometimes we don’t even know the expectations exist until they are not met. 
  3. Commit to changing your demands regarding what you cannot control. Change the way you respond to disappointment and hurt by making your expectations more fluid and adaptable.
  4. Take back your power by taking back how you feel: never lose sight of the good things of life. Acknowledge and be thankful for your blessings. Look at the beauty around you. Look at others who have forgiven and who love and how you can do the same.
  5. Be able to describe what happened that was hurtful and how it made you feel. Tell someone who you trust, someone who will be helpful in your process of forgiving. This helps you to let go of the hurt and feel as though you are not alone. It also opens you up for receiving encouragement and accountability to release the hurt and not dwell on your bitterness.
  6. Remember that forgiveness is for YOU and not THEM.

I just heard the song “Losing” by Tenth Avenue North, and it fits well with learning how to release the hurts we cannot control and stop feeling like we are the ones losing…

I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong
Don’t they know it’s wrong
Well maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard

This is love or this is hate.
We all have a choice to make

Oh, Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Well it’s only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that’s mine
Seventy times seven times
Cause Lord it doesn’t feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
Though I guess it’s not that much
When I think of what You’ve done.

This is love or this is hate.
We gotta a choice to make

Oh Father won’t You forgive them
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin’

Why do we think that our hate’s gonna break a hard heart
We’re rippin’ arms over wars that don’t need to be fought
Cause pride wont let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up but it’s just to burn them down
We think our pain is own apologies and get them to stop
Well truth be told it doesn’t matter if they’re sorry or not
Cause freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Your mercy and Your grace, Father, send Your angels down

I choose freedom… and in regard to forgiveness, that means often choosing to do the hard thing… I’ll keep working on it.

Forgiveness (Part One)

To forgive is the highest most beautiful form of love. In return you will receive untold peace and happiness (quote by Robert Muller).

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you (quote by Lewis Smedes).

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart, forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits (quote by Hannah Moore).

Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; Revenging one makes you but even with him; Forgetting it puts you above him (quote by Benjamin Franklin).

Forgiveness is hard. It feels unnatural. And yet, we cannot move forward from hurts without it. Forgiveness is something that I have often struggled with… and something that even now I’m trying to figure out how to do better. One of my classes this spring gave some helpful thoughts on the importance of and benefits of forgiveness. The topic has been on the forefront of my thoughts this past week as I have fought to release some feelings of bitterness. So, I thought I’d share what I have learned and and am processing for personal growth in this area…

The difficulty of forgiving is figuring out how to remain peaceful when someone hurts or disappoints you. It isn’t easy to recover to a state of peace when you are mistreated. At the heart of our wounds is some event or thing we really hoped for that simply did not occur… an expectation that was not fulfilled. When we hold on to these hurts, they build bitterness. And that bitterness becomes profound when we lack the ability to accept that those things did not turn out our way. Grievances are formed when we are unable to deal successfully with not getting what we want and the disappointment and hurt takes up too much space and energy in our mind.

What keeps a grievance alive?

  • Talking about it over and over and over and over…
  • Letting your thoughts ruminate about the hurt many times throughout the day…
  • Finding yourself growing tired with the amount of time you spend thinking about things/hurts from the past…

Thinking about a problem more than twice is thinking about it too much… and can make the event a stronghold in your life. Thinking of the hurt repeatedly causes you to become stuck and dangerously close to becoming a controlled victim of your past hurts and bitterness.

Things to remember when we have been hurt:

  • Most offenses are committed without the intention of hurting anyone. We can never really know someone else’s thoughts or exactly why they acted cruelly. We don’t even know the painful things that have happened to the offender that have played a role in their offending behavior.
  • Being hurt is common. If we look carefully, we can find at least ten people who have been hurt in very similar ways. The intensity of our hurt and bitterness can be fueled by the idea that no one else will understand.
  • To overcome hurt, we often have to release ideas like: life should be fair; people should be fair; people are supposed to always be kind; life is supposed to be easy; so-and-so should have treated me better.

Next post: how to possibly change your thinking about hurt and disappointment to help you forgive and more forward…

Climate Change

North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA, recently did a series called Climate Change(I listen to podcasts during my drive to and from Nashville throughout the week.) Basically, the point is that “the most critical climate” may not be what you observe outside your window, but the one “created inside a room when you walk into it.” The climate is the condition that prevails in general, or over a long period of time. Every person has a unique “climate” that she/he carries, and that climate can impact… and even predict… relationships. So if someone’s climate is full of bitterness, frustration, pessimism and pride, relationships will probably be rocky. Other people will more than likely be on edge or overwhelmed around those individuals. Others may grow more frustrated themselves and pour on/reinforce negativity, or they may choose to distance themselves from the bitter pessimist altogether because of her/his innate knack for darkening the room. Know anyone like that? Know someone that instantly creates an emotional or even behavioral response within you as soon as they walk through the door… as soon as you hear their voice?

It’s easy to point out the flaws and frustrations in other people. But it’s vital from time to time that we take a moment to look inward. What if I am that person? What if my climate instantly causes other people to withdraw… to be overwhelmed and frustrated… to feel uncomfortable… to close up and not fully share or be themselves… The first sermon of the series challenged people to ask some honest, close friends, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?” The speaker challenged that if you would be willing to ask the question, be prepared for both positive and negative. If you give others room to offer constructive criticism, you better be open to receiving it. And if the point is to use it as an opportunity to grow and not argue, listen to feedback without defensiveness. I’ll be honest, it was a tough question to ask… it wasn’t necessarily anything that surprised me, but more of confirmed some weaknesses that I was afraid to face. I really only asked Tony, but I hope to ask a few more friends in the coming months (feedback from him was enough to last me a while, haha). So I’ll keep asking… keep working… keep striving to become a person who is seen as safe, loving, accepting, open, generous, hard working, gentle… it will require some pruning (John 15:2), but I believe it will be well worth it as I work toward a climate change of my own.

So whether you eat or dri…

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:30).

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

This is my motivation to try eating in new and healthier ways. This is my motivation to “not be lazy” (mine and Tony’s favorite new phrase). In my striving to become the best version of the self I have been created to be… as I become a cook, counselor, daughter, friend, growing follower of Jesus, social worker, traveler, wife and whatever else… my striving is that in whatever I do, I do it with all my heart, all for the glory of God. It’s a continual process. I celebrate milestones along the way, but I know it’s a lifelong journey. There are bound to be mistakes, letdowns and detours… but I will press on. I will not grow weary in doing what’s right because I trust God’s promise to reward my perseverance (Galatians 6:9) in all things, in all areas, in all decisions. God has blessed me with life and health, I will do what I can to care for myself.

Above all else, guard you…

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23, NIV1984).

What is King Solomon urging us to do? Guard our hearts.

Why? Because our heart is a wellspring of life. Another version says that the heart determines the course of your life (NLT). Even another version states that everything you do flows from it (NIV). Our hearts are extremely valuable, worthy of protection as our most priceless treasure. Michael Hyatt says that it is the “essence of who you are. It is your authentic self- the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires and your passions live. It is the part of you that connects with God and other people.”

And how important is it that we learn to guard our heart? Very! It should be considered above all else… it should be a top priority, demanding urgency and intentional action on our part.

If our heart is of ultimate value, then it can be very vulnerable to disappointment, disillusionment and deep discouragement. I have realized recently that when I don’t deliberately set up protective barriers around my heart, I set myself up for wounds of disappointment that can so easily turn into bitterness. I believe there is much to hope for through God’s loving and graceful purpose. So, the act of “guarding” doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a pessimist and always preparing for the worst. It does, however, mean that I need to learn how to appropriately balance my hope with acceptance that things will not always be perfect or work out just in the way I want them to. Learning to accept letdowns and relational grief is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to make wise choices in who I allow to be in my “inner circle” (those people who influence my thoughts, feelings, behavior) is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to rely on the God who crafted my inmost being from the very beginning and created me with intrinsic value is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to show grace, humility and wisdom in my daily life is a part of protecting my heart. Learning to release the circumstances and harbored hurts that I cannot control or heal on my own is a part of protecting my heart. Because if my heart determines the course of my life, I would much prefer for it to be guided by hope and peace as opposed to hurt and bitterness.

This is the stuff that dr…

This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use

So break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations
I’ve got a new appreciation
It’s not the end of the world

…some of the lyrics from Francesca Battistelli’s song, “This Is The Stuff…” It helped me to let go a little this morning and remember that I’m made for God’s glory (yesterday’s podcast: “A Weird Purpose” by Brad Cooper from New Spring Church).

Obsessions

…ideas or thoughts that continually preoccupy or INTRUDE on a person’s mind… the things I over-think and think about for way too long, way too often…

  • My to-do list – I can often spend more time creating, listing and organizing my tasks than actually accomplishing them…
  • Plans – this sort-of fits within the to-do list category… but includes dates that go on the calendar that I have to fit my to-do’s around…
  • Times I mess up – I can replay embarrassing moments or word-mishaps over and over, wishing I could take things back or have a second chance to stay things stronger, funnier, more graceful, more patiently or simply not at all…

Because these are “intruders” of my thoughts, they are often difficult to ignore. However, with each day I realize more and more how I have to be careful to reign them in. Here’s why:

  1. My to-do list can become an idol directing my life. It causes me to spend time organizing tasks over spending special time in prayer or with people who need quality time. It can consume me with the idea that I can control or fix everything around me… it can cause me to become overwhelmed with duties, expectations and ultimately… “small stuff”. The biggest challenge to this struggle was April 1’s devotion in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. She writes, “You yearn for a simplified lifestyle, so that your communication with me can be uninterrupted. But I challenge you to relinquish the fantasy of an uncluttered world. Accept each day as it comes, and find [Jesus] in the midst of it all… your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with [Jesus]. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with [Jesus], even if many things remain undone at the end of the day.”
  2. I think planning is good… it helps you to set goals and be prepared for what is comingHowever, obsessing about planning limits my spontaneity and ability to “roll with it.” I have also come to realize that it can be overwhelming for other people. Whereas having a plan decreases my anxiety by allowing me to have clear expectations of what will happen, too many questions/details can cause stress in other people. It causes me to be unfairly frustrated with another’s low interest in planning when some instances are actually no big deal. This tension causes me to go against my goal to be approachable, relaxed and fun to be around.
  3. Focusing on my weaknesses, insecurities and mistakes negates the grace that God has lavished upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9). It also allows mindless things to occupy too much space in my mind.

So, I’m learning to let go of control and work on the things that I can change… I’m learning to obsess a little bit less and choose to focus on/discern what are more important things… I’m learning to be more comfortable in the moment and experience the freedom of accepting the things I cannot do anything about.

As we spend focused time …

As we spend focused time with the Lord in the Book of Nehemiah, my prayer is that we will hear His voice and see His path for our lives with finer clarity. I know we all have more to do than we can fit in daylight’s hours, but TRY NOT TO RUSH. Sit with Him long enough for the treasures of His Word to emerge like rainforest creatures sneaking out of their protective logs or leaping from their nests in plain enough view for you to be pin awe of their splendor… So many surprises are waiting.

… from the introduction of Session One of Kelly Minter’s study on Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break…. I’m looking forward to it already. And am reminded that although spending time in prayer and reading Scripture is a discipline… it is NOT TO BE RUSHED.

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