Tug of War

Have you ever been in a tug of war?  You know the game you play whe8686830726_57fac80c1c_bre you use a great big rope that fills your hands and is a challenge to grip.  You are the person right up front, with a six-foot expanse of goo-ey, wet mud between you and the opponents on the other side.  Losing means being dragged in.  Wet, cold and dirty!  Winning takes strength, determination and perseverance.

The second chapter of Boot Camp is about just such a tug of war!  Losing is messy, cold and painful.  Victory is sweet!  Who is the Enemy teaches a foundation scripture. Yes, there is a tug of war.  It takes place in our lives every day.  Only in this tug of war we get to choose whose team we wish to be on.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ~ John 10:10

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

Who is speaking? Jesus.  In the Amplified Bible it reads, “till it overflows.”  Do you have an idea of what abundant life looks like?  If you close your eyes and allow God and your God-given gift of imagination to day dream… what does an abundant life look like?

In my thinking true abundance is peace.  It is an overwhelming sense of peace and joy; love for one another.  Abundance includes the ability to work and prosper; relax and have recreation and fun; an end to strife in relationships; an end to the pain and struggles so many people go through physically, mentally and emotionally.  My loved ones, friends, neighbors will come to know the Lord and walk in the mercy and grace of Jesus; assured of eternal life… that’s the ultimate abundant life.  That’s what an abundant life looks like.  That’s what Jesus comes to give us.

I have mentored people and when I ask them what an abundant life looks like they sit and hang their heads and look down at their feet and they don’t have any idea… My heart cries out to those that are so down trodden, so oppressed and depressed that they don’t know, can’t even imagine. We need to know that Jesus came to give us an abundant life. If you are able get a glimpse or a glimmer of Jesus abundant life, then… praise the Lord.  We need to be able to do that.

That’s one side of the tug of war.  Go to our resource page and read Who is the Enemy, the second chapter of Boot Camp to learn who is tugging the other side of the rope; what he does and how he does it as he tries to pull you through that mud puddle.

A Prayer

 Father God I thank you for the great abundant life Jesus secured for us by His amazing love and sacrifice.  He came to give us that life both now and for all eternity.  Help me to understand what happens to bring destruction into my life instead of abundance.  In the tug of war that goes on every day… thank you that in Christ I have victory.

Are You Always Motivated?

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Did you know that every child is always motivated?  Now before you click this post shut, keep reading for just a moment.  Every child is motivated; all the time… they just aren’t always motivated to do what we as their parents would like them to do.  When my daughter was a child, instead of cleaning her bedroom she was often compelled to sleep among the mess of toys strewn across the floor.  I would find her cozy and content; wondering why I was so distraught at the mess that remained.  She had started to clean the room.  When I instructed her to do so she agreed and placed several dolls in the toy box.  But it wasn’t long and she abandoned the task.  The stuffed bear was soft and soon cleaning the room was abandoned.  Snuggly bear was comfortable and that desire for comfort became her motivation.  She only became sad when she was discovered and she still needed to clean the room.  Then she had to face the mess and the consequences.  Sound familiar?

This scenario happens in the life of all children at one time or another.  Personally, even as an adult, I see this pattern repeated in my own life.  The task is set before me, often it’s a task of my own choosing – like writing a blog; smart healthy eating; exercising to improve my fitness. They are the healthy, life enhancing activities that are part of God’s plan for us.  They all seem fine at first.  I enthusiastically begin… creating menus, setting schedules and I sign-up for a workshop.  I start to eat healthy but then give in to the sugar craving within a day or two.  Too soon I exercise less and less frequently… allowing myself to skip days… turning into weeks or months.  I’ll admit there are some writing classes I started and didn’t finish.  The effort to stay committed, to complete the task, to fight the cravings all seem huge and the rewards come too slowly or even stop for a time.  Then… the TV or a nap beckons and at that moment I don’t care about getting my blog post written.  Only later do I wish I had.  That is when I cry out, “Oh God… what have I gotten myself into?”  There are real, practical ways to experience God’s loving response to this question.

  • Remind your self what you really want and expect to accomplish…

It’s time to ask your self an uncomfortable yet real question.  Is it praise and attention you might be seeking?  In my case, not everyone will rave about what I am doing, or even notice.  I’ll probably never do American Ninja Warrior or even the Senior Olympics… but can I get a little stronger and healthier than I am right now?  I like to say I want 62 to be the new 50… but maybe just an energetic, comfortable 62 is a great accomplishment for today.

  • Say no to Huck Finn… the kid inside your self that wants you to play hooky and skip out on the work.

Who are you listening to?  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the busyness and responsibilities of life instead of seeking God for His direction and allowing him to prioritize our day.  Instead of writing, I fuss about the dirty dishes and having to feed the dogs; there’s so much to do I give up and slouch on the couch with a book instead.  The truth is the battle is not actually me against all the other activities I could get involved with.  The battle is inside me…. I need to say, “no” to my personal Huck Finn.

  • Take a break instead of stopping all together.

The reality is that keeping going is hard; fatigue, discouragement, even boredom sets in.  Inside, everything says, “Stop and you’ll feel better.”  And it doesn’t get whispered… it’s loud!  So… that’s the time to stop.  Just when you stop… stop smart!  Take a break before the pressure to stop gets going inside.  Set a time for a break soon enough you might even be tempted to skip the break.  Don’t!  Take the break and enjoy the rest.  Then set a timer for the break to end.  If I write for an hour (or sometimes sit and look at a blank computer screen) I stop and take a ten minute break… stretch, breath, eat a snack… but when the timer sounds to get back to the computer it’s time to start again

As a child of God, maturing in life is a matter of understanding motivation. I need to understand that I am always motivated and begin to ask myself what is motivating me toward God and what motivates me away from Him.  Acceptance, praise and value are great motivators.  God wired the need for these things into my DNA.  In my head I know that God gives me them freely… but sometimes in the midst of my daily struggles it doesn’t feel that way.  That’s when fear and pride motivate me away from God’s plan.  Fear and pride make it easy to allow other things to crowd in.  I am soon looking for an alternative… comfort in the form of reasons and excuses for my failure.

  • Stop imagining the negative outcomes and start seeing what God sees… His plan. Write it down!

God sees His child trying her best… full of imagination and never in doubt of her abilities… thrilled to be off on a new adventure. God sees His child with her own unique way of living life… the more crooked the path the more interesting the journey.  God sees His child standing in victory and glowing with enthusiasm.  It’s not what she has accomplished that impresses Him… it’s her trust and determination that bursts His heart with pride.

God’s love is our everlasting motivator and the source of all our strength.  His ways are real and practical, challenging and exhilarating; with Him all things are possible.  The joy is in taking on the task and seeing it through to completion.

A Prayer

 Father God I am so thankful for the awesome plans you have for me.  You have given me everything I need and I surrender my desires, gifts and talents back to you… you are faithful to guide me every step of the way.  Help me to stay motivated by your love for me instead of measuring myself by the praise and attention of others.  Fill me with a sense of purpose with every step I take… every small accomplishment.  Help me to not give up!   

Scripture: Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:4; Philippians 1:6

Discover Your Core

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I never thought I would have one of these but… I have a personal trainer.  Several months ago I began a physical fitness program.  At the time I started I was in pain throughout my body, had terrible balance, even the motion and effort required for everyday activities challenged me.  My poor condition was the effects of an old injury, an auto-immune disease and overall poor physical fitness.  I was desperate to feel better and I finally faced the fact that I needed to take a hard look at my physical fitness if I was ever going to see physical change take place. From the first day my trainer has told me… “It all starts with your core!”

I found out what he meant when I started the workouts.  I discovered my core… the abdominal muscles at the center of my body.  These muscles, when fit and strong, stabilize my spine; enable me to keep my balance; ensure that I move properly and protect me from injury.  Right from the beginning the exercises required me to use those core muscles.  I was constantly challenged by them… the exercises were uncomfortable.  The possibility of further pain or injury made me anxious… my trainer validated my nervousness and encouraged me to continue the exercise.  He told me to do them consistently, diligently and with a constant awareness to use proper form.  I finally decided that it doesn’t matter how I feel about the exercises… I just do them.  The result has been slow, steady improvement.

Just as my physical fitness stems from my core muscles, my spiritual fitness stems from my core beliefs.  When emotional pain and stress escalates my assurance of God’s promises wane; doubt and fear come in.  I get desperate for change in my life.  Three core beliefs must be strong to allow change to take place despite my feelings and circumstances!  I must decide what I believe in my heart!

  • I must decide to believe that “God is.”

As simple as this may sound – It is easy for me to give mental agreement to God out of habit, or fear or the fact that I have heard about him since I was a child.  However at my core I must decide that God exists, that He is real and no matter how I feel I refuse to let go of that certainty.

  • I must decide that “God doesn’t lie.”

Before Jesus, I had never in my life experienced someone who didn’t lie to me.  I had learned to lie too… for my own protection and then simply to get my own way.  I assumed everyone lied.  But for the Word of God to mean anything to me I need to believe at my core that God does not lie.  Only then I can take all the lies I hear… I’m not good enough; it’s never going to get any better… lies that steal my joy and peace – and replace them with God’s truth.  His word, His promises, everything He says I am is true.

  • I must decide that “God is good.”

There are times when my feelings all scream at me that this last one isn’t true… how could it be with everything that has happened to me in my life?  When I first surrendered my life to Jesus I was frightened and alone. (Life Saving Truth)  Yet deep inside I had a glimmer of something that said, “God is good.”  I didn’t understand where it came from and didn’t spend time trying to analysis it.  I just decided to believe it. We all have a glimmer of the goodness of God… He’s in sunsets, oceans and stars.  At the core of our hearts we must decide that God is good!

Those decisions to believe God still get challenged daily and I make those same decisions over and over again!  When I falter in them I struggle and my feelings grow monstrously dangerous.  Exposing my core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  The awesome thing is that when I do I expose the lies that keep me from God.  Then, I can replace them with the truth!

When I settle on those three decisions I have a rock solid foundation.  I believe that what it means to surrender my life to Jesus is that Jesus is actually alive within me and He is Lord of my life.  From that foundation I begin to set my feelings aside and seek what I need from God… through His Word, through prayer and through the comfort and counsel of other Christians.  I begin to experience the goodness of God.  My core beliefs keep me stable and balanced… able to move forward as His loved and cherished child… not necessarily because I feel that way but because He says that is who I am.  The decision in my heart, to believe God, is my core.

Everything that happens in your life requires the same core beliefs.  Exposing your core to things that strengthen it can be uncomfortable – downright painful at times.  I want to validate your feelings and bring a measure of comfort and encouragement.  I also want to encourage you to discover your core.  Ask yourself in the midst of the struggles… What do I believe about God?

If you are struggling with any or all of these core beliefs, please feel free to contact me by completing the “prayer request” form or the “contact me” form.  Both are confidential and are not posted on the webpage but are emailed directly to me.  You may indicate if you would like an email response from me.  Or… you can simply add a comment below and post it to this blog.

A Prayer

 Thank you Father that I am who you say I am… your precious daughter in Christ Jesus.  Thank you that I can seek answers to my struggles and trials; wisdom for my everyday life; and comfort for the pain and turmoil this life holds at times.  Thank you Father – your Word brings peace to my heart.  I have decided to believe that everything you say is true and good.  Thank you Father for Jesus… he is the strength at my core! 

Scripture: Hebrews 6:18; Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:9-10

Life Saving Truth

Have you ever felt like you were losing your grip on life? I found myself hanging precariously, my grip strained and my heart pounding, on the verge of plummeting even to my death.  There were times I struggled to find a moment of peace within my heart.  I was without hope and sat in utter confusion and despair.  I was severely depressed and although I hesitate to reveal this… my mind was trained on only one thing… the act of suicide.    God has a lot to say about losing our grip.  In fact he tells us repeatedly to do exactly the opposite.  God tells us to hold fast!  I pray you are not in this place of despair… yet we all can relate to this in some measure.  When our hands start to slip, when our arms get weak and when our hearts are heavy… God says, “Hold fast my child” to the hope that is in Christ!

  • Share your life… you never know what God will do with it.

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    Fabia and I ~ thirty years later

I was 30 years old and committed to the psych ward in our local hospital for the 3rd time in 1 ½ years.  Each time I had spent 5-6 weeks in the hospital, away from my family.  My children were 8, 6 and 18 months old. My young husband was ill equipped to deal with me and was often frustrated and angry. My only other family was my mother who lived in Hawaii.  I had not seen her in 12 years.  I felt the most alone I had ever been!

Then a young woman who was my next door neighbor came to visit me on the psych unit.  I barely knew her really, and I was shocked to see her.  I knew that I was drawn to her but couldn’t say why at the time.  She was warm and loving and completely non-judgmental.  I knew she was a Christian but she didn’t preach at me or scold me. The biggest thing she did for me was validate how I was feeling… she acknowledged that I was hurt, alone, scared and frustrated and that my reasons for feeling that way were understandable and real.  She would just sit and listen and give me a hug and then say a prayer – nothing long and preachy… just simple and heart felt.  One visit she told me I needed Jesus as my Lord and I prayed with her to surrender my life to Him.  It was still not real to me even after the prayer.

  • Share God’s Word… it holds the power of life itself.

The same visit my neighbor left me a little pamphlet with scripture at the top of each page and a short commentary below.  I was raised in church and I had heard scripture read at services my entire life.  I had never opened a Bible on my own.  I didn’t have one at the time.   Making the connection between scripture and what I was feeling and experiencing was completely foreign to me.

When I received that pamphlet I was on suicide watch in lock-up on the unit, sitting on a bed with paper sheets and wearing paper pajamas.  One scripture seemed like it jumped off the page at me.  It was 2nd Timothy 1:7… For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  Not all versions say “sound mind” but that pamphlet did.  I read that and right away said to myself, that is what I want!  A sound mind!  I knew fear… I could feel fear in every fiber of my body at that very moment.  I knew powerlessness… I had never been so powerless in my entire life!  As far as love was concerned I wanted to be loved but I was convinced I was unlovable.  Still… I thought I might live without love if I could just have a sound mind.

  • Hold fast to your hope in Christ!

Then… the crucial part to all of this took place.  I decided to believe that scripture!  I decided to believe that God was going to give me a sound mind… I didn’t know how but I decided I was going to find out.  I thought I might ask my neighbor for a little help, at least I felt a tiny bit safe with her.  I knew that the first thing I needed to do was get out of lock-up and then off the unit and back to my husband and children.  I took that scripture and I clung to the life saving truth it held!  I read and reread it.  God’s Word was working in my mind and heart that allowed change to take place despite my feelings and circumstances!

It’s hard to hold on in life.  To “hold fast” is all about what we hang on to… and has little to do with our own effort and energy.   It requires action on our part.  In this case I read and reread 2 Timothy 1:7 until it became a part of me.   Once we reach out… God’s faithfulness takes over.  God took one verse and with it he refocused my mind and calmed my heart.  Since that time He has done the same thing over and over again in my life.  Yes… holding fast requires action on our part.  We need to be deliberate about doing this simple sounding suggestion because too often the effort to do it seems huge.  But here’s the amazing grace in it… as you stretch out your hand and heart towards Him, Jesus is already there with his strength and victory.  When it seems like you are losing your grip… HOLD FAST!

A Prayer

 Thank you Father for your faithfulness, love and mercy toward me.  You reached out your hand and held me from destruction; you nurtured me and kept me safe.  Your word is truth.  Help me to seek your word, your wisdom and guidance in every situation and circumstance in my life.  Thank you for placing others in my life, they give comfort and love in just the right measure. Thank you Father for the life of Christ in me… together we do life inseparable and victorious. 

 Scripture: Hebrews 3:6; Deuteronomy 30:20; Proverbs 3:13-18; Jeremiah 31:33

Recipe for Change

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Sometimes I wonder if this mess… the thing about myself that gives me the most trouble every day… will ever change! But then I remember that years ago someone shared with me the key to change in my life. Although I don’t remember who gave me the recipe, I have never forgotten this nugget of insight.

Grace + Truth + Time = Change.

It’s such a simple recipe… just three ingredients, mix well and voila… you have change, right? But is it really that easy? I know for a fact that it’s not always easy… you can really hurt people by trying to say change is too easy. Some change is hard, extremely hard and painful as it happens. Yet it’s not impossible and the result of hard fought change is fulfilling and rewarding in amazing ways. You can also hurt people by trying to say change is too hard. Can a person really change? Are there things that a person cannot change? Sure there are! Physical elements such as gender and intelligence you cannot change. There are some things you can change and some things you can’t… there is wisdom and grace in knowing and accepting that.

Perhaps to fully understand the recipe for change we need to make sure we have all the ingredients. I’ll just tell you, you have them all at your disposal… grace and truth and time. They are available to everyone, given as a gift from God. And to those who surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord these ingredients are always and forever changing you… into the glory of God He created you to be. It’s like an empty pottery mixing bowl… patiently molded and crafted to the right shape and size, painted, glazed and fired to perfection but still missing something. It is still without any substance that brings glory to the one who crafted it.

You need to put something in the mixing bowl… mix well, knead and allow it to rise, then bake in the oven of life to produce the awesome smell and taste of a glorious creation. In Christ, that’s what is happening to you… Jesus came into that hallow place within you and brought grace and truth! Jesus, the one who came from the Father and made his dwelling among us is full of grace and truth. Jesus lives in you… and he is always working to produce change.

Jesus brings Grace…

What is grace? God’s grace is all at once 100% of His kindness, tolerance and patience shown toward each and every one of us. It works like this… I know my shortcomings, my failures and the things I just plain don’t like about myself. I’m my own best critic and worst enemy at times. Left to my own devises I will beat myself up and become buried in shame. Then Jesus comes in with grace… he tells me he loves and values me just the way I am.

Grace reminds me that no matter what I am up against… when I’m an exhausted, frustrated Mom of young children; an overweight, out of shape office worker addicted to sugar and TV; an impatient, critical wife in a quickly failing marriage; a hurt, angry daughter trying to deal with an aging parent… no matter what I am up against ~ Grace is essential in creating an environment that is right for change! On the basis of grace I can ease up on myself a little… maybe even a lot! Grace tells me that there is a reason for the struggles. Grace is love… God’s love for me just the way I am; it is also God loving me enough to not leave me that way! Grace tells me that it’s not me but Him who is making the change in me happen.

Jesus brings truth…

Truth is the essential ingredient that brings about change. Truth needs to be folded into my mind and heart and kneaded throughout my life. Truth begins to highlight areas of my life that I am hurting myself and hurting others. When truth comes in it challenges me! It exposes lies that I may have believed for decades… about myself, about others, about God. Truth corrects and protects… the Word of God comes in and says if I keep going the way I am going I will crash and get hurt. Truth makes change necessary, practical and most of all attainable.

Truth isn’t always comfortable… I see my shortcomings but that doesn’t mean I want anyone else, including God, exposing them. And when God comes in with His loving truth that contradicts the condemning lies I believe about myself, I’m really no happier. Truth isn’t natural to me… sometimes truth confuses me… truth can be frightening! That’s where time comes in!

Jesus gives us time…

Time gives the grace of Jesus, mixed with the truth He brings, the opportunity to work its way through my mind and heart and gradually bring change. In my life, time lets me see the things I need to change yet makes room for the fact that I can’t fix it that first day. Being given time is crucial to change!

Grace + Truth + Time… I believe everyone is doing the best they can with what they have! Some people may have a hard time with that statement… Jesus does not. The grace He brings into my relationship with Him assures me of that. Does that mean I can stay in the mess I see in some areas of my life today? No… truth brings a responsibility to surrender to the change God wants to make in me. But God gives me time! Time respects the need to build trust… to reshape my thinking… to discard old habits… and to feel good right where I am while God is changing me!

Prayer

Thank you Father for the awesome gift of Jesus and all he brings into my life! Such a simple and clear recipe for the change I desperately want to see happen in my life… everything I need is mine through Jesus! Help me experience the grace He brings. Help me give myself grace instead of the self-condemnation I can so easily slip into when I see my shortcomings. Help me experience and accept the truth of your Word. Balance grace and truth in my life so it brings about lasting change. Thank you Father that the time of my life is one continuous journey… with you loving, comforting and changing me every step of the way!

Scripture: John 1:14; Romans 2:4; Malachi 2:6; Ecclesiastes 3:1-12