Sunday, November 21, 2010

Yoke's on You!

“My YOKE is EASY and my BURDEN is LIGHT!”

DON'T STOP READING! I know that in our overly busy lives those words of Christ's have become cliche.

Seriously, what comes to your mind when you read them? You may be thinking, "Easy? Nothing in life is easy." Maybe you believe the words of the Bible but you feel that God has given you way too much to handle so you don't have a clue what He expects you to hear when He says that the burden is light.

Many of us are not familiar with what a yoke is so it’s difficult for us to envision what He is saying. A yoke literally is a bar of wood constructed in a way that unites two animals together so that they work side by side in the fields or in drawing loads. A farmer generally binds a more experienced oxen with a younger one. The experienced one pulls the majority of the load while the younger one walks alongside and learns.

With that in mind let’s read the above verse again in the full context of Matthew 11:28-30 because when we are followers of Jesus, we are yoked to Him. :

“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.”

"COME...LEARN..." He says.

The words of one of my Seminary professors have often redirected my thoughts and actions over the past 16 years. He stated that if we come out of a situation or conversation feeling exhausted and frustrated, we need to ask ourselves if it was our agenda that we were pushing rather than going with the Holy Spirit’s agenda. Wow!!

We can choose to run ahead of Him and get exhausted because the yoke is then chafing like crazy. We can choose to lag behind in fear when we’re being nudged by Him to take things in a particular direction that we are maybe a little hesitant to take. OR we can choose to relax and rest because we know that He is pulling the majority of the load and we are learning from Him as we walk beside Him.

As a follower of Jesus this yoke is on you as well. If you've learned to take on more than your share, it will take a little time to retrain your thinking but consistently choosing to slow down when you realize that you've run ahead will eventually show you that this yoke is one that makes the burden light!! May you find increasing rest as you continue to learn to walk beside Him on a daily basis.

If you are not a follower of Jesus, I encourage you to accept His invitation to come to Him…and find rest.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dating 'Game' Confusion

Are you single? Or in a dating relationship? Do you sometimes get confused by all the contradictory dating advice that‘s out there? In our society it’s almost become a competitive sport or game but with shifting rules and regulations.

Sometimes it resembles the game of ‘Dutch Blitz’ with everyone laying their cards on the table as fast as they can like in ‘Speed Dating.’ In other situations, dating seems so slow and strategic like a game of chess and we’re left wondering who made the last move. Then again, it could be ‘Scrabble’ with each person choosing their words very carefully trying to get the highest points, hoping to win in the end.

So what are the rules? Are daters to follow the advice of the author who says that men and women are from different planets? Or are the instructions in the book that speaks of capturing your man by using time tested rules more accurate? If you are a Christian, do you do your research thinking that perhaps there is a distinct game played in Christian circles? But even here, we find confusion. Do we kiss dating good-bye as Joshua Harris suggests? Or should we listen to Jeremy Clark and give dating a chance? Which rules should we follow to win at this dating game?

IS dating a game with rules to follow? The word game is defined as a diversion, entertainment, recreation; a competition or contest; game (as in hunting) is about getting your prey, hitting the target. We take a gamble in any game, which means taking a chance…risking…venturing out...facing uncertainty. In that sense, it definitely is a game don’t you think? Except that not too many want to be someone’s prey.

Maybe sincere dating has more to do with relationship than the competition it has often become in our environment. Relationship is defined as ‘alliance, association, attachment, bond, connection.” If it is about relationship, then it involves our hearts, our choices. The tables are then turned as it were, in that relationship is about making the other person a winner, building them up. In some ways following the ‘game’ paradigm with it’s concrete rules to follow seems easier. If I lose I can blame it to some degree on the structure of the game so my heart is left intact.

But if it is about relationship, then our hearts have to be involved. This definitely feels like a gamble. As a Christian, these thoughts about the heart put me in mind of another relationship for a moment. God wants us not for what we can do for Him but He wants us for who we are. He wants our hearts. But what exactly does that mean? And why would a holy God desire my very human heart? The awesome thing is that we discover His overwhelming grace as we allow ourselves to be real with Him. He embraces us warts and all just when we think that He will be repelled by us. Slowly we start to realize that it is in exposing all aspects of our hearts to Him that a closer bond is created with Him. And it is in receiving this amazing acceptance from Him that we begin to do all that we can for Him to show Him our love in return. Sounds like a good plan for that dating relationship too doesn’t it? Albeit a more risky on than the earlier game plan.

When I first wrote this article several years ago, I serendipitously discovered a book by Nancy Groom after writing that last paragraph. In Risking Intimacy: Overcoming Fear, Finding Rest, Groom says that while we can find understanding about the differences of men and women from books like Venus and Mars these tools are merely cosmetic. She believes that they do not help us deal with our terror nor our stubborn self centeredness.

What is that terror that she speaks of and how do we protect ourselves from experiencing it rather than risking genuine intimacy? Groom and Larry Crabb both take this issue back to the Garden of Eden. Since the beginning of time, “men would rather wait than move so they don’t have to risk failure, and women would rather move than wait so they don’t have to risk aloneness.” The whole course of the world was changed because Adam, in his silence, failed to bless Eve. She on the other hand used her words wrongly choosing to move ahead rather than waiting for an answer from either God or Adam. Not hard to relate that to the dating scene is it?

So, who wants to play ‘Risk’? Authentic intimacy is risky. Men, you will need to risk inspite of your fear of appearing inadequate. To build that connection, you will need to speak to a woman’s heart even when you don’t have a clue what to say. In his book The Silence of Adam, Larry Crabb says that the only way to be manly is to first be godly. Okay, so men are called to walk into their terror of chaos and trust God by speaking. And we, as women, are called to walk into our own terror of disconnection and trust God more by keeping silent. We need to learn to wait…to not forge ahead…to trust…at the risk of being lonely in the process. It is in these kinds of risks where our hearts feel the most exposed.

Nancy Groom states that human beings often demand a formula which explains why we have ALL those various and sundry dating books on the market. She goes on to say that God does not usually speak to any of us in specifics but He does promise not to leave us or forsake us as we enter the terrifying unpredictable chaos of relationship.

Ultimately then, there are no rules or formulas in Christian dating except to love the LORD our God with all of our heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:6) and to love as Christ, the servant leader, loved the Church (Ephesians 5:28, 29 and I Peter 3:7) . Entering relationships in this way will require utter dependence on the God who alone knows the beginning from the end, and who has told us only that in the end He wins. (Groom p. 149)

Reading the ‘How to” books on dating have left us less ‘real’ than ever, afraid that we might break the cardinal rule. Loving God and trusting Him in the process is our desire. But in our humanness, we may still often be more inclined to play ‘Scrabble’ than ‘Risk’. Whether you are married or single, I hope that you can say with me, as II Corinthians 4: 1,2, says, “Since God has so generously let us in on what He is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard masks…no games…no manipulation….” (The Message)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Heart Fully Alive

Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive is a book that has greatly impacted me. The following are some quotes as found at:

"To find God, you must look with all your heart. To remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart. To hear his voice, you must listen with all your heart. To love him, you must love with all your heart. You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart."

"[The Enemy's] plan from the beginning was to assault the heart... Make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don't want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossible for them."

-- John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead", p 49, 51


"The tabernacle itself was a picture of something... amazing. It is a kind of mythic symbol, given to us to help us understand a deeper eternal reality. Each person knows that now his body is the temple of God: 'Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?' (1 Cor. 6:19). Indeed it is. 'Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?' (1 Cor. 3:16). Okay -- each of us is now the temple of God. So where, then, is the Holy of Holies?"

"Your heart."

"That's right -- your heart. Paul teaches in Ephesians that 'Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith' (3:17). God comes down to dwell in us, in our hearts. Now, we know this: God cannot dwell where there is eveil. 'You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell' (Ps. 5:4). Something pretty dramatic must have happened in our hearts, then, to make them fit to be the dwelling place of God."

"Of course, none of this can happen for us until we give our lives back to God. We cannot know the joy or the life or the freedom of heart I've described until we surrender our lives to Jesus and surrender them totally... We turn, and give ourselves body, soul, and spirit back to God, asking him to cleanse our hearts and make them new. And he does. He gives us a new heart. And he comes to dwell there, in our hearts."

-- John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead", p 68


"I was trying to make the case that the new covenant means nothing less than this: the heart is good... Your heart is good.

"What would happen if you believed it, if you came to the place where you knew it was true? Your life would never be the same... 'If we believed that... we could do anything. We would follow him anywhere!"

"You probably can't imagine there being a glory in your life, let alone one that the Enemy fears. But remember -- things are not what they seem. We are not what we seem. You probably believed that your heart was bad too. I pray that fog of poison gas from the pit of hell is fading away in the wind of God's truth. And there is more. Not only does Christ say to you that your heart is good, he invites you now out of the shadows to unveil your glory. You have a role you never dreamed of having..."

"We are in the process of being unveiled. We were created to reflect God's glory, born to bear his image, and he ransomed us to reflect that glory again. Every heart was given a mythic glory, and that glory is being restored..."

"Does the Bible teach that Christians are nothing but sinners -- that there is nothing good in us? The answer is no! You have a new heart. Your heart is good. That sinful nature you battle is not who you are..."

"We have no idea who we really are. Whatever glory bestowed, whatever glory is being restored, we thought the whole Christian thing was about... something else. Trying not to sin. Going to church. Being nice. Jesus says it is about healing your heart, setting it free, restoring your glory. A religious fog has tried to veil all that, put us under some sort of spell or amnesia, to keeup us from coming alive."

-- John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead", pp 69-70, 72-73, 75, 76, 80


"The deeper reason we fear our own glory is that once we let others see it, they will have seen the truest us, and that is nakedness indeed. We can repent of our sin. We can work on our "issues." But there is nothing to be "done" about our glory. It's so naked. It's just there -- the truest us. It is an awkward thing to shimmer when everyone else around you is not, to walk in your glory with an unveiled face when everyone else is veiling his. For a woman to be truly feminine and beautiful is to invite suspicion, jealousy, misunderstanding. A friend confided in me, "When you walk into a room, every woman looks at you to see -- are you prettier than they are? Are you a threat?"

And that is why living from your glory is the only loving thing to do. You cannot love another person from a false self. You cannot love another while you are still hiding. You cannot love another unless you offer her your heart. It takes courage to live from your heart. My friend Jenny said just the other day, "I desperately want to be who I am. I don't want the glory that I marvel at in others anymore. I want to be that glory which God set in me."

"Finally, our deepest fear of all . . . we will need to live from it. To admit we do have a new heart and a glory from God, to begin to let it be unveiled and embrace it as true -- that means the next thing God will do is ask us to live from it. Come out of the boat. Take the throne. Be what he meant us to be. And that feels risky . . . really risky. But it is also exciting. It is coming fully alive. My friend Morgan declared, "It's a risk worth taking."

-- John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead", pp 87-88


"My heart matters to God. My heart has always mattered to him..."

"'Above all else, guard your heart' (Prov. 4:23)... It doesn't say guard your heart because it's criminal; it says guard yur heart because it is the wellspring of your life, because it is a treasure, because everything else depends on it. How kind of God to give us this warning, like someone's entrusting to a friend something precious to him, with the words: 'Be careful with this -- it means a lot to me.'"

"Above all else? Good grief -- we don't even do it once in a while. We might as well leave our life savings on the seat of the car with the windows rolled down -- we're that careless with our hearts..."

"God intends that we treat our hearts as treasures of the kingdom, ransomed at tremendous cost, as if they really do matter, and matter deeply... We are called to live in a way that we store up reserves in our hearts and then offer from a place of abundance..."

"Has it ever occurred to you that God is such a loving and gentle person because his heart is filled, like a reservoir, with joy? Caring for our own hearts isn't selfishness; it's how we begin to love... What will you bring to others if your heart is empty, dried up, pinned down? Love is the point. And you can't love without your heart, and you can't love well unless your heart is well... How you handle your own heart is how you will handle theirs."

"Caring for your heart is also how you protect your relationship with God... [The heart] is where we commune with him. It is where we hear his voice. Most of the folks I know who have never heard God speak to them are the same folks who live far from their hearts."

-- John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead", pp 207-209, 211, 213

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Daughters

Last night after a lengthy Skype chat, I thought once again about the part in the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ where Martini reminds Frances that she got exactly what she wished for even though it took her awhile to realize that because it looked different than what she had initially envisioned.

I don’t have the dual income white picket fence kind of family. I'm game for the first part of that, but since I've never been great at being fenced in I'm quite fine with being picket fence-less. I don’t have the 2.5 kids of the average family…I'm not sure how I'd handle a .5 child anyway. I do, however, have two wonderful daughters who have chosen me to be their mom. One has called me her ‘Surrogate Mom’ for going on 20 years now. To the other I’ve become ‘Mother’ within the last few years but she’s been in my heart for going on 7 years.

I don’t know what it is to fall in love with that child when you first lay eyes on him or her from your hospital bed. But I do know the kind of love that would fly anywhere in the world to be there for that daughter when she needs you…and I have. I know the mother heart that aches when they make life choices that go contrary to your beliefs but continues to support them through thick and thin regardless of where their life journey takes them. I get what it is like to feel torn when their life calling takes them too far away for them to come home for a weekly…or even a monthly… visit. I know the joy of hearing them say that they have finally found what makes them happy. I understand how the heart fills with pride when you see them grow emotionally and spiritually to the point where they are teaching you a thing or two as you listen to them make healthy choices. And last but not least, I know how comforting it is to have a daughter check in regularly to see how you are doing when you are not well. I could go on…but you get the picture…

So while I cannot regale you with stories of lengthy labor nor of how I lost my girlish figure as a result, I can tell you that my daughters tug at my heart strings in a way that I’ve never known anything else to do. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just Ask!!

A number of cultures and religious groups joke about how they were raised on guilt! Parents 'guilted' them. The Church 'guilted' them. Perhaps it is more about the human condition in general than about who raised us. We guilt to get what we want rather than ask for it directly.

God's word says, "You don't have because you don't ask" "Ask and you'll receive." Now I know that there is the whole issue of asking with wrong motives as well as the 'prosperity theology' that surrounds these verses. Let's leave that for the time being since that is not what I am addressing here.

Many of us are fatalists and don't feel that we have any right to ask God for anything. He is God after all. He will do what He wills! Or we ask for others but NEVER for ourselves...humble as we are (said tongue in cheek). We may have pushed our needs so far into the background that we don't even have a conscious awareness of them even though they seep out in our attitudes and actions.

JUST ASK!! I have this picture of God shaking His head as we work so hard to get what we want...or think we want..and never actually talk to Him about it. He is not one to be manipulated and so He waits as we figure it out...

I didn't start this writing today to talk about any of that. I just wanted to share with you about how cool the past few weeks have been as I have asked God for certain things concerning my practice. Literally hours later in each case, He's given me what I asked for. These requests were very specific ones that involved others. The phone rings and it is a direct answer to what I've asked Him. How awesome is He!?

Asking for what I need...and My Father provides!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crashing Waves...Waves of Grace...

This economy is affecting so many, and as it begins to affect me in my work, it is difficult not to look momentarily at the waves instead of to God. I sat here today, grieved that I chose to look away from Him when I noticed that the waves were coming in. As I was speaking to Him about this I sensed that He was asking me to read the 'Jesus Calling' devotional that my friend Andrea gave to me while I was in Seattle.

The first thing that my eyes saw as I opened it to the November page were the words: And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus

And then, the waves of Grace rolled in as the devotional continued: "Don't be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on Me. I know that your heart's desire is to be aware of Me continually. This is a lofty goal; you aim toward it but never fully achieve it in this life...I am pleased each time you initiate communication with Me...I notice the progress you have made since you first resolved to live in My presence."

That's my Heavenly Daddy!! He holds out His hand and says, "Honey, don't get down on yourself for not doing it perfectly...this side of Heaven you won't get there. I know your heart! I know that you want to please Me! I love that about you! You know that I love you and that I am committed to looking out for you!"

Thank you, Father God. I am overwhelmed with how You love me, how You accept my imperfect steps towards You and how You encourage me in the midst of my fear!! I love You! And I do trust You when You tell me that You will meet all my needs!