Acquaintance with the Spirit

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. (Proverbs 12:25 NLT)

There are three stages of relationships. The most basic is the acquaintance stage:

“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good.”
“Good.”

End of conversation. Maybe sharing details of lives, maybe not.
The next stage is the personal stage. This is when we can actually share details of our lives and our feelings surrounding these details.

“Hey, how are you?”
“Oh, not good, I am dealing with a difficult time.”
“That’s too bad, I’ve gone through hard times too.”

And then there is a third kind of relationship. There may actually be very few people we allow into this stage, the spiritual stage. In this stage, we not only listen to our fellows and friends, but we invite the Holy Spirit into our conversations and time together. We pray for them and we pray with them, and we allow them to pray for us.
Look at yourself frankly and ask, where have I physically isolated from dealing with my relationships? Where have I spiritually held back and isolated, either by way of not making time for my own growth or not working on a spiritual relationship with others?
If you want to have deeper level of friendships with people, take a chance and begin praying with them.

“…and though perhaps he came to scoff, he may remain to pray.” -Big Book of A.A.

Father, thank You so much for all three levels of conversation. But thank You most for designing us to yearn for depth in relationships. Thank You for meeting us as we meet each other in honesty, integrity, and transparency before You. I pray for each of us to be willing to be transparent and grow deeper in faith with you and stronger in relationship with each other. May we see the fruits of honest relationships in our lives. In Jesus name, Amen!

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The Definitive Eye

I have always wondered where my place in the world and the point to my life is. These are not new questions that are only asked by me. Pretty much everyone wonders about their life, maybe even on a daily basis. By keeping a focus on the following three things we can live a life of value and have experiences we can relish with an understanding of a kingdom perspective which is God’s purpose, God’s process and God’s promises for our lives. When we have the right focus we begin to get answers to the right questions.

Identity: Knowing whose you are.

For see, today I have made you strong like a fortified city that cannot be captured, like an iron pillar or a bronze wall. You will stand against the whole land— the kings, officials, priests, and people of Judah. They will fight you, but they will fail. For I am with you, and I will take care of you. I, the lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 1:18, 19 NLT)

Integrity: Doing what you said you would do.

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:3 NIV)

Intent: Ask for guidance before you decide on a desired outcome.

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. (Matthew 7:13, 14 MSG)

What are YOUR definitions of the three I’s?

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Vision[Airy]

Panic is our great enemy.
We don’t need to become desperate. If overwhelming problems appear in our life, we need to stop struggling. We can tread water for a bit, until our equilibrium returns. Then we can go back to floating peacefully down the gentle stream. It is our stream. It is a safe stream. Our course has been charted. All is well.
Today, I will relax, breathe, and go with the flow.-Melody Beattie, Language of Letting Go

I often picture a stream in my meditations. When I am in need of peace, I visualize floating on a tube, the sun dappling through the willows, the tube successful at staying out of danger. When I feel fearful, my vision is signified by rocks that tear my tube, rapids I need to journey through and logs that get in the way; the vision automatically turns the blue green clear water with a clean pebble bottom to murky sticky waters with storm debris riddling the shore. The blue sky turns gray and I must stop, turn my thoughts to a better vision and pay attention to the self talk. Is it negative? Positive? Am I putting more emphasis on circumstances and less on God’s character? It is interesting that in my mind’s eye I see dangerous waters as negative yet in real life I try to see it as adventurous. I wonder how I can bring my subconscious to a more courageous look at the storms in life. When I face struggles, it makes me feel powerless and unsure of my safety and brings panic on, the loss of control and the unknown of the future. By focusing on the character of God, it quiets the waters and brings the sunlight of the spirit into the dawn.

Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31 NLT)

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The Zombie in You

Zombies. In the bible. Yes, you read correctly.
I am an uber geek. I love zombie movies. Movies about zombies lets me have at least two hours to really detach from reality. Cause I’m sorry, no matter how good the script is, no matter how well the actors portray their characters, no matter how well the scene was shot or the make-up was put on, reanimated humans will not ever happen, I don’t buy it.

And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. And at once the curtain of the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth shook and the rocks were split. [Exod. 26:31-35.] The tombs were opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep in death were raised [to life]; And coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those who were with him keeping watch over Jesus observed the earthquake and all that was happening, they were terribly frightened and filled with awe, and said, Truly this was God’s Son! (Matthew 27:50-54 AMP)

I know what you’re thinking. I must be watching too much ‘Walking Dead.’ But could it be that our drift toward the undead is simply our subconscious searching for the truth that the son of God truly is miraculous? Is our human nature and desire is to be at peace with the thought that there really has been dead that have risen? And if so, wouldn’t it be safe to say that a God that could raise the dead is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing and desires us to know Him more and that is why we want to believe? Perhaps it is human nature to believe in zombies.
Thinking about zombies also makes me think of chainsaws. Or axes. Or a two-handed Japanese sword. I suppose cause something that could cut heads off would be my weapon of choice in a zombie attack. Which of course makes me think of something Jesus said in Matthew:

And if your hand—even your stronger hand —causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:30 NLT)

Perhaps the issue of whether or not Jesus was crucified and rose again isn’t disbelief, it is detachment. Maybe not as drastic as detaching a limb so you escape a zombie virus or a walker coming up on you to attack, but a look at letting go. Letting go and restoring the true self. Look at step three of A.A., we made a decision to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God. The message version says it this way:

And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump. (Matthew 5: 30 MSG)

Jesus is telling us to detach from the habits that hold us back from our true selves. When we lose our temper, revert back to the behavior that is not healthy, feed the addiction that is not beneficial to our lives, it is those behaviors we must detach from. Until you learn to let go, it is kinda like mixing clean spring water and sewer water and expect to be able to drink it without getting sick.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”-Romans 12:1

This living sacrifice is often misinterpreted as us losing something. If I sacrifice then I will be without. But when we turn our will over to the care of God and our lives, we are abundantly free.
Step three is about discipline, but the discipline that held us back for so long was the thinking that, we needed MORE self will. “oh if I had more will power I wouldn’t get mad and hit my kids or I wouldn’t mouth off to my boss and get fired or if I had more will power I could quit drinking, smoking ,eating, spending, lusting, whatever have you. It is not about having not enough will power, it is actually about having too much. When we cut the arm off that is sinning so to speak, we aren’t out an arm. We gain more strength because we are working in God’s strength. God gave us free will. This is a gift.
Detachment is about separating ourselves from idols that are not God. Self serving goals and agendas just end up poisoning the fruit He wants us to produce with our lives. Letting go of the notions of money and power and position is what makes you who you are. Circumstances do not make you. Trusting God with the outcomes rather than yourself so you do not have to feel like a failure every other minute. A life in which you can honor others without feeling like you have to manipulate or control them, that is freedom!
When we practice the 12 steps and we learn to let go, when we decide to turn our lives and our will over to the care of God, we have freedom from our jobs, from society, from addictions; we are free to live as our true selves, we learn to live with acceptance even when things go into descent, loss or death. And because we live in a way that finds God amidst these things, learning to let go prepares us for the final let go- death.

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for? (Mark 8:34-37 MSG)

Jesus died to change the truth about you. What thinking do you need to change?

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Attention Retained

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT)

Why did the apostle Paul pray for the church to be rooted and grounded in love?

In a 2012 poll taken, 76% of Americans identified themselves as Christians while only 36% of those attend church on a weekly basis. We attend church and listen to a sermon, message, teaching, whatever the title of the talk is, the point is the same- to teach us biblical principles and how we can relate to scripture and apply it to our own lives. The trouble with saying we are christian but not having regular church attendance is the lack of retention of what we learn or the ability to carry the principles we learn on any given Sunday morning into the rest of our week. Well, we can hardly call ourselves something we know nothing about. It would be like me calling myself a pilot because I fly as a passenger to Florida once a year. What’s more, there are different styles of learning and if we are not connected to a christian community the chances of retention drops dramatically.

Paul wanted all people to be made complete with the fullness of life and God’s power. To fully experience God and the love He is takes training. By learning how we and our children retain information we will be in a better position to practice biblical principles in all our affairs and thus gain a better understanding of God’s love and experience the promises He gives.

There are four styles of learning. They are visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Here is a description taken from and article by Dr. Mary Smialek.

“Visual learners best remember what is seen. They tend to remember faces instead of names, are good readers and have good imaginations. They respond best to instruction that includes reading, posters, graphs and videos. Visual learners:
take copious notes
often close their eyes to visualize and remember
usually neat and clean with carefully coordinated clothing
benefit from illustrations and visual presentations
are attracted to written or spoken language rich in pictorial imagery
seek quiet, passive surroundings ideal

Auditory learners best remember what is heard. They remember names well, respond easily to phonics instruction and may like to talk when writing. They benefit most from instruction based on lectures, discussions and questioning. Some good methods to use with auditory learners include singing songs or listening to tapes that relate to content area to be studied and developing rhymes and mnemonics to help remember information. Auditory learners:
remember names, tend to forget faces
may not coordinate clothes but can explain what they have on and why
hum or talk to themselves
enjoy listening to themselves and others
likes to read aloud
remembers best by verbalizing
have difficulties reading maps or diagrams
have little trouble learning in a noisy environment

Kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, experimenting and involvement. These learners remember what was done, not necessarily what was seen or heard, and might have difficulty paying attention and staying focused on their schoolwork or homework. Kinesthetic learners benefit most from hands-on instruction, using manipulatives, role-playing or building things. Kinesthetic learners:
need to move around, be active and take frequent breaks
speak with their hands and with gestures
seek out and find ways to move around
tinker when bored
rely on what they can directly experience or perform
enjoy manipulating materials

Tactile learners like to use their hands and fingers to learn. Those learn best by writing, drawing, doodling and tend to be creative.They benefit from instructions such as sewing, painting or drawing. Tactile learners:
need to touch or feel objects when learning a new concept
enjoys designing things
likes to illustrate written work
finds sculpting, painting and drawing relaxing
Appreciates physically expressed encouragement (e.g. a pat on the back)”

It is not only helpful as individuals and parents to know the differences of learning styles to understand how we learn but it is helpful in understanding how we can teach. When you are involved in a church community you begin to serve. Whether you serve in a church service or the children’s programming, creating an environment that serves as many of these styles as possible helps church attenders retain and grow. And the more we know, the more we grow in Christ’s love. Make church attendance a part of your life, find one that suits not only your style of learning but everyone in the family. When we are connected to a church family we gain wisdom and understanding of humanity, ourselves and in the fullness of God, we are made complete.

Perspective Imprisoned

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (John 3:30 NLT)

Empty vessel. An object used as a container. When I think of being an empty vessel for the Holy Spirit to use me for God’s glory, the human tendency is to look with fear. What about me? Where do I go? What will happen to me?

Does this mean I am to be a shell of a person? Does us becoming less and less like it says in John, mean that I am meaningless, that I am not special, that if I was only a shell of a person then life is pointless? Well, then God could find someone else to be an empty vessel if that is all it was! This is ego-centric perspective. The center of all choices, all decisions, all reasons for being are made with our best interests. Our needs first. Our well being above all else. This is a world perspective, a me-centered perspective and we are often imprisoned by it. My hope for humanity, for our kids, is to dispel that perspective. I hope to learn and love and live and teach in the kingdom perspective.

The Kingdom Perspective is seeing life through three viewpoints. God’s purpose, God’s process and God’s promises for our lives. By allowing our decisions big or small to manifest with the Kingdom Perspective we can live in peace, harmony and happiness that we seek in sometimes all the wrong places; drinking, drugs, sex, relationships, money, all the worldly security we seek out identity and it isn’t fulfilling because it isn’t the Kingdom Perspective. By looking at God’s purpose, God’s process and God’s promises in our lives we find the fulfillment in our purpose, we find peace in the process and we find happiness in the promises.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 NLT)

What perspective do you need to look at today?

Pass the test[imony]

Most of my choices and decisions in life is based on the question, “How would this look in a biography of my life? If they made a movie of my life, what would it look like?” Does anyone else ask those questions? If I asked that right now, Ha! Yeah. Currently? Hmm, not so good. Jobless, unable to have children, strife in the family, struggle with relationships, feeling disconnected from my community as a whole, the story of my life is not something I would want to read much less write about! In that moment, asking these questions, I feel in the middle of an unsustainable life, hanging by a thread. In my movie, something has got to give.

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. (Revelation 12:10, 11 NLT)

These two verses speak of Christ’s victory over satan. The accuser has been thrown to earth. And they have defeated him by the blood of the lamb and by their testimony. We cannot defeat past present or future demons in this spiritual warfare without Jesus. Addiction, codependency and the dysfunctions they create in a family is spiritual warfare. We cannot live a victorious life without Jesus. When we look at our lives not as a biography but as a testimony of Jesus in our lives, our viewpoint is different ergo the outcome is different too. Rather than being defeated by your circumstances, remind yourself that Jesus wins. And when you are on His side, you win too. By changing our thinking to testimonies of Jesus rather than a biography of life, we can live full, abundant, sustaining lives. When we share our testimonies with each other, we live a victorious life where we win. In everything. What could change if you lived for your testimony instead of your biography?