Just Call Me Toots

I grew up identifying humility with humiliation. I had it in my head that when you became too prideful God came down from heaven to put the smackdown on you and take you down a notch or five. 
Who else grew up thinking of God this way? That whenever you were getting “too big for your britches” He would knock you down? 

 I tried really hard to stay under Gods radar so he wouldnt have to teach me any lessons since I was so scared of being embarrassed and making mistakes.  I think it all stems from my most embarrassing horror that ever happened to me…

It was the 6th grade, during math class.  My math class was right after lunch and at the time it was my favorite class.  I looked forward to it all day, every day, even test days. No, not becasue I loved math, in fact I hated math.  It was because I got to sit next to my 6th grade crush, Jeff Hopner. His freckled nose, his mouth full of braces, Jeff was the coolest boy in 6th grade. I was the chubby girl in our grade so I knew I had to win him over with my charm and wit and brains. Only, I was so shy around him and since I wasn’t all that great in math, I didn’t have too many opportunities to impress him.   Until that day.  It was a pretty ordinary day, the highlight so far had been italian dunkers for lunch.  Since I am a carb freak, I loved italian dunkers, those big slabs of garlic brad and the sauce in the little syrofoam cups to dunk them in, dee-lish! I always knew how to con my skinny friends into giving me their extra bread, they didn’t like italian dunkers because then their breath smelled like garlic the rest of the day.  I said, I don’t care, garlic gives me the farts, but I love it anyway, I’ll take yours!  And down the hatch my extra slices of garlic bread and sauce went.  Fast forward to math class.  Tummy gurgling, breath smelling and brain foggy from all the carbs overload, guess who gets called to the front for problem solving at the board? This girl!  And of course, since I was concentrating on holding in the garlic gas, I hadn’t been paying any attention and had no clue what problem I was supposed to be working on. But that isn’t the impressive part.  I’d like to say I figured it all out and impressed everyone including the teacher and Jeff Hopner with my mad skills on the board.  As I stood to walk to the front of the room after the teacher had to call my name twice, I let out the loudest fart in the history of farts, and not just loud, but long. So long I toot-toot-tooted my way to the front, each step immortalizing the moment with another toot.  I tried to hold it in. I tried to pinch a penny. But it was no use.  I was powerless to stop the toots.  And as I got to the front and picked up the chalk, Jeff said what they were all thinking. I’d like to remember it being said with reverance or approval, but it was said with a crinkling of that freckled nose turned up in disgust as he pinched his nostrils closed and immediately yelled, “EWWWW! Jeni sure knows how to toot her own horn- she farted!” I was mortified. And as any normal kid would do, or at least in my book of working hard not to be humiliated, I tried to deny it.  “I did not!” That sealed my fate for the rest of the year.  Not only was I that girl who farted, I was that girl who farted and then lied about it, which made it ten times worse.

And thus my fear of humility was born.

Being overly concerned with the approval of others. 

The need to lash out in anger or lies when embarrassed. 

Blaming others. Blaming God.   

Isolating. Not allowing my weakness to show.   

I shared all of this to say, breaking down the reasons for our behaviors, breaking apart the moldy facade to get to the real mortar and reinforce our foundation…all of that is meaningless and will cause us to spin our tires unless we keep this in mind…

True biblical humility implies that we see ourselves as God sees us. 
Not as others see us, not the identify our parents or friends, or peers or even Jeff Hopner puts on us, but that God puts on us as His children. It is putting ourselves in proper perspective in light of God’s plan. It does not matter what others think of us. What matters is, who are we modeling life after?

Appropriate humility is seen in Christ’s life, who emptied himself to obey God’s will, to serve others and to fulfill Gods plan for His life.  

We can do all the self analyzing we want to…read all the self help books we can get into our amazon account, but it isnt gonna make a world of difference unless we are willing to place ourselves under Gods control and submit to His will and plan for our lives.   Start today by reading the book of John.  It may just be the identity changer you need today.

Free[duh]m

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” “But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (‭John‬ ‭8‬:‭31-36‬ NLT)

I understand being set free. Only because I understand sin. By the grace of God, I am free of many things that used to hold me bondage. Oh I knew sin alright. I could somehow take anything of this world and turn it into an idol; food, money, selfishness, smoking, drinking, approval-seeking, you name it, I was chained to it. And I made decisions based on fear. I was not free in any sense of the word. It wasn’t until I admitted powerlessness over my life, that I could begin to accept that, as petty as I felt, or as silly as my idols seemed, I had issues that needed working out. It isn’t until we are willing to admit complete defeat that we create space for God and allow the power of the spirit to replace our fear.  

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭25‬ NLT)

As Christ followers, we can hold tight the truth that the spirit’s leading is pure and strong and wonderful and will lead us to the freedom we so crave.  

Is there any freedom from bondage you need today? Pray for it and let faith replace fear. 

  

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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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?

The Main Question

Who has played the game monopoly? I can pretty much guarantee no matter your age, you have probably played at least once in your life, right? Growing up, in my family we would have monopoly marathons…me and my cousins would have sleepovers and play it all weekend long, breaking to eat and sleep, picking up where we left off if we got bored and needed a break.. or if grandma kicked us out of the house to blow the stink off us (as she put it.)

Isn’t it funny, no matter how many times we did great at getting park place first, or boardwalk, or all the utilities, even if we collected all the sets of colors, all the blue properties, all the greens, built houses and hotels, at the end of the game…what happened to it? It all ended up back in the box. It all goes back in the box.

Is that not an accurate picture of the game of life? Life on earth is not going to last forever. This is true whether you are a person of faith or not. You may act like the game is going to last forever. But it doesn’t. We all end up in a box sooner or later. The thing we spend our time on, the worth we put into things, is it stuff that just goes back in the box at the end of the game? The everyday idols take over and soon we are so off track, so lost we don’t know what happened!

In recovery we talk a lot about the old life and the new life…this isn’t so different than becoming a Christ follower, in both instances we have the old life and the new life and we aspire to improve that new life, make it better than the old, otherwise, really what is the point? If we continue to do the same habits as we did before our life will not change. I propose a different scenario for 2013. To shift our focus off of things in a box, and onto something different.

In 2nd corinthians 5 verses 16-20 in the message version, the bible states, “Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!”

A new life grows, it flourishes, erupting forth! Through the holy spirit and our faith and works, a new life flourishes!

How can we create this new life and actually create new habits? Ask yourself what are you valuing?

Jon Ortberg, a pastor and author in Menlo Park, California says in his book, “when the game is over, it all goes back in the box” that nothing else in this world matters except these 2 things:

Who you loved and who loved you?

Nothing else matters, not money, not fame, not how many possessions you own, but who you loved and who loved you. if you can keep that thought in mind, it could change the way you make decisions and change what you value and make lasting life change.

Masking Tapestry

When I was a child I used to collect porcelain venetian masks. I loved the bright colors painted on smooth complexions. I felt a sadness about them and was especially intrigued by their hollow eyes. Perhaps because I didn’t have to spend time and energy trying to figure out what they were thinking, I could create their identity birthed from my own imagination.

Masks are fun for halloween, but just like our hurts, habits or hangups, the mask begins to handicap us. It makes it hard to see. Hard to communicate. We are often misunderstood.

I think many of us wear masks. We hide our true identity, we mask our pain, we isolate behind that hurt, habit or hang-up and over time the mask becomes glued to our face. We may even come to believe the mask is our real identity, and when people come at us with a pick to try and break the mask to free us, we run for fear of the pain of exposing what is underneath.

When we learn to look to our identity in Christ, we can humbly remove the masks because we are focussed on what God wants for our life, we care only about His approval, and we can shed our masks one layer at a time, one day at a time. When we learn to go to God in all circumstances he builds a new identity out of the former, one that is stronger, braver and has purpose for the greater good.

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like. But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God- the free life!- even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. that person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” -James 1:22-25

Are you meant to Stay as Self?

Most people throughout history had to overcome self-seeking defects.

What does it mean to be self-seeking? If we break the word down, it is where or how have I sought self. I have let so many people and situations define how I feel about myself. I have sought after a definition of myself in others. If you like me, then maybe I’m likable. If you don’t like me, then you’re probably really smart, because you can see below the surface. One bad evaluation out of a hundred is the one that I focus on. Always the pessimist. Always self-deprecating.

Everywhere you look, society wants us to define ourselves with each other. But this is not how God wants us to view ourselves.

“They spread scary rumors among the people of Israel. They said, “We scouted out the land from one end to the other- it’s a land that swallows people whole. Everybody we saw was huge. Why, we even saw the Nephilim giants. Alongside them we felt like grasshoppers. And they looked down on us as if we were grasshoppers.” – Numbers 13:31-33

I visualize these guys as drama queens. So dysfunctional that living a life of chaos feels natural, even safe. This is why they were in the wildness for an entire generation.

Where did we learn that grasshoppers were bad? Where did we learn bigger is better, faster, stronger? I don’t know about you, but I need daily reminders on where my identity comes from. I need to pull myself out of the mire of pessimism and into the sunlight of the spirit. By focussing on my identity in Christ and not in my work, relationships or even my own feelings, I gain the God-strength needed to overcome the obstacles in my work, my family, or whatever my current circumstances.

“For who is God besides the Lord? And who is rock besides our God? It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” – Psalm 18:31-32

Don’t look at people doing it better, faster, cleaner than you. Compare and Despair.

When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing,or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place,thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. NOTHING, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, HAPPENS IN GOD’S WORLD BY MISTAKE.-A.A. Big Book pg 417

You are exactly where you need to be, the question is are you meant to stay there?

Where are you seeking self?