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Archive for March, 2017

Prayer of Acceptance
Gracious God,
I give thanks for the gift of your love and mercy which knows no end. I
give thanks for Jesus Christ who lived, died and rose again that I may know true life in his name. Today I confess my sins, all the actions, and attitudes that keep me from loving you and loving others.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have said and left unsaid.
Lord have mercy and forgive me for those things I have done and left undone.
In the knowledge of your mercy, I confess Jesus as the Lord of my life and my savior.
I turn my life over to You today.
Please make me a new creature through Your Holy Spirit and change my heart.
Help me walk in Your ways as You reveal yourself to me.
Thank You, Jesus, for dying for my sins.
I accept Your gift of salvation today and confess that You are Lord.
Amen

“Said and left unsaid…done and left undone…”

I have readily considered laziness a sin and its’ association with “left undone.”  I have also known cursing and pain-causing language to be sinful–“said.”  The “left unsaid” I’ve considered the times when I coward from what the Spirit asks of me to speak.  The “done,” I’ve considered the busyness that distracts me from what God asks of me, or actions that are defiant to Him.

Today I realize, sometimes God asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.  But the counter can also be said, sometimes the enemy asks us to speak, to hold our tongue, to act, or to withhold from action and be still.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11)

We must learn to discern the voice which directs us–an awareness and ability that grows from knowing the love of God.

This lent I have devoted myself to the discipline of simplicity–offering myself, especially, in words said and unsaid as clay to be reformed by the touch of Christ’s redemption.

This past week was midterms.  In the past weeks, we have cared for friends who are mourning losses in their immediate families.   Last week, we met our month’s financial pot for the month.  This week finally seems to be the end of months-worth of frustration to change my name, join bank accounts, change health insurance plans, and meet many other adult-newly-married responsibility tasks.  And we have begun to truly shape one another as man and wife in discussing points of growth and affirming opportunities met in beautiful ways.  We’re being shaped in the tension for sure.  But I must also admit, there have been too many moments–lasting much more than one moment–where I spiral, allowing tasks to get the best of me.  I have been overwhelmed.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.
Reinhold Niebuhr

Overwhelmed… Simplicity… These appear to be two sides of the same coin.  Makes sense that one who battles feelings of being overwhelmed would be challenged to stewardship and surrender in the act of simplicity before the Lord.  So here I am in the midst of remodeling.

You are sovereign Lord! And You will always be sovereign, Lord.  There will never be a time when You are not sovereign.  You are and will always be sovereign above all things.

Being overwhelmed means that the doing becomes unbearable.  There is too much to do, we simply cannot be.  Peter Scazzero challenges us to self-reflection, confession, and acceptance of the process of sanctification as he admits–to which I am also guilty (p.58):

We attach our wills to the belief that someting less than God will satisfy us.  We think if we just accomplish that one big goal, then we will really feel content and good about oursevles.  We will be ‘finished’ and able to rest.

It is out of being that our doing has purpose.  Being, then doing.  Being becomes doing.  In being with God, we are moved to action–doing for God–and not the other way around.

Overwhelmed is to be overpowered with an excessive amount of anything; overcome, especially with superior forces; destroyed; crushed; covered or buried beneath a mass of something as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerged; or, overthrown.

Ever felt overpowered by an excessive amount of responsibilities calling out for your attention–tasks that keep you from simply being, that beckon you to ‘finish’ before you can rest?

I sure have.  I know the tools that I teach others, yet, sometimes the tasks seem to be relentless prison guards.  Sometimes they even disguise themselves, claiming to be the very thing that would honor God, yet, in my obedience to the task, I find myself distant from and desperate for God.

“There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain.” – Jesus Culture

God may challenge us, but He would NEVER lead a child to suffocate or drown on their own.  Separation from His children is NOT God’s desire.  Doing and being overwhelmed by the doings can lead to separation from God–where we are no longer attuned to His voice but are commanded by the perceived need to complete tasks.

“Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus says, “You will be able to bear the load I have for you.”

God, I do not wish to drown.  I do not wish to suffocate.  If I am overthrown, may it be that I am overthrown by You–humbled by Your reign.  If I am overwhelmed, may it be by Your presence.  If I am overpowered, may it be by Your strength, Your power.  If I am submerged, may it be in Your Word, Your Truth.  God, I surrender.  I want to know You more. 

I know that when I am overwhelmed I have either consciously or unconsciously chosen to prioritize tasks, the doing, over my surrendered being with God.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians2:12).

We can examine what is according to His good purpose by knowing God and knowing God’s Truth as it is written in Scripture.  Anything that is not according to God’s good purpose we can then distinguish as not from God working in us.  If it isn’t God who is working in us when we choose doing, who is it?

 God is not a god of confusion.  Who would want to inspire confusion in us? Satan and his army. Remember: God is omnipresent and can be with you wherever you are and with all people where they are.  Satan does not hold such power nor authority.

That means as we are made in God’s image, standing as God’s children we can choose to bow our knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and as we do, we submit ourselves to God, aligning our will with His, and surrender to God working in us “to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:9-12).

  • What does my life show? I do more than I be right now.
  • What do I desire? I desire to know God and to do only which pleases God.

My life does not show the desire of my heart… perhaps, then, it is not my heart that dictates my actions, but my mind…

“Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Dr. Caroline Leaf discusses the neuropsychology behind taking every thought captive.  She suggests it takes 21 days to replace the thought.  Let us feed and be filled by Your Word, God. That we would have the strength to persevere, to endure as we begin this process of sanctification in our minds.  I hope to be able to discern, to choose ‘God work in me, so that You may do in me that which is according to Your good purpose’ over what seems convenient or stressful and needs relieving.  Remind me, God, that You are all I need.

 The process of renewing our minds:

For twenty-one days…

Admit: Acknowledge the toxic thought

Quit: Eliminate the toxic thought by focusing on the healthy replacement thought, denying the unhealthy habit

For the following forty-two days…

Beat: Stabilize the strength of a healthy replacement habit to beat and remove possibility of regrowth of the eliminated toxic thought

The result: The natural choice in our unconscious stems from our restructured healthy habit, NOT the toxic thought life that once was.

Steps to take with honest reflection…

  1. What do I prioritize?
  2. What does God prioritize?
  3. What keeps me from being with God (admit)?
  4. Sit with God and learn the surrender of those very things that keep us from Him (quit)
  5. Allow God to renew Your mind, that His Spirit may be known and adored by Your spirit–rejoicing always and praying without ceasing as you make choices to live a life of love–honoring God, self, and others (beat).

Let’s be the Bride of Christ–doing from our being.

God, I want to live an uncluttered life.  Simplify what is of me and what is of the enemy.  Rebuke his grasp.  Overwhelm me with Your presence that all else may fall to ruin.  You are all I need Lord.  I believe in Your renewing power.  Cleanse me, O God.  Make me more like You.  Might my image of You grow to be truer and truer each day I spend with You.  I love You, Jesus, Amen.

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As a family counselor in the making, newly married gal, member of Christ’s bride, and student, I have read and continue to read a LOT on relationships.  Stephen sometimes reads relationship books with me, but even when he doesn’t he thrives in the discussion and application that the books spur in us.

“Lion’s Den” developed in my hopes as an answer to “How can we as man and wife best honor God and each other in our Sabbath/Shabbat?”  

We discussed how I independently spent Sabbath resting in God’s presence through solitude, confession, prayer, worship, and reading His Truth and inspired truths.  We considered Gottman‘s messages for a healthy marriage and read through Jeremy and Audrey Roloff’s questions they address during each week’s “Navigator’s Council” and we landed on our very own marital meeting, separate from date nights called “Lion’s Den.”

Every day Stephen and I begin our mornings with a kiss, in each other’s arms, we then say “Good morning Jesus” and pray together, followed by a shared, short devotional.

At some point in our day, we individually read through “The Marriage Minute,” a Gottman blog quick read, and respond to the daily challenge.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman and their Gottman Institute are a wealth of knowledge and resources based on decades of observational study, interviews with couples and parent-child relationships, and clinical experience considering the attachment of children, parents, and spouses.  The Marriage Minute simply presents one of his tools or lessons a day for spouses to work towards a healthier, more satisfying marriage together.

We write in our shared-notes affirmations, tasks to be done, reminders of in what we invest our finances, and prayer requests so that we can be together–in our separation–throughout the day.

We spend the last 30 minutes before falling asleep together in bed–electronics off and out of reach, overhead lighting off, sometimes reading a personal spiritual or relational growth book, worshiping God with a heart song, and one final joint prayer and “I love you.  Good night my bride/my husband.”

That’s our daily outline of intentional intimacy moments throughout the week.  However, both Stephen and I struggle with living in Christ’s freedom–mine is an issue with legalism in sticking with what has worked for me previously and holding myself to standards God did not ask of me–so, although meeting the bare minimum is necessary for us each day, we do fall short and remind one another of God’s grace and how we can choose to walk and rejoice in such freedom.  I say that because I am offering up what works for us, BUT we are still growing in understanding of and application of the very same thing.

For instance, sometimes we are both too emotionally exhausted to truly speak about the impact of our day or to process the underlying hurt of something the other individual said/left unsaid or did/left undone.  We call a HALT and readdress these issues after individual prayer during Lion’s Den.

Okay, that’s the week.  Now the break down of Lion’s Den…

Why “Lion’s Den”?

Before addressing our issues, we first turn towards God giving thanks and asking for help.  When Daniel learned of trouble, he he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God…asking for God’s help” (Daniel 6:10-11).

We recognize who or what our living suggests we worship most, recognize God’s authority, and humble ourselves in the surrender of pride, self-pursuits, and idolizing the other, and submit unto Christ. King Darius tried to come up with a way to save Daniel, but couldn’t go against the law he had signed.  Even he leaned on God to rectify the self-honoring law’s consequences on his trustworthy servant: “The king said to him, ‘May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you'” (6:16).

We seek to honor the other and to honor God with all we do, leave undone, say, and leave unsaid.  We remove from our lips the temptation to criticize and instead, cry out “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:22-23). Daniel answered, “Long live the king!  My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” (6:21-22)

We remember our gifts: our freedom from sin, our spouse, and our unique personhood.   King Darius trusted Daniel and knew what Daniel stood for, Daniel remained faithful and trustworthy, he did not allow a law to keep him from the opportunity to remain faithful to his God (6:3,26-27).

We pursue, claim, and maintain a safe place in which we can abide in Christ individually before meeting together. Daniel retreated to his room, yet, even in the Lion’s Den he cried out to God faithfully and was safe from their grip (6:10,23).

Why Sundays?

Saturday evening is when we take time to learn each other, to make new memories, and experience life together joyfully, without thought of the responsibilities or issues that await us.  In other words, Saturday we turn off our phones (and leave them off until after sunset on Sunday evening) and say good-bye world, and walk into freedom from tasks, from selves, and from others (outside of the marriage).

Sunday morning we begin before church, then at church, all the way through sunset focusing on the presence of Christ in us as individuals, as the bride of Christ, and as a couple.  We wanted “Lion’s Den” to follow time of individual reflection, and agreed we’d benefit the greatest from having Lion’s Den on our church and solitude day.

What we did during our first two “Lion’s Dens”…

The first week we found a safe place outside our home, in nature, and passed back and forth between us sheets of paper that said:

  • What is the mission of our marriage?
  • Long-term goals (for you, for us)…
  • Short-term goals (for you, for us)…
  • Family traditions (that you enjoyed growing up and that you’d like to begin for our present and future family)…
  • Healthy marital habits to uphold (i.e. what do you like about our marriage?)…
  • Unhealthy habits to break (i.e. what do you notice that hurts our marriage?)…
  • Boundaries for the meeting…
    • Setting the stage: what do we have with us? what stays away? where do we have our meetings?
  • Meeting names…

The second week we set up camp at our dining table, processed, prayed through, and shaped our hopes for “Lion’s Den,” by labeling more specifically what we would and would not do, offering one another freedom, and affirming each other’s sharing by acknowledging what they said and inquiring how we could best serve them in reaching such goals, how they picture us partnering with them for traditions, how we can best encourage new habits and the breaking of old habits, and the most powerful part: agreeing on what we recognize to be the mission of our marriage through discussion, while flipping through, praying through, and applying Scripture to our concept of a God-honoring marriage.

“Lion’s Den” after the set-up phase…

What happens after church?

After church, we serve one another by making and fellowshiping over a meal.

We then pursue God individually through different disciplines and means.  This is a time of solitude, of resting in God’s presence.  During this individual time, at some point, we spend time in prayer and confession–praying through our vows and the missions of our marriage.

When we join together, we begin with confession to one another, express and walk in forgiveness, and rejoice in the freedom to worship as a duet, before getting into the ‘meeting’ talk.

Choose a “safe atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions and dreams.”  – Marriage Minute

The meeting (adapted from conversations with a mentor, “Navigator’s Council” journal*, our dialogue, and other readings).

  • What brought you joy this week?
  • What was the hardest point this week?
  • What is one specific way I can best serve you this upcoming week?
  • Any HALT moments that need to now be addressed?
  • Is there any unconfessed sin, conflict, or hurt that we need to receive or seek forgiveness for? (this one probably was already addressed, but if not, is the MEAT of “Lion’s Den” in identifying and killing the impact of any of the four horsemen)
  • What is a dream, desire, or craving that has been on the forefront of your mind?
  • How can I pray for you this week?

Before Christ, we take part in communion with one another, surrendering ourselves in joint heart-felt prayer, and then come together.  Sundays is therefore a day spent experiencing the whole self poured out as an offering to God–delighting in the privilege of being His Family and experiencing His boundless love in how we communicate (social), affirm each other’s needs and strengths (emotional), encourage continued growth (mental), serve and fellowship with one another over breaking of bread (physical), and in prayer, worship, and exhortation of who God is to us, in us, and around us (spiritual)–as man and wife.

I’d love to hear how you and your beloved adapt an intentional time of communicating the missions, strengths, areas of growth, and prayer needs in your marriage.

*We’re intending on using the calendar in the Navigator’s Council Journal as a place to record our nightly affirmations to one another–the “how I saw you most exemplify the love of Christ towards me today”.

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