Archive for the ‘Thinking, Perspective’ Category

Loving Courageously

February 24, 2011

Suggested Bible Reading

I Samuel 17: 32-35 (NIV)

David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.

Today’s Scripture

David shepherded with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Psalm 78:72 (NIV)

While reading about David, I wondered what would motivate a young shepherd boy to risk his life for a sheep. If I were David, I’d have no desire to face physical combat with a lion or bear just to rescue a lamb. I would prefer to return home to my father with a few missing sheep and accept the consequence of no dinner rather than becoming a lion’s dinner.

What makes my perspective different than David’s? Why does he risk his life while I’d protect mine? I suspect that David believed that he was treasured by God and, as a result, his life had significance, value, and purpose. David responded to his sheep as God responded to him; lovingly and courageously protective.

When relational conflicts arise, good shepherds do not avoid conflict or dismiss people. It’s natural to withdraw from people or from situations that consume time and energy, but it may not be right. When we chose the comfort of avoidance, over the cost of engagement; neglect becomes a silent relational killer. Anger and bitterness become devouring lions snatching away relationships.

David’s aggressive protection of the sheep alerts me to the danger of devaluing people. When I value other people, I don’t allow difference of opinion to result in negativity, judgment, or disrespectful behavior. Yes, it’s natural to associate with those whose thinking and values are similar to my own, but inviting conversations to understand why others have different thoughts builds a bridge of understanding. This prevents me from living on a distant island away from others.

We all have the responsibility to shepherd relationships in our lives. When we shepherd lovingly, courageously, and protectively as our Heavenly Father shepherds us; relational enemies are defeated.

Prayer

Father, help me to lovingly, courageously, and protectively shepherd relationships.

 Thought for the Day

How does God’s love influence how you live?

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More Than A Visit: God Became Us

December 27, 2010

Suggested Bible Reading:

Philippians 2:5-11

 Today’s Scripture:

“Although He existed in the form of God…emptied Himself…being made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7

As the serpent deceived Eve causing her to question God’s goodness and love, I, too, doubt God’s love when life doesn’t turn out the way I wanted. Disappointment leads me to question if God cares or if life issues are too trivial to be detected on God’s radar screen.

The incarnation of Christ confronts my thoughts, questions, and doubts regarding God’s interest, care, and love for me. At a dark time in history when God’s children suffered and when God seemed out of touch, God did more than visit and access their condition. He entered it. He became a living human being who experienced daily life.

A God who came to earth for me cares for me. The One who faced rejection and endured bitter death blows to die for me, loves me. He who paid an enormous redemptive price will never abandon me or dismiss my needs.

Being a human I realize questions and doubts of God’s love will still come. When they do, I’ll redirect my thoughts to the depth of God’s love demonstrated in Christ’s incarnation.

Prayer:

Father, when doubts of your love arise, redirect my thoughts to your unconditional love demonstrated through Jesus.

Thought for the Day:

God made more than a visit. He became us, died for us, and now lives in us.

Prayer Focus:

To know the depth of God’s love.

Majestic Power Incognito

December 18, 2010

As always

God approaches

As promised

Deity morphed

Humanity embraced

Power descended

Entering an adolescent’s womb

Strength packaged in weakness

His birth our hope

His confinement our freedom

His suffering our release

His payment our penalty

His death our redemption

His light penetrates my darkness

Intimate Father: A Reflection on Psalm 139:13-18

November 29, 2010

(This devotional parallels “Breath of Life” posted on May 25, 2010)

 Father,

As You breathed life into Adam, even so, You breathed life into me. My heart was awaken at the sound of Your heartbeat. Your loving desire and innermost longing created me, crafted me, and birthed me. My life began in an intimacy with You that continues throughout my life.

 Psalm 139: 13-18

 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

You envisioned me. Your craftsmanship sculpted me, You placed me and positioned me in my mother’s womb.

 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I am God’s masterpiece. His artistic design of me was intentional. He wholeheartedly focused His skills in completing me. He worked with precision carrying out His master plan. God never fails, experiences no blunders, mistakes, or mishaps.

 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

Nothing about me is an “oops!” During my creation nothing occurred outside Your plan, every element of my being was directed and orchestrated by You.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

You were intimately involved in my birth and intricately involved in my life. You have a purpose and a specific plan for each day. My life is full of purpose, futility is non-existent.

 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

God, Your love, knowledge, intention, and intimacy blows me away. Your goodness and greatness are baffling and incomprehensible.

He Knows Me

November 24, 2010

This devotional has been revised and reposted. It was first posted on July 8 , 2010.

“O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.” Psalm 139:1

“Please Lorie, please pray that God would give me words to explain myself to my dad,” was the prayer request of a down syndrome teenager. How I wanted to wrap my arms around this young lady and thank her for capturing and articulating the heart desire of every woman. How we yearn for words to fully express ourselves and long to communicate in a way that we are fully understood by someone who completely accepts us.

Unfortunately, the opposite is commonly experienced. We are not understood, not known intimately, and commonly dismissed. Our attempts prove futile, our words inadequate, and our energy is fully drained in unsuccessful attempts. We are left with unsatisfied longings, unmet desires, and the resulting disappointment that plunges us into hopelessness. To protect our injured hearts, we withhold speaking and eventually become silent. No longer living, simply existing. Our presence is acknowledged, but no one peers into our heart comprehending our thoughts, feelings, and the fears we are unable to communicate.

Like David, we have a friend who hears and understands the unspoken words of our heart. We travel with a life companion who thoroughly comprehends how our past experiences have framed us, defined us, and impacted us. He has faithfully traveled through each moment with us.

To those hiding away in fear concerned that once you are understood, you will be unloved, hear God’s thoughts for you… “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

Oh the joy of discovering the one who knows you intimately loves you completely. Rest in the assurance that “He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Personal Prayer

Father, thank you for the safety and security of being known intimately and loved completely and unconditionally by you. Let the knowledge of your love empower me to live securely and confidently.

Reflection Question

In what ways has Christ demonstrated His understanding of you?

How does Christ’s humanity demonstrate His understanding?

Thought to Ponder

There is no greater human need than to be understood. There is no greater gift than listening in order to understand.

Quote to Consider

What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we fear more than anything else.

Frederick Buechner

Redefining Fatherhood

November 9, 2010

Suggested Reading

John 17:20-26

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”  John 17:26

Sunday’s sermon stirred a desire for healing in Joyce. She responded to the pastor’s invitation to come up for prayer at the end of the service. Joyce asked me to pray for her emotional healing to overcome the relational scars received by an abusive dad. After praying, Joyce shared that hearing me ask God to become a “father” to her, instead of bringing comfort, unleashed all kinds of ugly childhood memories.

Realizing that Joyce was transferring her experience with her earthly father into her image of her Heavenly Father, I asked a Joyce a few family questions. Upon discovering that Joyce was loved and adored by her grandfather, I suggested she picture her grandfather every time the word father was mentioned. I believed this would help her upgrade from a negative to a positive role model.

What I failed to recognize was as long as earthly people become our point of reference, our definition of father will be skewed. Jesus recognized earthly upgrades are limited and faulty, that’s why He came to demonstrate His Father’s love. My friend didn’t need an earthly example, she needed the ultimate model: the Father’s love demonstrated through Jesus.

Jesus’ words in John 17 express His desire for us to experience the same loving relationship He had with His Father. Christ showed us on Calvary how much our Heavenly Father loved us and what He would pay to have a relationship with us. The love Jesus received from His Heavenly Father was go powerful that He was willing to die in order for us to have this same relationship with His Father.

Now when I pray for people like Joyce who struggle in forming an accurate concept of their Heavenly Father, I direct them to the ultimate model…Jesus.

Personal Prayer

Father, expose and help me release any false beliefs and misperceptions about you. Help me to experience the depth of the loving relationship you desire with me.

Reflection Question

How can we recognize faulty assumptions and beliefs about God?

Thought to Ponder

You can’t trust your father until you know him.

Quote to Consider

“True and proper fatherhood resides in God and from this fatherhood what we know as fatherhood among us men is derived.”

Karl Barth

Christ’s Beauty Trumps Insecurity

October 22, 2010

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Cor. 4:7

Someone recently suggested saying the words of Song of Solomon 4:7, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you,” for two weeks every time I stood in front of a mirror or whenever I saw my reflection. While recognizing this recommendation was Biblically based, I questioned what needed to happen in order for spoken words to transform my life.

Speaking these words didn’t seem adequate in bringing a life change. I’m no idiot, I have flaws and I have sufficient evidence to support their existence along with friends and family who deal with my blemishes. Saying out loud, “There is no blemish in me” feels like a lie and the Bible says lying is a sin.

I struggled to understand how these words could bring a change in my perspective until I discovered the Song of Solomon paints a picture of Christ as a bridegroom. He is seeking a marriage relationship with His bride. Christ desires to be the treasure within this bride’s heart replacing her inner darkness with His presence. This partnership allows His life to flow out of hers releasing beauty. The psalmist understood this when he composed the words, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty.” (Psalm 84:1)

As long as I rely upon myself as my source of beauty, transformation will never occur. When I’m fixated on me, I’m blind to Christ. I look to external indicators as a source of beauty and performance as a measurement of my identity and value. Unfortunately, the more I look in the mirror, the more I see me, blemishes and all. 

When I stop my self-fixation and focus on Christ who is living within, I possess beauty that radiates outward.

I’m discovering that all insecurity problems are identity problems. When I become my reference point for beauty or identity, blemishes break out. Instead of covering them up I’m partnering with the Unblemished One who brings beauty into every heart that flows outward.

Personal Prayer

Father,

You know me intimately, love me completely, and of all the places in the world to live, You chose my heart. Let this amazing truth reframe the way I see and think. May this transforming truth allow me to see myself in the light of your incredible love.

Reflection Question

What are false beauty indicators?

How do we recognize when we are relying on our performance and physical exterior to frame our identity?

Thought to Ponder

Christ tells us not to dwell on our glaring inadequacies, but instead reminds us that of the incomparable adequacy that comes from our relationship with Him. He is our adequacy, therefore our security and identity.

Quote to Consider

Insecurity is more than a complex emotion. It is a lie about our God-sanctioned condition.

 

Where’s Your Trust?

October 19, 2010

Oh my God, in You I trust. Psalm 25:2

There are times when our desire for clarity becomes a road block hindering forward movement. Our view of the future is always limited. When entering a journey of trust, there is more certainty of what one leaves behind than what lies ahead. Although it’s natural, even human, to desire and ask for clarity, there are times when God asks us to move forward, not with clarity, but in trust. The foundation of faith is a confidence in God, not in calculated plans and predicted outcomes. Our challenge is determining whether we are stalling for clarity when we are to move forward in trust.

Personal Prayer

Father, I confess, I want clarity in life. I desire the security of well-formed plans with identified outcomes. While I believe it is godly and responsible to plan and prepare, ultimately You are directing my life, calling the shots, and establishing Your plans and purposes in the world. Help me to live in partnership with You and in confident trust that one greater than me is in charge and in control. Let this understanding be my security and confidence.

 Reflection Questions

What are clues that the desire for clarity is competing with or replacing the need to trust? 

How can we recognize when our confidence is rooted in our well-formed plans instead of God? 

Thought to Ponder

Once you identify your areas of worry, you discover areas of needed trust.

Quote to Consider

I haven’t a clue as to how my story will end. But that’s all right. When you set out on a journey and night covers the road, that’s when you discover the stars.

Nancy Willard

Don’t Cocoon

October 7, 2010

This devotional has been revised and reposted. It was first posted on April 19, 2010

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Rob’s acceptance of a work position for E-bay led us on a home search to San Jose, California. On our third and final day of searching, we put an offer down on a condo. The reality of the move and its preparation seemed surreal and mind boggling. Uncertain how to downsize and adapt from a four bedroom, 4200 sq. foot four bedroom home to a two bedroom, 1240 sq. foot home brought an endless whirlwind of questions that left me unable to sleep at midnight.

In my sleep deprived state, I arose from bed, wrapped myself in a blanket, and headed to another room praying that God would help me release my anxiety. My prayer seemed more of a plea asking God to overcome my anxious thoughts, more rightly, mental anguish, into a peaceful calm.

While praying, God brought to the mind of this visual learner a picture of a butterfly standing on top of the cocoon from which she recently emerged. Strangely enough, this butterfly was seeking to return to her cocoon. The message was clear. I was looking to the things and circumstances of the past for peace. This is idolatry. I was shackled and enslaved and needed to become free.

From my previous life opportunities and surroundings, God birthed beauty within. Remaining in the cocoon would damage the wings that developed within the cocoon equipping me to fly. Returning to the security of the past would rob me from embracing the glorious adventure and metamorphosis God is crafting.

With a renewed perspective, instead of loss, I saw this new direction as a path to freedom. God was releasing me of my attachments to things, comfort, and the false security that came through my environment and relationships with others.

With new insight, this butterfly began to fly freely into a new life chapter.

Personal Prayer

Father, forgive me for allowing my home and my past life to become a false security. I don’t want to trust in anything more than you. Help me recognize and release any false securities that compete with your plans and purpose for my life.

Reflection Questions

What causes you to cocoon?

What are signs and clues that you’re cocooning?

Question to Ponder

Are you clinging to God for things or clinging to God because He is the only thing worth clinging to?

Quotes to Consider

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

C .S .Lewis

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of shore.”

Andre’ Gide

Reader Response to “Emotional Withholding”

September 23, 2010

Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another. 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

Today’s devotional blog post was inspired by a comment from a reader named Laurel. Here comment and my response are included.

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Dear Lorie,

I really appreciated this post (Emotional Withholding). Sometimes I think we as Christians feel like we need to be “flawless and perfect” in everyway and in that thinking we unknowingly shut out others because we seem “unhuman” to them.

I personally have caught myself behaving in a manner that instead of inviting someone to express their pain and thoughts, I feel like I need to fix it by offering antidotes and suggestions. When all they wanted was a listening ear and emotional support. And unless we let them express themselves we aren’t really listening anyway, we’re just doing our “Christian” work.

I’ve found that being honest and human is one of the most sincere gifts we can give to those we care about, all else is just checking off our “Christian to-do list.”

Thanks for your honesty and your transparency, we should all consider how we sound to those we care about.

Laurel

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 Dear Laurel,

Thanks for reading and responding to “Emotional Withholding.” Your words and life discoveries are a picture of humility. Like you, I’m shedding the false expectation of needing to provide a solution to the problems, challenges, and pain of others. Since I’m no longer the source of information, my focus becomes listening to others and seeking to understand them. I’ve released myself from playing God (there was no vacancy in the Trinity) and no longer appoint myself as God’s spokesperson.

 This new freedom helped me discover the underlying cause of my problem was fear. This fear was rooted in insecurity. To counter my sense of inadequacy, I tried to overcome it by providing solutions and direction to others. This same fear of inadequacy (lacking knowledge of good and evil) is what tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Even as the knowledge of evil was dangerous and destructive for Eve, even so, the desire to provide solutions for others, is equally dangerous and destructive. I’m back to usurping a position in the Trinity.

 When we realize the first step of healing is discovering our pain and facing our inadequacy, we stop putting a bandage on an infection and begin looking for a surgeon. In “Emotional Withholding” I was not exposing my hurt. This resulted in bitterness and anger. Honestly sharing my hurt with my friend (without judgment) could have helped me deal with my hurt in healthy ways.  When we experience a freedom to share hurt with a true listener who responds in love we are on the pathway to healing.

 I will pray that others will find a freedom to express their pain with you and that their sharing will become first steps of their healing journey.

 Thanks again Laurel for sharing a response to my writing that hit home and inspired more writing. You’ve given me more to think and reflect on and now others can join.

 Warmly,

 Lorie Reichel Howe

 Personal Prayer

Father,

You are the Great Healer. I am not anyone’s source of healing. You have a purpose in all our pain and in everything we experience. Every situation we face, whether good or evil, presents an opportunity to know You in a deeper way.

Because You live in us, Your healing power resides within. Therefore, give me a humble heart to acknowledge my hurt and to listen to the hurts of others. Help me not to dismiss what You desire to expose. Give me Your guidance and direction in listening, sharing, and discovering Your truth that brings healing.

Reflection Question

When do I dismiss my pain or the pain of others?

When is humility present in my listening? Absent?

 Thought to Ponder

One of life’s greatest challenges is to understand and talk about our feelings.

 Quote to Consider

A genuine friend hears the message in your heart that words are unable to communicate.

Lorie Reichel Howe