Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be full of His blessings...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Practicing Awareness - an Overview: 7 Steps into Fully, Creatively Living

The glory of God is man fully alive...
St. Ireneus

I have mentioned before that I am a collector
and that is part of the appeal of pinterest and tumblr for me...a way of having a large collection of things I like that takes up virtually "no space"...

How does "collecting" fit into the topic of "Awareness", of being "Fully Alive" and how do these topics influence our art?

As is often the case, I sit down to write what seems to be a simple post, and so much more comes forth...the 7 item list at the bottom begs to be expanded upon, and will be!

To begin, the topic of "awareness" is important in the counseling realm as people are prone to live their lives on "automatic pilot".  Days pass by in a seeming blur, and if one seeks help to find out why their lives are dysfunctional, the individual really can have difficulty finding how their choices have played into their present discomfort {thus why the Scripture declares "in the abundance of counselors there is wisdom"}.  Indeed, when an action/choice/decision has become a habit, it is more difficult for the person with that habit to perceive its existence.  It takes a concentrated, focused effort to perceive and in the case of Christians, a good dose of relying on the Presence of the Holy Spirit to lead into all truth!

Our own God-created physiology can play into the development of "automatic living".  Our skin is designed to acclimate to the feel of clothing or accessories so that we don't notice them within seconds of being placed against the skin.  Our brains are designed to develop the ability to "attend" to certain designated important stimulus while at the same time screening out unimportant stimulus.  These two functions are important to our ability to live our days without distraction, but if lived apart from God or if lived "by might {flesh} and not by Spirit", these functions can lead us into numbness or bewilderment about our inability to experience the abundant life promised to us.

Our minds were also created to momentarily detach {or dissociate} from trauma so that we can do what is necessary to survive.  In some cases, dissociation has become a way of life instead of a defensive strategy to use in a crises.

Awareness, or living in the reality of the present, becomes a needed skill for each of these cases.  So how does one develop {or redevelop} this sense of awareness?  Think of how a young child approaches each is an adventure of new sensations and experiences; curiosity and discovery are normal.  They are open to the adventure of life.  Exploration and revelation are ever before them.  How can we reclaim the sense of adventure and revelation?  Following is a list of suggestions - 7 - try one a day, and then repeat!

 Awareness enhancing activities:

1.  Spend 5 minutes paying attention to your surroundings with your senses.  List (one word to keep is simple) what you hear, see, smell, taste, or can sense through your skin (hot, cold, comfortable, how do your clothes feel, what you are sitting on, etc.)  Consider taking one sense each day, and on days 6 and 7 write reflections on what the senses have revealed to you, or your thoughts about the exercise, or how paying attention to your senses has increased you awareness of the rest of your life.

2.  Count blessings.  3 a day gets you to 1000 over the course of a year.  Do you need a nudge on how to start?  Ann Voskamp's blog, A Holy Experience, has a link to prompts by month. (Plus information how giving thanks for the blessings makes good habits that lead to fuller lives is included.)

3.  Take a break every afternoon at the same time.  Sit down, drink a cup of tea (or in my case, rich dark coffee - no sugar or cream please); don't multi-task, but keep a journal and pencil handy - but this is not journaling time, not even a list making time.  When a thought of "I should" or the list of "to dos" starts running through your mind, just jot them down in the journal quickly for future reference, let the responsibility for it go and let your mind relax.  This might be a time when the Lord speaks to your quieted heart - your handy journal can capture the main idea of His words, but the important thing is not "to do", but "to be". And allow this to be a time when you keep your heart open, where family can come and you listen to their hearts...keep the attitude of "being" and not "doing" while you interact, and see how that affects the family members that come to your "tea time".

4.  Start a virtual collection on pinterest or tumblr.  Limit yourself to 5 minutes on one or the other however.  This becomes a diary of your personal likes, the beauty you are attracted to, the things you are curious about, joy and beauty that is being revealed to you.  It can also be a quick reference to that beauty.  In a very small way, you are creating a personal space for your own likes and loves.

5.  Start a journal:  1)  consider a "quote journal" in your own handwriting.  It will be a keepsake!  Are you writing blessings in a journal?  Consider using the same one for quotes in order to only keep up with one journal.  2).  a nature journal; visually record your surroundings - outside and in!  Sketch, watercolor, use color pencils.  Date your entries. 3).  an art journal; a combination of words and images, collaged, drawn, doodled, sketched, painted colored.  The key is freedom and no concern for the finished is the process that is important!  Don't try to be perfect and let that perfectionism rob you of the benefits of journal keeping!

6. Simplify:  this one word has ramifications in many areas of our life.  Start out by listing possible areas of "too much" that need to be addressed.  Three online places that I like:
a) Home Sanctuary - Christian and her mostly daily emails lead you to clean or maintain a small area, breaking the task into bites even the most busy person can achieve. Want to make your home - your sanctuary? You're in the right place. Come on in and join us!
b) Small Notebook - A Christian blogger in a small home who loves to share the joys and largeness of "small living".  Her family lives in a small space, so she has lots of good ideas for keeping that space from getting full and organizing it.  Small Notebook gives you practical tips and encouragement to simplify your home, your finances, and your time. She hasn't posted since January of 2015, but the blog and all the goodness is still there.
c) Simple Mom - a space dedicated to helping families live simple and intentionally. A book "Organized Simplicity" and "One Bite at a Time" helps make the "simplifying" task, well, simple!

A word of caution - don't let "simplifying" become an issue of overwhelm!  These 3 blogs can help, but give yourself permission to go at a pace is comfortable to you.  I subscribe to "Home Sanctuary", because I like the daily prompts (which I choose to do or not do).  "Small Notebook" is a place I visit during leisurely minutes for inspiration to do more with less.  The same with "Simple Mom".  My visits to these two sites might be once a month, and probably reflects my season in life.  You might find a different routine would fit your lifestyle in a better way. 

7.  Take deep cleansing breaths.  They increase the oxygen that your brain receives, help to cleanse your body of impurities, and release minor stress.  Notice times when you sigh.  Have you been holding your breath unconsciously and your body has just made an attempt to get more oxygen?  Take these opportunities to do several deep breaths...and send sentence prayers to God during the breaths!

One final recommendation...three "simplifying" sources are all you need.  You might find a different three than these, but limit yourself to three.  Anything more is probably procrastination at beginning the task of simplification!

Praying for Him to lead you into the simplicity of devotion to Him 
by letting go of all that is not of Him...
(2 Corinthians 11:3)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Walk Out of Self-Sufficiency {It's Easier Than You Might Think...}

Faith is hard to come by some days. 

This former perfectionist still drifts towards self-sufficiency.  The spiritual disciplines can become the end instead of the vehicle to journey into His Presence. 

My stressed out body lets me know that I have wandered, and now I recognize that my mental state of “being out of sorts” has little to do with the pressures of the world or the schemes of the enemy, but rather it is because of my heart, still prone to wander…

I need to change my perspective…like Job.   
My life hasn’t been reduced like his.  That is perspective right there!  

I have been in Job lately, reading chronologically with my sweet teen through the Bible.  Job was asking “why God…” when all of a sudden, God comes in {after 37 long chapters of man’s wisdom, mind you} and “spoke to Job out of the storm.”

Selah…{pause and think about that!}.

God has a few questions for Job, like: 

 Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?

  Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?

What is the way to the abode of light?
    And where does darkness reside?
  Can you take them to their places?

    Do you know the paths to their dwellings?

Surely you know, for you were already born! 
 You have lived so many years!

God continues speaking of all sorts of wonders, each one illustrating that He is the one in total control - the creation and the continuing rhythm of life…all are sustained by God’s hand.  We can only comprehend a fraction of the entire picture of our lives and all of life on earth; then the heavens are even beyond this. When we look at just the simple processes that we observe everyday, we can begin to move to looking at our lives from God's point of view, instead of our limited earth-bound vision.

Whenever we question “why, God”, we show that we believe we are the ones in control.   
There it is again - my self-sufficiency rearing up in my being…a grandiose heart blind to its short sightedness!  Such is the nature of the flesh!

Notice the bolded and italicized verse, Job 38:2, and these particular words: “that obscures my plans with words without knowledge”.   God is saying that we actually hide our ability to perceive His plans for us when we enter into that domain ruled by our own fruitless words and thinking! 

So, when faith seems far away and I have drifted into controlling my life apart from Him again... 

a walk outside grounds me. 

I can see the heavens, grass, trees, rocks and insects. 
I hear birds and crickets.   
Depending on my direction, I can walk beside a pond or come up to a vegetable garden.  
A spent dandelion head reminds me of the charm of making a wish.   
A hopeful kitten checks for a treat in my hand.  
It is fall, so masses of color are everywhere.  
Leaves let go of their anchor and pirouette to the ground.   
Dried abundance crunches underfoot.   
The air smells pungent and warm.   
I am in the midst of everything God has designed…
                  and my perspective is lifted from hidden “whys” to the true questions…

“How should I respond to this?”
“What do You want me to learn from this?”

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Secret to a Blessed Year - 4 Blessings That Are Already Ours {Part 5, Final of the Jubilee Series}

There is a reason so many Christians today live in fear and confusion. It is because they don't understand the joyful sound of Jubilee! They know that Jesus died and rose again, they know His blood has power to save. But they have not yet understood the joyful sound of all that He has provided for us to live in freedom!

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound..."  
(Psalm 89:15) 

The joyful sound we hear today is the trumpet of God proclaiming our deliverance, through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Now, here are the other blessings of Jubilee: 

1.  "...they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance" (Psalm 89:15).  The Hebrew meaning here suggests, "They shall walk in cheerfulness, secure in God's promises, at ease in His presence." Simply put, we no longer have to walk in darkness or confusion - because we will behold the light of His face!

2.  "In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted"(Psalm 89:16).  We know our own righteousness is as filthy rags.  And so we are to take courage by rejoicing in his righteousness - which is ours by faith alone!

3.  "For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted"(Psalm 89:17).  We know that Christ alone is the source of all our strength.  And we don't have to live under the devil's thumb anymore.  All we have to do is look upon Satan's back, where we'll see the heel print of our Savior.  Jesus has crushed our enemy!

4.  "For the Lord is our defense... " (Psalm 89:18).  We are utterly helpless in our flesh.  And so we trust totally in the victory of Jesus'cross.  He defends us against every enemy?

 Dear saint, we are headed for one last, great Jubilee - 
signaled by the final trumpet blast:  

"...We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.  
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, 
at the last trump: 
for the trumpet shall sound, 
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, 
and we shall be changed" 
 (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). 

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:  and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord". 
(1 Thessaloninans 4:16-17)

When those trumpets sound, the dead shall be raised.  There will be no more prisons, no more bondage, no more sin, no more sickness.  And in that moment, we will have eternal Jubilee.  hallelujah!  

Wilkerson, David. Times Square Church Pulpit Series. 13 October 1997. 
Used with permission - link to Times Square Church here  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Secret to a Blessed Year - {bonus} - Knowing What Jesus is Doing RIGHT NOW for our Jubilee!

Christ ascended into glory not only as our Conquering King, but as our High Priest - making intercession for us...

Just as the high priest ascended the stairs to the holy place on the day of atonement, our high priest, Jesus, ascended into the heavenly tabernacle, "...a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands..."  (Hebrews 9:11).  John describes seeing Jesus in His priest robe "...a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle" (Revelation 1:13).

Jesus ascended not merely to enjoy the glory He deserves - but to do a work on our behalf.  The apostle Paul writes:  "...When He ascended upon high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men"(Ephesians 4:8).  He is quoting from Psalm 68:  "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive:  thou hast received gifts for men...Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation..." (Psalm 68:18-19).  The psalmist is saying, "Our savior has given us every gift and benefit we need to live in freedom!"

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus' work in heaven is all for us:  "For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: (Hebrews 9:24).  "...He ever liveth to make intercession for them [us]" (Hebrews 7:25).  Jesus Christ does all this for us!

Yet, what exactly does it mean, that 
"He lives to make intercession for us"?

 1. Jesus intercession is Him stepping into Satan's accusations against us and declares the victory of His cross.  He doesn't have to convince the Father not to believe Satan's words...and then Jesus turns to Satan and says "Didn't you hear the trumpet sound, devil?  You know you have claim over this child of Mine.  Keep you hands off my property!"  

2.  Christ's intercession for us means He makes sure we obtain and enjoy all the benefits provided by Jubilee.  Just as the Levites enforced the law that provided every man with his just blessings, Jesus today enforces the privileges of Jubilee for us.  He makes sure we know we are legally free!

Satan may try to circumvent the victory of the cross by telling us, "you're under my hold, and you know it.  You'll be bound by lust all your life!  You'll never get victory over your habits."
But the moment that happens, Jesus intervenes.  he sends His sheriff - the Holy Spirit - to enforce His decree of Jubilee, saying, "The trumpets have sounded, devil.  It's Jubilee time!  Release your claim on this free child.  You have no further rights to him!"

We may still struggle with sin - but we have been legally declared free from all bondage.  And we are to claim our freedom and our full inheritance, no matter how condemned we may feel.  

3.  Jesus intercedes in our own hearts, reconciling us with the Father.  He continually answers our doubts and fears, reminding us:  a) we are forgiven, b) we must remember God's goodness and mercy toward us, and c) we can trust in God's faithfulness to provide us with all the power and strength we need.

Because of Christ's intercession, we now can say, "I may have my battles with the flesh - but I know in my heart what Jesus did for me.  Sin can no longer hold me.  I've heard the joyful sound!"  

Part 1 can be found here 
Part 2 here
Part 3 can be found here

Wilkerson, David. Times Square Church Pulpit Series. 13 October 1997. 
Used with permission - link to Times Square Church here