Friday, May 24, 2013

UPDATE; Get Fit/Feel Pretty

UPDATE; Get Fit/Feel Pretty
5/23/13: I started this story in an earlier blog called, "Soul Java." (The links to those parts are at the end of this blog.) If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you'll be abreast of my current health status. I'm certainly not a registered, licensed nutritionist or fitness guru. But as you'll read, I've graduated from some courses in the School of Experience, and I regularly take "new courses" to keep my "certification" up-to-date.

I've been divorced for a few years. Nutrition and exercise have been such a relief to my foggy mind and broken spirit. Health has become my friend, my distraction, my purpose. I'm a very spiritual person. (I believe staunchly that the Bible is the absolute, inspired Word of God.) And my passion for Christ has, without doubt, made breathing possible. Not to mention parenting, working, and existing. My brokenness has even still been all-consuming. I believe God gave the focus of my health to me as a life-line. No one's life-experiences are identical. So no one will go through a tragedy such as divorce or death in the same depressive depths I did, nor will anyone lose weight and find health in the same way I have. The point of us is to each be unique individuals. Even still, there are some samenesses about us in the human race. I
 hope that my experiences will inspire you to get through your difficulties, or excel to achieve your goals as I have, through the strength of Christ.

I weigh each day. My base goal is 135. But I'm aware that a person can gain or lose up to five pounds in a 24 hour period. So while I watch my weight, I don't consider it the end of the world if the scale says I weigh 140. I simply consider what I've eaten, how much sodium I've had, etc. It's rare for me to go below 135. But if I'm fasting or cleansing, I do. And again, I merely make note of my intake (food, drink) and output (energy expended) and judge if I'm handling each day properly.

My personal "cleansing" is usually lumped in with a fast carried out for spiritual purposes. I usually do at least a 3 day cleanse/fast each month. A traditional fast is simply consuming nothing but water for a specified time period; for me that's typically 24 hours. When I do an extended fast, i make  smoothies out of soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, spinach, kale, wheat germ, aloe juice, and a bit of Greek yogurt, at least once a day, sometimes twice. My body and mind LOVES this! My tongue and teeth don't always! But when I'm in this state, no chewing is allowed. (My own rules. Not of my church or religion.) I can clearly comprehend how Daniel and his friends appeared so much healthier due to their self-prescribed fast, or diet, than the other prisoners who gobbled up the king's meat. No doubt from their clarity of mind, to their healthy, glowing skin, between God's favor and the natural result of good nutrition, of course they were better than all the others!

I run at least 3 times a week. Usually 4-5 times. I usually run 1.5-2 miles. But sometimes I'll run 3-5 miles. It depends on my day. I usually run on a treadmill simply because there's NO excuse not to run on a treadmill. I'll run barefoot if I'm running less than 3 miles. If time permits a longer run I'll wear my running shoes. If I'm fasting I will not run. But I regularly do strength exercises, such as Pilates or yoga, even when I'm fasting. I stand from my desk EVERY hour. I walk and work when it's possible. I CERTAINLY walk if I'm on the phone. I've walked many miles before in one phone call. That happens quite often. Most people find more success working out with somebody. I'm the complete opposite. I do not do well with a workout buddy.

As I stated earlier, I'm single, therefore I have no other adult to consider in my grocery shopping. I do have two teen children who are not into health and nutrition as I am. And that's OK with me. I wish I had started their lives with a taste for raw, whole foods. But I didn't. I believe my enjoyment of my lifestyle will "convert" them, if you will. In fact, I have indeed already seen them make changes of their own accord. I expect more of that.

I do NOT allow junk food in my house. Period. Now, there are exceptions to that. For instance, this past week we held my daughters 16th birthday party in my house and that party had the usual trappings; chocolate cake, ice cream, soda, chips, punch, candy, sandwiches. While the sandwiches are normal in the house, the rest is not. All through the party I dropped the word, "When you leave, take a goody bag of 'leftovers,' because whatever is left is going into the trash." And THAT is how I handle ALL junk food. It's not that I refuse to eat it. But if junk food is inconvenient to access, I'll need to be extremely hormonal and at the height of cravings to go through the effort of GETTING the junk food.

I drink mostly water. But I'll have a diet soda periodically. I use Splenda. And I'll eat processed foods. I also eat of the "evil" McDonald's. While I'm aware these foods are not the best for my body, my body is so well-crafted by God, and I do such a good job of taking care of it, that these organs of mine can handle the rare and periodic  processing and elimination of the evil. I feel it's rude and insulting to constantly harp on people in my community who eat "the bad foods." Plus, I believe sin is more damaging to our society and culture than a hamburger or refined sugar is. I have never personally had success in helping anyone change their behaviors via defensive, argumentative conversations where I "judge" and nag them about their soul's or body's health. I choose to focus on MY health and MY spiritual condition while displaying a lovely, peaceful, and joyful example of a high-quality life. It's amazing how many more constructive conversations I have about salvation and health because they like my example of living. 

Losing weight is not easy. Maintaining healthy weight is not easy. As a matter of fact, absolutely NOTHING of value and excellence is easy. Purpose, discipline, focus and refocus is required to create anything of lasting value, including your health. But it's worth it!

Sent from my iPhone

Get Fit/Feel Pretty; Part 1
Get Fit/Feel Pretty; Part 2
Get Fit/Feel Pretty; Part 3
Get Fit/Feel Pretty; Part 4
Get Fit/Feel Pretty; Part 5

Friday, May 10, 2013

ACTION, Prayer & Fasting, Day 12

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

When people begin working in a ministry, these are the  two feelings involved in the mix of things:

There's nothing wrong wo either one of these. It would be wrong if these thoughts or feelings dictated your behavior. But these feelings and ponderings are normal and appropriate.

Moses was an "I can't do this" guy.
David was a "let me at'em" guy.

It doesn't matter from which of these platforms you launch from. You will end up on the opposite platform at some point in your process. Therefore, we all need training to launch from EACH platform.

We all come on to our launching platform from a particular path of life. The experiences along that path is what dictates the direction, and therefore which platform we launch from.

David's path to UNBELIEVABLE amounts of confidence was isolation and personal experience.
The isolation put David in a position to never hear people tear him down. (Clearly, his family was in the habit of tearing him down.)
And his experiences in these isolated situations gave him knowledge of his abilities. David sounded cocky and arrogant to those around him. But he wasn't cocky, HE WAS KNOWLEDGABLE! 

Knowledge is power!
He literally KNEW from experience what he and God were able to do.

SIDEBAR: If you're hearing somebody that's coming off as cocky and arrogant, stand back be patient, and let their fruit be displayed. They may, indeed, be prideful, arrogant, loudmouths. But you risk being a member of David's brothers club if that person happens to be merely trying to ignite faith.
Know them by their fruit. (Matt 7:16, 20)

The purity of fruit in confident people IS SUBMISSION.
David didn't submit to siblings, but he submitted to his father and to his king.
     (As their "spiritual sibling" within the family of God, they may not submit to you, even though you're "older." But if they're submitting to your joint pastor, that's all the fruit you need to be quiet and get out of their way.)

Moses, the "I can't do this" guy, had a path of experience...
The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?” Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” (Exodus 2:14 NLT)

Moses was adopted.
When he sought out his own people he was rejected.
Moses was a People Pleaser by nature, which makes leading large groups of people TERRIBLE.
Moses found the perfect relief from his lifelong emotional turmoils in isolation.

Moses, the "I can't do this" guy, his issues were not authority figures. It was his OWN head, not a God-ordained, figure-head. When the only figure-head in Moses' life (his father-in-law) gave direction, he followed it to the letter. Moses did not have authority issues. He had inferiority issues.

When we start working for god, sometimes we start from a feeling of inferiority. 

Everybody looks more proficient & fluid when THEY do the job. And we're consumed with awareness of our own inability.

Ur in GOOD company!!
Abraham made excuses for not being able to have a son.
Joshua was very nervous when it came right down to following through on taking Jericho.
Jeremiah felt too young.
Naomi felt too old.
Barak didn't feel capable.

Feelings of insignificance and inferiority are NOT reasons to not step through an open door.
If a door of ministry is opened, STEP INTO IT! Period.

PEOPLE'S opinions, behaviors will always be part of the struggle.
Guess what, PEOPLE are the ONLY weak link God himself has too!!
PEOPLE'S opinions, behaviors will always be part of the struggle to launch into ministry, not God.

God is your promoter.
God is your cheerleader.

ACTION is all that God needs from you.
Draw near to God, THEN God will draw near to you... (James 4:8)
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might... (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

The ONLY cure for inferiority, is ACTION.
The ONLY METHOD for getting you from Point A, to Point B, and beyond is ACTION.

If you'll take ACTION, if you'll make the launch, you WILL feel him lift you up.
In our weakness, his strength is on display! (2 Cor 12:9)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

RELIANCE, Prayer & Fasting, Day 11

Emotions are a very powerful driving force.

"I don't feel like anybody cares about me."

"This feels wrong."

"This feels great!"

"I feel hopeless."

"I feel like doing this." 

I just don't feel like doing this."

The problem with emotions is that they feel so real! But if we allow our emotions to dictate our thinking and behavior we will never achieve a better situation than we're in right now. Emotions are fueled by thinking and behavior. So if you start living according to your current-emotion you will invariably be in a cycle that makes everything worse. It's a cycle of death. You must PURPOSEFULLY force your death cycle to become a cycle of life. The ONLY way to do this is by engaging in a life of FAITH.

Every individual in scripture who failed to achieve their potential, failed because they relied more on their FEELINGS than FAITH. YOU CAN'T HAVE A TESTIMONY WITHOUT A TEST! So, of course your going to walk through the valley of the shadow of death! Of course you're going to have to sit at tables in the presence of people who hate you! Why are we shocked when life goes south?! From my own valleys & fiery trials I have learned I can go to my HEIGHT of disgusting arrogance by asking, "Why me?"

Really?! "Why me?" 

As apposed to WHO?! I've asked myself why I think I'm too good to carry burdens. I've confronted my thinking about who exactly would I prefer to walk through this valley instead of myself.

What cruelty is built in us that we'd prefer to give our pain to another? What sinful pride, that we would think we didn't "deserve" this test.

WE MUST STOP. CEASE. DESIST. This type of emotional-driven living is not only sinful, it's also the chain that locks us into remaining in the wilderness.

Another death cycle temptation is to accept defeat. Allowing feelings of despondency to make us think life will never get better. When we decide to be satisfied and settled in the valley, we will not scale to the mountain-top experience God intends for us. 

We must walk through every moment of the day by faithfully RELYING on God & NOT by how each moment feels.

If you are connected to me on the social networks, you know that every hour I post something about a "happy habit." That happy habit is how I broke my own death cycle. After separation and divorce, depression, perpetual sickness that stemmed from the thinking and behaviors of the death cycle, I was  accepting both defeat AND bitterness. THANK GOD FOR HIS MERCY!! I began to read, study and research God's plan for living an overcomer's life.

An overcomer is not one who doesn't have valleys, heartache, betrayal, trials, etc. An overcomer is ONE WHO OVERCOMES THEM!! And guess what, they invariably get something else they overcome!

Point to EVERY biblical hero, and you will be pointing to this overcoming life-cycle.

They didn't get one inch through their difficulty relying on the feelings of the moment. They overcame "by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony!"

Herein lies your formula for a life-cycle of victory:
1. Relying on God's power (blood of the Lamb.)
2. Speak life (word of testimony.)

Don't rely on the disturbance you may feel. Don't rely on the calamity you are currently experiencing. It is what it is. Fix the parts that God has put in your power to fix. Then EVERYTHING ELSE must be approached spiritually. You MUST face every fear, every anxiety, every sadness, and every anger with the thinking and behavior of FAITH.

Last night I put myself into a position to have a deep, peaceful, good night's sleep by recording, and then listening to these passages of scripture that remind me HE is the author of my life's story. It's ALWAYS awesome to be a character in God's stories because he writes every line with the intention of showing HIS glory and power. Consequently, if you surrender yourself to be one of his characters, YOU PARTAKE IN HIS GLORY AND POWER!!

Surrendering to RELIANCE on God is absolutely an infallible plan.

Thanks for reading!

God's Provision, Scriptures

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalms 2:8 (ESV) 
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Hebrews 13:5 ESV
... he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Philippians 4:19 ESV 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:26 ESV 
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Proverbs 3:5 ESV 
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Matthew 11:28 ESV 
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Malachi 3:10 ESV 
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

Philippians 1:6 ESV 
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 9:8-11 ESV 
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

2 Peter 1:3 ESV 
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

Philippians 4:6 ESV 
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Matthew 6:32 ESV 
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Matthew 6:11 ESV 
Give us this day our daily bread,

Jude 1:24 ESV 
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,

Exodus 19:5 ESV  ...and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine;

Philippians 2:13 ESV 
It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Romans 8:28 ESV 
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Genesis 12:1-3 ESV 
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

1 Peter 2:5 ESV 
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Psalms 2:8 ESV
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.

Matthew 18:19 KJV
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to [his] disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

Psalms 89:33 NLT
But I will never stop loving him nor fail to keep my promise to him.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV 
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

SERVANTHOOD, Prayer & Fasting, Day 10

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat. (2 Kings 4:8 NLT)

In this wonderful story of the Shunammite woman, we find important traits that we should have active if we want to access the types of blessings that were in her life. These blessings and miracles occurred strictly because she put herself in the role of a SERVANT.

The first thing we notice about this woman is that she was wealthy. The King James Version uses the phrase, "great woman," to mean she was above average, not poor in material or financial means. Its interesting to note that the scripture takes a rare turn from its usual manner of approaching gender and does not describe this Shunammite as, "the wife of a wealthy man." I am not a feminist, nor do I seek to step out of my God ordained role of female-under-authority. But I point this out because when the scripture bypasses its pattern, we should figure out why.

I believe it's because her behavior of SERVICE put her in the dimension we find in the New Testament; "There is neither male nor female, Jew or Greek, bond or free..." Of COURSE genders, nationalities, and other roles exist. But when it comes to WHO God is limited to use, there is NOTHING of our societies' culture, traditional rules, or mindset of upbringing that limits who God will use in any role that we choose to SERVE in.

I think it was likely because of this woman's fearlessness, because of her initiative and drive, because she was a hard working, Proverbs31-woman that their family was blessed to this degree in the first place. I believe that's why scripture gave her the prominence. She was this story's writer, therefore she got her name on the cover. However, since that's an imaginative, "I think..." Let's look at what I KNOW.

I KNOW that the principle of, "if you're faithful with that which is little, he'll make you ruler over much," is very visible in her behavior.

Her first action as a SERVANT was to invite the man of God  into her home for a meal. Then he came for more and more meals. She didn't have a guest room to offer him. She offered him what she DID have. (It is in this that we glimpse her "get 'er done" nature.) Remember, she was a wealthy woman who had servants of her own. She chose to be a SERVANT to Elisha. She chose to use her means to SERVE him.

She said to her husband, “I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. Let’s build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.” (2 Kings 4:9, 10 NLT)

This Shunammite woman went to the next step and altered her home for the purpose of serving the man of God. We see the wisdom she employed by taking this relationship step-by-step, and we see the level of commitment to SERVANTHOOD progressing as well. First, it was just the time and expense of a meal when he was passing through. But after that meal was over, she still had her home in its state of privacy. During the "meal only stage," her level of involvement was a few hours periodically. But a GUEST ROOM?!

Have you ever been in a situation where guests were involved? I have my entire life, and it's never easy! The way you dress is altered, your sleep habits are altered, the workload before and after their arrival is increased, the expense is increased, etc. All of these things and more wear on your mind, body and emotions. It doesn't matter how much you love and enjoy them, "Glad to see 'em come, glad to see 'em go" is REALITY!

But we find this wealthy woman going to this next level of service anyway. This was a level of service that went beyond a blow-up mattress. There was intense labor and a lot of expense in going to this level of SERVANTHOOD.

When you read the rest of 2Kings chapter 4, you find the extended blessings that came to her for her service. She was blessed with a son. When the son had an unexpected health problem and died, God brought him back to life by the hand of this man she chose to serve.

Elisha had told the woman whose son he had brought back to life, “Take your family and move to some other place, for the Lord has called for a famine on Israel that will last for seven years.” So the woman did as the man of God instructed. She took her family and settled in the land of the Philistines for seven years. (2 Kings 8:1, 2 NLT)

Because she placed herself in the position to SERVE Elisha, when the man of God heard "inside info" from Jehovah, she ALSO heard. This woman might not have been "super spiritual" in the way Elisha was, she wasn't called to the same giftings, nor to hold the same role. But because she SERVED him, she knew what he knew. Servants ALWAYS know more than non-servants. This information saved her and her family's life.

After the famine ended she returned from the land of the Philistines, and she went to see the king about getting back her house and land. And Gehazi was telling the king about the time Elisha had brought a boy back to life. At that very moment, the mother of the boy walked in to make her appeal to the king about her house and land. “Look, my lord the king!” Gehazi exclaimed. “Here is the woman now, and this is her son—the very one Elisha brought back to life!” “Is this true?” the king asked her. And she told him the story. So he directed one of his officials to see that everything she had lost was restored to her, including the value of any crops that had been harvested during her absence. (2 Kings 8:3, 5, 6 NLT)

Did you read that recovery?! Wow! "Including the value of any crops that had been harvested during her absence!" All of this is tied directly to her choosing to, and putting herself in the position to be a SERVANT.

Take note, all we know of her life are these highlights in scripture. We don't know the hours involved. We don't know when she had aches and pains. We don't know how stressful this made balancing the budget. We don't know anything about her emotions. (She was a WOMAN. Therefore she had em!) And when she left her beloved home for seven years, (SEVEN YEARS!!) we don't know how good, bad, or ugly that situation was for her.

Being a SERVANT doesn't mean your life will be perfect. But it means when perfection comes to the served, you'll be the first to partake!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

AUTHORITY, Prayer & Fasting, Day 9

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40 NLT)

Nearly EVERY DAY, my first social networking post is as follows;

Invoke God's authority in this day!

Invoke: To call for with earnest desire; make supplication or pray for. #victorious

I believe we have unfathomable authority in this life because Jesus believed we have unfathomable authority. In the passage above we find Jesus questioning THEIR inability to calm that storm on their own. (& since I'm a grumpy waker, I imagine he was pretty ticked they woke him from his cozy nap when they could have just taken care of it themselves. But that's "writing between the lines," so... You know, don't take that imagination too seriously.)

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. (John 14:12 NLT)

Again, in this verse Jesus is reiterating to us, his disciples, that it is in our ability to do even GREATER works than he did. Lets see now...
Raising the dead
Healing the lame, deaf, diseased
Power over elements
Multiplying food

I have personally witnessed every one of these miracles in my lifetime. We are not talking about only HOPING or WISHING we could have authority in these things. We're talking about ACTIVATING the AUTHORITY God has given us!

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, (Ephesians 3:20 KJV)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)

HE is able to to do these miraculous works "according to the power" that we carry. Where did that power (or authority) come from? God himself! When we are filled with the gift of the Holy Ghost (as exemplified in Acts 2, 10, & 19) we HAVE HIM (Jesus Christ) living INSIDE us! This is why and how we are able to, and should be doing the same works he did... AND GREATER!

Does all this power and authority mean we will not have pain and sorrow? No. Even Jesus Christ endured hardship. But it means we should always be ready to enact and use our God-given authority. (Yes. Even when instantly, & might I add, rudely, awoken from a lovely nap.)

In the storms of life that batter our minds and emotions, we need to take a spiritual stand and proclaim "Peace be still!"

When we can see the devil is trying to work in our homes, we do not have to sit by and watch our loved ones destroyed. We can bind that spirit in Jesus' name.

We can and should command life into dead things; like dead careers, dead limbs, dead thinking, dead faith.

We should speak into the atmosphere, "In Jesus' name, I will help lives be better today!"
"In Jesus' name, healing virtue must flow!"
"In Jesus' name, Satan has no authority in this situation."

You have been given authority, whether you feel like a buff superhero, or not. (& yes, whether you look like it or not.) Don't sit fearful in your boat of life. Speak to the situation, use your AUTHORITY each and every day.

Peace be still!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

MEDITATE, Prayer & Fasting, Day 5

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. (Psalms 1:1-3 NLT)

In the last year I have become infatuated with the idea that I can be, and should be as a spiritual tree. I have an entire series of "tree scriptures" that I've found, and claim their attributes in prayer.

In looking at Psalms 1:3, I'm all about wanting to be like the tree described here; planted along a riverbank, bearing fruit, leaves that are green and do not wither, and prospering! Who wouldn't want this as a description of their life?!

But as with all things of any value, purposeful action is what brings quality and value. So we must ask ourselves, "What brought about these results?"

The full description is in verses 1 and 2. But I want to focus on "meditation."

We tend to be really good at loving the Bible and at following its regulations to the detail, but how often do we MEDITATE on it?

1. (intr; foll by on or upon) to think about something deeply
2. (intr) to reflect deeply on spiritual matters, esp as a religious act
3. (tr) to plan, consider, or think of doing (something)

MEDITATION, and indeed all things of the spirit, contend with the same competition, our busy lifestyle. We have some anti-spiritual habits due to our society. We're a very electronic, fast-paced society. And I'm going to be the last person who is against our current technologies. I am writing this devotional on my iPad. Every scripture I've researched and used has not been from a thousand pound concordance like my grandfather would have used, nor from a Bible with paper pages; it's been 100%, entirely of digital means. So, because we actually have to WORK to detach from the tangible, instantaneous, physical realm... Relax and clear our hurried thinking from our lists, our troubles, our heartaches... In efforts to help people open up their spirit to God, people have come up with "meditation techniques." But they're not necessary. They are simply devised methods and means to help us unplug and chill enough for our minds to think on HIS thoughts.

Meditation is NOT an invention of the Buddhists, Yogis, or the New Age thinkers. The earliest meditation we have on record is in scripture, and it's with Isaac, Abraham's son.

One evening as he was walking and meditating in the fields, he looked up and saw the camels coming. (Genesis 24:63 NLT)

We'll talk about HOW to meditate later. Let's first look at examples of WHAT the scripture shows we should meditate on.

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I [MEDITATE] about your mighty works. (Psalms 77:11, 12 NLT)

We should MEDITATE on His works of the past. From His wonderful, miraculous deeds found in ancient scripture, to the drug addict delivered, or the financial blessing of this past week, allow your thoughts to replay those events. Involve your imagination in the color of the sky when God provided the ram in the bush for Abraham, or the look of astonishment on their faces when God closed that Red Sea over the Egyptian army! PONDER the glories of these events. REMEMBER your own events. RECALL his mighty acts!

I will study your commandments and reflect [MEDITATE] on your ways. (Psalms 119:15 NLT)

After study, either on our own, or after a service where a minister has taught, or after a Bible study where friends have been studying the Word together; MEDITATE on God's ways. Think about HIS preferences. We don't need to understand WHY he prefers things a certain way, but we need to comprehend that he does, indeed, prefer some things differently than we thought was necessary. We should REFLECT on what we've learned.

May all my thoughts [MEDITATIONS] be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord. (Psalms 104:34 NLT)

2 Corinthians 10:5 is another scripture that talks about something we do with our mind; how we use our imaginations. The Bible says to cast down every imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Our imagination starts MEDITATING on how things  could go awry, how things could so easily fall apart...

Before we know it, we've snowballed into scenarios that are contrary to the KNOWLEDGE of God!

So we must purposefully make our thoughts, our MEDITATIONS, pleasing to him. If our imagination takes us anywhere, let it take us to the most amazing, victorious plan that God is so famous for! He's the only REAL superhero in existence, and he's pretty amazing!!

Ok... So I said we'd get to HOW to meditate, so here we go...

I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Interlude (Psalms 143:5, 6 NLT)

Meditation is akin to Outback Steakhouse's motto; "No rules. Just right."

There are various people, various groups who have come up with tricks that have helped them become better at MEDITATING, but just because they have an audience does not mean their routine is the ONLY way.

In Psalms, we see David connecting MEDITATION to "remembering, pondering, & lifting his hands."
Remembering; thinking of his past works.
Pondering; present instruction or learning of God.

Then we see David's body physically involved in or around his MEDITATION when we read that he lifted his hands. When we read of Isaac's MEDITATION, we saw that he was walking.

The key to proper MEDITATION is no different than what Christians have been seeking to do since our salvation; that is to detach from the world around us, and deliberately put our thinking in line with God's.

That may include walking, raised hands, standing, kneeling, or sitting. Some may rock back and forth while they MEDITATE on the things we've described earlier, others may lay prostrate on the floor. Your MEDITATION may even involve some "outside helps" like a blindfold if you're easily distracted, or music, or headphones with nature sounds if you need to drown out other sounds that are distracting.

I MEDITATE every day, but I could just as easily say, "I pray every day." And, actually, that is exactly what I usually say simply because the church culture is accustomed to MEDITATION being associated with New Age, or a Buddhist practice. But I'm an Apostolic, Penteocstal through and through. And because I know how helpful it's been to me to purposefully add deep, silent meditation to my devotion, I want to describe to you what my MEDITATION is like.  

I usually start out sitting on the floor, thinking about the goodness of God... Perhaps a question will come to me, or a concern... And so I'll bring those thoughts around to faith and believing that God is working on my behalf. I'll usually end up turned around in a fetal position crying before the Lord. Then my meditation and prayer (because I ALWAYS end up talking to God about whoever and whatever I'm thinking about) will turn into a standing (and sometimes dancing) praise and thanksgiving over what I KNOW he's already doing and going to do. Then I'll blow my nose. Sit back upright. Read another passage of scripture. And the whole process is started all over again!

MEDITATION: No rules. Just right.
And now Nike is entering my thought: JUST DO IT!

P.S. God MEDITATES too! Here's what he MEDITATES about:

How precious are your thoughts [MEDITATIONS] about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! (Psalms 139:17 NLT)

Thanks to Lisa Velie for editing!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

WORD, Prayer & Fasting, Day 4

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living. (Psalms 19:7, 8 NLT)

The Bible is the most important spiritual resource we have. It's the Bible that tells us to pray at all. It's the Bible that tells us how, when, or where to seek God, please God, find God. It the Bible that holds the secret to a good marriage, good parenting, successful career. I could go on, and on about how the Bible holds direction and truths for every facet of life.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. (Psalms 119:105 NLT)

When my two children were each toddlers, I was walking a back path, through a wooded field to my mother's home out in the Florida scrubs. It was dusk and the sun was setting. I was carrying my youngest on my hip, and my eldest, a mere eighteen months older than the baby, was barely keeping up, even with me holding her hand.

It had rained that day, causing limbs and other unexpected brush to lay across our path. With the low light and the precarious path, it struck me suddenly how much like life this path was. Because, as a new mom, you may have a basic pathway to follow, one you've seen your mom or grandma follow, or maybe one you've seen a mentor take. So you know the basic path, but there are all these unexpected limbs across your path. Not to mention the foxes that you're aware frequents this area. And you can't really see very well. So, we're all just sort of guessing our way through.

Immediately, the Spirit of God said to me, "Not if your illuminating your way with my Word!"

Wow! That was such a major "Ah-ha!" moment for me! The Bible tells me how to be a good parent, shining a light on the obstacles in the way. With regular intake of scripture I will navigate my life, and that of those I'm responsible for, with MUCH more accuracy!

I've used motherhood as an example, but literally for EVERY aspect and role of life there is scripture for. GET THE LIGHT ON IN YOUR LIFE!

How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey. (Psalms 119:103 NLT)

The scripture will add sweetness to your life. We live in a day when the Bible is more accessible than ever before. On my phone I use a Bible app called YouVersion most. Though I also use BlueLetterBible. I have the BibleGateway app, though I tend to use that most on my PC. When I drive any distance more than a half hour, I usually turn on the audio Bible in the YouVersion app. Sometimes I'll follow a plan offered in YouVersion, other times I'll be led by the Spirit to specific passages.

You've got the Bible in traditional paper book form, at your library on their computers, on phones and digital tablets. The options are vast!

Do not allow anything to hinder getting this light of truth illuminating your life.

I love to pray the scripture. Here are some scriptures I pray.

Here are some fasting ideas.

RELATIONSHIP, Prayer & Fasting, Day 3

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. (Matthew 23:37 NLT)

So much of the time we see God only in his role of authority and judgement. We know he's very serious about his rules. We've seen and read of his punishments. We know that recognizing his power and authority is the beginning of wisdom. But let us not forget that he WANTS to have a RELATIONSHIP with us.

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NLT)

The scripture (Zephaniah) shows God getting happy about our existence. As a singer, the fact that God sings blows my mind. YOU are the reason he sings!!

And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. (James 2:23 NLT)

God desires for you to live in such a way that not only are YOU aware of friendship with God, but people around you label you, "the friend of God."

We cannot deny nor downplay God's perfection & holiness. God does ask us to live a high standard life. But God seeks more than your morality and purity. As a matter of fact, the reason he has made a way for you to repent and access purity at all is not because he's a dictator-tyrant, but rather because his deepest longing is to have a RELATIONSHIP with you.

When you're with another human you do not know very well, therefore you've not entered into that level of relationship where trust is required, you do not reveal your emotions to that person. We all put on our best face for people we don't trust to help or heal us.

I have heard people say about God, "He knows everything anyway. Why tell him?"

The answer is that telling him your heart is you demonstrating a desire for a RELATIONSHIP with God. It's your part of demonstrating that you trust him with the hidden parts of yourself. It's akin to a father who is also an employee to his children. It's awkward sometimes. But that father doesn't want his role of boss to hinder his kids coming to him as their father.

God wants more than repetitive words of requirement. He longs for your tears and laughter to be a part of your conversation with him. He doesn't want merely your "best face," he wants your reality. He wants to tell you what breaks his heart, and he wants to hear what breaks yours. He wants to hear what you're loving and hating, and he wants you to hear his side of things. He longs for a RELATIONSHIP with you.

Today, tell him about stuff you think he wouldn't care about. Talk to him as you would a passenger riding in the car with you. Don't merely give him traditional disciplines. Give him your friendship.

Click here for a link to fasting suggestions.