Thursday, June 22, 2017

Begoogled: How Google Led Me Astray


Have you ever been asked a question–you know that question that hits so close to home it takes your breath away? I have.

It was a simple, perfectly worded, loaded question.

What are your top three priorities in life based on the time you currently spend on them (not what you think they should be)? – paraphrased from Propel Women

I was in a large group of women broken up into smaller groups and we were asked to discuss our answers. Thankfully, after a long drive I immediately had to use the restroom, which gave me time to think. In the solitude and silence, the Lord asked me the question again, “What are your top three priorities in life based on the time you currently spend on them (not what you think they should be)?” Not in a condemning or judgmental way, but in a “I just want you to see it” way.

I saw it.

It was shocking.

When I returned to my group I blurted out, “For over a year now we have really struggled with two of our children,” I said. “So much so, that there have been days I did not think I could do it anymore. Days when I felt hopeless, afraid, and defeated. We tried many things and nothing seemed to work, so I turned to Google. Every time and I mean every time something happened I would Google it. Google is #1 on my priority list.”


“Eight year old hit sibling”

“What to do when your child steals”

“How to handle lying”

“Consequence for (insert behavior here)”


Google always gave me an answer, millions to be exact. Pouring over them, I sank deeper into hopelessness, fear, and defeat. In the midst of the torment Google never once tried to comfort me, encourage me, or remind me of the good things happening in my life.

I was begoogled! According to Urban Dictionary begoogled means, “To be sent on a quest with no clear or definite answer. To be given the runaround.”

Google whispered, “Here are the answers, all 1,234,588 of them,” encouraging self-sufficiency and doubt.

Google sneered, “You can do it, I won’t help you, but I will keep giving you answers to keep you frustrated and stuck in your situation,” encouraging guilt and hopelessness.

Google said, "Trust me. I will handle this for you, you just take your peace” 

Google never bore a cross, so that I might have life and have it more abundantly.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched (begoogled) you? (Galatians 3:1 Emphasis mine)

One of the sweet ladies at my table, after hearing my answer said, “You need to have time with the Lord in prayer and worship,” which sparked another startling revelation. “I do,” I cried, “but I don’t bring these issues to Him because I have already spent hours working on it with Google.”

And since then I realized that I was afraid to bring it to Him, because I have been taught to bring my best (nobody wants your baggage) but He does! My thoughts sound something like this, “If Google and I could just fix this mess, then the Lord and I can have our ‘special’ time with no mess.” Ugh, it sounds worse as I type it.

I was groomed for a lifetime of self-sufficiency, causing me to struggle to “give it to God” for fear He won’t take care of it.

Last week my body reminded me just how self-sufficient I had become. I had pain from my neck all the way down to my feet. The Lord reminded me of the “self-protective” stance I take in which my muscles prepare for attack and tense up ready to protect. That is not the Lord’s plan for me, His word says that He is my refuge and my shield and He fights for me.

Google doesn’t know me or my family. 

Google didn’t fashion me in my mother’s womb. 

Google doesn’t even have a plan for my life–good, bad, or indifferent. 

I have been asking the right questions,
just asking the wrong person, so to speak.

With Google being my number one priority (that hurt) the real priorities in my life didn’t have a chance. This was a deep conviction, one I needed to hear and one I believe God prepared me to hear. It made an immediate impact and I haven’t Googled anything relating to discipline in almost a month. Google is now just a temptation to be self-sufficient.

Now I ask you “What are your top three priorities in life based on the time you currently spend on them (not what you think they should be)?”

Father, thank you that Your Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. I ask You to use the brief moments we have to speak to our hearts and change us. May we yield to You and Your correction without condemnation. Your thoughts toward us are good, help us to have good thoughts toward ourselves. Help us recognize the false comforters we have come to rely on and give us the courage to eliminate them from our lives. Amen

Update: With this being such a deep conviction I have successfully refrained from "Googling" multiple times a day and can count on one hand how many times I have googled discipline issues since the original posting of this article.

Originally published on Mothers With a Mission on October 21, 2016, with minor adjustments

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Half-Baked: Midway Through My Word of the Year 2017


I didn’t choose my word.

It chose me.

I knew before the clock struck midnight, my word for 2017 was “raw.”

Raw is a daunting word. It means...

Underdeveloped and underused.

Not finished.

Not refined.

Painfully exposed.


This year has been all of the above.

The Lord wanted to develop me as a daughter, an artist and a writer and show me where my talents were underused. There are also the areas that He is not finished with yet and needed me to be willing to be painfully exposed or vulnerable to grow and allow Him to refine me.

It was time to push past the fears.

It was time to be who He created me to be.

I wanted to be more like Him.

For years I have asked the Lord in prayer and in worship to get rid of everything that keeps me from Him. To empty me of what isn't pleasing to Him and what doesn't serve my purpose well. I have laid myself bare before Him and asked Him to mold and shape me. He hears the cries of my heart, even the cries that can’t be heard yet because there is still too much in the way. The cries that come from sheer desperation and places of deep pain.

He has faithfully responded. Continually challenging me to push past the fears.

The fear of pain.

The fear of loss.

The fear of looking foolish.

The fear of making a mistake.

The fear of failing.

The fear of relationships.

To get me there, that place, that place I long to be with Him and more like Him, well, I had to be raw.

My word of the year is like a God-given goal.

It's been an intense year, but in an interestingly peaceful and confident way.

There has been much heartache, but more growth.

Many tears, but much laughter.

Lost relationships, but more intimate friendships.

It was only last year that the Lord first gave me a word for the year and it was extremely helpful in focusing on what He had in store for me in that season. It gave me something to hone in on and gave me direction in working on a specific area of my life.

We are only half way through 2017, but this word - raw - it is radically changing me, in all the best of ways.

The word came almost as a warning too, “It is going to get tough,” but also as a gift because I knew it was the Lord. I can trust when He says He is going to do something that it is going to be worth it.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 
Isaiah 55:8 NIV

Take a few minutes and listen to Rita Springer's Gonna Be Worth It.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Why I Ditched the New Year's Resolution


Excitement and dread mixed with mishaps and mayhem described my emotional state leading up to New Year's Eve. It always seemed like a great opportunity for a fresh start or to start over depending on the year. Unfortunately, it never worked out. With high hopes, fancy lists and bullet points it always appeared that this would be my year. Sometimes I would even write letters condemning myself to make sure I understood the importance of the resolution of the year. Putting all my hope in my ability to carry out a "resolution" to improve something about myself or my life. That sounds like a recipe for disaster if I've ever heard one.

Beth Moore says, "Some of us have so much defeat in our past that we feel we lost the race before we knew it started." Defeat was my default, so no matter how much planning went into the process, the results were always the same.

Failure.

Many are the plans in a person's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21 NIV

It wasn't until I sat down to write this post, did it even occur to me to question the origin of "New Year's resolutions." It's roots are steeped in Babylonian tradition.
They also made promises to the gods to pay their debts and return any objects they had borrowed. These promises could be considered the forerunners of our New Year’s resolutions. If the Babylonians kept to their word, their (pagan) gods would bestow favor on them for the coming year. If not, they would fall out of the gods’ favor—a place no one wanted to be. - History.com
Thank God He doesn't give or withhold based on our faithfulness or ability to keep our word to ourselves. Although He is clear that it is better to say you are not going to do something then to say you are and don't.

It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.
Ecclesiastes 5:5

"It's all about me," is a Babylonian mentality, which I adapted in my New Year's resolution planning, without even realizing it.

I need.

I can't.

I never.

I should.

I will.

God was removed from the equation. Even after giving my life to Him it never dawned on me to pray about New Year's resolutions.

New Year’s Eve 2015 greeted me with anxiety. The fear of repeating the events of the past year was overwhelming. Would I let the anxiety catapult me into a year similar to the one I was bidding farewell, or would I open my heart to my Father to transform the upcoming one? That in itself was a scary proposition.

The temptation to give in to fear came from years of practice, but this time I made a different choice. In the face of fear I surrendered and asked my Father for a plan (James 1:5). After all, doing things over and over again expecting different results is insanity and I'd had enough of that (2 Timothy 1:7). The Lord was clear in His directive for me to start the Love Dare for Parents and have everyone in our home pick a word for the year.

My personal goal although seemingly clear and straightforward proved to be challenging. It exposed things in my own heart that need to be healed and pruned. Day 1 of The Love Dare is “Love Blooms” and instantly I was challenged, which is how my word became so clear to me, “NURTURE.” For some it may be the simplest of dares, but as I read it, my own woundedness and imperfections were obvious. I was grieved at how difficult it was to complete the day's dare, but with my word, nurture, before me it was more about working on that part of my character than completing a dare and checking it off a list.


Looking back over the year I could see more growth, having just one word from the Lord, rather than a list of high and lofty expectations for myself. I am learning that, in fact, He does instruct me in the way I should go. (Psalm 32:8) I have only to trust and obey.

Do you have a word this year? I'd love for you to share it. You can leave it in the comments here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

3 Ways to Winterize Your Heart


A simple Google or Pinterest search on “winterizing” will give you enough results to keep you busy until Jesus returns. The number of results is dizzying.

Checklists.

How-Tos.

Lists.

Cheat Sheets.

How much time do you spend preparing for winter?

Take a moment and run through your mental checklist, maybe yours will take more than a moment.

Growing up in Miami I never had to prepare for winter, so I didn't know how to. Lack of knowledge made me dislike it because when winter rolled around I was cold and unprepared. It made me mistake my lack of preparation for dislike. When I learned how to prepare for it after going through several, I found I didn't dislike it. I can now honestly say I enjoy winter seasonally and spiritually speaking.

Lack of preparation is a welcome mat for fear. 

The same Google and Pinterest search for “winterizing your heart” didn’t turn up any results that were applicable. Isn’t it interesting the amount of time we will spend on preparing things, but not our hearts, which the Bible tells us "everything (we) do flows from from"? (Proverbs 4:23)

How much time do you spend preparing your heart for winter?

If you don't have a mental checklist, maybe these ideas will help. Be reminded that a spiritual winter season isn't on the calendar, so it is a good idea to make these things part of a lifestyle rather than put them into practice after the season has changed.


Let Him - The Lord

If we humble ourselves He will prepare our hearts. This is a posture more than a behavior. Keeping ourselves teachable before Him and willing to allow Him to transform areas of our lives that are not pleasing to Him or fruitful for us. He knows what our next season will bring and what will best serve us in that season, but He needs our participation.

It took me a long time to be able to look at the messy areas He wanted to clean up, I was afraid. As I entered into more intimate relationships with Him, my children and friends, I learned I was not the only one with messy areas. The fear turned into faith that He would be right with me. Right. In. The. Middle. Of. The. Mess.

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble:
thou wilt prepare their heart
Psalm 10:17

Let It - The heart

If we fix our hearts on Him we will not be so easily rattled by what winter might bring. When we focus on Him and all that He is, we cannot be distracted by even the most difficult of seasons. We will hear Him clearer and be more apt to obey when He gives us direction to guide us into a new season. I believe this is how Paul praised Him in all things, it was a condition of his heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed:
I will sing and give praise Psalms 57:7

Let Them - The memories

If we continually share what the Lord has done in our hearts and lives we are combating the temptation to be afraid, discontent or frozen in a winter season. It is hard to be fearful when we are recalling what the Lord has done. Even David when facing Goliath recalled killing the lion and the bear and acknowledged that God had been the one to deliver him from the paw of the lion and bear. It gave him confidence that the Lord would deliver Him from the hand of the Philistine too.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9


If we apply these three things to our lives, we will not fear when winter comes. We will “stand firm” as we wait for His deliverance in the harsher seasons. We will be prepared.

And being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus Philippians 1:6.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Desires of My Heart


As I prepared breakfast one morning, in between slices of buttered toast, I heard the Lord say, "I am preparing your heart to receive its desires...you are not yet ready to receive them."

It was a perfect opportunity to get defensive, but I was left speachless.

 He had my attention.

 I wanted to hear more.

Psalm 34:7 says, "Delight yourself also in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Delight is 6026 in the Strong's Concordance and means soft or pliable. Pliable defined by Webster's Dictionary means 1. Flexible 2. Yielding easily to others.

In the process of delighting myself in the Lord I am "yielding easily" to Him and opening myself to grace (5485 Strong's), the divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life. Ultimately, delighting is yielding my heart to Him so He can influence it. In the process of influencing it He is teaching, molding, convicting and healing me, thus preparing me to receive the desires (requests) of my own heart, which He established to begin with.

Whew! That is a lot to take in. 

He is not changing the desires of my heart He gave me free will to do so, it's a choice on my part. The desires of my own heart are changing as I yield to Him.



The desires of my heart are starting to look more like His.

As I begin to live out this revelation I can more easily be patient in the waiting for my desires to be fulfilled because I am (Romans 12:2) being transformed by the renewing of my mind, that I may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God, which at this level have become my desires.

This revelation will also not allow me to accuse God in the waiting because as I yield to Him and allow Him to influence my heart I know that He is preparing me for my own desires (requests) to be fulfilled.
What are the desires of your heart? Do they look like the promises He has made to you or have you given up on those and settled for less? Ask Him to reignite the desires He placed in your heart and yield your to Him as He fulfills them.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Exposed Heart

There are battles in my head.

They are brutal. 

Full blown wars.

They affect my heart.

Old thoughts and ideas battling it out with new thoughts and ideas. Then there are my thoughts and the enemy's thoughts and God usually chimes in.

It can be quite loud.

I'm starting to win these battles.

Blessed be the LORD my strength, who teaches my hands to war...
Psalm 144:1

In April I hosted a tea at my home, it is something I have committed to do twice a year and bring women together that normally wouldn't be together. The week of the tea, on my birthday actually, our septic system went out. There was water seeping out from under the toilets and people scrambling to get towels around the bases. As soon as we got the water stopped I googled "porta potty", because I was determined to have the party. For too much of my life I had let temporary circumstances alter my choices and decisions. 

Not anymore.
Breathing is a good idea, essential in fact,
but I am finding that sometimes
I just have to hold my breath
because it helps me do terrifying things.

I had decided and informed my family that this would be our "open door" party. My room smelled terrible. We have carpet just outside the small, tiled area where the toilet is. I borrowed a fan and a dehumidifier, but those only helped some. I reasoned with myself that it was okay to close just "my" door. Oh, the temptation was fierce, but I was committed. I knew this was a defining moment. If I allowed another circumstance to make me shut my door (the door of my heart) to others then I would lose the forward momentum I had gained. I had come too far to let a stinky rug and a messy corner force me to hide again.

There was something very freeing
 about letting people see my mess.
Nothing is riskier or more vulnerable than cracking open the doors of our messy, guest-unready homes, let alone the doors of our actual lives. Because, deep down, there are messes much messier than the dust bunnies or gritty dishes. There are fears and doubts and despair and broken places that cut so deep it takes the breath away. Lisa-Jo Baker, Never Unfriended

The truth is, nobody really cares about the messy corners of our hearts or our homes. People want to be welcomed into our lives and when we don't try to clean up before they come, they feel like they are home.

This is something seemingly insignificant, but extremely healing for me. I am opening up and being real more and it is changing my life. For many of us being "real" was never an option or if we were "real" we were chastised for it. We are sons or daughters of God and can trust Him to bring beauty from our ashes and order from our chaos.

Nothing is too hard for Him!

Have you tried it, letting someone into your messy home or heart? Will you?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My Messy Heart


After nearly breaking a bone every time I went to the bathroom, my husband and I decided it was time to clean our room. As I walked in to to tackle this overwhelming project the Lord gently spoke to me. He said my room was a tangible expression of my heart, messy and cluttered. Ouch!

My plan of attack was to get everything out of the room that didn't belong there or wasn't ours. This is the result. And that's not all of it. It was overwhelming to see how much stuff was in there that didn't belong. Again, much like my heart, full of things that I was never meant to carry, the Lord wanted to carry or I was carrying for someone else. Ouch again!


When I saw this pile it hit me, I need to be a gatekeeper of what I allow into my heart. In Proverbs 4:23, it says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." What do you think was flowing from this cluttered bedroom? Chaos. And from my heart? The same.

How did I allow so much in that didn't even belong there? It was years of practice. Ever since I can remember I was responsible for other's bad decisions and choices. There were huge fights, years of silence and lots of tears. It was overwhelming and still is, although I am learning to be responsible for myself and allow others to do the same. When you grow up believing you are responsible for others, it is really hard to be convinced otherwise, but God! He knew I had to see it, really see it.
Powerful people are not affected or infected by their environment. They refuse to be victims of others.― Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On: Connection Communication And Boundaries
Once we got all that stuff out, the room was almost cleaned. This is what the room looked life after we were done. Finally, the Lord showed me this is a place where He can dwell and I place I can rest, just like my heart needs to be.

God's whole purpose for moving into my mess was to ensure that my heart was renovated properly, room by room and floor by floor. God has never been overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be done inside my building or condemned me for how trashed it became over the years. - Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole
When I have people over I close all the bedroom doors, again like my heart, not letting others see what is in there. I told my family earlier this year that my goal is to have a party here and keep all the bedroom doors open. I desire relationships where I can be me and not hide those "messy" things in my heart. I have been blessed to be surrounded with some of the most transparent women ever, which is encouraging even more transparency in me.
The experience of intimacy—of being completely known and accepted, and completely knowing and accepting in return—is the most satisfying experience we can have as humans.
― Danny Silk, Keep Your Love On