What is driving us?

May 6, 2014

There was a time in my life when I thought that I was completely living my life for God.  In my heart, I thought I was holding nothing back from God.  I was in love with Him.  I was in the exact same place Peter was when he said to Jesus, “I’m not going to deny you.  I would die for you.”  I spent the majority of my time fasting, praying, worshipping, and studying God’s word.  I met with a group of people who were like me every week and we discussed what God was saying to us and to our church.  Periodically during the two years I was in this group, my pastor would come to me and say to me, “Shawntel, your deceived.”  I would yell at him in pride and defensiveness and cry in agony at the thought of it.  At the end of those two years, during a worship session with the group, God revealed the hidden things in our hearts and they were hideous.  What I thought was true wasn’t.  I thought I was in love with God and couldn’t be deceived and in the end I had been deceived.  I walked out of that meeting confused.  I didn’t understand what had happened.  I got down on my knees and begged God to show me what had happened.  He took me to 2 Timothy 3:

 You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

God said to me, “Shawntel you come to me because you want to feel good and you think I will make you feel good.  You want life to be easy and comfortable.  I want to change you.”

At this point, that was a scary thought to me.  I knew I didn’t love God unconditionally.  I knew I didn’t trust God enough to let him change me but I also knew I needed to get there and so I asked God to take me to the place where I would let him change me.

To be continued……

I was leading a team of 7 coaches who spent their time inside the 7 middle schools of Bellevue, Washington.  We wondered why 3 of the coaches were having phenomenal success in seeing transformation in kids at their schools and why the other 4 weren’t.  I started spending time with the 3 coaches trying to figure out why they were successful.  Here’s a sample of what I found: 

Tension was high as the twelve Club Jubilee Soccer teams took to the field on November 13th.  This would be many of the team’s last game of the season.  The Odle girls’ team met with Coach Carlos for the pregame talk.  He instructed the girls to close their eyes and with tenderness he began to relate to them.  “Some of you may have fought with your Mom or Dad this morning.  Others of you may have failed a test today.  Somebody may be out of sorts because your best friend isn’t speaking to you today.  You may be dreading going home because of neglect or abuse you will face at home.  We can’t change your circumstances but we can change our focus and our attitude.  Right now, I need you to lay aside all those things and focus on the playoff game we are about to play.  I need all of you to give me everything you have today.”  The girls responded with, “Yes Coach!”  At one point Carlos asked me to share my thoughts with the girls.  With tears streaming down my face, I said, “I came from abuse and neglect and I would have given anything to have had someone in my life like Coach Carlos.  It would have made such a huge difference in my life.  I hope you really consider what he is telling you because he is giving words of life that could forever change your life.

The girls went on to play the game without their star player.  They fought hard.  The game ended as a loss for the Odle girls in penalty kicks.  The girls held their emotions in as they shook hands and gave attaways.  Then the opposing team and fans left the field and the girls gathered together to weep and share their feelings with each other.  Carlos encouraged them, “This is a safe place.  Let it out.  It is ok to be upset.”  When the crying died down, he instructed the girls to line up so he could dismiss them.  He walked up to the first girl in the line gave her a hug and whispered in her ear the truth of who she is and what winning is really about.  The girls were undone.

Those girls will eventually forget the score of that game but they will never forget the words Coach Carlos whispered in their ear that day.  They were transformed by that experience.

When I went to work at Jubilee REACH, within the first month of being there I put a CS Lewis quote on my computer that says, “God is putting us into situations where we will have to be very much braver, or more patient or more loving than we have ever dreamed of being before…..it seems to us all unnecessary:  but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.”  Little did I know that the next 3 years of my journey would be summed up by that quote.

To be continued……..


March 16, 2014

I discovered something crazy cool about devotions.  When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them how to align their hearts with heaven.  We act out of what we believe not what we know so the first thing I have to do in the morning is align my heart with heaven.  Once my heart is aligned, it is easier to recognize thoughts that are out of place and dismiss them as sin instead of allowing them into my heart to change that alignment.  On the horse, the time to correct the horse is when they shift their weight the wrong way not when they are already moving the wrong way.  Same with sin, the time to correct it is when it is a thought.  Keep it moving on. 

When Paul talks about the Christian life being a race, I used to equate that with performance but I think he was talking about the discipline of faith. The part we all want to skip in every discipline is the warm up.  When we exercise, we need to warm up.  When we sing or play an instrument, we need to warm up.  When we ride a horse, we both need to warm up.  When we walk with God, WE need the warm up to tune our hearts to Him, then we discipline our minds to stay focused on God’s will and control over everything, and walk out in relationship with Him.  We want to skip the hard parts and go straight to the good part.  Without the warm up and disciplining our mind, we get hurt and end up out of the game. 

The relationship piece is what I do with God all day long.  When I work in partnership with others, I know that aligning our hearts is how we truly become one and are able to accomplish great things together and communication is a huge part of the process.  Same with my relationship with God, I am now moving through my day with my heart aligned, my will and need to control surrendered, talking to Him and watching for His plans so I can join Him. 

So different than how I’ve lived my whole life in a mode to achieve approval from others. 

I will turn 42 years old in a couple of weeks and am convinced that even though I’ve been in church all my life I don’t know how to serve God rightly.   How sad is that?  I keep thinking all it takes is to love God but consistently find myself in deception so something is wrong.

In the last season, I showed my deep love and affection for God by sacrificing my life and serving Him nearly every waking minute.  I worked hard continuously laying down my life.  In the height of these sacrifices and achievements, I felt a tiny impression in my spirit that maybe all my work was in vain and merely filthy rags to God.  How could this be?  I love God with everything in me.  I’m serving Him with my whole life.  How could I be deceived?

I think I love and serve God with all my heart but it’s not true – my heart is divided.  There is a big part of my life that is devoted to God where I continually sacrifice to show my love but there is also a part of my life I have never given to God.  I’m not content to live within the boundaries of obeying God.  I find them incredibly limiting.  I enjoy being surrounded by material possessions and don’t want to limit myself to what I can pay cash for.  I like my addictions to caffeine and sugar.  Submitting to my husband and doing what he wants to do instead of what I want to do would be a radical change to my life.  Deep down I don’t really trust God with my life – I don’t really believe His ways are the very best for me.  I want to make my own decisions about my life because I know what’s best for me.  But how is that turning out?  Not so good.  I’ve cried out to God for years to cure me of the stressed out, misaligned, out of whack feeling I have all the time.

When I left my job, I thought I would be able to sit back and see God bless me for my obedience.  I was a bit surprised when God basically said, “This is only the beginning.”  I was shocked to discover that He doesn’t want my sacrifice, He wants obedience, and especially in the little things no one sees.  One of the glaring realities of this season is that I’ve allowed achievements and sacrifices to feed my ego.  I love making sacrifices – it makes me look and feel good.  Obedience isn’t nearly as glamorous – it doesn’t get the attention sacrifice does and it doesn’t feed my ego.

I looked up the word obey in the bible and found how important it is to God.   The children of Israel did not enter the Promised Land because of disobedience.  Moses disobeyed God also banning him from the Promised Land.  Saul was given specific instructions to destroy all the Amalekites and their livestock.  He disobeyed God by sparing the Amalekite King’s life and the lives of the best animals in order to sacrifice them to the Lord.  God told Saul He didn’t want sacrifices, He wants obedience.  Saul revealed his heart through his actions.  His heart was to look good in people’s eyes by making sacrifices rather than obeying God.  I am no different  than Saul.  I have used sacrifices to make me look good as a cover up for my heart of  rebellion and disobedience.

Rebellion is a badge I have worn proudly.  I like how it makes me sassy and full of  spunk, gives me energy and attention.  I skip over God’s instructions calling me to submission and obedience wanting instead to live freely and unrestrained.  The bible says rebellion is witchcraft.  The mark of witchcraft is control, which I have reveled in.  It makes me feel powerful and important.  I love telling people what to do and having them obey, however submitting my will and obeying others has never been my strength.  It makes me feel like a loser.  I don’t like relinquishing my independence and control.  I don’t understand authority.

There once was a centurion who came to Jesus begging him to heal his son.   Jesus said he would come and heal him but the centurion did not want Jesus to come to his house.  He felt unworthy.  The centurion asked Jesus to speak the word sure his boy would be made well.  He understood authority.  The men under him obeyed him and he obeyed the men over him.  Jesus obeyed God and so the sickness would obey Jesus.  How is it that I think sickness, disease, demons, winds, and waves will obey me if I’m not obeying God?  The reason my husband doesn’t have authority over me is because I won’t obey him and he’s too nice to make me or gave up trying.  God has given me a choice to obey Him and because I don’t, I am not under His authority.  The reason I am pounded is because I’m not under God’s protective covering of authority.  James 4:6-7 says, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  Obedience puts us behind God’s wall of resistance which keeps the devil away.  On the other hand, it is our pride that builds a wall around us which God resists.  The protection of obedience and God’s authority is sounding like the better choice.  After all God has done to show me His unconditional love and delight, how could I not believe His ways are best for me?

It is only God that can take my rebellion and replace it with a willingness to obey Him.  I can’t make myself obey.  I prayed and asked God to do that work in me.  After that prayer, I felt a big knot in my heart disappear and in its place was a deep peace I have never experienced.  By understanding God’s love and delight, I was able to relinquish my control and rebellion and find deep peace and freedom.  Freedom from sin – freedom to obey – isn’t that what Jesus died to give us?

I haven’t posted in a while because I had nothing good to say. It has been a dark season because I gave up things I loved – my job and my church. The reason I laid them down is because I knew there was something missing in my life – it wasn’t in proper alignment and I wanted to figure out why. Even though I loved the ride I was on, because of the misalignment, at times it pounded me. In the end, I felt like God said to me, “Will you give up your life and everything you love for me?” With remorse I have to say that it took a lot of tears and prayer for me to get to the place where I could answer, “yes.” My spirit was willing but my flesh was very weak. Even up to the last day of my job, it was surreal; I never really faced the decision in my heart. The end was like hitting a cement wall going full speed. I have spent the last month fighting darkness, groping around looking for my identity and purpose. I felt lost and in search of answers, and engaged in a whole lot of prayer. I am so thankful for the support and encouragement of friends during this time.

This week, a friend stopped by to pray with me knowing the difficulties I was facing. I was telling her how the thing that surprised me the most about this process was how I thought I was in real relationships with people but in the end it seemed that a lot of those relationships were built on my gifts – what I could do or give and not who I am. That shocked me and hurt the most deeply. Immediately she voiced where I went with those feelings by saying, “It grieves me to think that is how we treat God.” I responded with, “That is exactly what I believe Matthew 7 is all about, ‘21Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.22Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?23And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].’”

After my friend left, the conviction of God fell on me and I understood how I am the one who doesn’t understand relationships or how to treat people and God right. Deep down in my heart of hearts, it’s all about me and what I can get. I have no one to blame but myself for where my relationships are. The misalignment is in me! I cried and cried and cried and asked God to cleanse me of this horrible heart and thanked Him for His ability to save me from my sin. Afterwards, I was reading Psalm 84 where David talks about being in God’s court for one day is better than being anywhere else for a thousand. I was thinking…..”I wonder what David was experiencing when he wrote that.”

For the last five weeks I have had plenty of time to play the piano and yet every time I walk by it all I feel is emptiness – no hope, no joy, no praise, – only pain and so I keep walking. After reading Psalm 84, I wondered if I could find worship and decided to sit down and play the piano. As I sat down at the piano and began playing, something happened inside of me…….Note: I hope that by reducing the story to words that the awesomeness of this experience isn’t lost. I have felt the delight of God twice, and both times have been struck with how our relationship is not dependent on what I do or don’t do. Those thoughts aren’t even on the table – He is not concerned with my performance at all. His feelings for me are completely pure – He simply, purely, and truly loves me for who I am, which I can’t find in any other relationship on earth. As I played the piano, I was able to let go of my identity in my achievements and simply delight in God. From this place of sheer delight in God, I began to feel His delight return even deeper than I had experienced before, and it was absolutely indescribable.

I wonder what my life would look like if I truly lived from this place – if my identity came from the delight of God and not in what I can accomplish. Instead of getting fat off the praise and glory I get from accomplishing tasks well, what would happen if I only allowed my heart to be fed by experiencing God this way?

My family was a little surprised this morning as I followed them around the house while they were getting ready to leave for the day chatting with them. Mike asked, “Who are you?” Just a gal in search of pure relationships.  “I like it,” he responds. Ahhhh….finally……God is fixing things exactly where they need fixed – in my heart.

It’s amazing how a season of rest will completely change our perspective and shine a light on our depravity. No wonder God was adamant in the bible with His people about resting. It was the only commandment out of the Ten Commandments that you could get killed for not obeying. I can finally say, “Thank you God for this season of rest! A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!”

I wonder if this experience was what Jesus described in John 17, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.

Walking in Weakness

May 31, 2011

My natural mode of operation on and off the horse tends to be controlling and dominating which is completely opposite of how my horse instructor wants me to relate to the horse. He spends a lot of time trying to get me out of that mode of operation and into the correct one – which is gentle and relational. A couple of lessons ago, he said to me,” Shawntel, you need to learn how to ride the horse in weakness and not strength.” He kept instructing as I sat on the horse dumbfounded, I wanted to get off right then and there and go meditate on what he just said. I’ve been meditating on it ever since wanting so much not only to understand it but actually walk in it. As I was meditating, God showed me a glimpse of what it might mean.

In the fall of last year, my boss had his staff take the Strengths Finder’s test in an attempt to understand each other better and learn how to not only work well as a team ourselves but how also to build teams. The test told me I was good at executing tasks which we all knew. However, there were two things that disturbed me about the results: One – it named competition as a strength and two – there were no strengths in the relationship column. One day a co-worker said to me, “I wonder what would happen if you redefined winning to mean something you accomplished with a team rather than something you accomplished on your own.” Everything in me rebelled against the thought. I enjoy the glory of accomplishing tasks on my own and being recognized for my ability. I didn’t want to share that glory with a team. I knew something would have to die in me to achieve what she was suggesting. I have lived with my strengths long enough to know that I am capable of running over people in order to accomplish tasks and so I have learned to be purposefully relational to avoid doing that. Why didn’t that show up on the test? One of my girlfriends said to me, “Shawntel, I am naturally relational. I love serendipitous moments with people and grab them every chance I get but here’s the thing I don’t make lunch dates or coffee dates with people. I expect relationship to happen naturally and in the moment. You on the other hand are intentional about relationships because it doesn’t come naturally to you. You have to work at it and so you do. I think you are better at relationships because of your intentionality.” Her words settled me. Armed with the results of the test, we made a huge shift at work to change our mode of operation to a team driven model. I knew it would be a challenge because of my nature and yet I felt God compelling me to come along to grow me and our church. I was part of the team that set up the teams and had to learn how to be a team and form teams. I was immersed in teams, drowning in the unfamiliar which is very strange for me. I don’t normally put myself in situations that I can’t excel at. And yet something new was happening in me.

I had the opportunity to connect team building with relationships, when I threw a birthday dinner party for one of y best friends.  My heart was to make her feel loved and blessed. She is a writer who loves stories and so my idea was for all the guests to write a story about their friendship with her and put them in a scrapbook. This wasn’t something I could accomplish on my own. I had to be able to communicate my heart with the guests and somehow impart my vision to them. I shared my heart with the guests and immediately one of the guests wrote back and said she had a scrapbook in her stash she could contribute. Then she wrote back later and said she could do the scrapbook pages for the party. In the past, I would never have allowed her to do the scrapbook. I would have wanted to do it all and get all the glory myself. It is important to note that this request came from a woman I would normally be highly competitive with because she has accomplished many great things in her life. I did something completely against my nature by telling her I would love for her to do the scrapbook.

The day of the party was different for me. Normally I am most concerned about how perfectly the tasks are done….cleaning the house, preparing the food, setting the table, etc. and those things were semi-important and done well but they weren’t the thing I was concerned about. I was concerned about the stories and how the evening would come off. Would my friend be truly blessed? Would the guests be loving or would they try to humiliate her? How would I treat the woman who did the scrapbook? Would I be jealous or truly thankful for her participation? When the day of the party came, every time I started to do something, someone was right beside me asking me if they could help so I would hand off what I was doing to them. That in itself is huge and not something I have done well in the past. In fact, delegating is one of the things my co-workers encourage me to do the most. We sat down to dinner and began sharing stories. As we went around the table, I watched my vision for the night unfold before my eyes and it was amazing to behold. My friend was deeply blessed and felt everything I wanted her to feel.

Afterwards, I realized I had undertaken something I couldn’t accomplish on my own. I knew the victory wasn’t mine alone but rather ours to share so I emailed the guests and thanked them for being such an important part of making our friend feel loved and blessed. The woman who did the scrapbook wrote me back and said how wonderful it was to work with me and be a part of the party. She said that she could see why our mutual friend likes me because of my great heart and then she said she was looking forward to seeing me again. Every time I think about her, my eyes fill up with tears because I know what would have been if I had been operating in my old competitive nature: I would have spent the whole time either avoiding her or trying to outdo her definitely not working with her or finding a friendship of our own.

I marvel at what God has done this year. Instead of walking in my strength – competition – I walked in my weakness – relationship – and it was amazing and wonderful in ways I’m still discovering. Instead of defining winning as something I alone could accomplish, I defined a win as something only a team could accomplish and it actually felt wonderful. I wonder if I experienced what Paul experienced when he talked about God being strong in his weaknesses. I wonder if I can take that experience to my horseback riding and ride in weakness instead of strength.

In my last blog I talked about how doing the work of God is more about speaking His words rather than the things we do with our hands and how powerful those words are in changing lives. God has been speaking to me about the times when our words seem powerless, the times we pray and nothing happens.

For several years I worked in the Healing Rooms praying for people regularly. As time went on, it became apparent to me I wasn’t finding God for real. I was identifying myself with God as His child but in an entitlement kind of a way expecting Him to give me what I asked for. I was prophesying in the name of Jesus, healing people in His name and yet something was not exactly right but I didn’t know what it was. God showed me Matthew 7 and I asked Him to take me to the place where He could say He knows me. Matthew 7 says, 21Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. 22Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? 23And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].(C) Matthew 7:21-23. (Amplified Bible)

Identity in Christ
What does it mean to be a Christian? To be a Christian today, especially in America, may mean you vote a certain way. It could also mean you try to be a good person and adhere to some list of behaviors. It is hardly more than a label and certainly doesn’t have the same meaning today that it had at the beginning.

Christians of the first century all had something in common. When they were burned at the stake or thrown to the lions, they were asked to renounce their faith in Jesus. At that time, they consistently and uncannily answered nearly as one voice with, “I am a Christian, a slave of Jesus.” To be a slave of Jesus……what does that even mean?

Doulos in Greek means slave. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, s.v. doulos 2:274). It appears in the original text 124 times and is only correctly translated once in the King James version as slave. Instead of translating the text correctly, they substituted the word servant in the place of the word slave which has gotten us off track in the way we relate to Jesus.

Servant vs Slave
While the duties of servants and slaves overlap, there is a key distinction between the two: servants are hired and slaves are owned. Servants are free to choose who they work for and what they do. To some degree they have a sense of self-autonomy and personal rights which definitely appeals to our Western culture. Slaves on the other hand have no freedom, rights, nor autonomy.

In my position at Lake Samm, I have operated both as a slave and as a servant. When I operate as a slave, my boss can call me any time day or night and I will do whatever it takes to make his will be done. I do not even consider the cost to myself and the only thing I seek is to please him. At times I have gotten tired of always dying to myself and have swung to the side of operating as a servant. As a servant, I have boundaries I won’t cross. I count my hours and don’t want to work past the point I am paid. I stand up for my rights and want control over what I will or won’t do.

In our culture slavery is bad. It is something to be condemned not a desirable position to be achieved. In the Greek/Roman culture of the day, slavery wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you were a slave of Caesar, you had more power, position, and security than any free man in the known world. All of your needs were taken care of. You didn’t worry about anything. You were free to focus on one thing – to please your master.

Slaves knew their identity was not in themselves. It was common to see the name of a slave’s master on their tombstone. It was also common to see the name of a slave’s master tattooed to their hand or forehead. A slave’s identity was completely in who their master was and they lived exclusively for their master. For a Christian in that culture, it was the highest honor possible to be the slave of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. It meant they were in the best possible position – to be cared for by the creator of all. They need not worry about anything. They were free to focus on only one thing – to do the will of their master.

Known by God
In Matthew 7, there seems to be two issues at stake – one is doing the will of God and the other is whether or not Jesus knows us. There is only one kind of person who does the will of another reliably and it is a slave. A servant isn’t reliable because they have not died to self. Jesus was clear in his teachings that we aren’t worthy of Him if we aren’t willing to lay down our lives to follow Him. In fact, we aren’t worthy of Him if we even look back at our old lives of living for ourselves.

In Hebrews 5, it says that God heard Jesus’ prayers because of His deep reverence for God. It takes deep reverence for someone to willingly allow someone else to treat them as a slave. I Corinthians 8:3 clearly explains who is the person that is known by God. It says, “But if one loves God truly (with affectionate reverence, prompt obedience, and grateful recognition of His blessing), he is known by God (recognized as worthy of His intimacy and love, and he is owned by Him).

For the longest time I thought that by giving myself to Lake Samm as a slave, I was giving myself to God as a slave. What I didn’t understand is that I was still very much living for myself in my heart. My journey into truth and healing began about 2 1/2 years ago, I was at a staff Christmas lunch where our boss goes around the table telling the staff what they accomplished that year and what they have to look forward to the next year. When he got to me, he said, “Shawntel, you take everything we give you to the super plus plus level.” That year was the height of my career at Lake Samm. Practically everything we were doing at Lake Samm, I was involved in. I walked out of that lunch with my boss’s words stuck in my spirit feeling like a fifthly rag. I said to God, “Is that what this is? Is everything I’ve done this year all fifthly rags to you? Are you going to burn it all up?” He didn’t answer me in that moment but two months later He healed me of the perfection drive.

Recently God asked me to lay down my position at Lake Samm. The month that followed was a process that very much felt like I was being burned alive. I got to see clearly how attached my ego and identity is to my position at Lake Samm. In the transition process, I was hurt to the core of my being and behaved badly as a result. I tried to work through the hurt to no avail which left me desiring to run away. Finally, I cried out to God from the depths of my soul….”Help! Help me!” Immediately, the hurt and negative feelings left me and in its place was a directive from Him to behave as His child with honor and respect no matter how I am treated. I felt a deep reverence for God I have never known before. I now know exactly who I am living for. I’ve been surprised at how different I feel. I no longer need approval from people. I am finally and truly a slave of Jesus Christ. Needing the approval of man is no doubt the thing that motivated the perfection drive in the first place so this completes the healing process. I am FREE not only of the perfection drive but of the approval of man all through the identity in Christ as His slave! All praise to God alone!

Have you ever wondered what God means when He says He made us for His good works?  I’ve always thought of good works as being something I do with my hands usually serving comes to mind.  I was blown away in SOAP this week when I discovered that Paul actually defined good works and it wasn’t what I thought it was.  2 Tim 2:14-16 says:   14 ….Stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.  15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior.” 

Paul says here that a good worker is one who correctly explains the word of truth.  Wait a second.  So good works are actually words and not something I do with my hands. Then I got to thinking about the good works that Jesus did and I realized that He spoke healing….He spoke forgiveness…..He spoke truth…..the works He did were with His words.  Then I started thinking about the work God did.  He spoke and the world was created.  The whole first chapter of Genesis is verse after verse of God speaking and something happening and then it says that God rested from His work. 

Throughout the Old Testament, speaking or pronouncing a blessing was an important part of the Jewish culture and something God taught them to do.  The words contained promises that God honored and He was faithful to fulfill them.  I was skeptical the first time I was introduced to the idea of praying for and speaking a blessing over someone.  I started with my husband and daughter on a weekly basis.  It improved our relationships and sense of identity as God’s children.  Seeing the results gave me confidence to begin asking God for and speaking a blessing to more people.

My sister and I have never gotten along.  We are two years apart in age and polar opposites in personality.  Growing up, we fought constantly and competed for everything.  Things didn’t change in adulthood.  We grew up in church and both didn’t like the hypocrisy we saw, we craved authenticity.  I chose to stay in church and my sister chose the world.  The choice she made took her down a path of deep suffering.  I could never understand Her continued choice to live in suffering and abuse and so one day in my self-righteousness, I opened up my judgment of her and let her have everything I was thinking.  We hung up and didn’t talk to each other for years. 

One day a couple years later, my mom told me my sister had gotten married again and they were going to attend the reception.  I wasn’t invited.  I hung up and God said, “Write a blessing for her.”  I said, “I don’t have anything nice to say.”  He wouldn’t leave me alone.  For days, He kept nudging me to write a blessing for her.  Finally, I said, “I sure hope you have something nice to say.”  I sat down to write the blessing for her and couldn’t believe the words that flowed through me.  I imagine they were the words she had waited her whole life to hear.  By writing the blessing I finally understood her and the reasons for her choices.  I recorded my voice speaking the blessing and sent both the spoken words and the written words with my mom to give to my sister at her reception.  It took all night for my sister to consent to hearing the blessing and just before going to bed my mom played it for her.  My mom said she sobbed and sobbed, her body was in convulsions from the emotion she was displaying.  A week or so later my sister and I talked and for the first time in our lives became friends. 

In the past, when my sister and I visited each other in person; we could only stay for a couple of days before we were fighting and wanting to kill each other.  The first time I visited her after the blessing, we spent a whole week together and instead of fighting; we enjoyed each other.  We’ve been friends ever since.  That was my first experience and taste of some of the “good works God had prepared.”

A couple years ago, my cousin visited us for Christmas.  She was 49 at the time, single and a hermit.  She spent her days pushing people out of her life and tolerated them long enough to earn a paycheck as a cake decorator in a bakery.  I wanted her visit to be good and prayed God would show me how to do it.  She flew in early on December 23rd.  I picked her up at the airport and took her to breakfast.  I spoke the things I sensed God wanted me to share with her knowing this would be our only time alone together.

Knowing how much she likes cookies, I had prepared for her visit by baking all kinds of Christmas cookies.  She was in heaven.  That night we decided to treat her to a big city experience by taking her to see Avatar in 3D on the IMAX screen.  It blew her away.  She is a movie lover, and owns a movie collection that rivals most rental stores.

Christmas morning began with my 11-year old daughter giving each of us a blessing she had written.  I don’t think any of us had dry eyes.  She did a beautiful job of praying and asking God what to say to each person.  She then proceeded to give the gifts she had bought for everyone from the yuppie garage sale held at school earlier in the season.  She found quite the deals and has an eye for antiques.  It couldn’t have begun in a more perfect way.  I worked very hard to buy her gifts that would be unique and special to her rather than generic gifts she wouldn’t care about.  It worked – she was blessed.

At dinner, she told us about her bucket list and how she had an item on there about going to dinner at a really fancy restaurant.  She declared that she was going to take it off her list because the dinner she was enjoying at our house was better than anything she thought she could get at a restaurant.  After dinner, I drove her to the airport to go home.  As we were driving, she said, “I can’t remember ever having this good of a Christmas since I was a kid.” 

A few weeks later, we got a card from her thanking us for such an amazing time.  She told us that she had come to our house a Grinch and left with an open heart full of love again.  She decided to call her experience at our house a 3-day spiritual spa.  My mom confirmed that back home she was actually behaving differently and letting people back into her life again.  Even if I had wanted to change my cousin, I could never have done it in three days.  My goal was purely to make her feel loved and speak the words God gave me.  He changed her heart in three magical days.  Clearly those three days were ordained by God as days for our family to do good works in my cousin’s life.

The actions in the last story support the words God gave us to speak to my cousin but the power wasn’t in the actions it was in the words.  Without the words, the actions would not have had the power to change her heart.  It is also interesting to note that much of the words that were spoken were stories of our experiences with God – testimonies – and not prophetic words.  It makes me think of how much of my life is spent in action doing things that don’t have any power because they aren’t supporting any words from God.  I wonder what would happen if we really got a hold of this concept of our good works actually being words and started walking in the works God has prepared for us to do.

God’s Consuming Fire

March 10, 2011

Have you ever met God’s holiness?  The kind where you feel like everything that is not 100% living for God is utterly being consumed in you?

Two weeks ago, I prayed that God would consume my pride and identity in myself and continue the work of making me a pure conduit of His identity.  I shouldn’t be so surprised that God immediately began answering my prayer.  This last week has been grueling.  God turned on the spotlight and zeroed in on my heart.  I got to see how much I am still living for my own dreams and aspirations instead of living for Him.  Honestly, in the moment the spotlight was turned on; I didn’t really want to give them up.  I found myself jockeying for position, defending the position I thought I had, getting my ducks in a row to compete for the position I want ready to stomp out the competition I preserve is threatening me.  Wow!  Such Ugliness!  God have mercy.

I spent some time on my face in God’s presence today asking for forgiveness for holding onto my identity, hopes, and dreams.  I prayed He would free me from it so I could really live for Him.  I asked Him to forgive me for defending and protecting myself.  I presented myself to Him again and asked Him to renew every part of me and make me His child for real.  I felt a new measure of His holiness consuming the parts of me that are still about me leaving me with a new connection to Him that is stronger and more pure.  I know I need more of those moments with God.

God’s goal for my life

I’m pretty sure God and I have not had the same goals for my life. For years, I either wanted to be the perfect Christian or I wanted to live for myself. No wonder I wasn’t experiencing God for real. God isn’t in either of those goals. Being one with Him has always been His goal. Too bad it has taken me so long to align myself with Him.

Growing up in church meant that reading the bible and praying every day were required. Going to church every week was understood. It reminds me a lot of my experience with horseback riding lessons. Every instructor told me I must have a good seat to ride well but it took years for me to find an instructor that could actually teach me how to get a good seat. I can read my bible and pray every day and not be in relationship with God. I can go to church every week and worship and not be a Christian. I’ve spent most of my life doing those things and not knowing God. There is a reason to do the Christian disciplines but unless we know the why we are using them improperly.

Everything that resists God needs to be removed.

God’s goal for my life is oneness with Him. (John 17). The kind of oneness where a person on the outside of the relationship can’t tell where one person ends and the other begins. This kind of oneness can be seen between a horse and rider that are well trained. Have you ever seen a horse move with seemingly no direction from his rider? The rider and horse are so connected that when the rider moves internally, the horse feels it and moves in the same direction. In order to have that kind of a relationship, all resistance or blockages in both the horse and rider have to be worked out so there is nothing standing in the way of the movement. The same is true in our relationship with God. Everything that resists God has to be removed in order for God to move through us purely and freely.

This week, my horseback riding instructor said, “Authority doesn’t come from your seat or your reigns. Authority comes from the alignment, balance, and oneness with the horse.” It is the same in our relationship with God; our authority doesn’t come from how much we know and can regurgitate. Our authority comes from being aligned or one with God. So the “disciplines” of Christianity, reading our bibles, praying, worshiping, etc., are about aligning ourselves with God.

My experience with alignment.

Last week, God shined His spotlight on my heart and I saw selfish ambitions I was still holding onto. It was standing in the way of God flowing through me. I spent some time in His presence asking Him to cleanse me of those desires. This week, I was talking with someone and this person was unloading all the things they feel are wrong in our relationship. Admittedly, I first responded in hurt by shutting down. Then I prayed saying to God how much this person doesn’t need me to defend myself and explain all the things I see them doing wrong in our relationship. What I needed in this situation is to be aligned with God and respond in oneness with Jesus. I wrote an email in response to our conversation and in the email I took responsibility for all the wrong doing both of what I was accused of and for causing this person to feel the need to accuse me. I went on to talk about our hearts and how our hearts are really aligned at the core we just show it differently. I closed with a prayer of faith and hope affirming all the things this person was really reaching for in our relationship. It was the first time I felt like I truly behaved like a child of God. I was being accused of wrongdoing, instead of defending myself and accusing back; I laid it down and chose instead to bless and encourage. The response was surprise but deeper than that it touched their spirit. It gave us hope that it is possible to be aligned with God and act in oneness.

We talk about what a real Christian or disciple of Jesus looks like all the time in church but we don’t actually do it. I hope this testimony encourages you to go further than talking about it to the place of doing it.