Adding to my spiritual toolkit

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Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will_______…… Habakkuk 3:17,18 ESV

Anne and I have been talking about one’s particular, received identity that Jesus gives if we ask him.  If we listen to Jesus, open to what he communicates over time, he will guide us to know that specific distinctiveness we bring to every part of our lives.  As in: ‘Maria, child of God by grace, called to BE a _____.’

Out of that identity, flows purpose.  Since God intentionally created each one of us as one-of-a-kind family members and gave us life in a specific time and place, it is not unreasonable that he calls us to BE a certain person. Jamie Winship and others teach Christians how to hear and receive one’s particular identity and calling.

Something Anne wrote in a text this week has gotten me thinking.  Not looking forward to traveling during Thanksgiving week with a baby and 3 children, she found a way to deal with her anxiety. 

What works for her is to describe the scenario that has her anxious. Then, as she looks that square in the face, she reminds herself that her identity as ‘nurturer’ is something she can continue to ‘work’, no matter what.

That is not to say that she nurtures out of her own strength and wisdom.  She depends on the Lord for his supernatural, ongoing presence to be with her as she brings life to whomever she is with. Whether in the ‘best of times’ or the ‘worst of times’.

I like this approach.  It provides space to be real with God and then to acknowledge that our ‘work’ does not change, no matter the circumstances.  Anne can always nurture someone, even when she herself is undergoing trials.

Ever since I read the Winship book and listened to his trainings, I have been thinking and praying through what I believe is my Jesus-given identity.  Tentatively, I believe I am ‘gently provoking beacon’.

I’ve been a ‘provocatrice’ since my teen years.  Pop used to say, “Maria, you’ve got to stop pulling wings off of flies!’  He meant that I needlessly (and with a mean spirit) stirred the pot, saying things to people to provoke a reaction.

That’s the destructive side of this identity.  But over many years, Jesus has slowly gentled me.  Provoking someone to make them squirm is far different than using a question to stimulate an interest in God.

When I researched the etymology of ‘to provoke’, I found that the Latin root means ‘to call forth or stimulate the appetite for….’

That is something I DO practice. A lot. But gently, and often with a thought-provoking question. My desire is always to shed light on some aspect of God, that might be new to the person.

What encourages me is that the actions that follow from my identity are not constrained by circumstances.

At first, I wasn’t sure if ‘worst-case-futurizing’ might be healthy, but now I see the wisdom in Anne’s approach. She doesn’t dwell on that picture. She simply faces it, I think, and concludes, ‘Well, if that’s the worst, I can still be who God has called me to be.’

Applying this approach personally, I foresee that identity-prompting actions will also shift my attention away from possible circumstances and back to the present and to the person in front of or next to me.

Father, fortify me with your grace to do as Anne, recalling that mindful of my identity, who I am and what you call me to do are gifts.

Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

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Grappling with my identity and some bothersome feelings

How freeing it is to know that Jesus’ door is always open. He has unlimited time to listen to me.  Theologian A.W. Tozer once wrote something to the effect that: ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us’.

So, if we wrongly believe that we have to edit our communication with Jesus or even keep back sharing of shameful feelings, we damage His reputation and deprive ourselves of much needed correction and comfort.

Here are two meditations from this week’s writing and thinking project.

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel. Matthew 2:6 NIV

‘But I’m only a _____!’  Have you ever said that to yourself?

Consider those shepherds described by Luke, busy doing their shepherd-thing the night Mary was birthing our ‘Shepherd-Ruler’.

This morning in my reading, I noticed that Jesus’ rule is likened foremost to a protector and caretaker of sheep. In Jesus’ day, people despised and minimized this lowly profession. But God, the ‘re-orderer’ of status, calls shepherds fundamental.

Maybe angels first appeared to these rough-hewn men to correct THEIR identity. I can imagine God’s message: You shepherds serve in the same profession as the Messiah, the Divine Shepherd, who will govern my people. Don’t listen to what the world says about you.  Continue to be good shepherds, for this is a noble calling, worthy of honor.

Whose voice are you listening to when you repeat: ‘I’m just a ____’?

**

Pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lamentations 2:19 NIV

Buying Christmas gifts for adult kids is challenging.  I thought I had found something creative and different when I read about a local Alabama man who crafts custom bowties.  Neither of my sons has a bowtie. Why not choose a fun accessory, to be worn on a special occasion?  I picked a themed pattern, and through in some novel socks.

Elder son didn’t mention our gift.  When I asked him, he said: “Not something I will ever use; I haven’t even worn a regular tie in nine years, but thanks anyway.” I felt hurt.

Michael comfortingly empathized with me.  Resolving just to let the hurt go, I mentioned to Jesus what I felt and invited His input.  Unsurprisingly, He agreed I should forgive. What He then brought up gave me pause.  ‘What about all the times you have ignored my gifts, failing to thank Me? How do you think I have felt?’

It helps to release and receive from Jesus!

A fresh year to adventure with Jesus

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Welcome 2021! Another clean and fresh chapter, adventuring with Jesus.

Ever since I heard Christian peace advocate Jamie Winship talk about his years working among warring radical tribal Muslims, my time reading the Bible and praying to Jesus have changed significantly. 

Thanks to a new way of listening to Jesus, I received a nudge, encouraging me to start writing daily.  The game of this new habit, 6 weeks in, is to put into 175 words or fewer an insight God reveals from that day’s readings and meditations. I love this ‘pleasant boundary line’.  Each week, therefore, I select two of my dailies and offer them here, to you.

My goal is to encourage you, too, to read, digest, talk truthfully to Jesus and listen for what He thinks about any problem or situation or worry and then do what He says.  An adventure is bound to follow, making life 1.0 (until His return) exciting and energizing.

Blessed adventuring to you, dear reader, this 2021.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, Revelation 4:11 NIV

For years, I announced: “I’m not creative!” I believed I couldn’t generate novel ways of teaching. Pressure to use my imagination stressed me.

But toward the end of my classroom teaching years, I began to come up with new ways of presenting learning experiences to my French students. Innovation turned into a friend. Different ideas energized me, stimulating me to take risks. ‘Same ole, same ole’ bores us all.

What happened is that I relaxed into my calling, how God wired me (and you).  We know that God is Creator. If we bear His image, it follows that we create, naturally.

Now look at the text – being creative is worthy of honor.

When we originate something, try a new approach or employ different materials, we have embraced our calling, reflecting God.

Who do you suppose works to keep us tired and blasé? Who stands to gain if we believe life and God are boring?

**

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. Revelation 17:14

My Bible notes remarked that angels are NEVER referred to as ‘called, chosen, faithful followers’.  Only believers!!!

This news stuns me. Implied is this, that if we die before ‘The Last Battle’, we will fight alongside Jesus in his final military defeat of Satan and his vile, wicked guerrillas.

No wonder this life is challenging, hard, often painful for believers, aka warriors in training. Life on earth is Divine Bootcamp! Field exercises and live fire familiarization prep us for real skirmishes with the enemy and the occasional drawn-out battle.

But remember, we have only one enemy – Satan.  People are not our enemy.

My take-away from today’s Bible reading? Suffering is both real and necessary.  God has carefully planned every detail of our training with this future Day in mind. Those who die in the Lord will experience the most exciting, epic Victory in all creation. R&R awaits all soldiers on the other side, our Rest and Re-creation.

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