The earliest Hebrew Patriarch is Abraham whose story begins in Genesis 12. He was the first to be told by God that there would one day be a people and a land. It was God’s promise. Abraham didn’t have a child at the time, and he was a nomad, but God made promises. He would become a nation and that nation would have its own land. God renewed that promise to Joshua many years later.
For years, Abraham subversively rented, leased and purchased small plots of the land promised to his family, but during Abraham’s lifetime it was owned and inhabitated by other people,. He planted trees, built altars and claimed that land one oasis at a time. He might not own all of Palestine, but his first wife was buried in a plot he bought; the trees he planted and wells he dug—which were known as “the wells Abraham and his workers dug”—were found through Palestine. Abraham had planted a stake.
The University of Pennsylvania studied teenagers to determine how they could be taught to postpone sexual activity until an appropriate time and how to resist drug use. Their premise was that if a teen had a supportive family, did well in school, had church connections pre-marital sexual involvement and drug use would be resisted. They found those activities were helpful only after one other element was in place. How the teen viewed his/her future. A goal, a dream, future plans were a stake in a “promised land” that gave them a reason to reject anything that would keep them from their future.
It isn’t guaranteed, but it does empower. Not just teens, but you and me. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it is a beginning. Colossians 3:1-2 asks us to keep our eyes on the eternal. It has drawing power.
That which people invest in has magnetic power. After our encounter with Jesus, our life is no longer in the tar pits where choices were survival-oriented and self-destructive.
The Israelites wandering around in the wilderness is an image of life out-of-control, or with no purpose. Moving into the Promised Land, paints the picture of being where God intends you to be. “Once you were…now you are!” Not only do these magnetic fields pull us, they have power to hold us there. Still! God will never over-ride free will. It is always up to you. But if we cooperate, there is empowerment to stay in His will.
Sealed in your spirit there is a calling that will bring honor to God, produce the most fruit and bring you the most satisfaction. Jon Acuff says that “awesome” begins when you start doing what you love. Your call is what is planted by God in your spiritual DNA. It is just part of who you are. You consider it awesome and it something you will love—even the tedium.
Your call will connect to the spiritual gifts. Gifts are spiritual tools to accomplish your calling and the assignments that naturally grow out of your call. I have known pre-schoolers who discovered their gifts. I have heard them say, “I was born to do this!” That call influenced choices and molded patterns.
Usually when we hear people talking about call, they are describing a vision of something that does not yet exist, but they can see it.
Call is often described as a life dream. Bobb Biehl tells about the eleven years when he had a dream that motivated him. It was a specific dream how he would make a significant contribution to his world. “…it was so beautiful and clear I never lost energy in pursuing it. Every morning I woke up raring to go. I worked long hours, but I rarely got tired. I never resented it because I had a dream.”
When he was forty-three, a couple of his friends told him the dream was hurting his family and he should rethink it. He gave up the dream. For five years he had no dream. He claims he had no natural energy. His heart was heavy and lifeless. His work was drudgery. One day he met and spent a day with an energetic man who asked, “Bobb, are you sad?” To the question “why” Bobb Biehl surprised himself by saying, “I have no dream.”
Over the next few years, the dream took on a new dimension. His life-dream became “a mental image of the difference I wanted my life to make before I died.” 1 (Dream Energy, Bobb Biehl, Quick Wisdom Publishing, ©2001)
David Glenn was executive director of AWANA International, an organization that in 2000 was working with over a million boys and girls every week worldwide to teach them moral values and grounding them in religious faith. When asked what happened to him when his dream became clear he said, “It was like the world exploded in front of me. I saw every color; it’s like every color exploded at one time. I knew what direction this organization should go.”
Building an organization to positively influence children was a major fiber in Glenn’s DNA. Each person has a comparable dream injection that energizes. What is your dream?
I was in my favorite bagel shop with a bagel in one hand and a book named CALL in the other. A man in a business suit pointed at the book and on the verge of tears said, “That’s what I need. A call.” Until we are living in that arena, no matter how nice the suit, it will not be adequate.
People will stay on the wrong side of the river and wander a lifetime in the wilderness for a variety of reasons. Abandonment, assault, betrayal, choices, deficiencies—imagined and real—and disappointment to name a few. God can heal every wound and that is my dream, vision, calling. To build atmospheres where God can be encountered and bringing God’s healing to bear upon those wounds.
The concept of Call must be preached and held up as a good thing. In a time when everyone gets a trophy just for showing up, the concept of Call may seem unfair or out of date. Maybe in the late middle to late 20th Century, but not in the early 21st Century. Young people are looking for the Transcendent and desiring call—to be selected to do something specific to impact their world.
James MacDonald says, “The concept of ‘calling’ has never been clear to me, but if I have one, it was God’s directive to my heart alone in the woods….” The place is clear. The people are important. Calling demands self-awareness. God’s call becomes paramount.
Listen to someone try to describe the exact time of their call. “God’s directive to my heart,” is understand by MacDonald, but a listener would expect flashing lights or at least one sharp peal of lightning. Call seldom comes in a vacuum. Calling usually is the culmination of experiences or ponderings. The exact moment of my call sounds so subjective most would doubt its validity. But it was preceded by many responses, preparations and encounters. I grew up in an atmosphere where a lot of stuff—good and bad—was going on, including a high regard for God’s Calling. I attended churches and para-church meetings where God’s Call was high on the list of good things to happen. It was preached about and altar calls were given to offer opportunities to say yes to God. Not all of us were called to preach. Some were called to insurance and car sales. In recent years, I think I heard God speak about His desire for a businessman to know God wanted him to be a millionaire. His status would be used to influence businesses for God’s purposes. That should tell you that God calls people to many kinds of vocations, not just church stuff. Kingdom, stuff yes!
Calling out here on the limb, I sense that the lack of passionately elevating God’s Call to its rightful place is cause of personal dreariness. Hear God say, “Joshua, you are the man! The leadership of your people is in your hand, now. Listen to me—“…you and these people—you are going places and I have a map to show you where.”
It is difficult for people to stay in the wilderness when their dream is in Canaan.
One of the privileges in my life was to be a soloist with Audrey Meier Choirs in Denver, Colorado and Des Moines. You may know Miss Meier wrote “His Name is Wonderful.” I feel profoundly honored to have known her and to have sung with her. One of the songs I sang is, “It Matters to Him About You.” (©1959 Audrey Meier, ©1987 Manna Music.)
The title always feels a bit awkward to me, but that song planted a suggestion in me. If I matter to Him, that means He must see me in a light not everyone else has. Who is the “me” that matters? The fruition of that planting took time and pain because I had yet to meet that “certain kind of people” I earlier talked about. I had yet to hear words like “community,” and “koinonia”. I was still living in the bondage of a self-perception of deficiency.
How do we enter into the fullness of God’s plan? A negative self-perception will keep a person stuck. Nothing will pull us back to the old ways and wilderness living like reverting to viewing yourself under the condemnation of hell.
Knowing who you are in Christ is not just something you memorize. Who I am in Christ gets branded on your soul and it changes you. To know that you matter to God can change the way you see yourself.
When you know who you are in God’s eyes; when you see an affirming look in the eyes of that certain group of people, the way you see yourself may shift. A phrase that I’ve carried around in my head for decades guides this truth: “We seek blessing from the person whose eyes sparkle over us.” (Myron C. Madden) We attract people to the place where God will reveal His plan for them by our sincere affirmation. No manipulative palaver or blowing blue smoke. Just vocalizing genuine affirmation and confidence.
It helps me to understand the core of my soul being filled with drawers, boxes and shelves. Kind of like our kitchen cabinets. There is the silverware drawer, the drawer where Carole keeps her vitamins and supplements and there is the junk drawer—a drawer filled with mis-perceptions, wrong evaluations and inaccurate interpretations. The song planted a suggestion. God and I had to clean a ton of stuff out of the junk drawers. Then He and I got to fill it with a different view of who He was making me.
Solomon Young died at seventy-seven when his grandson, Harry S. Truman, was nine-years old. A year later, fire destroyed nearly everything the grandfather had left behind. Years later Truman would talk often of the “big man” in his background. Truman’s biographer, David McCullough, says in Truman, 1(Simon & Schuster, ©1992) “With such a grandfather, a boy could hardly imagine himself a nobody.”
The power of community—the gathering of two or three in Jesus’ Name. We evaluate ourselves by the way we see ourselves in the eyes of those around us. My healing took a huge leap when I realized to whom I belonged and the way they looked at me. At the top of that group was and is my wife and my children.
In the event I haven’t told you 16,000 times, temptation most often comes at you in the area of who you are. That was where satan attacked Jesus. (Luke 4 1-13)
We were touring in Wyoming one spring. Offerings had been terrible and credit cards were running close to maxed out. I gathered all the coupons and discounts I could and went to see if we could afford a Best Western. The lady tried to help, but she quickly wearied of me. Finally she said, “Oh…you are nothing but Motel 6 people.” That image burrowed deep into me.
One the healing agents is a direct encounter with God who says, “It matters to me about you.” That encounter is often accompanied or followed by a person who will list the reasons and then hangs around to love on you. The healing changes the tools with which you measure awareness.
As you grow in Christ, you become ever more aware of God’s grace and how that has changed who you are. The emotionally healthy, spiritual person becomes more aware of health and potential than disease and failure. In our healthy moments, we conclude, with people like that, I cannot imagine myself being a nobody.
You are a conqueror. Romans 8:37 says you are more than a conqueror through him who loves you.
Psalms 18:29 says you not only are, there are things you can do. Paul writing to the Philippians in an extensive plan to change their self-perception says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Of the published books and yet to be published manuscript that I have written, I have favorites. I have favorite chapters and even pages or paragraphs touch me no matter haow many times I read them. At this point, I think the most important is HopePushers—with intent to deliver. In the chapter called “The Blessing Delivery System,” there is a line that says, “Vocalizing blessing is how we move seekers and pilgrims toward their destiny.” I describe the delivery system with these words:
“…in the eyes that sparkle over you.”
Willingness to fight
John Eldredge says,
“Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days, we will not understand life. We will misinterpret ninety percent of what is happening around us and to us. It will be very hard to believe that God’s intentions toward us are life abundant; it will be even harder not to feel that somehow we are really blowing it. Worse, we will begin to accept some really awful things about God.” 2(Waking the Dead.)
We are in a battle. There is a war against our heart. Self-awareness is a prime component of the walk with Christ. Eldridge has one primary message. Unless we remain alert, we will assume the terrible things happening around us are either from the hand of God or just the rent we have to pay for living on Planet Earth. We will allow ourselves to be seduced and led by dark spirits or our pre-conversion nature.
Our group was headed for a weekend in Nebraska. I was feeling tense about it. Before we began the trip, someone emailed me that the town where we were working was a satanic stronghold. There had been cows mutilated in the surrounding fields as well as other indicators. I alerted our prayer team and we spent extra time preparing ourselves. I don’t know if I had expected signs at the city limits, but nothing was visibly menacing. We experienced no resistance in the meetings or seminars. Passivity, but no hostility. The Friday evening through Sunday morning meeting ended. I had gone into that town ready. I felt foolish as we drove away as if I had gone hunting mice with an elephant gun. We drove to Lincoln for the night. I fell asleep in the motel room mid-afternoon and dreamed of a furry creature sitting on my head. It was a loveable, multi-colored animal—a cross between a rabbit, cat and some other cute creature. Playful and liked to sit on my head and lick my forehead. Mesmerizing.
The words, “Fight back!” came to my spirit. “Get rid of it!” But, it is so cute, loving, fuzzy, soft. As I prayed for discernment of spirits, I recognized that creature to be a demon attempting to capture my thinking.
I don’t know what that was all about or how the dream would have ended. I do know that I was passive and had to fight my way into consciousness and action. I am better at recognizing spiritual attacks or harassment after the attack than during. Willingness to fight is to resist the seductive passive attitude and to indulge a heart wound as if it is deserved.
We are most prone to passivity when we are discouraged, physically weary or not fully sure of a present reality. (Maybe she is right! I am….)
A truth partner is a gift. We have two guest dogs at our house. They have been fertilizing our lawn free of charge. A truth partner will point out land mines and alert you to verbal, thought paths that will smell up your world which will get tracked into every thought and conversation. “Dean, stop it! You are not telling yourself the truth.” The choice then is mine whether I will dismiss the enemy or indulge my flesh.
Elsewhere I have written about the necessity of an active MRI.3
- Monitor your thoughts and actions
- Recognize when you begin a trip into the woods
- Initiate action to change what you are thinking, doing or feeling. Don’t allow the creature to sit on your head rent free. (Turn Back The Tirade. Spring Daisy Publications, 2006)
Leanne Payne says renunciation is the key to ridding ourselves of self-hatred, reproach or grinding low self-respect.
But how do we help those who have no understanding of how this works? What if there is no gap between stimuli and reaction for them? Self-awareness training has at least three elements.
Relax. The amygdala driven person is anxiety-ridden and highly vigilant. The body is being alerted to fight or flee by fire hose levels of adrenalin. The object is not to disengage the emotion center, but to awaken and engage the area of the brain that rationally thinks things through. That can be done with relaxation techniques.
In anger management, the premise is that there is a gap between stimuli and reaction and those few seconds or nano seconds can be lengthened. A person whose anger causes him to “explode” reacts without thinking. Usually, there is no awareness that anger is building and will lead to reaction—going ballistic. The EI illiterate person doesn’t recognize the triggers. Self-awareness—“I’m mad as hell and I’m going to…” never enters the person’s mind. His or her reaction is purely physiological with the mind locked down. “I just lost my mind,” or “I went out of my mind,” is a fairly accurate appraisal. When that person can say, “I was beside myself,” that may be an improvement for his evaluating frontal cortex is viewing and making an assessment—“Dudette, you are mad and about to start throwing punches, dishes, and whatever else is at hand and that probably won’t turn out well.”
The hypothesis of Relaxation Response is that we can train ourselves to relax on command. The learning has to be done before the crisis. Your amygdala wins any argument at high rates of speed or during the sounds of a running, panting tiger at your back.
Herbert Benson, creator of the Relaxation Response school suggests this regimen which I have slightly altered and adapted:
Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet. Hold your toes taut. Can you tell when they are tense and when they are relaxed? Get used to the feeling of relaxed. Progressively relax each major muscle group from toes to scalp.
Keep them relaxed.
Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing.
My habit has been to breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds and then exhale to the count of four.
I have several relaxation tapes with quiet music in the background and a seductive feminine voice talking in my ear—“Breathe easily and naturally.” You may select a neutral word or short scripture passage to speak as you exhale.
Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes,
at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
Do not stand up for a few minutes. Passing out or hyperventilating is not useful!
Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation.
Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace.
When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them
and return to repeating your mantra. If the thought will not be ignored, give yourself permission to think about it later by thanking your mind for bringing it to your attention.
With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.
The stressed mind blocks self-awareness. The adage to count to ten is good if relaxing breathing accompanies the counting. An upset child is helped when you remind them to breathe. Anxiety will lead to greater agitation which is induced by breathing off the top of your lungs.
Lie down flat. Breathe through your nose and watch what part of your anatomy responds. A healthy baby will breathe and his belly will move up and down. An anxious or angry person will see the chest move. Your goal is to breathe into your diaphragm which you will see moving your belly. You want to learn what correct breathing feels like. When upset, gently push your stomach out and fill it with oxygen. Do not prolong heavy deep breathing for that will lead to hyperventilation which is not pleasant.
The point of all this is to relax the body and in doing so the person can become aware of thoughts and feelings.
For children, the reflection journal may be helpful. Some children and adults are not comfortable writing about their thoughts, but can vocalize them if talking to a trusted friend in a relaxed, safe setting. Ask the person what they were thinking when they were tightening and loosening their muscles. Ask what they felt—“What does it feel like to tighten your kneecap?” Ask how they felt emotionally. “Did you get scared?” “Did peaceful thoughts and feelings come as you relaxed your arms?” “Were you frightened by relaxing?”
Many hyper-vigilant people are from dysfunctional households or divorced homes. They can’t risk relaxing. They have to keep the sky from falling and make sure no one is sneaking up on them.
Focusing the mind helps the person to know what they are feeling and thinking so they can adjust inadequate, inaccurate or destructive thoughts and feelings.
How reflective are you? Introspection can be unhealthy for it focuses our mind on ourselves until every squeaking joint is a cause for alarm, or every errant thought indicates you losing your mind. Introspection, sometimes called navel-gazing, can lead us to preoccupation. Introspection can lead to anxiety.
Do you like water? I like to sit on a dock in a comfortable deck chair. I want to feel safe—no one sneaking up on me to throw me into the water. Or spill my coffee. If you don’t like water or have no access, you may like your porch. Solitude. Silence.
I took a break while writing this and watched a Cosco buyer tasting wine samples. Got that picture in your head? In today’s Scripture reading, find a word or a phrase that grabs your attention. Reflect on it—sniff it, swish it around in your mind, let it touch your spiritual core. What is God saying to you?—mind. What are you feeling? Motivated? Convicted? Encouraged? The emotions at work. Are you being directed to do something?—will.
Reflect on your day. What happened that upset you? What brought you great pleasure? What should you have done differently? How can you change any of that? What do you feel about you?
I’m finished for now.