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How Do You Feel?

Type A personalities are not physically damaging. The Type A person who is also hostile is at risk of early death. One of the most lethal characteristics is cynicism. It is not primarily the thinking that heightens the risk, it is the feeling that accompanies the toxic thinking.

Brene Brown defines shame as a cluster of thoughts and feelings of not being worthy of love or belonging. Name the trauma or assault. Over time, feelings are the fuel that keeps the fire raging. Feelings of worthlessness or diminishment caused by any wound flood us and then the thinking comes to support the legitimacy of those feelings.

Thinking and feeling are interactive, but different activities.

A business meeting we had scheduled didn’t materialize last weekend. How three people could not find each other in a coffee shop is hard to figure out. If my math is correct, that is number 87 in a list of things that didn’t turn out within a hemisphere of what we planned, worked toward, expected or assumed would happen—if mere normal were attained.

As we drove the two hours home from the aborted million-dollar meeting—for which I will undoubtedly be billed! (Just wanted to demonstrate cynicism.), I tried to name what I was thinking. My thinking and verbalization focused on the possibility that I am a world-class screw up. I was also talking and thinking about the competence and/or credibility of the person we were to meet. I was also thinking about the spiritual activity, if any, in this non-meeting.

We’ve been very serious about doing God’s will as we understood it. We’ve been searching for guidance for nearly a decade. So we are left with the confusion. Is God in this? Perhaps, I think to myself and then heatedly explain to Carole, this is God throwing a huge wall up because…because…I listed several possibilities most of which make no sense even to a twisted imagination. Perhaps, it is His will and our enemy disrupted things. Maybe our enemies are calling forth opposition from the dark world.

We used more words trying to think through what this odd event was all about than most people use for all purposes over a ten-day span. We concluded nothing.

I sure became aware what the experience made me feel about myself. “Feel” is the appropriate word. It was a feeling.

Carole stumbled over a table the other day. She thought she had broken her leg, six toes and maybe an Achilles’ tendon. She can pull up her jeans and show you the ugly bruises and tell you, “It hurts right there!” Where do “feelings” dwell?

Abandonment, assault, failures, mistakes, screw-ups, lack or specific inabilities make us feel badly about ourselves. After the bleeding stops and the bruises go away and we’ve filed the embarrassment, dread, mortification, we are left with how we feel. I don’t think that feeling will evaporate by itself or can we will it away. I think only God’s healing can remove its debilitating power. That especially is true the longer the history. The “feeling” becomes one element in the structure of a stronghold. It becomes part of our personhood. It has magnetism—it pulls toward itself proof that it is right. The feelings have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, we pray for healing. This is a soul issue. The elements of the soul are: what we think, what we do, what we FEEL. God heals and we actively cooperate. I suggest these activities:

PRACTICE GOOD MENTAL HYGIENE

FLOSS. (I am writing this at the College of Dentistry.) A supervisor gave me a package of wood flossers. Since then, I have found gentle plastic ones. Now, I can drive for miles while flossing. The practice of considering what thought has gotten stuck between your synapsis will dislodge toxic feelings that lead to truth decay.

The law that guides interpretation of feelings is: experience them, feelings are feelings. Do not deny them, but know that emotions—feelings—can lie to you. They are yours—you decided to feel them. That doesn’t mean they are all legitimate.

When we talk about healing of memories, we are talking about healing of emotions—the feelings that have controlled or crippled us.

When we talk about emotions, we list such things as anger, joy, peace. When we talk about feelings we may determine them to be feelings of inadequacy, feelings of inferiority, feelings of incompetence, feelings of shame, feelings of hopelessness.

Leanne Payne is one of my most respected thinkers about healing and walking with Jesus. I randomly read from her book, Restoring The Christian Soul this morning. She always takes me to deeper places and makes me mentally floss.

This is a maxim. Until we have “grieved out” what abandonment, abuse, assault, bad choices or deficits have created in us—been healed and that vacuum filled with God’s holy working, we will have feelings that block us, keep us stuck or barricade our destiny.

Ms. Payne prints a letter from a woman in law school who had attended one of Payne’s conferences and then wrote to her. When the woman (given the name Linda) was born, she was cared for and loved on by her mother. On her third day, the child was diagnosed with staph infection and was quarantined and separated from her mother. She experienced abandonment. She feels unfilled. Her feelings of touch deprivation and failure to come to an adequate sense of being have pushed her into feelings, choices, behaviors that have not satisfied the driving needs. She concludes the letter with a P.S.:

“I confess that I don’t want ‘healing’ so much as I want to be filled up. I can’t explain this; it just seems that ‘healing’ means the feelings will be taken away, but I will still be left empty. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?”

Her feelings are coping mechanism as are her habits of repression and denial. Take away those things before she is ready or before there is something to put in their place and she will crumble—probably come apart emotionally or mentally.

So I’m driving and “flossing.” What am I thinking and what am I feeling? Most of our questions are legitimate. We need to process what caused the problem or misunderstanding. But what has caused me to feel and exactly what am I feeling? Could it be that I am feeling something that is connected to another time and place and situation? Is this just a trigger that automatically made me to re-experience something?

I think of those who are blocked, sabotaged and turned back from challenges they are capable of accomplishing–turned back by the feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of expected disappointment (it always turns out that way), the feeling that accompanies fear of rejection and others. These feelings are expressed by anxiety, depression, fear, refusal to try and hiding out, among other things.

Because feelings trump thinking almost every time, emotional health includes defining what we feel and why we feel them. It is possible I’ve made more of the Saturday event than I should. There probably was no malice intended and there is a simple explanation. But the event uncovered some feelings that I better not oversimplify.

Begin with defining what you are feeling about yourself (called self-esteem), what you are feeling about others and your concern about what they feel about you. What are you feeling about God? Not what you think, but what you feel.

There is a storage place for feelings. Jesus said, “Out of your innermost being (belly) shall flow rivers of living water.” Or toxic feelings. Deeds of the flesh are often the attempt to smother those hurting feelings.

Not all negative feelings are toxic. I was feeling disappointed. I felt bewildered. I felt confused. So far, nothing neurotic. It will be helpful to set a time limit. I will feel sorry for myself or feel…until mid-afternoon, gives us time to process the questions and honor our feelings without indulging them.

Since this is a soul issue, we ask God to heal the toxic feeling(s) and deal with the root event that caused us to react with the feeling. We then build a healthy plan to respond to feelings. I say healthy because repression, refusing to think about them or denial does not fix anything.

Seams to me that this is critical to being ready when they hand us the ball.

 The rest of this is in Seams To Me—Section 8: Truth in Your Emotions

Questions?

©2014 D. Dean Benton

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Wisdom begins with a need, followed by trust

“Abram believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6).

Let me tell you one of my biggest mistakes. A friend from Louisiana emailed me ten years ago urging me to do podcasts. My books had been helpful to him. He suggested I just put them on podcasts. “Networks are begging for material.” I talked to all my other friends and strangers and no one knew what a podcast was. So I didn’t. Dumb!

When my son got a new smart phone, he gave me his old one and set it so I could use it for podcasts. Then I got a docking station. I’m still trying figure out how to mow the lawn while listening—keep in the ear buds where they belong.

I listen to at least one podcast a day. This morning I was listening to Andy Stanley’s podcast. He preached on elementary faith and talked about Abraham. “Abram believed the Lord.” Once every year or two it hits me how enormous that was. Using Stanley’s words, God had to start somewhere so he picked Abram and told him His plans. This was God’s promise:

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great…”

Abram responded, “Here’s my problem. Nation? I don’t even have a son. Nation? Counting my closest servants and a cousin or two there are about twelve of us.” A couple of adventures later, God shows up again—“The Lord came to Abram in a vision…” (15:1) and repeats the promise.

“Abram, let’s go outside. The Lord escorts the nomad out to the canopy of space and says, “Count those stars.” An hour later, Abram says, “I keep losing count.” Yahweh says, “Got the count in mind? So shall your offspring be.” No further evidence is offered. No more words from God. “Abram believed the Lord.” Jack the font size up 40 points to capture this. Abram believed the Lord! Based on nothing but the promise—what God said.

Above all else God wants to be believed and trusted. To His friends, God says all He wants from us is: “Believe me. Trust me. Obey me.” I suspect it was easier for Abram when God said, “Believe me, trust me, obey me—let’s make a kid,” (He was all over that!) but more difficult when God said, “Offer Isaac.” But “Abram believed the Lord.” With nothing more to go on than God’s voice in his head.

The conversation in 15:4ff fleshes out some of the questions but not until after Abram believed God. “And God credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:2 argues that nothing Abram could do could place him in a righteous relationship with God, but believing God’s word did.

In Romans 4:16-25 tells us what was going on in the Patriarch’s head and how his outrageous faith delivered a son.

 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”

 Hard to get my head around that. It seems to me if God says, “Hey, Dude, let’s go walk outside. Got something for you to count—you won’t need your flashlight,” we may want to turn off the TV and walk, look, listen.

 What is God saying to you?

Another outrageous! God is always looking for someone who will believe Him. Someone to whom He can reveal solutions and strategies.

And…Dean believed God. Well, except when Bruce suggested podcasts. That was a God-invitation. I just could not think about being strengthened by the very thing (faith) that seemed so impossible.

Abram was a rich person. In all the world, what did he want most? A son. That is where God spoke and offered. What do you want most? Does a Lamborghini count?

Seek wisdom—not just to archive like a flash drive—but to serve your world, solve, enrich, stimulate, encourage, provide supplies where others hunger. Start there! What do others need that stirs your imagination? That might be the intersection where you begin the journey of seeking wisdom to find the very solution and strategy that will birth a nation, tribe.

©2013 D. Dean Benton

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Seven Decisions–One

I heard it again this morning and as always it stuns me as if I have never it before: “We only have one chance…we had better get it right.” The preacher said it more graphically and I think I heard the tolling of some bell.

A phrase that dominated my late teens and early twenties:

 One life and it will soon be past

Only what is done for Christ will last.

 Our discussion of The Traveler’s Gift—Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, is about doing life intentionally and without waste. Getting it right. But you better get at it—you have only one life.

The first decision that will determine success—no matter what is being measured—is to take responsibility for where we are. I editorially must say that the decision does not require we blame ourselves for what abusers, jerks, bullies or others did to us. I’m concerned that those who do not think and talk that through will assume it means, “Since I am…”, or “I’m short,” or “I made so many stupid decisions, I’m where I am….

I was changing clothes after a concert-seminar in a South Carolina church bathroom stall. The guy in the adjoining stall saw my clothes hanging over the divider and said, “You must really like to travel.” I told him I didn’t particularly enjoy the traveling, but it was a requirement for me to do what I really enjoy doing—singing, preaching, teaching. He responded with, “Well, God has you where He wants you….” I thought to myself, “Here, in the toilet?”

I am more comfortable saying that since I am where I am, it is my responsibility to move forward. Andy Andrews gives us these statements:

 “I will not let my history control my destiny.”

“My mind will live in the solutions of the future.”

“When called upon to make a decision, I will make it.” Then, no second guessing.

“My life will not be an apology. It will be a statement.”

“Never again will I blame parents, spouse, boss or other employees for my current situation.”

“My decisions have always been governed by my thinking. Therefore…I begin the process of changing by changing the way I think.”

“Adversity is preparation for greatness. I will accept this preparation.”

“I accept responsibility for my past. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. I am responsible for my success.”

         The Traveler’s Gift, Andy Andrews, (Thomas Nelson, 2002) Pages 32-33.

 Lack of empathy, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety are also products of our thinking. Listen to this psychological proverb: “As surely as sunrise follows the night; sow self-pity and you will reap depression.” Behavior is determined by thinking. If we want to change our behavior we do so by first changing our thinking.

The writers of the book INFLUENCER (McGraw-Hill 2008) say, “People choose their behaviors based on what they think will happen to them as a result.” Therefore, “if you want to change behavior, any behavior, you have to change maps of cause and effect.” (It’s important to note that people’s interpretations of events trump the facts of any situation.)

These authors say “when it comes to altering behavior, you need to help others answer only two questions:

  1. Is it worth it?
  2. Can I do it?

 If you are helping someone change their behavior or attempting to influence someone to change bad behavior several things determine your influence. If the person trusts your motivation and your knowledge they will listen. Verbal persuasion, as your only tool, in most cases is not fruitful. That is true especially when you want someone to stop doing something that is personally pleasurable or satisfying to them. You seldom, if ever, can talk someone out of doing what brings them relief or pleasure, no matter how eloquent your words.

People must come to personal conviction that changing their conduct is worth it and they can do it.

The Influencer people suggest we give verbal persuasion a rest and make experience the primary objective. (“Personal experience is the mother of all cognitive map changers.”) Help them experience the world differently. Convincing them that it is worth it may start to take root by sharing your own experience—vicarious experience—and/or building an atmosphere where they can experience what it is they desire—what they hope their addictions will produce.  

When Mylon Lefevre went to Church on the Way, he experienced the peace and presence of God in the dimension that had eluded him his entire life. That is the work of the Holy Spirit which we cannot photocopy. I’ve been thinking through what I know about Pastor Hayford and Church on the Way. Fundamentally, they believe God works in the way Mylon experienced Him. They also honor God, give Him opportunity to work and they prepare themselves to be His conduit through prayer, praise and preaching the Word. Mylon had performed and worshipped in many churches and walked away empty while other people in the building were experiencing God in the very dimension he craved. So, part of our preparation is to pray for receptive hearts and minds. “God, prepare this specific person. What do I need to spiritually bind that will give the space and freedom for my friend to make a conscious decision?” (There is more to be said about that.)

If we want people to change their thinking, tell them the whole story. “…when you leave out the solution, people typically block out the message.” (Influencer, page 67)

Subtle Seldom Succeeds.

 Changing your behavior is worth it. You must decide that. Let me introduce you to people who have changed and let them tell you how they did it.

  1. Can you do it? Not without effort. You are the only one who can do what needs to happen in your thoughts and emotions and perseverance. One of my former friends (we’re not as close as we used to be) has been in the newspaper crime list at least once a week for a month. He has been practicing his way of life for nearly 40 years. I went to court with him once. Every cop, lawyer, judge and janitor greeted him by name. Can he do it?
  2. Here is the “solution.” Here are some strategies. You can’t do it alone. It is a tough fact: it is up to you. You do not have a second life riding around in the trunk of your Jeep.

 “You are what you are today because of the quality of your thoughts, the perspectives you have about life, and your beliefs about yourself and others. Do you truly desire a significant change in your life? Change your thinking.” (Andy Andrews)

 D. Dean Benton

        Your response?

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WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH

From SEAMS TO ME
(c)2013 D. Dean Benton

7–SEVEN–

WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH

Joshua 1:7-8

“Be careful to obey to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The words prosperous and successful are enchanting, seductive and capture attention. As I write these words, our son is in the Rocky Mountains taking pictures and interacting with some interesting characters. Two phrases from his Facebook posts stirred my imagination: “…while Two Feathers and I were panning for gold.” He didn’t say if they found the Mother Lode or even one gold nugget. He did say that he was striking camp and “going further in….”

Studying Joshua one has been panning for gold and a trek further into the mysteries of God’s plan, promises and invitation. A friend has just moved to Montana. As his family looks out their front door, they see beautiful mountains. He said he went climbing and the oxygen was thin or he was out of shape. I came away from this study slightly breathless for the climb “further in” has been invigorating and challenging.

Our study has been partially focused on teaching the young how to succeed in life—how to bring to their lives the essential competencies of Emotional Quotient. So, imagine one of your young friends—the one you are coaching or mentoring—and invite him or her to go further in. If you want to be prosperous and successful, this is route to the gold—pan here!

The instruction before us in this session is “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth.” What is the “Book of the Law”?

My assumption was that it referred to the Pentateuch. That is the entire writing of Moses which we have in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In my New International Version Bible, that is about 350 pages. It is doubtful that the hundreds of thousands of people walking with Moses had copies of the NIV or even Hebrew scrolls. How many of them knew how to read? So even if they had access to the Pentateuch would it have made any difference? My opinion is that the reference to the “Book of the Law” is about a smaller slice. I’m guessing the book of Deuteronomy. (32:44-47 & 31:23-26).

Deuteronomy is given to the Hebrews for a specific purpose:

“(Moses) you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess” (5:31). The Message Bible translates those words, “…so they’ll know how to live in the land that I’m giving them as their own.”

Deuteronomy pulls back the curtain to reveal God’s heart. It is a covenant revelation of God’s intention and devotion to these people and to Moses. He whispers to Moses the principles, practices and priorities that are to guide behavior, worship and business. Remember every word, never let it out of our mind, practice every detail—your success depends on all that.

Maybe the whole book of Deuteronomy is too large. Is this referring to a distilled statement or a principle? The Ten Commandments are reposted in chapter five. Is that what is not to “depart from their lips?” Chapter six contains the most precious words to the Hebrew faith. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one.” (6:4)

When Jesus was asked the most important command, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. In Matthew 22:37-40, He said all of the law and prophets hang on these:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus adds, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Important stuff! I conclude that Deuteronomy was the “Mother Lode.” It was foundation for what should never depart. This is to be the framework of our worldview, our mindset, the default assumptions upon which we think and act and our reference point. With that rock in place, we will be predisposed to observe and “be careful to do everything written in it.”

What makes up the grid, screen, filter through which we see the land to which we are being called? I suggest some things from Deuteronomy.

DON’T TRIFLE WITH GOD’S PROMISES OR COMMANDMENTS

A friend introduced us to Matthew West’s song entitled “Hello, My Name Is.” (Sparrow 2013). The video graphic is a sticky backed name tag. We arrived home to find one of those name badges on our porch with the word “Treasured” written on the label. There was no signature, but the labels and the song have become her signature. There was a scripture reference:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Dt 7:6).

The Gospel—Jesus’ message—can be imagined as a video of God walking into your room, slapping a name badge on your chest that says, “My Name is Treasured.” Don’t let that ever leave your self-image or your lips.

Read through Deuteronomy and listen to God speak of His treasuring. When Israel turns to idols made of wood or stone, God’s resulting anger is not petulance, it is an expression of hurt—rejection. Can you visualize God walking through the thin air of a high mountain to find a person—you—caught in addiction, underachievement or one activity this side of goal fulfillment? God peals the backing off the glue and slaps the badge on the person’s chest. “Hello, my name is Treasured.” If we can learn to hear and see all things through that scenario, life will take on a different direction.

Someone has said that Ownership of the promised land was promised by God. Occupation was the responsibility of His People. “Don’t be afraid…God Himself will fight for you” (3:22).

Joshua’s selection and commissioning is retold several times in Deuteronomy before we read it in Joshua one. Deuteronomy 3:21-28 is one of those places. That paragraph also tells about Moses pleading with God to allow him to enter Canaan. God responds, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (vs 26).

That is tough! God will not wink at sin, the Bible says. Obedience is a must and the one thing God most wants from us is trust.

GOD’S TOUGH COMPASSION AND LOVE

Deuteronomy begins with rich grace and about chapter fifteen falls off the cliff into some grisly stuff. This loving God commands the Israelites to wipe out entire cities. How ugly this is can be seen in the words, “We killed all the people—men, women, children, but we kept the cattle as plunder.” (3:6-7) I can’t explain or even allow myself to think about why a cow is a keeper and kids are not. We are missing part of the story—the part that makes sense of this slaughter.

God’s treatment of Moses doesn’t compute for me. “The Lord was angry with me because of you…” (4:21). Numbers 20:1-13 tells the incident that placed Moses in conflict with God. Again, it feels like we haven’t been told the whole story. The Israelites are whining to Moses and accusing him and God. They had no water to drink which can make a person cranky. Whining and grumbling against Moses and God, however, had become a lifestyle. The Waters of Meribah is known as the locale where the arguing with God stepped over the line. Yahweh told Moses to speak to a rock and out would flow adequate water for people and cattle. Moses went to the rock and smacked it twice with his walking stick. Can you understand the frustration? Water gushed out. The people and their livestock drank. “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (20:12).

I have felt that God was excessive in His punishment. The punishment does not seem to me to match the crime. I want to plead Moses’ case and get him into Canaan. Honoring God as holy is apparently a big deal. It is that holiness that sets Yahweh apart from all other gods.

Don’t trifle with God’s instructions or trivialize His love, compassion, promises or blessings.

As I am writing, my thinking goes strangely to the parking lot behind the Bible College which I attended. I can remember playing catch with the building as a backstop. I vividly remember leaving the college building to sing at a church across town on a New Year’s Eve. The parking lot was icy and I slipped, fell flat on my back, hit my head. I recall lying there in the icy water wondering if I had just killed myself. I didn’t, so I went to sing in a wet black suit, now wondering if I smelled like a wet dog.

I don’t recall ever doing anything in that parking lot that would dishonor God that would keep me from fully entering God’s promises for me. Since the scene is so heavy, I wonder if I agreed with a lie about God’s love, compassion, promise or personal blessing. Since the image came unsolicited and is heavy, I do what seems to me to be the appropriate thing.

“Lord, if I offended you by thought or action while in that parking lot that removed me from your favor, I ask your forgiveness and ask You to speak specifically so I can confess specifically.”

What we speak either opens God’s storehouse or padlocks all the doors to His resources. Words matter—for “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”

PROSPERITY AND SUCCESS

Success for Joshua meant defeating the enemies and inhabiting the cities. That was his assignment.

Do you ever wonder if Joshua got a day off? Was he ever off the clock? Where did he go to “get away”? Did he have a hobby? Did he like to fish? I don’t recall ever hearing about a wife or children. Did he have a life beyond his assignment? It is easy to see biblical characters as one-dimensional—get the job done—kind of people.

“Give it everything you have, heart and soul…” God tells Joshua. Moses got into serious trouble with God when he burned out. “Had it with these people!” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, warned Moses that he was burning out and headed for catastrophe and gave him very good counsel how to change his work habits. Learning to delegate was a big deal for Moses as it is for all visionaries and organization founders. Giving up power and encouraging initiative is threatening to builders.

I don’t remember hearing any such conversations involving Joshua. Who spoke into his life after Moses died? Did Joshua have a life group—guys who got together at a pub or in someone’s vacation tent? All of this comes from a larger “wonder.” I wonder if the success and prosperity that God promises connect to his personal life, as well? But then, did he have a personal life? Was Joshua God’s treasure even on days when he was unproductive or wasn’t working eighteen hours a day conquering some city?

Brene Brown says the one thing that separates people who experience deep love and belonging and those who struggle with it is a belief in their worthiness. Dr. Brown says to really experience love and belonging a person has to believe they are worthy of belonging and to be loved. Do I deserve to belong? Do I deserve to be loved? Your answers?

That is huge! I have looked over my list of friends who are struggling. I can hear them saying they don’t feel worthy of belonging or succeeding.

Seth Godin is one of America’s most provocative writers about marketing. He warns marketers that people don’t believe what marketers tell them. People will often believe what their friends tell them about products. People always believe what they tell themselves.

Let me remind you that your worthiness was established at the Cross. The New Covenant established there carved “worthy” onto your permanent record. Being “In Christ” applies His worth to you. It is no longer about you, it is about Him and your position in Him.

I cannot convince you that Abba Father will stop you on the street and slap the name badge on you that says “Hello. My Name is Treasured.” If you were abandoned by your parents, or you felt they tossed you out of the nest; if you have experienced rejection through divorce or being dumped by someone you wanted to live the rest of life with; if you have lived your whole life being the last one chosen for the team, no one will be able to convince you of your “worthiness.” You are going to win that argument because you alone know how you’ve been explaining your unworthiness to yourself. And in your deepest soul, the evidence you are using is incontrovertible. You will think and act and feel in such ways to prove your case. If Seth Godin is right, and he is, you are the only one you will listen to about your worthiness.

It is not just about being invited to join your favorite card club. It is about success and prosperity. Worthiness is not arrogant entitlement. It is the acceptance of your worth as a gift from God. It is a given—since God has given me worth, I will do what needs to be done to build a productive life. The Holy Spirit will not over ride your voice. He will be persistent and make a case. What are your voices saying? Are you arguing with God?

As Moses lists the things His people cannot do, repeatedly the final and heaviest rationale for certain behavior is: “Among all the people on the face of the earth, God chose you to be his treasure.” A treasure acts in certain ways.

How do we get a feel for our worthiness? Dr. Brown says it comes when we own our story. I add we begin to access our worthiness when we let go of the lies we have agreed with.

If abandonment, betrayal, abuse, and/or wrong choices define a segment of your story, then chances are you will feel unworthy to succeed or prosper in healthy ways. Self-management is one of the EQ essential competencies. Since no one can convince you but you, you are responsible to manage this with a decision to listen to God’s case for your worthiness. And words are the key to success and prosperity.

WORDS

“Do not let this Book of Law depart out of your mouth…” (vs. 7).

Action

“Careful to do everything written in it” (1:8b).

Psychologist Al Andrews asked Jon Acuff, “What do your voices tell you?” I have friends who really do hear voices speaking to them. One of my friends, who is a delight to me, has a weather lady living in her head who blames her for bad forecasts and bad weather. Meds keep my friend from being crazy. Andrews was talking about self-talk—the voices we pack around rent-free as they make comments on every aspect of our lives. Weight, sex appeal, brilliance, lack of good sense and the amount of worthiness we possess.

Not everyone agrees with Dr. Andrews’ statement, “No one has a positive internal voice.” I don’t know about “No one” having a positive internal voice. I can tell you that not many have a native positive voice.

I have rehearsed the recent events in my family’s life. I have rehearsed the words we have said to each other and the words we’ve been saying to ourselves and the action those words have led to. Paralysis!

Those voices have names: doubt and fear.

Jon Acuff says those “voices are invisible bullies and they hate when you make them visibile.” He says they also hate community. “Never waste time trying to battle those voices alone.” Don’t go it alone.

You don’t need people to solve your issue; you need someone who will faithfully listen. Someone to “be present” for you. You will benefit from having a person or life group who will beat back the darkness by shining light on the voices of doubt and fear.

Be very careful about the words you use for they will lead some kind of action.

Activate

 

At this moment, it seems to me the most important questions that determine success, prosperity, happiness and self-fulfillment are:

  1. What are your voices saying to you?
  2. Do you consider yourself worthy?

We have the command—“…meditate on (this Book of the Law) day and night” (1:8b). The mind can mediate on one thing at a time. What you decide to ruminate will set loose life-determining behavior and spiritual entities. To meditate means to repeatedly mumble it to yourself. The grid, screen, default thought pattern, worldview will inevitably feed thoughts to you and filter what is allowed. So the translations tell us to “Read it, repeat it to yourself, speak it to yourself and to others.”

Some words I have heard today from people I’ve talked with:

  • I’m stuck
  • I don’t laugh anymore
  • I have isolated myself
  • I just got dumped

We are where we are because of the words we’ve been using or erroneous, self-destructive, self-limiting words that “never depart from our lips.” Again, the choice of words determine our success and prosperity. Choose well! Ask someone if you are hearing and speaking correctly.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

A person living in that atmosphere would be confronted with God’s word at every turn. Everywhere. On every wall, between the mayonnaise and the turkey in the sandwich, underneath the bed and hanging in the air. Being stuck then is situational, not a permanent diagnosis or sentence.

Makes me long for that atmosphere, place, environment, culture, group. The researcher is right. “We are hard-wired for belonging and love and if we are not connected we break.”

Aptitude

Everyone I’ve read in recent days, every podcast I’ve listened to has instructed me to use action words. One of my mentors says we must find an adequate language to express our beliefs and dreams. One social scientist says we open the door to joy with the practiced act of vocalizing gratitude. “Never let these words depart from your mouth—meditate on this day and night.”

Self-management and self-regulation empower us to use words intentionally and deliberately in response and reaction.

  • How to say it
  • A place to say it
  • Someone to say it to
  • A purpose in saying it

You may want to spend some time with this Book of the Law and select what part of it has departed from your speech habits. What words in Deuteronomy melt in your mouth like Key Lime Pie? A “word” from God to you.

Hello! I see your name is TREASURED.

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6–Steel in Your Spine

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

 

 

 

 

Six

STEEL IN YOUR SPINE

“Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7),

 

There is a heroine in this story whose name is Rahab. She is one gutsy woman and exemplifies what Steel in the Spine looks like. My 1994 book, Rahab’s Place, is one of my favorite because of the courage and intrigue.

 

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies… ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute name Rahab and stayed there” (Joshua 2:1).

 

Rahab may have been slandered. Wherever her name appears, she is identified as a harlot or a prostitute. Beside each of those names is an asterisk. The footnote says, “May be translated ‘Innkeeper’ or ‘hostess.’

Excuse me! There is quite a difference between being the madam of the house and being a madam of a house. Probably, Rahab was an enterprising entrepreneur. She operated Jericho’s Best Mid-Eastern Hotel—a bed and breakfast which also housed two other businesses none of which included naked bodies.

Whatever her past, Rahab was an established member of the Jericho business community. The Chamber of Commerce probably ate lunch there. The Bible doesn’t spell out the details of her past, but we know what she did with her life and how she changed world history. She didn’t have a grand dream. She was trying to make ends meet, make her life count, care for her parents, clothe her kids and make it as a single woman in a man’s world.

She responded to a challenge that came knocking at her door. Divine intervention traipsed through her house all the way to the open tomb and into your life. She was one of the grandmothers in Jesus’ lineage.

My mother was a single-parent. She operated a small café that provided adequate income to buy us shoes, a house, and some vacations. It also provided me a job and a learning place. I washed dishes, cooked some really bad meals, but mostly I waited tables.

I learned a lot while pouring coffee and serving hamburgers and home-made pie. Early on, I learned secrets. One, you never say to a customer, “Is that all?” or “Will that be all?” The business question was always, “What else may I get for you?” I learned that you never put the ten-dollar bill in the cash register until the customer has the change in his hand. That way there is never a question whether it was a ten or twenty dollar bill.

Mom turned a run-down café into a profitable business. One of the first things she bought was a top-quality mirror. It was mounted behind the counter stretching about fifteen feet from one end of the counter to the other. Customers would sit at the counter to watch themselves and look at everyone behind them in the booths.

Pour the coffee, ask about the family and listen. Patrons will say things to a barkeeper or waitress/waiter they will not say at other times. If you keep your mouth shut while serving the pie, you can pick up a lot of information without trying to eavesdrop. Customers mesmerized by their own reflection in the mirror will talk about marriage, family, business deals and hatreds. They will tell you what they feel about political events and figures and what they expect is going to happen in the Stock Market, gas prices and to their company.

Rahab made the beds, cleaned the rooms, poured the coffee and listened to customer’s gossip. She tucked the tips in her pocket and the information into the place where such news is stored for later use.

She listened to the travelers, business owners and political leaders as they talked of the tribes across the river. Occasionally, one of the king’s military power brokers would get a little drunk and talk a little loud. Jericho was concerned about the Israelites who had marched miraculously out of Egypt a generation before with plans of taking over the entire land border-to-border, river-to-sea. Something happened that Jericho residents didn’t understand. The Hebrew tribes, after escaping from Egypt, stopped short of their goals and for forty years had just wandered around in the wilderness across the Jordan River from Jericho posing no threat to anyone.

Traveling merchants spoke often of the strange images of smoke, fire and pillars of clouds. Shoemakers had tried to break into that market, but for reasons they never understood, the Hebrews never needed shoes, nor did they import food.

Rahab took longer than usual to wipe crumbs off the counter as she heard that Moses had died. Joshua was now the recognized leader. Rahab remembered her parents talking of a man named Joshua who had entered their country many years before. She scrunched her eyebrows to remember the other names on that mission. Caleb. That was one of the men with Joshua. There were others, but she could not remember having ever heard their names. Whatever they reported of their reconnaissance had created a power struggle within the various clans. She never believed that Joshua and Caleb were scared off. Instead of invading and conquering, the Israelites just backed away, moving only when their cattle needed new territory; they were without direction.

Now, the police were saying that the Hebrews had a new plan to invade the land. Jericho would be the first city confronted. No military man thought their city vulnerable. Not with these walls. Still, guerilla warfare would be bad for business.

Rahab’s family had lived in this city so long their neighbors viewed them as naturalized citizens. When she visited her parents or brothers’ homes, she mentioned what she had heard. Her parents reminded her that they too had Hebrew blood in their veins and retold the stories of the Exodus, Passover and Yahweh.

She was not surprised when two travelers happened to mention that Joshua said hello. She knew these men were not there to buy linen, but to check out the most vulnerable spots in the double walls. These men were Israeli spies and Rahab was in on the deal whether she wanted to be or not. A traveler with no family in Jericho would have been sent to Rahab’s Place; however, the authorities would know her Hebrew connection and that would make her immediately suspect.

She knew why the local CIA agents were at her door. She had to hide the spies to protect her family and herself. Regardless of her politics, she knew the danger. Women business owners were tolerated, but cut no slack. She had survived by her ability to out talk a client who had demanded more than she intended to give. She also knew how to defend herself with the hidden knife. Now, she concocted a story about the strangers who had spent one night and some money before leaving earlier in the day. She gave the police directions to what she thought was their next destination. She couldn’t be sure, she claimed, but that was their best bet. They bought the story. She watched them as they ran in the direction she had given.

Rahab slowly closed the door, quietly pushed the dead bolt into place and sagged against the door. She stood with her forehead against the bolted door. Then she turned around with her back to the door and slid to the floor. Shaking legs no longer held her. She put her head between her knees to keep from passing out.

It came down to this. The dreams of childhood. The seduction and betrayal. The alleged prostitution. She was in love with the guy who sold her. She knew she had been lucky—not many street women got the breaks she did. She never knew for sure who paid her way out of the life. Her parents? Brothers? A silent business partner? She would never outrun her name—it would always include an explanation note, but she could rebuild her reputation. She would become bigger than the harlot tag. Rahab’s Place came to mean more than what it had meant. All of Jericho knew what Rahab had been and what she was now.

As her heart returned to normal rhythm, she forced herself to breathe deeply and to think. It was a matter of time; she knew that. She had kept her wits about her in tough times before. What was she to do this time? The two up on the roof were not the first to register as “John Smith.” But she had never felt her life so intertwined with any of her guests. As she thought of the two spies, a third person confronted her. We do not know the details, but by the time she got up from the floor and walked up the stairs she knew what she was to do.

 

SHE HAD SEEN THE FUTURE

 

“I know the Lord has given you this land” (Joshua 2:9).

 

Os Guinness is an evangelical historian, a sociologist, Visiting Fellow at Brookings Institute and award-winning author. He is also one of my favorite thinkers. He said there were three characteristics that defined America at the end of the twentieth century. In my opinion, these characteristics carry into the first part of this century.

 

  • Hollowness.

He explains that as the erosion of the sense of self and truth. He sees decline in rational thinking and in the basic assumption that all human life has value.

 

  • Homelessness

This results from the gradual eating away of the certainties of meaning and belonging. He is not talking about street people, he is talking about ennui—a feeling of not being at home anywhere in the universe. Let’s say it differently. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, there is an epidemic of isolation in America. We are exchanging an open front porch for a safe room where we connect with the outside world via digital screens.

   A school teacher friend said her students did not feel that they belong anywhere. They are detached, she said, from hearth, home, and history.

   Guinness uses phrases like, “Second-rate education,” “A third-rate diet of entertainment,” and a fourth-rate awareness of discipline and constraint.” Ask any teacher if these descriptions hold up. Guinness adds that today’s family “Is not raised to last, let alone produce independent and responsible adults and citizens.”

   Hopelessness seems the natural next characteristic as I listen to teachers and read the observers. I am not hopeless. In my dark moments, however, I am convinced that without the full use of the principles we talk about in this book, the outlook is bleak. But we are being offered a route to hope.

 

  • Herolessness

 

Is this what Rahab saw with her country on the verge of collapse? I don’t recall ever saying as I walked to my car, “I’m going to be a hero today.” Neither did Rahab. She responded with a visible behavioral quality to the challenges that confronted her.

God is redundant as He talks to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous,” He says in verse six. In verse seven He says, “Be strong and very courageous.” Then in verse nine He repeats, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”

Her courageous response to the challenges?

 

SHE HAD FAITH

 

The Faith Hall of Fame inducted Rahab with these words: “By faith…Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were unbelievers” (Hebrews 11:31). Her faith was not just a noun, it was a verb. Biblical faith is always a verb. Faith was expressed in the context of her life, not in a special dispensation apart from the “dailies.” Action is a faith response.

Notice that she said, “We have heard…” (Joshua 2:10). Someone in Jericho was a faithful witness. They talked about the acts of God that changed Pharoah’s mind about who Yahweh was—changed at least temporarily. That witness told Rahab about the Exodus from Egyptian captivity.

People come to faith in Christ in reaction or response to a dilemma. Some of us are confronted by our past or uncertainty about the future. Some of us are blocked by limitations or questions and see in Christ fulfillment or answers. Others of us hear the Good News—it is new information about who Christ is and what He has done for us, and we respond with love and commitment.

“The Lord your God is God of heaven above and on the earth below,” (Joshua 2:11) is Rahab’s confession. That declaration came as she processed what she knew of God and His acts, and His love for her. Having His promise to forgive her of sin was also a big reason.

The Innkeeper with a Past now had a future. She experienced forgiveness and motivation for tomorrow based upon what faith she could express. There was an encounter with this God. Her limited prospects collided with God’s infinite resources. Like all of us, she placed her trust in Him.

 

SHE HAD CONCERN FOR HER FAMILY

 

“Swear to me…that you will show kindness to my family” (Joshua 2:12).

 

Rahab had entered into a treasonous covenant. She had given aid and comfort to the enemy. I doubt that she saw what she did as an act of great courage. She was simply being pragmatic. Based upon her knowledge of God she took a step of faith.

Her family was dead meat without her intervention. Their lives and future depended on her faith and actions. But then, if she was wrong they were all dead.

We once sang at a writer’s conference where Madeleine L’Engle was the keynote speaker. She was so gracious to Deb and Doug. She was married to Broadway and TV actor Hugh Franklin probably best known for his portrayal of Dr. Tyler on ABC’s “All My Children.” Ms. L’ Engle’s book, Two-Part Intervention, (Harper & Row, 1988) tells of their marriage and his dying. She quotes Yeats:

 

But love has pitched her mansion

In the place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent.

 

Then she observes, “The place of excrement. That is where we are this summer.” Then she asks, “How do we walk through excrement and keep clean in our hearts?” How do we become whole by being rent? Later she says, “There are no shortcuts through the place of excrement.”

Only if you loved do those words make sense. Only if you’ve asked God for guidance, healing or intervention and found yourself sloshing through silence do you fully grasp the horror. When the support beams are dismantled by overload and you fear you have no reserve to manage the attack, nor systems to compute what is happening. You may begin to numbly grasp God’s activity in the quiet.

Innkeeper found herself in dark intrigue that would change her family’s destiny. Her future was in her hands in this challenging moment. When she responded with faith-action, God took her where she never dreamed of going.

She was a person with steel in her spine. Where did that come from? Is it genetic? Learned? Transferable? The command was to be strong and courageous. Not to feel strong or courageous, but to do courageous. Do you see yourself as strong? Courageous? When have you been confronted with the threat? Has a knock come to your door? 

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FIRE IN YOUR BELLY

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

Five

 FIRE IN YOUR BELLY

“I will give you…” 1:3a   

 “I will be with you…” Joshua 1:5b

“I will never leave…forsake you…” 1:5c

“…you will lead these people” 6:1

“…that you will be successful” 1:7d

 The Impossible Dream has been our theme song for decades. Not because I really thought it was impossible, but because I believe every God-given dream is possible precisely because “With God all things are possible.” Questing is so woven into the fabric of our ministry and lives, one lady cross stitched the words “The Quest” on a framed piece of fabric which was mounted in most of our ministry vehicles.

The story of Don Quixote is not a light comedy. It is the story about a man who could see something that others laughed at. He called what others called a common kitchen wench, someone beautiful and changed her life. He had the ability to change sceneries and people. 

Quixote asks, “Well, Sancho—how dost thou like adventuring?” Sancho answers, “Oh, marvelous, Your Grace. But it’s peculiar—to me this great highway to glory looks exactly like the road to El Toboso where you can buy chickens cheap.”

When the establishment (spell that Inquisition) demanded Quixote to “stop this crazy dreaming, and come to your senses or we will rid you of your lunacy,” the adventuring ceases. The inquisitors tried to keep the adventurers apart. They allow Sancho a few moments to visit Quixote. The Don asks his side kick, Sancho how life has been since they stopped adventuring. Sancho replies, “Oh, I haven’t fought a windmill in a fortnight and the humble joys get duller every day.”

A quixotic person is someone who is slightly ajar and out of touch with reality. Quixote’s name is equated with slight craziness. The establishment always feels obligated to bring their mirrors and show the visionaries how crazy they really are.

I am grateful for every person who taught me to dream big, take risks, live faith outrageously by Kingdom safety standards, and see what others did not. I think every Jesus Follower committed to Kingdom life is slightly quixotic because they run against the grain carefully crafted and guarded by those who love the status quo they think they control.  

Soon after seeing the movie, Man of LaMancha, I read a book written by the screenwriter who explained the story. A paragraph has stalked me.

“…representatives of the established order…do not understand him. They force him to see himself, not as he is but as they see him; and the sight destroys the knight-errant and leaves only a broken old man.”

So! Don’t you come around me with mirrors! I am perfectly pleased to be part of the Quixote Clan. “Joshua, you are the one. Do it!”

Read again the words God speaks to “You—Joshua.” What moved Joshua to head of the line as God looked for Moses’ successor? What qualified him to lead God’s Chosen People? What about Joshua gained him favor with God? What lit a fire in his belly?

Marketer, business futurist Seth Godin says in a chaotic time the riskiest thing a person can do is play it safe. One of my earliest Kingdom insights came when a preacher challenged our Bible College chapel participants to “Throw your life away with careful aim.” Since that day, I have increasingly learned that I need some people around me who will craft my aim and protect my pitching arm. It is not craziness God calls us to, but Kingdom wisdom. In recent days Jim Elliot’s words have become huge and bold. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Those words spoken in the early 1950s became the rallying cry of a generation of evangelicals. In a time when people are clutching to guard what belongs to them, Elliott’s words may be the sanest of all.

What built a fire in Joshua’s gut? Exodus 33:7-11gives us some clues.

 JOSHUA EXPERIENCED THE PEOPLE’S ANTICIPATION

 The tent of meeting probably sat on a hill visible to everyone. It was a court room, it was a prayer room and a private holy rendezvous. When Moses said, “Joshua, let’s go out to the tent…” the nation ran to their front porches. “They are on the way to the tent…” rang through the camp and their lodges. Going up the hill to worship was an adventure—the pillar of smoke was synonymous with God’s manifest presence. Not just God’s omnipresence—He’s everywhere all the time—but at this specific time, God is uniquely here. The people stood at the entrances of their tents to watch Moses and Joshua walk to the tent of meeting and be greeted there by that manifest presence.

“Kids, come and see this….” Joshua walked past the tents and saw families anticipating what was going to happen. Like crowds gathering along the streets waiting for July 4 fireworks.

Those kids saw their parents honoring the men of God. Most of the Lone Ranger episodes ended with the question, “Who was that masked man?” Much of the Hebrew education was/is built around the experiences that led to children asking, “What is that about?”

 “Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped each at the entrance of his tent” (vs 9).

The people watched and then they worshiped. They rushed to their front porch saying to each other, “Don’t want to miss this! Moses and Joshua are going out to the tent.”

What words did Joshua hear as they walked to the tent? I’m guessing he heard, “Go for it, Josh!” What did those folks ask him after they witnessed the smoke and fire and sensed that their young friend had been within inches of the Creator?

Seth Godin gives us the secret of leadership for the early 21st Century. It is not just for the people in corner offices. The insight is for anyone and everyone who has a dream or passion.

  • Do what you believe in.
  • Paint a picture of the future.
  • Go there.

He adds another component by saying that the enemy of leadership and change is not “No,” but “Not yet.” But where do we determine what we “believe in?” What does the future look like? And from whom do we learn timing?

I’ve been seriously thinking about the Tent of Meeting for about twenty-five years. This paragraph from Exodus grabbed me and I thought I had discovered the combination to every vault in the Western Hemisphere. I made a fool of myself asking questions.

When Joshua came back to the camp, after his extended time in the Tent of Meeting, the people who had seen the evidence (cloud) of the manifest presence of God, do you think they would have asked questions like… 

  •  What’s it like to stand that close to the cloud? Was it hot? Singe your eyebrows?
  • Do you feel different today—after you’ve been in the tent?
  • Sit down and tell me everything that happened?
  • What is it like to know you have been in the very room where Yahweh is?
  • Did God say something to you? What do you think he would say to me?

 My suspicion is that the life forming aspect didn’t come from the questions’ substance, but that people were interested and that they listened when Joshua talked. Don’t you suspect that Joshua got invited to the neighbors’ tent for supper so he could tell his story?  

Malcom Gladwell says, “…no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.” He and the psychologists Cloud and Townsend list what they need—since they (we) can’t make it alone: Intimate friends, coaches, mentors and groups.

This has become so real to me that I believe on the day when Jesus is handing out rewards, people will step out of the crowd, point their fingers at us and ask, “Where were you when I needed someone like you?”

Jen Hatmaker is an Austin, Texas pastor’s wife, author, blogger. She appeared on the Today show a couple of weeks ago. She and her family gather Sunday nights with their life group on the front porch to drink tea, share their lives, hang out and worship.

The teenager Joshua watched as the neighborhood had Front Porch Church. Years later he would remember the power of encouragement and instruction—the tribes. Perhaps he formulated his view of his place in the future as he talked with his buds, the community elders and just hung around the edges to listen to conversations.

 JOSHUA HEARD GOD SPEAK TO MOSES

“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend” (vs. 10).

 How does Joshua explain to his family what happened at the tent?

“Uh…Yahweh showed up and talked to Moses.”

“What did He say?”

“Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground,”

“What did you do?”

“I took off my shoes—just before I fell on my face to worship.”

 Robert Benson says,

 “I have had maybe one or two …moments when I felt as though God was speaking to me in a very direct and clear way. It is something that I did not completely understand when it happened, and in some ways I understand even less now that I have read a lot books and know the fancy words and terms for it. What happened was that somewhere, deep inside of me, I heard a voice say something to me. Years later, I can still remember that voice and what the voice said to me. I have never recovered.” (The Body Broken, Waterbrook Press, 2003)

 Joshua became who he was partially because he was with Moses and he also overheard what God was saying to Moses or Moses debriefed him. The next paragraph—Exodus 33:12ff—is another Moses experience that captures my imagination and heart. Moses says to the Lord, “If your presence does not go with us, please do not send us…” How would we know that conversation took place, or the content, or the panic and pleading in Moses’ voice as he considered life and leadership without God’s presence? My guess is that Moses told Joshua and Joshua told others until someone wrote it down and sent it to the publisher.

Mark says of Jesus, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him…” (3:14). Outcome-based discipleship asks what we are trying to produce and who will help the person being coached develop. Who we hang with will determine much. Those whose ministry we feel drawn to may be an indication of the work we are to do. We see in others what we are drawn to and identify with. 

Deuteronomy 1:6-8 feel like the saddest verses in this whole trek to the Promised Land. “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance….” God tells Moses the borders of the land He is giving to the Hebrews.

“I’m on it!” Moses said. Or something like that. He sends out a dozen spies into the land to determine a strategy. There were twelve Navy Seals that snuck into the land and returned with photos, maps and descriptions. Joshua was one of the twelve. He and his friend Caleb said, “Let’s do it!” The other ten said, “We can’t do it.” While Joshua and Caleb are saying, “Did you see the size of the grapes? The majority report asked, “Did you see the size of the giants?” God had promised and sent them, but the people rejected the offer.

Do you doubt that Joshua walked next to Moses and asked, “What do we do now?” It must have been tough for Moses. He had put everything into these people and they rejected the One who led them out of their slavery. Listen to Moses’ words to the Hebrews:

“Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:37).

For thirty-eight years.

“…commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see…(Deuteronomy 3:28).

How many decades had Moses been encouraging and strengthening the aide turned spy turned comrade turned Commander-In-Chief Elect?

Where did the belly fire come from? The word “Impartation” fits here. Moses belly fire was transferred by modeling and then…

“Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deuteronomy 34:9).

The word “anointing” is used frequently in some churches and seldom if ever in others. Not only is the word used, it is revered and sought. When we talk about fire in the belly, we usually refer to someone who has been given a specific power, enablement and equipping to do something specific. That can mean an “anointing to work with teens,” or “an anointing to teach” or “an anointing to drive a van to pick up people for church.” Joshua had a unique anointing to lead God’s people and succeed Moses. Paul laid hands on Timothy and imparted an anointing for his ministry, and Moses “imparted” to Joshua the anointing. Elisha thought it was a big deal to gain the anointing of Elijah—in fact, he wanted a double portion. (2 Kings 2:9-11.)

There are times I put my hand on someone’s shoulder or head and—let me use some inside language—I call Spiritual equipping from God’s resource storehouse. I don’t want you to think He has a warehouse with “anointing” on a shelf in aisle 4, but the power we ask for has its residence in the Holy Spirit, not in an institution or a person. The source is in another world—God’s Kingdom. I want to transfer to that person my vision, fire and focus, but the person needs God’s equipping, not mine. Sometimes, I place my hand on a loved one’s shoulder and ask for the transfer from God. I don’t pray out loud or tell them what I’m doing. It is a physical affirmation of my confidence in them.

 JOSHUA HUNG OUT AT THE TENT

“Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua did not leave the tent” (vs.11).

 I have come to believe Joshua stayed at the tent because he loved the presence of God and desired to assimilate into his own life what he had seen or imagined was happening between Moses and God. I imagine Joshua sought God’s plan for him and worked on his own relationship with Yahweh.

The belly fire I’m thinking about is a belief that “I am called to do this. I may not be the only one who can do it, or the best one to do it, but God has called me and I’m committed to do it. I’ve got to do it!”

Robert Benson talks about Father Ed, a Roman Catholic Priest with whom he made a retreat at least once a year. Father Ed became one of Benson’s spiritual directors. They would go for a walk; Benson would give Father Ed a synopsis of his current journey and ask for “a word.” That is shorthand for what the priest was hearing about how Benson could adjust his spiritual habits and life journey to gain the most in the next season.

My wife handed me a note that says, “I love this line: ‘I’m not above minimizing your window.’” Nice turn of a phrase. Wouldn’t you like to have someone uniquely anointed by God to maximize your windows? That is what Joshua found at the tent.

Not all Tents of Meetings are made of canvas. I go to my “tent” which is my vehicle sitting next to the river. I have experienced the tent sitting around a kitchen table. I have “experienced the tent” sitting in a swing with my wife.

I long for those times when the manifest presence of God is near. Think through Joshua’s intent when he said, “No, Moses, you go on. I’m just going to hang out here for a little while.” Can you imagine the smile on Moses’ face as he walked down the hill toward his home? Don’t you guess that he prayed for his young friend?

“Lord, light a fire in that boy.”

And…where is your tent of meeting? And the fire in your belly is about what?

Go where the fire is! Carole and I were with a young mother who volunteers in her church’s youth ministry. Carole asked her a couple of questions and two hours later she was still talking—absolutely stoking the fire in us. Go where the fire is!

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Initiate

From Seth Godin:

“The easiest thing is to react.    The second easiest thing is to respond.    But the hardest thing is to  initiate.    “Initiating is really and truly difficult, and that’s what leaders do. They see something others are ignoring and they jump on it.

“This isn’t about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen”

“Everyone will think it’s stupid!” “Everyone will think it’s impossible Guess what? Everyone works in the balloon factory and everyone is wrong

“The status quo is persistent and resistant. It exists because everyone wants it to. Everyone believes that what they’ve got is probably better than the risk and fear that come with change.”  (from  Tribes, Seth Godin, Portfolio, 2008)

Initiating is above all else: scary. Fear is the ultimate barrier. The inner voices feed the fear. Believing that you can’t or shouldn’t do it (whatever it is) keeps you immobile and thinking you have to ask permission. Godin says we live in leverage times which revolve around tribes.  A tribe is a group with a shared interest and a way to communicate.

We will initiate.

Dean    

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4-2 Promises in Your Heart

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

 

 Four-2

PROMISES IN YOUR HEART

Joshua 1:5

From one point of view, the Israelites were invaders. They moved into territory that did not belong to them and practiced a scorched earth policy—burning, killing and destroying. God would have failed all the PC courses and tests. It was a different time—which I’m glad I did not live in.

We are applying the Joshua 1 passage to our territory—not that which belongs to others. What is your territory? At this season, what is causing your stomach to burn? Where is confusion or you don’t know what to do next? What is challenging? What woke you before dawn and nudged you out of bed to make plans?

One of my friends who woke up with acid in the throat said, “I should get over it and just move on.” If that person could they would have. When the territory that you’ve been given, fallen in love with or the dream is out of reach, you can’t just flush it and walk away. It would be easier if we could. God won’t kill us to put us out of our misery. And we can’t have the past back.

It is at such times that the promises that seemed bright and energizing now mock us and it feels like God won’t answer our calls.

Let me try to cut away side-bar stories that are extraneous to our precise purposes. God is dynamic; He is not static. He works with things as they are and never paints Himself into a corner. God never says, “I don’t know what to do, now.” Given that, let’s examine His promises.

God’s promises give legitimacy to our purposes. In Joshua 1:1-9, God’s specific promises are:

  1.  “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (1:3).
  2. “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life…” (1:5a).
  3. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (1:5b).
  4. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5c).

 We could spend a lot of time and energy asking which sentence or word specifically is directed to us? To you? To me only? To cousin Harold? Instead of fileting those words, I think we benefit most by asking two or three other questions.

  1. Does God still make promises?
  2. Does God keep His promises?
  3. What ageless principles woven into the universe are declared in those four verses?
  4. Are these promises consistent to the balanced teaching of the Bible?

 OWNERSHIP

“I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (Joshua 1:3).

 The Hebrews had “setting your foot” down. Nailed. They knew how to walk. Four decades of walking—putting one foot in front of the other. Without a destination, a walk is nothing more than wandering around. How many footsteps in forty years? Not one step earned them air miles or bonus points. This promise changed the result of what they had been doing. This promise made the walker an owner, not a renter or transient.

Pastor A. R. Bernard says, “Without a vision people will always revert to their past.” Bernard connects the words vision to imagination and image. Change the image of who you are and what you can do and you change your destiny. This promise took what they knew how to do and gave it legitimacy. The first promise invites the person to see himself differently and to reinvent himself. Every time I say that I automatically think of the South American peasants of whom C. Peter Wagner writes. They came to Christ, were filled with the Spirit and got in the habit of walking in the Spirit. The marginalized dump walkers came to see themselves as empowered. They experienced God’s power. The political powerless lower class caught glimpses of God’s vision for them and they began to walk in that empowered image. They became not only a political force, but political leaders. Without that vision, they would still be scouring the dumps for lunch.

I automatically think of the difference between Haiti and her next door neighbor the Dominican Republic.  

I don’t want to overstate this, but it is astounding. Yahweh says, “Take a walk with me. You have to forget everything you know about Wilderness walking—it no longer applies. That kind of walking doesn’t work in this new setting. What you see is available if you pursue it.”

We cannot wipe our brain clean—nor would we want to. We will benefit if we rehab our motivation.

The promise is provisional. The setting of one’s foot on the property is a catch phrase for more than touching the soil. The Canaanites were not going to abandon their property simply because a stranger walked past their picket fence.

Michael Hyatt, Chairman of the Board at Thomas Nelson Publishers says, “In order to be successful in today’s business environment, you need two things: a compelling product and a significant platform.” He dedicates his book, Platform, (Thomas Nelson 2012) “To all the authors, artists, and creative I’ve met through the years who have been turned away because they didn’t have a platform.”

The promise of Joshua 1:3 as applied to the 21st Century includes claiming the territory God is giving to you and walking the required paths. That became very clear to me when I sent a manuscript to a publisher. A manuscript must wend its way through several echelons of readers and then through the acquisition committee. My manuscript made it through the process far enough to demand that I fill out a questionnaire that included the question concerning how many people—fans, friends, subscribers, viewers, family—would be likely to buy in the first printing. The same thing happened when I talked to a friend who is a concert promoter. He asks potential artists who want to appear on his shows, “How much meat can you put in the seats?” A publisher and a promoter are in the business to sell tickets and product. It really is nothing personal. They are not philanthropists or patrons of the arts—they are business people answerable for the bottom line.

The promoter or producer or publisher will ask the author, artist, performer, speaker how many Facebook fans do you have? Twitter followers? Television viewers? Blog visitors? The “every place you place your foot” includes building that platform.

My granddaughter had a classmate last year who was a problem to her and caused constant upheaval in the classroom. Hannah got close enough to hear the girl’s story. Hannah told her mother, “No wonder she acts the way she does.”

This territory promise is important to the person who is stuck or immobilized. This promise draws the outline of a new self-image. It also demands that the person pursue what they are hearing.

I feel the agony because I know how difficult it is for the Wilderness Walker to believe God’s promise long enough to venture into this risky thing which must feel similar to walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope. Scary! You cannot overstate the importance of Joshua or a tribe to encourage and keep telling the good news—you can be healed! You are included in the inner circle of people whom God calls Friend. Call it a tribe or The Necessary Family, a healthy atmosphere filled with encouraging people is a basic requirement. That is what God intended His “Chosen People,” “The Church” to be and do.

Dr. Will Miller has a simple test. Who do you know well enough to walk into their house without knocking and go to the refrigerator without asking and help yourself to a beverage or a sandwich. Dr. Will insists we all need someone with whom we are connected at that level. I have underlined lots of words in his book Refrigerator Rights. Listen to these:

 “Every one of us will flourish or perish depending upon on whether we have two basic things: physical and emotional sustenance. We need both if we’re to have a chance at having a fulfilled life.” (p 132)

 We need emotional connections. Dr. Will says, “…connections characterized by disclosure, trust and caring.” (144) But for those of us who never feel safe with anyone or in any environment, those are tough words. When the ones we trusted betrayed us, something got torn out of us like a backhoe digging a trench in our souls.

 HEALING

 Yesterday the newspaper talked about a singing star whose mother came to Christ a couple of years ago. She is telling her story which begins “with the painful divorce of her parents when she was two,” and then sexual molestation which began when she was three. Any question in your mind how she could lose her way?

I was captivated listening to our son (the commercial photographer) talk about capturing the New York skyline during a fireworks show. It is a balance of natural light, man-made light and the equipment you use. He talked about the magnificence of our eyes to adjust and capture the broad view and the challenge to the photographer is to balance all things as the image travels through lens and the mechanical apparatus.

Traumatized people require healing to clean the debris from their eyes or they will never see the territory God has given to them. Even non-traumatized need to have the eyes of our hearts cleared so we can get a full view of why the specific territory is assigned to us.  

The person who experiences abandonment or has been abused may lose critical mental, emotional and spiritual elements. I’m not a psychologist. From the best studies and writings of therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists as well as spiritual counselors specializing in development, I suggest five mental, emotional and spiritual losses. Self-care is applied here. These are vulnerable places where promises should be packed—like sandbags in the retaining levee. 

 Security

 “A person who is insecure lacks confidence in their own value, and one or more of their capabilities, lacks trust in themselves or others, or has fears that a present positive state is temporary, and will let them down and cause them loss or distress by ‘going wrong’ in the future. Insecurity is not an objective evaluation of one’s ability but an emotional interpretation.” (source unknown)

 We met a man in a seminar who told us he had abandonment issues. No one physically walked out the door, but the environment was the opposite of secure. He arrived at home from school each day with an assumption rather than a fear. He thought his mother would be dead and his father would have killed her. He lost all security. His parents are still alive, but he lost them piece by piece over the years. He assumes if he ever trusts or loves again, they will disappear or abandon him.

I’ve tried to be kind to Achan without excusing him. (Joshua 6-7) Think about it. For his whole lifetime he has been a nomad with only those possessions he could carry or load onto a pack animal. He had never seen much wealth. God had promised that he would be his supply. Now he was tested. They were going to destroy the city. All of this stuff was going to be consumed by fire. What harm? But for very real reasons God had instructed them to leave the stuff alone.

For those of us for whom security is a high dollar commodity, the loss rips out assurance that someone will be there to be the ballast when you’ve lost balance or to walk with you through the gray or black days.

To protect yourself, what biblical promise do you need to grab and store in your heart? How do you deal with the root cause of potential insecurity? What could God say to you that would make a difference?

I’ve wandered around for a couple of hours hurting about friends and family who are in bad situations. I want to pray the prayer of faith and zap them into sunlight, but for the time being they are enshrouded by clouds. God, what words do you have for these people whom I love?

  1.  “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (1:3).
  2. “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life…” (1:5a).
  3. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (1:5b).
  4. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5c).

 Because the situation has changed does not mean God has or that His promises need to be reconsidered. Even in the new situation His word is, “I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 Safety

Josh McDowell has spoken to millions of college students. One hundred-twenty-five of his books have been published. Fifty one million have sold. They are among the most influential in Christiandom. He is the son of an alcoholic father. He often saw his mother unconscious or bleeding from the beatings.

From ages 7-13, Josh was weekly raped by a hired man. At age 9, he gathered courage to tell his mother. She did not believe him. At thirteen, he grabbed his abuser by the throat and told him if he touched him again, he would kill him.

McDowell is in his fifties. He says that if he is in a room alone and a man enters the room, he always feels panic. He says the panic may last five seconds, but the feeling is what he felt when he was a boy. 

McDowell has taught and preached around the world on college campuses, churches and has been featured on most major Christian TV programs. He is a radio co-host with America’s leading Christian psychologists. He never allows people to “lay hands on him” and pray. The feeling of someone’s hand on his shoulder recalls the hands of the abuser.

If you were beaten as a child—unable to defend yourself—you may never feel safe and tend to stay where you know the people and surroundings are safe. For many of us, we also function with a “safe” person close by. That person is our anchor in the anxiety attack and the one will walk us to the car when we have a panic attack in a mall. More specifically, we feel that if our safe person is with us we will have no panic attack. 

Emotional deprivation is our culture’s great hindrance. For many of us it comes from keeping all the secrets, secret. The child of dysfunction is warned to “never tell.” A Miss America winner said she denied being sexually molested by her father and says she would have denied it had she been asked directly. That secret grew into physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses that tormented her. Not all of us were warned. Many just don’t want anyone to know. We didn’t have to be warned.

We had an on-going conversation with a young woman in Pennsylvania. After testing us, she decided she could trust us with her secrets. She told us. We spoke absolution in response to her confession and she took flight into a new trajectory. It was as if her cage door had been opened. From an emotional pauper to a princess may be only slightly poetic to describe her life these days.

First comes healing and deliverance and then comes the risk of trusting someone. Josh McDowell found that pathway by telling a mentor.

Scour God’s word to find a promise that fits your safety need and make it your own.

 Stability

 South Sudan became a nation this year. Sudan has been in war almost continually since the 1955—especially since 1980s. We know some of those Sudanes because of the 20,000 refugees known as the ‘Lost Boys of the Sudan”—who walked 1000 miles into places like Ethiopia to live in camps of as many as 400,000. Historians say these children are among the most traumatized children in history. The United   States teachers of these refugees with whom I have talked, speak fondly of Sudanese gentleness and their drive to learn.

I have stood next to teenage and young twenty-year-old “lost boys.” I knew they had killed. Even though they theoretically epitomize instability, I never personally felt threatened. So I asked them why. They spoke of British caretakers in the camps who taught them civility and lived up to their names—caregivers. They expressed care.

When I begin to talk about children of divorce or abandonment, abuse or grisly neglect, someone always reminds me of a specific person from that group who excelled. Risk takers, adventurers, adventure-capitalists, path markers are able to risk because they have a reference point of stability. I asked a Russian, who had talked to me of the pogroms and the destruction of the families, how any one survived. He said, “The Babushkas.” They are the grandmothers.

The adult whose history has included abandonment, abuse and/or neglect is best advised to select a life-coach who will companion you into stability.

What promise or instruction would reassure you and protect your inner person from following Achan into doing just opposite what you intend to do?

We have worked in a tiny Nebraska town three times. The Dismal River flows through it. During a concert, I bantered with the crowd about their town. An older lady said, “Reverend, I have lived my whole life on the Dismal.”

That sounds terrible! I wanted to tell her I would pray for her healing, but knew they would have missed my intended humor. I have lived part of my life on the dismal! Not a fun place to camp.

“God, I don’t know what you have in mind. It looks dismal to me, maybe even hopeless, but in my heart there is assurance of your presence. I sure don’t feel your presence and can’t imagine how even you can make anything good come out of this, but I have decided to trust you—in my heart I’ll lean into your promise. However this turns out—I’m going to trust my heart. In the meantime, will you help me. I’m hurting big time.”

 Shield

 “A major implication of the headship of the father/grandfather is the fact that he is the spiritual gatekeeper for the family. This means that whatever spiritual influences enter the family come as a result of the exercise of his authority to consciously or unconsciously to give or withhold permission.

“He is thus responsible to protect his family from enemy intrusion.”

Charles Kraft (p 197 (I Give You Authority)

If there is divorce or abandonment by father or mother, the remaining parent should vocalize the termination of the relationship to the spirit world and assume the mantle of spiritual head of the household.

Although I do not believe that we should baptize children for their sin, I am fond of the spiritual act of baptism or dedication that declares that the infant or child is now a part of the family—Body of Christ. I also think the question to the congregation concerning their willingness to participate in the nurture of the child establishes the shield around the child. But everyone’s job turns out to be no one’s job.

A single mom has particular responsibility to appoint a willing person to be the gatekeeper for her children. Carefully. That may be a Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, uncle or a trusted friend.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). How’s that for a promise?

  Self

 The common result of a child of divorce is that the trajectory of his/her life is changed or obliterated. They become self-caretakers and feel alone. There is that haunting line from the biography of Darrell Strawberry—“he did not know what a ‘Darrell’ looked like.”

           Self-evaluation tends to become low ball—worth less than the cheapest bid.

 “Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut-level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, and low self-worth…Low self-esteem paralyzes our potential, destroys our dreams, ruins our relationships, and sabotages our Christian service”. (David A. Seamonds)

     

A young lady said, “You nailed me with your messages on children of divorce.” She is funny, educated and competent in her vocation. Her husband sees low self-esteem in his wife which he connects to the abandonment she experienced when her parents divorced.

One of Andy Andrews’ characters says about herself, “I am bad luck. Everything I touch leaks, breaks, leaves, or dies.” (p 58—Island of Saints) Where does a person find healing for that?

Find a “God said!”

 Sin

 The promise of God to Joshua is that no one will be able to stand up against him, but several days after the fall of Jericho, a tiny army in a small town named Ai stood up against and whipped the army of Israel. Joshua wonders if God has backed out on one of His promises. Israel’s leader falls on his face before God and asks and seeks why God didn’t “show up.” God’s response is interesting.

“Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant…” (vs 17).

Joshua is a stand-up, Truman kind of guy. The buck stopped with him. Yahweh’s attitude tells us something about His promises and that a person can take them to the bank.

“Joshua you can’t keep Israel from rolling in the mud. But you better do something about it.” God says that “Israel has sinned.” The whole tribe had not, only a man named Achan had, but his sin polluted the whole. We’ve talked about self-awareness and self-motivation. We had better talk about self-care.

It is in the soul that is untended and un-nurtured where the soil becomes receptive for sin long before it is acted upon. It is a bruise or hurt or misunderstanding or growing fear that God is not going to be there that the things of this world become very attractive as they did to Achan. It is in these areas where the promises are most often questioned and abandoned. In these areas are where the promises such as “I will give…No one will ever…As I was with…I will never leave or forsake you…” must be applied as healing or at least like bracing until the healing comes.

Moments ago, I checked Facebook. A friend is troubled. I attempted to reassure the lady that in God’s promises He speaks strength to the feeble. I asked Him to give me a word that would be appropriate for her and me. I glanced down to the next post on the News Feed and read these words:

  “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17

“Standing on the Word!!!,” the writer said.

 Sounds like a plan!

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Grown-up self-awareness–Lifescape

Thinking this morning about our up-coming gathering–“Pluggin’ In”–for FCC newcomers. The idea is to tell them about opportunities where they can plug into the church. The graphic is an electric outlet on the church building. I am realizing that we have published the wrong image.   Unconsciously, people will reject that suggestion. Their lives are already so full they don’t need to get involved in church activity which is not part of their “real” life-scape. Rather than telling them what we offer and how to plug into our offerings, I want to listen to them. “Tell us what you need? Want? No, desperately need to manage your life–provide the means to become more like Jesus? Construct family, career, teach your kids how to manage money, time, choices.” We are not trying to make people religious or give them a job at the church house, we are called to share what the Word teaches about life. My assumption is not too realistic. Doubtful that people will be that open about what is going on in their private lives.  (We Westerners cherish and guard our privacy–including what is killing us or depleting us.)
     Now! Let’s talk about self-awareness. Do you think people are self-aware enough to answer my questions?
   I will have to hone my questions a bit. Self-awareness is larger than just for kids.
   What do you need today–given your real life. What do you want?  Michelle dreamed that we all ran away to Italy. Let’s do it.  What kind of life would you want if you could start where you are today and could build a new life?
   Self-awareness–who would you take to Italy? What kind of neighborhood? What would enrich you? After we get there and weary of sitting all day in the outdoor cafes, what would you want to do with your new, un-encumbered life? What would you want that would enable you to be your best doing what you really enjoy to enrich your world.

Lifescaping–what tools do we need?

Make it a great day  

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DNA–How

HOW

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.

 Call

 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.” (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.

 

SELF-PERCEPTION—Romans 8:32ff

         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:

  •  Attention
  • Acceptance
  • Approval
  • Affection
  • Affirmation
  • Appreciation
  • Admiration
  • Advocating

 “…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.

 Developing self-awareness

 

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:

 1.

Sit quietly in a comfortable position and close your eyes.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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!

5
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.

 Focus.

 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.

Reflect.

 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.

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