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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Note to Dean–what we’re doing

SEAMS TO ME

ready when they hand you the ball

Group—seminar—class—conversations

NOTE TO DEAN

 This is what we doing. This is what we are talking about. This is our end goal. These are our objectives.

We will discover and internalize the principles that God has given in Joshua 1:1-9 to enter our personal place of accomplishment and wholeness. We will understand the “essential competencies” that build Emotional Intelligence:

  •  Self-awareness
  • Self-motivation
  • Self-management
  • Self-soothing

 

How we will do that:

 1.    GROUP      MEMBER’S PERSONAL BENEFITS AND      OBJECTIVES:

    • Increase       personal self-understanding.
    • Enlarge       use of the essential competencies that enable us to live and walk in the       Spirit and to experience emotionally healthy spirituality.
    • Invite       healing for those attitudes, behaviors and thinking patterns that keep us       out of God’s promises.
    • Personal       spiritual refreshing and closer walk with God.

 

  1. GROUP      MEMBER’S MINISTRY ASSIGNMENTS
    • Increase       understanding of why people act in counterproductive or self-destructive       ways. People meaning: those for whom we are accountable; those to whom we       minister, coach, mentor, parent; those we care about and with whom we       interact and live with.)
    • Learn       strategies and appropriate ways to present them with alternatives that       will enable them to enter and live in their “Promised Land.”

 

anchoring words and atmosphere  

 

ENCOUNTER—Jesus becomes more real

ENVIRONMENT—Where intellectual, emotional & spiritual growth is apt to happen.

ENCOURAGEMENT—stimulation to keep at it, try again, take another look, feel affirmed.

EXPERIENCE—insight, personal healing, motivation, renewed calling, vision clarification.

 

Primary Resources:

            Dean’s manuscript—Seams to Me. Participants will receive chapter after each session and an updated version the following week. Dean is hammering some of this out as we learn.

            As background—Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.  We will not be working through this chapter by chapter.

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Seams to Me–Introduction

Ten years ago, I read a report that impacted me like a tooth ache. I couldn’t escape it and the information in the report became pain that would not go away. My wife irritated me when she asked, “Does he ever answer you?” I was irritating her as I walked around the house groaning, “Oh, God!”

I concluded that we could either put people on the curb in a Hefty Bag or we could find ways to release redemption in them. Isn’t that what Jesus came to do? To redeem the lost? Redeeming the terrible and growing lives of productivity and health. I began to think through what the process would look like and our ordained role.

We ate lunch each Sunday for a couple of years with a multi-generational group of stuck people. They were stuck in anxiety, addictions of various types, depression and self-loathing. The question persisted. What is the process, what are the steps from where they are to where God wants them to be?

In a section of my prayer list are the names of eleven people. Some are teens, some are in their twenties. A couple have done prison time, and others have no addiction problem. Others, are solid students and show up on the “Pretty People” page. But, they are living below their potential and are struggling with personal relationships. Their healing and movement forward demands the same process with some specialized application.

How did I get here? Is not one of the first questions to come to the stuck person. And for a large segment, the urgent desire to participate in their own healing is resisted. What is the process to jar them loose from the industrial strength glue that keeps them stuck?

After forty-years of wandering about, God says it is time to enter the inheritance He promised to Israel. When he told Joshua to “Listen and take notes,” he gives the ageless directives and guidelines for accomplishment. They work for anyone who will work them. Addicts on their way to sobriety and productive contribution and to the achiever who is ready to move to the next level. God’s instructions to Joshua are the principles that move us to our destiny.

“Most people remain relatively unconscious, unaware of the forces that shape their lives.
“In every society, however, there are extraordinary men and women who, for a variety of reasons, stand outside the social consensus, shatter the norms and challenge the status quo…. They bring new creative energies.”

Sam Keen wrote those words in 1992.1 I read them a couple of years later. Looking back two decades, I can assess them as profoundly forming the way I view people I get to know. I see them standing outside the mediocre and shaping their world.
How does that happen? God’s words to Joshua (Joshua 1:1-9) outlines the principles.

Welcome to Seams to Me. Eight chapters, eight group sessions. If you would like to join us online, or desire information let me know.

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