Thursday, March 9, 2017

Disciplined in Hearing His Voice

At the end of each class, my dog was usually identified as the one needing a little extra attention from the trainer.  While the trainer taught lessons, my dog often ran in place to the point of exhaustion or tried to earn the attention of other dogs so that they could play together.  My dog is a lot of fun… and she’s still not disciplined solely because of me! Ha!

I remember one of the first lessons we dog owners learned.  We were instructed to stop talking to our dogs. Filled with affection, we often talk to our dogs constantly, about everything.  With all the information coming from us, dogs often tune us out -- unable to discern what’s important to hear.  The trainer explained that in order to effectively communicate commands that our dogs will adhere to, we owners must only communicate with them when the information is important and when there’s something that the dogs must do in response.

Nearly every other week I minister God’s kind thoughts and intentions to others in the Body of Christ.  I don’t always hear something new from God for myself with the same frequency. I consider these “dry spells” periods where I am not worthy of God’s attention. That’s a lie. God’s silence is not a punishment, but rather one way that he disciplines those he loves into accepting the gravity of the truth he shares and responding to his words in kind.

My declaration:
“God’s silence is not a punishment. He is disciplining me - his beloved - into accepting the truth in his words and responding to his carefully curated promises with hope, newfound elements of identity, and love.”

Friends, you are his sons and daughters.  He doesn’t hate you.  He loves you!  His silence is a method for preparing you to receive and accept his words and direction.  When the words come, they will land securely in the tenderized places of your heart. You will be transformed.  Your inner life will receive an upgrade and you will see God’s hand on your outer circumstances. Wait on his words.


Encouragement | Your Standing (Graham Cooke)

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lots of Rules, But No Discipline


My mom and I listened as Janna* detailed the challenges of her work at a local private school.  As a teacher’s aide, she was directed to monitor school-aged children but never to interrupt their behavior. If a dissatisfied child was hitting a classmate with a wooden block, Janna was not allowed to use her hands to grab the block and stop the hitting. Additionally, there were no consequences to dole out to the child for hitting a classmate.  She also detailed that an enrolled infant could not cry for more than 1 minute, even if the classroom teacher was occupied with soothing another child.  School administrators delivered “violation” notices to teachers if they reprimanded children or if infants were caught crying for more than 60 seconds.  Each violation resulted in a permanent rebuke in a teacher’s employment record.  At the end of the retelling Janna remarked, “There are lots of rules, but no discipline.”

Her final statement drove home the sentiment that although the school employed a long list of rules (aimed at teachers) for maintaining classroom learning environments that met parental expectations and institutional standards, students were never disciplined into acceptable forms of social behavior. The thought caused me to reflect on my encounters with rules and discipline.

We apply rules to our diets, physical activity regimens, dating behaviors and spousal preferences, financial management, Bible reading, and other elements of our daily lives. Yet, we consistently fall short of maintaining allegiance to these rules because we have not been disciplined into authentic alignment with what works best for us. We eat past 9pm and abandon our morning workouts after 14 days. We spend too much money Labor Day weekend, and forget to keep up with our devotional readings (despite reminders from the Bible App).  Even Paul remarked, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).

Although the word “discipline” invokes relation to abuse and control, the Bible says that the Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). I believe that the enemy has contaminated our appetite for discipline to keep us stuck in a cycle of determining rules for ourselves and failing to meet them, leading us to feel shame and to hide from God. And when we hide from God, we stop inquiring about his best for us.

As I walk out freedom from rebellion, will I trust the Lord to discipline me?  Will you trust the Lord to discipline you in every dimension of your life? Will you invite him in?



*name changed

Friday, December 30, 2016

Targeting Peace

Two principles have guided my understanding and experience of peace: follow it and protect it. Peace, the feeling of contentment and wholeness, is a byproduct of encounter with the Holy Spirit.  My job then is to identify it, settle into it, and let it lead me into a new encounter or experience with God and his provision. 

Upon reading "Four Things Women Want From A Man", I've added to my understanding of peace.  The author of the guide, Dr. A.R. Bernard - one of my favorite teachers -, notes that we experience peace when our values line up with our actions. For example, the humanitarian is most satisfied (i.e. content and whole) when engaged in community service because it aligns with her value of "Service to Others".

The teaching in the book led me to realize that we battle people by attacking their activities, when in fact we're up against what we perceive to be an erroneous value system (i.e. values that differ from our personal or cultural standards). People who appear to be in error may express little remorse or are resistant to change certain behaviors because the behaviors align with values they hold near. For example, the man who rejects advances from a beautiful and kind woman in favor of staying with and providing for his bitter wife may do so because he values Duty above Delight.


Earlier this week, I conducted some introspective exercises in order to pull out my personal values.  I asked myself, "when have you been the most content, satisfied, and happy?"  My first jolt came from identifying the fact that I am most content when I am free.  My most prized value is Freedom.  The other values I hold near are Excellence, Diplomacy, Equity/Justice, Legacy, Diversity, Integrity/Honor, Peace, Hope, and Risk. I mapped these values with my current activities, future goals, and long-standing dreams.  

As I contemplated and mulled, I found that there were a few more values that were poking through my current life experience.  These values and associated activities don't currently bring any peace but are areas in my life where I'd like to grow.  I identified Thankfulness, Intimacy, Obedience, Health, and Fidelity as areas for further enlightenment and improvement. Currently, Obedience bucks up against my value for Freedom - hence all the (unrighteous) rebellion I've exhibited recently.  

I asked God why couldn't I just abandon Obedience in favor of Freedom, and He said it's because I'm being conformed into the image of His son. The conformity requires an understanding of and alignment with the values of the Kingdom including Holy Obedience unto God and His leading.  

In 2017, I aim to target and cultivate peace in my life by 1) marking my days with activities and meditation that aligns with my values and 2) chasing the uncomfortable areas - those values that currently bring no peace and still need development - until I come to a full understanding of the importance of those values for my life and relationships today, my purpose tomorrow, and God's Kingdom always.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Currency

All this time, God has been doing something in me… and I’ve missed it. 

While attending a conference, I had an epiphany.   The speaker echoed – “The key to effective learning is unlearning.  We unlearn in order to mature. We’re maturing so God can trust us with something.”
                                                                
God does want to trust me with something, but before He can, I have to learn that He is more concerned with my placement in Him, than in my performance.



I’ve been more concerned with what I am producing externally – that is, all the products, achievements, and accolades. 

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Not only was I a smart-alecky kid, I was also a smart kid.  I learned very early on how to perform.  I learned how to demonstrate academic success.  I followed directions well and earned praise from the adults in my life.  I knew how to meet and exceed expectations from friends, family members, and teachers.

I received love through the filter of striving and work. I tied my value to my performance.


At the conference, God whispered, “You are not a disappointment.  You are loved beyond the limits of performance.  I love you so much that I want to put an end to your performance mindset.”

For every achievement that I thought I had attained by my own performance and for my own good, God was (and is) using to cultivate kingdom-like character so that I can impart kingdom-like influence in the places he wants to take me.  At my New England boarding school, He was cultivating competence, confidence, character, and authenticity.  In college, He taught me how to become a global citizen in service to all people.  My graduate education kindled a passion for equity in the quality of life among all people.  My current work experience has cemented leadership qualities in me but has also uncovered areas of rebellion that have inhibited my influence.  My volunteer experience has shaped my proclivity to engage with people who don’t think or look like me, a critical character criterion for demonstrating God’s love toward all people.

It’s not about me.


Recently, I’ve found myself frustrated with coworkers and leaders at work.  I have been sowing judgments about their talents and motivations.  I am performing but not advancing as I’d like.  I’ve responded with rebellion – just like a dissatisfied Israelite.  The Lord showed me that work has been my false religion.  I’ve built an altar to myself in the workplace.  My recent frustrations stem from the fact that my leaders are not equipped to be gods.  I’ve elevated them to that place but they’re only humans.  They are poor representatives of the loving, kind God-head that I long to serve and be loved by.

I’d like to make an exchange.  I want to exchange my old mindset – the one that tells me to worship work and performance – with a new one.  My upgraded mindset will direct me to “worship the Lord my God and serve only Him.”


At the end of the conference, God told me: “Apart from anything you’ve done, you’re a daughter.  My daughter. And in the place where we meet, performance and striving have no value.  LOVE IS THE ONLY CURRENCY I KNOW.

Ephesians 3:18-19 –
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.


This past weekend, a teenager shared a vision with me.  She said that she saw me as an eagle, soaring.  She said that I was being freed from something.  She was right.  I am being freed from the destructive lie that I must earn love through my performance.  Thank you Lord for loving me enough to set me free!  Thank you Lord for cultivating character in me for kingdom purposes.  Thank you Lord for loving me without an agenda but completely on purpose.  Thank you Lord for allowing me to be in your love.  How excellent is the Lord!




Not Forgotten

I stood in the bathroom mirror and cried this morning.  I didn't cry because of my nation's election results.  I didn't cry because I wanted God to fix a situation in my life.  I cried because I lost a friend. She passed away on Saturday. This morning as I prayed for comfort for her friends and family, I realized that I was friend to her and that the prayer was for me as well.  She's gone, but not forgotten. 

Image result for trina dennis

Trina I will miss your humor, transparency, authenticity, and advice. It amazed me how full of life you were.  Thank you for showering us all with your love.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Flying

On the way to my destination, I boarded a new plane complete with spacious seats, screens in every headrest, and a sophisticated reading light configuration. 

Unfortunately, on my return flight, I couldn't watch Black-ish. There were no screens! I said to myself, "This plane is ridiculously old". Then I remembered that if the plane was still in service, then it still worked. A voice told me, "This plane is tried and tested, and true!" 



As made obvious by the fact that I am typing these words - I made it home safely. The plane was old but it got the job done. The plane was likely familiar with the route and turbulence. The plane could hold the weight of people and cargo. The plane knew how to respond to the demand for a speedy flight. And it performed well! The same is true for me, I guess. Each new leg of life's journey provides an opportunity to grow more familiar with divine principles of trust, faith, and peace. I also learn how to apply God's truth and wisdom to circumstances that arise. I imagine that in the end the Lord will say, "You were tested and tried, but you remained true. Well done!"