Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 21 - Stand

Convictions.  Without them, you will be swept up like a leaf in a current as it picks up and carries anything that is not firmly rooted or attached to something.  This old adage is true, “Stand for something or you will fall for everything.”...  Stand or fall

Conviction - A strong persuasion or belief, the state of being, the state of being convinced of an error or of the admission of a truth.  A state of being free from doubt.  A belief strongly held. 

Convictions set you apart from the crowd, the norm, and the status quo.

Rick Warren says that a conviction is “a deeply held belief that helps guide your life.  It’s more than an opinion.  Opinions you argue about.  Convictions you die for.”

People who have deep convictions make a deep impact…good or bad.  Think of people who had strong convictions: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Catherine the Great, Nelson Mandela, Hitler, Osama Bin Laden…. It all depends on what is the driving force behind the convictions.  Love versus hate.  Freedom versus control.  Selflessness versus selfishness… We need to ask ourselves, “Are my convictions deep enough that they are making some sort of impact?”

Whether the driving force is good or bad, there is one thing that those who live by their convictions have in common.  Criticism follows their actions.  Criticism follows conviction because it makes people uncomfortable.  Warren encourages us to “live by your conviction, not the criticism you receive.”  Don’t allow the criticism to cause you to waiver in your conviction…. Stand.

Jesus said in John 15:21, “People will do to you exactly what they did to me.  They will do it because you belong to me and they don’t know the One who sent me.” In other words, you will be criticized for your convictions. His whole life, every action, and every word Jesus spoke came from the framework of his conviction.  Jesus was criticized for the people to whom he spoke, for the people with whom he chose to join for dinner, for speaking what he believed, for challenging the status quo, for doing things differently…  “People will do to you what they did to me.” 

Timothy says it this way, “That is why I am suffering as I am.  Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12  

Timothy had a strong conviction of what he believed to be true.  Did he suffer because of it? Yes.  Did the suffering cause him to doubt his beliefs or his decisions if he was doing the right thing? No.  I like the way the Message translation words this same verse,  “This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher.  It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in.  But I have not regrets.  I couldn’t be more sure of my ground – the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what he’s trusted me to do right to the end.

Living by one’s convictions can be a thrill. A thrill in the moment you step out because of what you believe to be true and then you are momentarily suspended, waiting in anticipation for your convictions to catch you, uphold you, and protect you. Because it is more than an opinion, and is something in which you believe to its very core, you are willing to take greater risks where your convictions are concerned.  You are willing to step out of the boat and try to walk on water.  You are willing to go when everyone else says to stay. You are willing to speak up when everyone else is silent. You are willing to not only step out of your comfort zone but also actually live outside of your comfort zone. You are willing to stand on a delicate edge.  You are willing to not only walk into a storm but also actually lean into it with each step with a fixed determination in your heart.

Convictions are like a zip-line.  My daughter recently did a very challenging zip-line course at a ski resort that turns into an adventure course during the summer and early fall.  She has an aversion to any “extreme” type of sport, roller coasters, or any thing where she might feel physically out of control. (I wonder from which parent she got that?) At first she stated she would never do a zip-line.  When invited by a group from church to go last month, she decided she needed to do it strictly because she was afraid of it.  She wanted to face the fear, overcome it, and prove that she could do it when pushed up against the wall.  A few days after she did it, she made an observation about it.  “You know, I don’t know why it feels so scary.  The entire time you are secured with all sorts of ropes and latches.  There is never a time when you are NOT connected.  You may be un-connecting and reconnecting in between points and way up high off of the ground, but there is always one latch in place that keeps you connected to the source of support.  The danger of falling is all in your mind.”

After she told me this, I stood there processing and thought, “Well that was a deep truth.

Your convictions are your source of support. Fear of rejection and ridicule can keep you from standing but those convictions actually give you the strength you need.  They are the framework that holds your life together or, adversely, without convictions, your life sprawls out everywhere without any real definition.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.”  Ephesians 3:20  

Why should standing cause us to fear when “by his mighty power at work within us is able to do more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream”?  When we are walking with God, seeking him, following him, communing with him, and loving him with all our heart, our convictions begin to merge with His convictions, His heart and His desires.  When we dare to stand and walk in those convictions, the convictions He has placed inside of you, His mighty power will work within you.

Don’t let the fear of criticism keep you from standing in your convictions.  Criticism will come, but God is greater than any criticism that may get thrown at you.  Keep your eyes straight ahead, not looking to the left or the right wondering what other people are saying about your convictions.  Stand your ground…. and after you have done everything…. stand.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”  Ephesians 6:13

Monday, September 2, 2013

DAY 20 - Right Under Your Nose

My writing was buried this past month in the life of being a single parent.  With back to school physicals and eye appointments for the whole family behind me, back to school shopping and college preparation completed, trading of my van for a car for Mia to take to school checked off the list (this means I am temporarily and personally car-less, but Julia and I will share her car as we work together around one another’s schedules), Mia tucked into her new college near Boston, Michael starting ninth grade this week, and Julia going full speed ahead with her college chemistry class and her other senior year subjects and other endeavors, I am now able to take a step back, breathe deeply, and dive back into writing, which I desperately miss when I am not doing it.  It is as important to my daily mental and physical health as exercising and eating right.

In “40 Days of Empowerment”, I am working through Rick Warren’s book entitled, What On Earth Am I Here For?, which has 40 daily readings.  I quickly found out at the beginning that trying to daily read, meditate, and marinate on these readings then figure our their application to my personal life, try to implement a change in my thoughts or actions, AND write about it, was entirely too much to do on a daily basis.  I found that a week per reading is best for me, sometimes a little less and sometimes a little more.  Sometimes I read and it spurs my thoughts in an entirely different direction but God uses what was read to get me to go these different places.  This being said, sometimes what I write will directly coincide with the daily reading and other times it will be my own little rabbit trail in which I have journeyed along by following God’s lead. 

Today will be one of those rabbit trails…

There are five purposes for our existence listed in Warren’s book, by day 20, we are still on purpose #2, "You were formed for God’s family".  The “God’s family” who stare me in the face everyday are my children.  Many people pray and pray and cry out to God wanting to know their purpose and His will for their lives, forgetting that if they are a parent, married, or part of an earthly family, their immediate purpose is right under their nose.  Be faithful where you are, with what you have been given, then God will shed some light a little bit further down your path…but be present to God right where you are, grow where you are planted, be faithful in little, line upon line, precept upon precept.  I can shine the light of God and walk in His purpose right here in my house in front of and alongside my children.

I remember reading a book years ago by Beth Moore entitled Feathers From My Nest.  She mentioned how during the simple act of folding her kid’s laundry, she would be thankful for them and pray for them.  I started doing the same thing and began to feel joy, love, and thankfulness for the person whose clothes I was folding. I have an added direction of thoughts and prayers while I am folding now that I never had before.  My son has become the same size that my husband was but Michael Anthony is even 2 inches taller.  When I fold his clean clothes, I am usually folding a shirt that was once my husband’s.  This makes me reminisce, see his face, remember his smell, and where he wore each shirt, then my thoughts turn to Michael Anthony and what a big strong young man he has become.    Often times, I use the time of folding clothes to contemplate life. 

I was folding clothes the other day…

These were my thoughts and my internal conversation with God and their progression in my head...all while folding laundry.  “We spend incredible amounts of time together as a family. Lord, was this all part of Your plan…. our abundance of time together? Are we being pulled way back like a stone in sling shot so that when You release us we will come out with full strength for the purpose You have laid before each one of us? I am so thankful that the kids want to spend time with me, with each other, and in this house.  I have been just a beckon call away, down the hall, every day, for the last two and half years (about 915 days to be exact).  God, I see how you have pulled us tightly together to heal and to rebuild our strength by being in one another’s presence in concentrated doses.  Security has blossomed in spite of insecure times.  You pulled us away from all we knew in the South and placed us in the countryside of the northeast where we must look to one another and depend on one another.  You are accomplishing what could only be accomplished by being in this private setting where you have placed us.  You are speaking to us through nature, beauty, and solitude.  We are living out our purpose for this season. Our purpose is to minister to one another and to hear Your voice with greater clarity.  You are using each of us to help heal and strengthen the next. You have supernaturally supplied all of our needs in each other.  There has not been a need to look elsewhere.  It is surreal, really. How is it that so much time has passed and we are still needing this so desperately and willingly receiving this gift from You?  I can see Your hand all over this.  We exercise together, cook together, eat every meal together, watch movies together, listen to music together, travel together, worship together, pray together, cry together, and even get mad together and then hug and forgive together.  I am content and am at rest and peace in this season.  You brought us here to slow down, be quiet, rest, and restore.  As we have done this, it is easier to hear Your whispers.  It is easier to recognize one another’s needs… and that’s our purpose in Your family, our family, right?  To love like Jesus?  Be compassionate, patient, forgiving, kind, merciful, slow to anger, and all of that?  Only You could have orchestrated this place and brought my little family unit together to heal and grow again as one.  How blessed we are to be able to live the quiet life.  It feeds my soul…it feeds the kids too…even when they don’t always see it. You have opened my eyes today to the bigger picture. I am so glad that you know me, you know Mia, you know Julia, and you know Michael Anthony, better than we know ourselves.  You know our needs before we even have them.  I see how You have met our needs in this quiet place where our hearts have been able to settle down and rest. You truly have kept us under Your wings of protection, like in an eagle’s nest, high above the other trees, so high that it is silent, in a strong, warm, and cozy nest, depending on You and each other for survival."

You were formed for God’s family.  Keep your eyes straight ahead and start with the family God gave you, the ones right under your nose.  Your main purpose lies there.  Redeem the time.

Look carefully then how you walk!  Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and the witless, but as wise (sensible and intelligent people), making the most of the time (buying up each opportunity), because the days are evil. Therefore do not be vague and thoughtless and foolish, but understanding and firmly grasping what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-16