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Rational Minimalism

I recently meandered onto a couple of blogs which have grabbed my full attention.

Far Beyond The Stars | The Art of Being Minimalist, by Everett Bogue

which led me to…

Becoming Minimalist, by Joshua Becker

Wow. It feels like home.

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By Your Side – Tenth Avenue North

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Sometimes when I finally “get it” it hurts. My heart hurts from the joy, sadness, relief, wonder. I am in disbelief that God just talked to me. Little ol’ me. He just put things into place in front of me in a way that clicked. The best kind of learning. The joy of dots being connected in my mind and heart. No, not the discovery of the meaning of life, but almost.

I had one of those moments this morning. My heart hurts with the joy of wanting to just tell everyone exactly what happened, how it happened, in the hopes of sharing that kind of moment with others. I know I can’t re-create it. I think it was the infinitesimally brief moment of connection with God. Any more than that and I think it would literally kill me.

Several nights ago I got another brief message that I recognized as “from God”. The message was simple. “Expose yourself” (in relation to Him). I’ve started to realize that these mini messages can mean any number of things. Does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more brutally honest about myself TO God? Or does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more exposed to God as a form of input – face time with God. Though I am trying to improve on both areas, the latter seemed the more important.

Since I don’t have a regular morning devotional book, and I’m not currently using any kind of regulated Bible reading plan, I spent a day or so mulling over what more exposure to God would mean. I settled on reading the Gospels. I haven’t spent time there in a long time.

As I’ve recently shared, I struggle with legalism, and yet any mention of the Law in the Bible throws up a mental road block. Today I was reading in Matthew 5. Verses 17-20 are where I found my “a ha!”. I want to share my journal entry because, well, I want to put it out there in case someone else needs the same message I got today.

The verse I read in my version of the NLT

Matthew 5:17-20 NLT
[Jesus talking here – giving the “Sermon on the Mount”] “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until it’s purpose is achieved. So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. but I warn you — unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!”

My Journal Notes:

“September 19, 2008
Matt 5:17-20
Did Jesus say all of this to highlight the “old way”? He’s talking about your/our ranking in the K of H, then closes saying unless we’re perfect following the law we’re out of luck anyway…

It’s hard sometimes because Jesus’ death changed it all, so it is confusing to me to read his words to know if what he says is part of the old or the new.

God has absolute requirements (the law). Those requirements have literally no way of being met.

God can’t change who He is. Those requirements are facts. Laws of God are Laws of Nature. He didn’t arbitrarily choose them, they just are. Jesus came to fill the requirement so we could have that relationship with God.

This is the part that swirls my brain.
— God and sin can’t coexist – it’s one of the “rules”, “laws”, “facts”.
— God’s “laws” are just examples of many many ways to illustrate what sin/evil/wrong is.

Jesus, in the rest of chapter 5, was establishing that he wasn’t a dissenter, a rabble-rouser, a radical trying to change the truth about God. He was telling the people that the God of the Jews is still the same God, his laws are even more difficult (impossible) to keep, but still to be desired. They [the laws] were still in force and always will be. Laws = Right. But he came to fulfill them because we are not capable. He is the SOLUTION to: How can God and I be in a close relationship when I am a sinful human and God cannot be connected with sin?”

Legalism in my life is when I think that I somehow can work harder to meet God’s requirements of perfection. Any striving I do in that area leaves me bitter and angry. I will NEVER be able to modify my behavior in a way that is good enough. Never. If I end there, then I’m miserable.

God so badly wants to be with me (us) anyway that he worked up a plan that would take care of his laws and would restore our relationship. That plan was Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the requirements (laws) with his perfection, took the (undeserved) punishment for sin FOR us. Because of Jesus, I do not have to struggle to live up to anything in order to be connected to God. God is not repelled by my sin any longer. If I accept all this (everything I’ve written here), then Jesus’ life and death are EVERYTHING to me. It’s my way out of legalism. It’s my restoration. It’s my hope.

Hey, guess what! That’s “Good News”! 😉

Seriously, though, I know what I have written is very simple to some. Being stuck in legalism is nasty. It’s a place of “not getting it”. So many voices saying “But it CAN’T be that simple…”. I think it is.

– – – – – – – –

Post Script:
The K-Love verse of the day…

This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
~ 1 John 4:10, NLT

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I read Dave Ferguson’s blog entry last night on hearing from God everyday.

I watched portions of a video on the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition to create driverless cars.  In the video they explained how the software had to be written to handle the plethora of course corrections needed to keep the vehicles on course as things in the environment changed around them.

I realized that we’re made exactly the same way.  We can’t expect our weekly “church fix” of guidance from God to keep us fed and motivated and guided through all the “stuff” that comes up throughout the week.  Goodness – try all the “stuff” that comes up throughout a single DAY!

Not unlike the satellites that feed directions to the GPS units, we have a Father who has the birds’ eye view of life as we know it.  Why WOULDN’T I tap into that?  He’s free.  He’s available 24/7.  No hardware needed.

Yeah.  Just a thought…

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Panning for Gold

Ok, so that’s not quite the analogy I am looking for, but was the closest I could come to describing what I’m going through today. I’ve been looking for the big gold nuggets in among all the little ones.

After two intense days at the Leadership Summit, I am now sorting through thoughts and ideas, and re-reading notes to try to see what pieces of what I heard need to stick with me. I do NOT want to come away from this Summit unchanged. I do NOT want to go back to life as usual. I MUST learn and grown and incorporate the things I am convinced God put out there right in front of me.

But what are those things?

I’ve been flipping through the Summit Book*, and I think the three biggest ideas that I’m taking away from this are:

1 – Where I am now

Bill Hybels, in Session 1, started the session off so powerfully, with his humility and passion. He drew a chart of the path of a Christian. There were four stages with the last two being the “Growing Christian” and The “Christ-Centered Person”. The growing Christian says “God bless my program” and the Christ-Centered person says “My life is yours.” I’ve been standing on the edge of the big chasm that separates the two — the chasm that requires that life-sized leap of faith.

Best quote (aka Axiom):

If something feels funky…engage.

2 – What I needed to hear

Gary Haugen’s speech, in Session 2, hit me really hard with his story of going mountain climbing with his father and brothers. Fear paralyzes me so much of the time. I’m consistently searching for ways to make life safer. And while becoming safe, I am becoming stuck.  I came away from this session with this quote:

“Jesus didn’t come to make us safe, he came to make us brave.”

3 – Where I go from here

John Burke, in Session 4, was probably the speaker that motivated me the most. The message of grace that he lives is what I want and need to hear more of. I am SO ready to read his book, “Soul Revolution“, but was crushed to find that it hasn’t even been released yet! I’m ready NOW! 🙂 I have pre-ordered it, printed out the first couple chapters, and joined the Soul Revolution beta community.  I’m ready to do the 60-60 challenge…the goal being to put my energies into connecting with God on a regular and frequent basis.

Best quote:

“Stay connected. Fruit happens.”

*Thank you so much, by the way, to the Willow Creek staff for putting the note taking sheets in between session summaries, and the many sheets in the back half! Very useful!

Posted in Reflection

What is “being a leader” anyway?

I just spent an amazing day (1 of 2) at Community Christian Church, with my coworkers, attending a satellite session of Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit 2008.

To say my brain is full would be a huge understatement. Pastor Dave posted a summary of the speakers today on his blog, >>Velocity.

What does it mean to be a leader? I told a friend (and coworker) today that I didn’t really WANT to be a leader. I must have surprised her, based on the look on her face, and the “Why not?” I got in response. I answered that I didn’t really want the responsibility that comes with being a leader. I think that’s partly true. It can be a burdensome thing.

However, I am still faced with the fact that quite a few people in my life have told me that I am either meant to be a leader, or already am one. So, what is that supposed to mean? Is it good to be a leader? What if you don’t want to be? Is it a calling? Is it something you can say “no” to? Thinking through Bible stories, I can recall more than one person that God called that initially said “No thanks!”, but ended up being drafted by God anyway… So, if that’s the case, do I have a choice?

And #2 – leader of what? A rebellion? An alliance? (Too much Star Wars in my brain?) What if you don’t feel that you have anything/anyone to lead?

The most common characteristic that I saw today, overwhelmingly, was passion. Each speaker that we heard seemed to have a real passion for something – some mission, some injustice that needed to be righted, some thing that brought fire, and even tears, to their eyes. I think, in order to be a real, true, genuinely successful leader, you have to have that something. Or that some One.

To be continued…

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The Perfect Start

A Perfect Start to the Day
From ‘The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus’

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The Practice of the Presence of God

I found this book in my boss’s office a couple of years ago and asked if I could read it. It isn’t very long, and can be difficult to read (Brother Lawrence was a seventeenth-century French Monk), but it is well worth it.

I lost track of the borrowed (and returned) book, but finally re-found and purchased it for myself. I am reading it once again and would like to share a passage with you that I feel I should read on a daily basis…

Being questioned by one of his own society (to whom he was obliged to open himself) by what means he had attained such an habitual sense of God, he told him that, since his first coming to the monastery, he had considered God as the end of all his thoughts and desires, as the mark to which they should tend, and in which they should terminate.

That in the beginning of his novitiate he spent the hours appointed for private prayer in thinking of God, so as to convince his mind of, and to impress deeply upon his heart, the divine existence, rather by devout sentiments, and submission to the lights of faith, than by studied reasonings and elaborate meditations. That by this short and sure method he exercised himself in the knowledge and love of God, resolving to use his utmost endeavor to live in a continual sense of His presence, and if possible never to forget Him more.

That when he had thus in prayer filled his mind with great sentiments of that infinite Being, he went to his work appointed in the kitchen (for he was cook to the society). There having first considered severally the things his office required, and when how each thing was to be done, he spent all the intervals of his time, as well before as after his work, in prayer.

That when he began his business, he said to God, with a filial trust in Him: ‘O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections.’

As he proceeded in his work he continued his familiar conversation with his Maker, imploring His grace, and offering to Him all his actions.

When he had finished he examined himself how he had discharged his duty; if he found well, he returned thanks to God; if otherwise, he asked pardon, and without being discouraged, he set his mind right again, and continued his exercise of the presence of God as if he had never deviated from it. ‘Thus,’ said he, ‘by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”

As Brother Lawrence had found such an advantage in walking in the presence of God, it was natural for him to recommend it earnestly to others; but his example was a stronger inducement than any arguments he could propose. His very countenance was edifying, such a sweet and calm devotion appearing in it as could not but affect the beholders. And it was observed that in the greatest hurry of business in the kitchen he still preserved his recollection and heavenly-mindedness. He was never hasty nor loitering, but did each thing in its season, with an even, uninterrupted composure and tranquility of spirit. ‘The time of business,’ said he, ‘does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.”

The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, pp. 28-30

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It’s OVER!

I have had a change of heart. And mind. And I’m really excited to see where God is leading me on this: I am abstaining from food. I am quitting food cold turkey.

Ok, so not REALLY….but yet I am.

I have, on multiple occasions, complained to my husband how much easier it was to quit smoking than it is to control my eating. I smoked for over 5 years, and when I quit, I just quit. I was on the way to the doctor’s office and knew that he would once again badger me about smoking. So, on the way there I had one last cigarette. Cashed it out, and said I’d quit. Initially, I did it just so I could tell him that I’d quit, but that really was the end for me. Three days of physical withdrawal, and I was good to go.

Food. Not so simple.

After reading the last couple of posts on Heidi’s blog, I was painfully impacted with God telling me to get off the scale. It was something Heidi said –

“Because the scale stayed at a certain weight, I justified eating even when not hungry…and since I was eating when not hungry, I felt compelled to “keep on top of things” by weighing. Both are reflective of a heart not heeding the voice of the Spirit!”

So, my first change is to get off the scale. I realized that I was using the scale as my “how am I doing” in the hopes that it would be my positive influence. All it really did was judge me daily and find me lacking. I wasn’t using any restraint during the day when I needed it.

And the second change? Much bigger. It’s a new attitude of fasting. When I quit smoking, and got the craving, I would work to distract myself. I wouldn’t sit and visualize smoking, and pout about not being able to smoke, and talk to others about how horrible it was to not smoke. I just put up a wall in my mind about it. I was done smoking. Temptation be gone!

I’m trying this about food. I want to have a mindset of fasting. My relationship with food is over. No more thinking about eating, or pouting about not being able to eat, or talk and talk and talk about how much I miss eating and how hard it is to not eat. I’m done. 0 is my friend.

But lest anyone freak out about this – I am not fostering anorexia. I am letting God feed me.

I will prepare healthy meals for my husband and son. I will plan and buy food for their benefit. And when my body is hungry, I will give it small amounts of healthy items just to make the hunger feelings go away. But I’m done with the love of food. It honestly, truly, has been an idol in my life. I have had secret affairs with it for years and years. The only way to put away sin is to turn my back. I am done with food.

I will eat what God allows me to eat. I will be thankful and enjoy whatever he permits. But I am done preparing anything for myself. And if I get antsy during the withdrawal period, I have God – the TRUE food – and plenty of water to drink!

Posted in Reflection

Remain In Me

Today, it’s going to be about Remaining in Christ. My quiet time this morning was me asking God a bunch of “How?” questions. How do I do what he wants me to do? I am most comfortable when I have things under control. If I let go of control, chaos ensues. Or at least it will in my realm. So, I asked God how I was supposed to both let go of my control-freakiness AND stay responsible and accomplish the things that are mine to do.

The answer I got? “Remain in Me”

Tamera wrote this morning about words. This was another thing God was teaching me out of my reading this morning (Psalm 59:12, 16). My words are one way that sin makes its way into action. Speaking sinfully is sin. I know that it can start even earlier, but this is one way it sneaks in that I’m feeling particularly attuned to this morning.

I don’t think I can remain in Him AND say things that are sinful, negative, hurtful, condemning (including self-condemning) or defeatist. I like Tamera’s idea of a focusing bracelet. I’ve done that before. And have removed it when it stops being a reminder.

What do you want to prayerfully remember today?