Here’s My Fingerprint; How About Yours?

A few years ago, I knew that I needed to figure out exactly what my role in this world should be.  My children were almost grown and I had friends grieving through empty nest syndrome.  I knew, after 30 years of raising children, homeschooling them, being with them 24/7, that empty nest could hit me hard.  But only if I didn’t have a purpose beyond raising  my kids.
I think most of us come to that place several times in our lives, where we aren’t quite sure what to do next.  Or maybe we know what to do, but aren’t sure how.  Or maybe we know how … but something’s blocking us.
  • Maybe you’re a younger person, just starting out in life, wondering how you’re going to make it in the world, what kind of mark you can leave.
  • Maybe you know your purpose, but there are things getting in the way … depression, habits that don’t serve you well, disorganization, or a simple lack of confidence.  You may or may not know how to change those things, but you’re still having a hard time.  
  • Maybe there’s an area of faith that you want to work on.  You want to grow closer to God and be able to follow Him intimately, and you need someone to help you along.
  • Or you’re a new or proven homeschooler who needs some help getting organized, scheduling, choosing curriculum … or juggling the needs of family, school, a business, and everything else you’ve got going.

 

  • You might be a stay-home mom or a single parent who’s starting to feel like she’s lost track of herself and needs to know how to take care of herself so she can better serve her kids and others.
  • Perhaps you’re nearing or in your golden years and you’re thinking about how to leave the greatest impact on those in your circles of influence.  You want your life to really count.  You have wisdom to share or gifts to still be used.  You don’t want to waste a moment.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ve probably heard me say (or seen me write) that I strongly believe every single experience in our lives — good, bad, success, failure — and each of our gifts, talents, skills, and resources all add up to basically a customized school that God put together for us, training us for our very unique contribution to the world.  Your contribution is so unique that it’s like your fingerprint — no one else, anywhere, at any time, has the same unique fingerprint you do.
I’ve realized that my contribution to the world is to help others discover and define their fingerprint and leave their indelible mark. It’s what entices me out of a cozy bed in the morning and brings joy to my day.  I’d love to work alongside you in finding yours and helping you do whatever is necessary to be able to leave your fingerprints in the strategic places God wants you to place them!
The thing that can make the difference between success and failure is having someone on your team who can look on from the sidelines and make suggestions, encourage you, educate you, celebrate with you, and give you that bit of oomph to make it to your goals.  
As your life coach, that’s what I do.  We talk about your goals, your dreams.  We figure out where you are, where you want to be, and how to get from here to there.  We work together to bring it down to steps that you can’t help but succeed with.  If accountability helps, I can do that for you without judgment or shaming, but with a lot of helpful encouragement.  We’ll figure out what’s blocking your progress, and I’ll help you find motivation in the rough spots.  I’m there to celebrate your victories with you and plot your course with you as you reach higher and higher.  So often, this is the one thing that makes all the difference in the world.
I’m invested in helping you reach your goals.  I strongly believe that you have something to contribute to this world that no one else, now or historically or in the future, is able to give.  If you don’t do it, the rest of us lose out.
If you’re ready to step up and work on leaving your fingerprint on the world, sign up for a free breakthrough session with me.  Let’s get to know each other and get you moving forward. 
If you’re not quite ready, feel free to sign up for my mailing list – use the link at http://lifecoachalycekay.com/  You’ll receive a series of emails from me over the next couple months with questions to help you think through the process.  You can journal about them privately, or share your thoughts with me by email. In the meantime, stop by my coaching blog, leave a comment … let’s start getting to know each other.  Pretend we’re sitting on my swing in my yard in Tennessee, with the dogwood blooming and a pitcher of tea between us.  🙂  (Yeah, I’m homesick.)
dogwood
Hoping that this spring brings you so close your dreams that you can finally touch them.Alyce-Kay

http://lifecoachalycekay.com/

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Spiritual Journeys

Tools for Godly Living/Alyce-Kay are considering offering some courses in Christian topics and we would like to know what subjects would most interest people.  Here are some of the details (and see Q&A/update after the survey at the end):

  • You would not go anywhere for these.
  • The classes would meet as a teleconference call every two weeks.  If you can’t make the call, it would be recorded for you to listen to later (you’d just miss out on participating in the discussion).
  • There would be daily or weekly Bible study assignments and application projects which you would print from online (you would choose your level of difficulty by how much time you want to put into it).
  • There would be a dedicated Facebook page for further discussion, questions, and sharing.
  • Each class would be 90 days long.
  • They would be appropriate for high school through adults, as well as some junior highers.
  • These could also be used by groups; for example, church groups, Sunday School classes, home Bible study groups, families, and homeschoolers.  (If you’re a group, we can talk about how this can best be used by your specific group.  If you homeschool, we can help you determine which  school subjects these could apply to.)
  • If you’ve ever taken any of Alyce-Kay’s SoD (School of Discipleship) classes, these would be something like those.

Note that Tools for Godly Living courses are always biblically based, strong on helping you discover for yourself what God’s Word says.  They are meant for study, not for just sitting back and listening.  My personal commitment is always to bring you to a closer relationship with God and a stronger commitment to Him.

My background is a BA from Westmont College in Religious Studies (emphasis in theology and Greek).  I’ve taught Bible classes for all ages most of my life and have written my own curriculum for almost all of them, as well as curriculum for individual home Bible study and homeschoolers.  My doctrine & apologetics course for children was approved by pastors from 17 denominations, and I generally try to stick to what is appropriate for all denominations in most of my teaching.  (In other words, I try to stay focused on essentials.)

I want these courses to be accessible to anyone,  so there would not be a set charge.  You are completely welcome to take them free of charge.  If the Lord puts it on your heart to pay any amount for them, it would definitely help and would make it more possible for me to continue offering these courses in the future.

If you think you might be interested (no obligation), I’d like to know what kinds of topics interest people the most.  Please note that there are actually 2 surveys below.  You may vote for as many of the following as you find interesting.   You may also add other choices.  If you don’t find enough room in the survey,  feel free to add your suggestions in the comments area (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page).

Please  share this with your friends, church, Bible study group, homeschool group, on Facebook, etc.  Thanks so much for your help!

You are not required to fill out the contact info in order to vote, but please do fill it out, if you’d like us to let you know when we offer these classes.

Since posting this, I’ve received a few really good questions, so I thought I would share them here.

Q:  Would people outside the USA be able to join these classes?

A:  Yes!  The only thing is that it would be an international call to be on the teleseminars (including listening to the recording of the calls).  I’m sure there must be a way, since we would be recording them, to put them on mP3 or some other format that could be listened to online or downloaded, so that you wouldn’t have to make an international call.  If someone overseas is interested, then I will check around and find out how to do this.  I’ve been on teleconferences (seminars held on a conference call) with people from all over, and it is incredibly effective.  You can just sit in your own home and participate — or get together with a group of friends so you can participate together.  I really love this format!

Q:  Will you (Alyce-Kay) be teaching the classes?

A:  Yes! You know I LOVE to teach.  🙂

Q:  Will there be a charge for the classes?

A:  It will be up to each person whether or not they pay or how much. I want people to be able to do it, even if they can’t afford it, so I don’t want to charge a set amount. As a single mom barely getting by, I know how that is. Also, there are some people who wouldn’t pay, but would benefit from it, so I don’t want to hinder them either. If God puts it on anyone’s heart to pay, it would help me, obviously, to pay bills, etc, and I will be putting a lot of work into it.  It would also make it easier for me to offer more classes, as those who pay would help free me up from having to put overtime in at work to pay the bills.  Bottom line, I don’t want anyone to not do it because they can’t pay or don’t want to pay. It will be between each person and God. If you benefit from the classes and don’t pay anything, that’s perfectly okay!

 

Update:  The first class offered will be on Building Your Faith.  It will be taught at 3 levels (you will choose, depending on how much work you want to do/have time to do).    I’m working on writing the course and the workbook materials at this time, and will announce it here and on facebook when I’m ready to take registrations.  If you want to be notified by email, please let me know at Alyce-Kay@LifeCoachAlyceKay.com  I’ve had a number of requests for an actual bound workbook, so the workbook materials will be available for purchase as a bound workbook, or to download and print yourself for free.

Slaves You Might Know

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  — Bob Pierce

I think there have probably been times when I’ve recommended a book that would be appropriate for anyone (and sometime soon, I hope to write a review of a book like that, that I recently read), but I think this is the first time I’ve ever said that there’s a book I think everyone SHOULD read … I would almost say that everyone has a moral obligation to read. (The reason I say “almost” is because I know I have friends — God bless them! I’m kind of the same way — who would balk at me defining what their moral obligation is. If I were not to use that word “almost,” my statement would cause them not to read it, for that reason alone.)

This book was not easy to read. There were times I found it so disturbing that I had to put it aside and regain my composure enough to continue. But that’s exactly why it needs to be read. Not to decondition us or make us calloused, certainly not to get us used to seeing this kind of thing, but because we NEED to be disturbed by this. Too many turn their heads away — they’re afraid to face these facts, they scorn the people who are victims, they don’t know what to do, etc.  There were people in Theresa’s life — the school security officer, teachers, friends, and others, who turned away when they saw what was happening, and even when she begged them for help. Many of us would possibly be guilty of the same thing.

When I shared this story with a few friends while I was reading it, their response was that she was stupid to not get out.  This is why we need to read this.  We need to understand what holds people in those situations.  If we think that they’re stupid, that should be a red flag to us that we need to gain better understanding.  I learned in acting class in college that people do things because they think it’s the best thing to do.  In our omniscient wisdom (tongue in cheek), we may be able to see that their decisions are foolish, or we may be able to see other options, but it makes us more human, more humane, and more godly, when we take the time to figure out why they think it’s the best thing to do.  Not necessarily a good thing; but sometimes, our only options (or at least the only ones we can see) are all bad, and we choose the best of those bad options.  Hint:  Someone doesn’t live through the terror and pain this young woman lived through if they think there are better options.   We need to allow God to give us compassion.  We need to beg God for compassion.   “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”  Bob Pierce (founder of World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse) said this, and I think it’s one of the godliest prayers we can pray.

There are times when we have to be willing to say, “No, don’t turn your head. This is important.” Asking you to read this book is one of those times.

The main purpose of this book is to help us understand how someone gets trapped in sex trafficking … in this country. A nice girl from a good family. An intact, loving family. A girl who was not promiscuous and was committed to saving sex for marriage.  There may be people you know who are stuck in this lifestyle and you don’t even know it.  But I think that it goes beyond that. It can also help you understand what it’s like to be abused or bullied — and why people stay in those situations when you think they have options.  I can almost guarantee you know people who are in that situation, whether you realize it right now or not.  I think this is a book we should read so that we can become better educated about things that need to be changed in our society (not just some place on the other side of the globe), but mostly so that we can become better human beings.

Btw, I know that my posts are read by a number of homeschoolers, so let me say this about using this book in school.  Yes, I think it would be valuable, in about junior high or high school.  And having your child read it could quite possibly save their life (which is why I would recommend junior high), in addition to helping them become better human beings.  Having said that, though, I think it’s a very good idea for you to read it first, so that you have a heads up as to what kinds of questions and discussions would be helpful in working through it.  This book is disturbing.  There’s just no way around that.  You might even want to read the book out loud to your kids so that you can have those discussions as you read … and so you can decide if you need to censor any details.  The woman who wrote this — about her own experiences — is quite conservative and has strong family values, but she does occasionally give some details your children may not be ready to hear.  If you read it ahead of time, it’s easy enough to know what to skip over (just a few sentences in the entire book).  If you decide to read this with your kids for school and you’d like help with coming up with discussion questions, leave me a comment asking for that, and I’d be happy to put some together.

Image

(Btw, I’m not an Amazon associate and I don’t get anything if you buy this book.  Just want to let you know:  You should read this. It’s also available in a print version.)

http://www.amazon.com/Slave-Across-Street-Theresa-Flores-ebook/dp/B0034KYZQ8/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1390266358&sr=1-2&keywords=the+slave+next+door

Worry: Mind Your Own Beeswax and Kick Satan in the Balls

Picture this:  A little, tiny girl, overshadowed by a gigantic, strong, menacing bully.  She kicks at him and says in her little, squeaky voice, “Take that, you big ole bully!  That’ll teach you to mess with me.”  The bully staggers back, surprise and pain written all over his face, as he doubles over and protects his weakest parts.

Okay, so I’m not a diminutive, sweet, squeaky-voiced girl.  I’m a fat, old lady.  But compared to Satan, the biggest bully of all time, I am all those vulnerable, pathetic things.

Now pan back and see the big picture.  There’s an enormous, even stronger, shining person behind the little girl.  He’s the one who is actually delivering the blows, but He’s there because the little girl called Him and asked Him for His help.  He’s there to make sure her pitiful, albeit somewhat brave efforts are powerfully enforced.  Oh man, she just kicked the bully in the balls!

That little girl is me.  And you.  (If you’re a guy, you can picture a wimpy, skinny guy with horn-rimmed glasses and not an ounce of muscle.)  Satan loves to bully us.  He enjoys making us think that we have to cower in fear of him.  It’s his happiest moment when we become ineffective because we don’t want him to hurt us.  And you know what one of his most successful strategies is?  Worry.

He gets me to worry about finances.  I’m then afraid to step out and do what God asks me to do, because I’m worried I won’t have the resources to accomplish it.  Worry can distract me from loving on people.  It can tie me up in knots so that I’m ineffective at just about everything.  I become bitter about not being paid more for my hard work.  I become stingy with the resources I have because I think that they’re in short supply.

I worry about what’s happening in our nation.  That anxiety can sometimes consume me.  Every possible outcome (all bad) sinks my world.  I lose hope.  I stop praying for our leaders.  And yeah, bitterness sets in again.  I get worried about what this world is going to be like for my kids and grandbabies.  What are they up against?  I can imagine a lot, but I also know that it can be worse than I imagine.

Substitute whatever it is that you tend to worry about.  How does that effect you?  How does it keep your focus away from God?

Worry draws my focus away from gratefulness and worship.  When my worries loom huge, God seems to recede into the distance … and He looks awful small from so far away.  Thanksgiving sucks when I’m filled with anxiety.

I realized something interesting today.  Worry only happens when I mess with other people’s business.  It’s when I start taking responsibility for things that aren’t mine to worry about.  Here’s my analysis of my financial worries, since financial anxieties are probably something many of us can relate to.

1.  Not being paid what I’m supposed to be paid?  That’s not my problem.  It’s between God and those who are supposed to pay me.

2.  Having to accept charity and be on food stamps?  I tend to think that means I’m inadequate.  But I’m working hard, doing my part, and for now at least, this is God’s way of providing for us.  I do my part, He fills in the rest … and teaches me humility in the process.  My business in this is to work hard and with integrity.  His business is to fill in the gaps.

3.  God calls me to do something and I don’t have the resources?  That’s not my problem.  His will, His bill.

4.  Trusting God and praising Him for His provision.  That’s MY business.

See how this works?  Suddenly, my only responsibilities are things I can handle:  Work hard, with integrity.  Trust God.  Praise Him.  All that other stuff that’s too much for me is not anything I need to concern myself with.  In the past week, in addition to how He normally provides for me, He has also had various people pay my electric bill (they had no idea there was a need, because I didn’t tell a soul), provide money for a Christmas tree, offer to prep and deliver and set up our Christmas tree, give us a turkey … Our needs are provided and some non-necessities as well.  I had things I was worrying about for the future, too, but this process has helped me differentiate between my responsibility and other’s and God’s … and that worry has mysteriously dissipated like the morning frost.  If I mind my own business and no one else’s (God’s included), I have nothing to worry about.

Which brings me to Satan’s balls.  Satan’s desire is to reproduce his nature in me and those around me.  He wants to get me to despise God … or at least not trust Him.  When I worry, I’m not trusting God to do His responsibility.  I take on some of Satan’s traits:  Pride, bitterness, etc.  That affects others in that I’m not encouraging them to trust God, and maybe I get grouchy or withdrawn.  And it infects them with worry, bitterness, etc, too.  It reproduces Satan’s traits in them, as well.  When I recognize what’s my responsibility and do it, and I keep my cotton-pickin’ fingers (and mind) out of everyone else’s business, there is no cause for worry or anxiety.  I have peace and Satan hates that.  It causes him pain.  I severely impair his ability to reproduce.  That’s what I call a good ball-kicking.

We’re on the cusp of two important holidays:  Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.  (You knew I would get there eventually, right?)  And those holidays are really about God working through people to give Satan some serious ball-kicking.

Hanukkah is about the people of Israel, who had been conquered and were being ruled by an evil man:  Antiochus Epiphanes.  Antiochus defiled the temple.  He tried to force God’s people to bow to false gods.  He committed horrible abominations.  God strengthened His people and provided by His nation through a family, the Maccabees, who were a lot like the Wolverines in Red Dawn.  When the bad guys were thrown out of Israel and the people cleaned up the Temple, all they could find was 1 flask of the Holy oil.  It was only enough to light the Menorah for 1 day … and it takes 8 days to sanctify the Holy oil.  It was the people’s responsibility to light the Menorah and make more oil.  It was God’s responsibility to fill in the gap of 7 days’ without oil.  God miraculously made the oil burn for 8 days.  They did their part.  He did His part.  And now their/our responsibility is to praise Him for what He did.  That’s Hanukkah.

Back in the 17th century, a group of English believers wanted freedom to worship God according to their beliefs.  They came to America, where they suffered many hardships.  Many of their number died, and at one point, their situation was so grave that they each only had 5 kernels of corn to eat in a day.  It would have been very easy to stop trusting God at this point.  I would guess, since they were human, that they fought anxiety.  But they didn’t give up.  They didn’t turn away from God.  They worked hard and they believed in His faithfulness.  That was their job.   God provided them with Native American friends who shared their resources with them and showed them some of the things they needed to know in order to survive in the New World.  He also provided them with a good harvest the next year.  The celebration feast with their Native American friends and its ongoing celebration in our homes is the American holiday of Thanksgiving.  The turkey and many of the traditional foods we use, and having more than enough food on our tables that day remind us of God’s overwhelming provision.  (And I, for one, am additional thankful that the turkey did not make it as our national bird, my apologies to Ben Franklin.  I much prefer roast turkey to roast eagle on my table.)  Oh!  And I guess you could look at the football games as a celebration of our forefathers giving Satan a good ass-whooping.  (Is that taking the analogy too far?)

May I exhort you to do something this Thanksgiving?  Think through what’s your business and responsibility, and what responsibility belongs to God and others.  Remember that if others are not doing their responsibilities, it’s not your problem:  It’s between them and God.  Recognize that filling in the gaps that are left is not your responsibility:  Trust God to fill in the gaps that irresponsible people leave.  This will free you in ways you can hardly imagine.  Lift your voice in gratitude.  Call on God to stand behind you and lend you His strength … and go kick some balls.  (And I don’t just mean footballs.)

Worry. It’s the New Black

My Dad likes to say that he’s proven that worry works:  99% of the things he worries about never happen!  He’s being facetious, of course, and his point is that most of the things we worry about never would happen.  Which is true.  Worry is pointless.  Beyond that, God tells us not to worry.  But here’s where I stumble:  Many of the things I worry about really do have the potential of happening.

There’s so much to worry about in our world today.  You don’t need me to name the possibilities, and I won’t, just in case there’s something to worry about that you haven’t thought of yet.  🙂   Let me just say, I’m a skillful worrier — Olympic quality.  And public anxiety has become fashionable.  It’s the new black.

I have a friend in India who’s an evangelist.  He shares the gospel with Hindus.  It’s hard.  Sometimes, it’s frightening.  He and his family (wife and 3 adorable little girls) had to leave their home region because of persecution.  Now, he’s suffering in other ways.  Recently, he was threatened with eviction because they couldn’t pay the rent.  (His landlord has since shown him mercy and allowed him more time to get the rent.)  His little girls cried themselves to sleep the other night, because there was no food.

We talk nearly every day, and he has been distressed this week.  I’ve not known what to say.  Oh, I know all the verses and platitudes … but I also know how I feel when someone says things like that to me when I’m distressed.  It doesn’t cure my anxiety.  It just tells me to make a note not to share my fears with that person in the future.  (I know that’s not the “godly” response, but it’s true.) When God brings Scriptures to mind that I’ve memorized, it helps me.  But when other people say, “Don’t worry, blah, blah, blah,” all I feel is condemnation.  I’m not saying that’s a commendable response, just being transparent here.

I prayed for him while we talked, but I didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to offer him some kind of help, but I don’t have money to offer, so I kept my mouth shut.  The thought that kept coming to mind was where Peter said to the lame man, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I Thee.”  (Yes, I sometimes think in King James, lol.)  I kept asking God, “But what do I have that I can give him?  What is the ‘such that I have?’ ”

Then, the dreaded thing happened.  My friend asked me for help.

But do you know what he asked for?  He asked me to tell him stories of how God has provided for me and my family.  Well, that really is a “such as I have” because I have loads of stories to tell!  He listened intently, and his comments after each story were things like, “God is really good.”  “This is strengthening my faith.”  “Now, I know God will provide for us!”  “God will take care of us, even if it’s not the way we expect.”

I learned two really big things from this.

1.  We NEED to share with each other, over and over, the stories of how God has worked in our lives.  It’s necessary for our own faith and that of others.  (More on this another time.)

2.  The magnitude of the stories isn’t what matters.  I have never, ever come close to suffering what my friend has suffered and is suffering.  I would not have thought that my stories of what God has done for me and my family could possibly be an encouragement to him.  But reminding ourselves and each other of what God has done (and therefore, what He CAN do) is like making deposits in our faith bank … it all adds up.

Here are a couple of my stories.  I’ll share more in the future.

Once, when we didn’t have much food, my girls and I prayed together and asked God to provide.  God had shown me early on that I needed to include my kids in my praying and not hide from them what our circumstances were, because they needed to see the answers, in order to build their faith.  So we prayed.  Our doorbell rang.  It was a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple years … with a box of food.  She said that God had told her to bring it over.  I remember there was bread and cheese, and I forget what else.  There was also a pie.  My girls (Jon wasn’t born yet) crowded behind me and when I closed the door, Lois, who was probably about 7 or so, said in wonder, “Mama, God didn’t just provide what we needed!  He provided what we wanted, too!”

Another time, I prayed, “Lord, my kids are growing and I don’t have money to buy them clothes.  I would be happy to sew their clothes, but I can’t even afford fabric.”  Another knock at the door.  A friend of mine who sews a lot said that God had told her to clean out her sewing room.  She brought over bags of fabric and wanted to know if I could use them.  🙂  They were fabrics in my kids’ favorite colors.  There were patterns — also in their sizes.  This is my favorite part:  There were some patterns pinned to fabric that had already been cut out.  (Cutting the fabric is the only part of sewing I really don’t enjoy.)

When I needed to find a home for myself and my two remaining children a year ago, I was looking at run down, little apartments that were barely within my means if I worked a lot of overtime.  It was depressing.  One day, God told me to drive around Lake Como.  Lake Como is one of my favorite areas in the Twin Cities, because I love the conservatory during the winter.  The whole time, I kept saying something that has refreshed my faith over and over.  I think I heard it from Joyce Meyers:  “Lord, You know what I need and You know how to get it to me.”  I didn’t get the sense that God was necessarily going to give us a place in that area, but simply that He wanted me to set my sights beyond the run down apartments.  A week or two later, I was offered a cute Victorian for less than the apartments.  The outside is somewhat run down, but the owners plan to work on it in the future, and to be honest, the outside doesn’t matter to me.  The inside is GORGEOUS.  And spacious.  The perfect combination of new plumbing and appliances with the old, original woodwork, doorknobs and hinges.  It is beyond what I could have imagined.  Beyond what I believed I deserved.  (Sometimes, I forget I’m a princess.)

I would like to ask you to do 2 things:

1.  Could you please pray for my friend and his family?  I don’t want to share his name publicly, as I don’t know if it would cause him trouble, but God will know exactly who you’re praying for.  Pray for God to provide for them and protect them.  But more than that, pray that God will strengthen their faith.  Pray that their landlord will be blessed because of his mercy.

2.  What are some of your stories about how God has taken care of you?  I would love it if you share them below in the comments.  We need to be strengthening each others’ faith.

Review: Jamie Tyrrell on Prayer

Psalm 1 tells us that the godly person meditates.  There are quite a few references to meditation in the psalms.  Yet, many of us tend to associate meditation with eastern religions and think that we, as Christians, should not meditate.  What is meditation?  What differentiates Christian meditation from other forms of meditation?  Jamie Tyrrell gives his answers to these questions in his youtube video:  Prayer for Busy People, session one.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Iidw41_t0

Jamie is a pastor with expertise in the area of spiritual guidance.  His mission is to help you hear where God is leading you.  In a busy, fast-paced world, I enjoy listening to Jamie teach because he slows things down.  He’s calm and careful.  He gives you time to think between statements.  I feel my breathing and my heartbeat slow down as I spend half an hour under his teaching.  I find myself more able to hear and respond to the Lord’s still, small voice when I’m not running around a million miles an hour.  It’s a much-needed opportunity for my soul to unwind from its tight spool and open myself more to the Holy Spirit.

In Prayer for Busy People, session one, Jamie talks about the difference between Christian meditation and other forms of meditation.  He also examines why it’s important, and how Jesus encouraged His followers to meditate (i.e., to do what Scripture tells us to do), in order to develop a “God-listening heart.”

In one of the most profound segments of this lesson, Jamie helps us consider why and how we shouldn’t worry about tomorrow and how we can trust God and not have to know the answers to everything, so that we can celebrate life.  With today’s many pressures and uncertainties, I found this section especially helpful.  Since it’s so easy for us to get distracted, he includes an exercise and ideas for lengthening the amount of time we can focus on a thought, such as, “Lord, do You love me?”

The second part of the video is one you can quietly listen to as you’re led through a meditation on Psalm 23.  Feel free to pause the video so that you can really ponder the questions and situations that are mentioned.  This could easily be split (and perhaps is meant to be split) into a week’s worth of meditations.  These also make good starter questions for journaling after your time of meditation.  You could likewise spend a little time each day for a week or so, listening to these same questions each day, allowing yourself to find deeper and deeper answers.  However you do it, don’t rush.  Spend at least a week per video.  Relax and enjoy God’s presence.  Listen for His voice.

One bit of advice.  As I listened to this portion, I was aware that the instruction to put both feet on the floor and place your hands palms up on your legs, might be uncomfortable for some people I know, as it sounds similar to eastern forms of meditation.  The point here is not the exact posture, but simply to sit in a relaxed manner, which isn’t going to restrict blood flow and become distractingly uncomfortable.  If another position is better for you, by all mean, adopt that posture.  I personally like to sit with my palms up because it symbolizes to me that I’m opening my grip on the things that are bothering me and giving them to God, and I’m open to accepting whatever God wants to give me.

Jamie’s website, http://prayerforbusypeople.com/ includes meditation questions, resources, and even some sermon ideas for pastors.  It’s definitely worth exploring.  He’s still developing it, so keep that in mind … and here’s an opportunity:  He’s looking for beta-testers, people who would be willing to try out his program, give him input, and share it with others.  Comment below, if you’re interested, and I’ll get you in touch with him.

I’m looking forward to working my way through the series, Prayer for Busy People.  If you can carve some time out to listen to it, I promise it will be worthwhile.  Let me know what you think.

A Bigger, Better Tent

Isaiah 54 was a passage God put on my heart when I was going through an extremely difficult time as a single woman.  A single mom, to be exact.  I was having a hard time, financially.  My house was also having all kinds of problems.  I felt insecure as far as being able to provide for my kids and parent them at the same time.  I was being attacked legally by someone who should have been helping with the task at hand.  I felt that I was not up to the challenge of single parenting.  (Is anyone?  Should we be?)  It was the best alternative I knew for my children, but I felt like I was sinking fast.

In the midst of this, one night, when I was feeling worthless, helpless, hopeless, and afraid, God opened this chapter of Scripture to me in a way that changed my fears dramatically.  It didn’t make it less difficult, but it made it less terrifying.  And what’s more, it made it actually hopeful.  So much so that I wrote each verse and promise from God on a 3×5 card, and as I worked each night, I flipped through those cards, meditating on them during every small break.

I want to share this with you because I want to bring hope to other unmarried women, barren women, and single moms (maybe single dads, too, but not being one of those, I’m not sure if this will strike a chord in them).  I think that this applies to every one of you as much as it applies to me.  If you’re reading this and none of those descriptions fit you, maybe you can pass this on to someone who needs to hear it and will be blessed by it.

Isaiah 54:

Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord.

I am not physically barren.  I have 5 children, so it would seem that this verse does not apply to me.  But what God spoke to the inner recesses of my heart through this verse was that, even though I was not married and could, therefore, no longer bear children, I was still extremely fertile.  My relationship with God can produce much more fruit than my relationship with a man.  This applies to productivity in my earthly family.  It also applies to spiritual fruitfulness.  I was certainly desolate; there was no doubt about that.  His promise here was that if I pressed into Him and turned to Him the energy I would be putting into a spousal relationship, He would make me fruitful.   This doesn’t mean, by the way, that I will always be single, or that you will always be childless.  But right now, in this season, this is what we need to build, so that it can be maintained if and when that aspect of our life changes.

“Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
“For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.

In my worries about my physical house — a toilet that wasn’t working, light switches that needed changing, rain gutters that were falling off, and a resultant crack in my basement from water getting under the house — and in the midst of my concerns about the emotional and spiritual home I needed to provide for my children — God was telling me to enlarge my territory.  Not to tighten my belt, so to speak, not to focus on just the little I had, but rather to expand and to look out beyond where we resided.  The promise that my descendants would resettle the desolate cities was especially meaningful to me.  It’s a promise that my children and their children, both physical and spiritual, will bring life to places that are lacking in life.  I love seeing how this is already happening.  It doesn’t really have to do with me; definitely isn’t my doing.  But it’s the fulfillment of God’s promise to me.

However, this isn’t just a promise that will happen on its own.  I have an active role.  He doesn’t say that He will enlarge my tent; He tells me to “enlarge the place of my tent” (press out into other regions, go places that I might be afraid to go … again, literally and figuratively … the things about which I say, “I don’t want to go there”).

Interestingly, soon after this, God moved us 1000 miles from our home.  It has not been easy at all, but I feel Him expanding us, networking us, helping us to understand another culture within our own, preparing us for bigger changes perhaps.

Another way that He’s been doing this in me is through something He challenged me with 2 years ago:  Whatever I realize I’m afraid of, He’s challenged me to walk into it.  It’s like Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the waves.  I need to step into my fears and keep my eyes on Him.  Sometimes, I can see directly how overcoming  a particular fear can serve Him … like stepping out in public again, writing this blog.  But other things, like trying to conquer my fear of heights … um, I’m not sure that will be used directly in ministry, but it’s the discipline of not giving in to my fears, of getting myself to the place where I won’t hesitate to follow Him, so that I can obey His call without stalling in fear.  Taking this challenge — to walk into my fears, to do what I’m afraid of, as long as it’s not immoral, illegal, or foolish — has helped me to grow a lot in the last couple years, and it’s definitely strengthened my trust in Him.  (By the way, I am horribly afraid of heights.  I’m afraid to stand on a chair to change a light bulb, though I’ve been working on that.  My ultimate goal is to go ziplining.)

He says to “stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not.”  That exhortation to spare not means that I’m not to be cheap or selfish or moderate in stretching.  I’m not to hold back because I’m afraid He won’t provide.  I’m to grow where He tells me/us to grow and not hold back, but trust Him for His resources, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.

“Lengthen your cords.”  In order to make your tent bigger, you have to have longer cords.  These are what define the outer boundaries of your tent, your territory.  God doesn’t just expand our boundaries for us; we have to provide the longer cord for Him to do that.  Stretching out from the tent pole, these cords are what hold the tent up.  I have to become stronger in His Word and in my relationship with Him.  I need to become completely responsible financially, sacrificing when necessary in order to remain solvent and steady.  I need to build my emotional stability, and I need to take care of my physical body.  All these things have to be strong enough to be stretched farther and farther.

“And strengthen your pegs.”  The cords, when stretched out, have  to have something strong to hold them in place.  God can draw those cords way out and give me vaster and vaster territory in every area of my life, but those cords will just pop back and the tent will collapse if the tent pegs aren’t strong enough to withstand the tension.  Those pegs have to be driven hard into the Rock.  My Rock.  My Redeemer.  And what’s more, those pegs have to be leaning outward … out toward more territory, out toward others, not inward toward myself.  Again, if those pegs lean inwardly, no matter how strong they are, no matter how deeply they are driven into the Rock, the cords will slip off and the tent will collapse.  And just as tent pegs occasionally have to be checked and hammered back into the ground, so I need to be watching for any signs that I’m getting pulled away from the center of the Rock, and allow Him to drive me farther into Himself.

“You will spread abroad,” He says, “to the right and the left.”  An amazing thing about this is that He’s not just expanding our fruitful, productive territory in one direction.  He’s spreading us out in every direction!  And little by little, I see this happening.  I have a little influence in California.  I have friends to encourage in Tennessee.  He has given me a place to minister in Minnesota.  And my influence is reaching in very small ways into India and Africa.  Who knows where else?  Not in big ways, no.  Nor does it have to be big.  But the fact is that He expands our influence in many different directions when we’re open to that.  And little things can make a big impact.  A fearful Sunday School teacher witnessed to Dwight L. Moody and won him to the Lord.  Besides being a successful evangelist, Moody’s ministry (and thus, that Sunday School teacher’s ministry) can be traced all the way to Billy Graham’s conversion.  My little influence, where God has expanded my tent, can reach someone else who may do great things for God!  I didn’t set out to expand my influence.  God did this, really through no effort of my own.  I lengthened my cords and strengthened my pegs … or if truth really be told, I allowed Him to do it, and followed His leading (and often not perfectly, but the best I could).  If we give Him that, He does the rest.

Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.

Wow, did I, and wow, do I continue to need to hear this.  For me, being divorced was probably the most shameful thing I have ever experienced.  My belief had been that divorce was practically the unforgivable sin.  I had grown up hearing, “Divorce is not an option.”  I was part of a subculture where it didn’t matter if every part of the marriage vows had been broken, the only part that mattered was “Til death do us part.”  The person who severed that officially broke the marriage.  I spent years after my divorce, trying to convince God not to love me.  (I know, right?)  Because I had had something of a public ministry, I received hate mail from people because of my divorce.  I was humiliated, disgraced, reproached, and full of shame.  And the worst thing for me was that I believed God could not use me any more, and being used by God was my very favorite thing in life.  Without that, where was the meaning?  I believed that I had to live with this because of a mistake I made when I was young, one that will, of course, continue to have consequences throughout my life.  But it really did feel like the unforgivable sin to me.  Other people’s mistakes could be forgiven and they could move on.  I would live my life being punished for making a bad choice.

God said here in Isaiah 54 that He was taking all that shame away and that I could forget about it.  Furthermore, He said I could even forget the shame of my youth.  I do still live with consequences … and those consequences will be with me for the rest of my life.  But the shame doesn’t need to be, nor does the reproach.  My status as a divorced, single woman does not need to be reproachful.  God can still use me!  God uses best the one who can’t do it themselves.  I can hold my head high with the confidence that I’m working for the King of Kings.

There’s so much more in this chapter to share with you, but I’ve had a long day and I’m tired, so I’ll share more another time.  In the meantime, I think there’s enough here to think about:

1.  How have you felt devastated?  How do you compare yourself with those who are married, or if you’re unable to conceive, how do you compare yourself with those who have children?  How do you feel that you’re lacking because of that?  It’s important to face those things in order to understand what God is offering you.

2.  What seeds has God planted in your heart?  If you press into Him and build your romance with Him, allowing your spiritual womb to be fertile, those seeds will grow, just as a baby grows in the womb.

3.  Where and how is God enlarging your territory?  Do you see the possibility of your influence expanding to other places, beyond that of your home?  This may not be geographic expansion.  Maybe He’s expanding you into new venues or taking you different places for your work.  Maybe He’s giving you more opportunities right where you are.  Those are things that expand your territory, your sphere of influence.  Remember that if you’ve given your life to Him, every time you walk into a place, you’re bringing the Holy Spirit with you.

4.  What areas of your life need more strengthening and stability?  These are the cords that you need to make stronger so that your tent can be stretched.  Do you need to be more disciplined, spiritually?  More responsible financially?  Do you need to work on integrity?  Are you struggling morally?  Ask the Lord how to become stronger in these areas so that your tent cords can be stretched out.

5.  Are your tent pegs strong?  Do you have a strong relationship with the King of Kings who wants to expand your tent?  He’s the Rock, the foundation that you need to drive your tent pegs into, and you need to drive them in hard.  They need to be inspected regularly to be certain you aren’t pulling out of the Rock and weakening your tent.  What specifically do you need to do, to press into Him?  Are you spending time in His Word?  Are you praying … and not only talking, but listening?  Are you surrounding yourself with biblical, wise influence through teaching and friendships?  Are you spending time in Worship of the Lord of the Universe?

6.  Are your tent pegs positioned so they’re leaning out toward others?  Remember that if you point them toward yourself, leaning inward selfishly, your tent will collapse.  Direct your attention outward toward others.  What specifically can you do to align yourself better in this way?  How can you use your gifts to serve others?  How can you be “Jesus with skin on”?

7.  Are you feeling shame because of your position as a single person or a barren woman?  Do you feel like you’re being punished, or like others look down on you?  Does your lonely bed feel like a badge of a lesser status?  First of all, if there is sin that you need to confess, do so, and accept His forgiveness.  And then, this is often what’s hardest … forgive yourself.  God has forgiven you, so let it go.  Yes, there may be consequences that you have to live with.  But you don’t need to walk in shame anymore.  God has called you by name.  He wants to use you.  He wants to expand your tent!  That’s something to rejoice about!  As verse 1 says, shout for joy!  Break forth into joyful shouting!  God has amazing plans for you!

Isaiah 54:1-4

“Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child;
Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed;
For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous
Than the sons of the married woman,” says the Lord.
“Enlarge the place of your tent;
Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not;
Lengthen your cords
And strengthen your pegs.
 “For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left.
And your descendants will possess nations
And will resettle the desolate cities.

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame;
And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced;
But you will forget the shame of your youth,
And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more.