It was a rousing discussion. I’d presented the following material and out of these simple comparisons conversation after conversation followed. We didn’t have time for all the thoughts and questions and dialogue.
If you are a woman and you find yourself
decorating and redecorating (will one more specific decoration really make your life complete?)
renovating once again (might it do just the way it is?)
shopping for what you don’t need (how many pairs of pants do you need?)
going to school for yet more education (what if you took what you already knew and started there?)
You just may be avoiding your primary purpose in life.
There is nothing like busy work to keep us from the scary core of what we are to be about.
we tell ourselves that we need just this and that to be right.
the kids to be just a bit older.
x number of dollars before we begin.
our friends and mentors to all understand and give the go-ahead.
I know. I’v been there done that.
I get it.
It’s why I am concerned when I see women spending their days in distraction. When houses are too nice. When clothes are too many. When schooling is more than enough.
It raises warning flags in my mind.
I wonder what kind of emptiness is present.
Passion and vision must have their say for when we don’t loose passion and vision within our lives into something bigger than us it takes form for us – through purchases, through paint for our walls, through one more degree to add to our resume, through numerous pairs of shoes and pants and jackets and purses and bags and…
What are we running from that we must run to all of this?
Is God angry or is God compassionate?
Does God come towards us or does God recoil away from us?
Who is the condemner, God or Satan?
Does God punish us for our sins or is sin the punishment?
Is Hell a place of justice that God sends people to, or is it a place of lostness that he saves us from?
Is God watching people and tattling on them to the authorities or is God journeying alongside us?
Does God bring focus to our mistakes and folly or does he cover them over?
Is God smug about our failure or is he broken over it?
Is God looking down upon your life or is he looking at life through your eyes?
Is God understanding or impatient?
Does the general human experience disgust or delight God?
Is God big enough for everything of your life or not?
Does God expect truth or pretence?
What is God calling you to today?
What we believe about God colours everything about how we do life, how we love people, how we go about ministry, the manner in which we live our days, the conversations we have, the expectations we carry, the disillusionments we end up with, and our general state of happiness.
What do you believe about God?
I’ve reinvented myself a few times over. From fearful and shy to settled and leading requires a few changes to one’s inner core along the way.
And as I’m looking ahead at 2014 it occurs to me that another reinvention is necessary. While the foundation is well laid within my own life and the life of Capturing Courage International the necessary and expected increase requires my own growth first and foremost.
This is the same for all of us. What has gotten us to today will not get us to the tomorrows that we want. Each new phase of life requires an expansion within our heart and mind. Our internal capacity is, after all, what grows our life.
My own process of inner growth always begins with identifying the parts of myself that I am not happy with. Where am I holding back? What still frightens me? What parts of my life are still not quite working?
I take hard looks at the outward identifiers of relationships, finances, daily habits, health, and more. What do these tell me? What have I been not wanting to see or admit?
And then I begin asking even more questions:
- What might growth look like in this area?
- How might I like that to be?
- What small changes will create big shifts?
- If I made one change in this area that would make a difference in all the other areas what might that one thing be?
Key to all of this is refusing to rush to conclusion.
Rather, we hold the questions open for some days, letting them settle in and through all the layers of our being. Questions like these will tap into our inner gut if we refuse to satisfy them too quickly with our own best wisdom.
We gather all possibilities, all brainstorming is laid out, and we wait.
Visioning then begins. How might I like to see myself? What would that particular shift do for me, how would it impact my life?
And in my mind’s eye I see myself with this new skill or that new confidence. I envision the changes I want to see, I may even feel the changes in my emotions and the way my body reacts to things. I then leave my visioning in my mind’s eye. I back away and allow my mind and will to go after what I want. Emergent energy takes over.
This process is easily 50% of the work alone. It is not so much the precursor to work – it is much of the work. Where most rush to change the outward those who take the time to shift the inner picture will end up with growth that sticks.
This is how I’m spending the last days of 2013 – I’m hanging out with myself in the depths of my own thoughts, in curiosity I am questioning, envisioning, and moving towards my own best future.
And as 2014 moves along I’ll add my own best efforts, due diligence, disciplined hours, healthy habits, and hard work to the mix, and we shall see how things have turned out a year from now.
“Thank-you for coming on the inside, for living among us, travelling as we do, eating as we eat.”
This came from one of the pastors after nearly two weeks of travel and ministry amongst ten churches spread over a wide area during my recent trip to Mozambique.
I am convinced that being on the inside is the only way to be in service to others.
By the time I’d arrived in Mozambique (after over 30 hours of travel) I already had a few clothes that needed washing. And as we were heading out for more travel within another day I took it upon myself to wash my clothes.
I was staying in a guest house that had running water and so it was fairly easy to in fact wash my own clothes. I had even brought some twine from home and so managed to hang them to dry.
The Mamma’s (the wives of all the gathering pastors) giggled and ooh’d and aah’d over this clothes washing. But later in the day Daniel came to me with a sincere apology from them that they’d not washed my clothes.
I was struck. My first misstep of the trip was washing my own clothes. Here I thought I was doing a favour but instead I was heaping shame and embarrassment. I made sure not to make that same mistake again. Rather, from there on I dutifully handed over my dirty laundry to Mamma.
Coming on the inside is an exercise in humility and requires great ease with one’s self. It requires trust in the human spirit and in the Lord’s direction and provision found through others.
In Luke 10 Jesus sends out the seventy-two and instructs them to enter towns, to stay with those who will keep them, to eat what they are fed, and to leave their peace to those who can receive it.
Right from the start of Capturing Courage’s international launch this has been the conviction of how we do what we are called to do. We do not enter a town and set up camp and say, “here we are come and see the great stuff we have for you” rather we come to visit and minister from the inside out.
Before ministering, before blessing, before encouraging, before healing, before wisdom, before prophecy, before praying, before anything, we arrive tired and in need of some basic care.
“Where is the toilet?”
And once some food is prepared we simply receive the hospitality afforded with due thanks. We shake many hands who have arrived to welcome. We sit and receive the stares of many who are intrigued and so delighted we are there. We smile our own greeting time and again.
We might then ask, “May I please lay down and sleep a bit?”
And everywhere we go, each place visited it is the same. Sit where I am sat, eat what I am given, smile and shake hands and affirm that ‘yes indeed!’ my own excitement of being there does match their own. We are on common ground and in good company together.
I am observed tired and hungry. I am walked to the toilets and given showers. I am cared for and fed. All before I ever open my mouth to share anything I might have from the Lord. First things first after all.
And then, by the time I am standing in front as the welcomed minister they’ve already seen that I am simply human like them. They’ve seen that I am as dependant on them as they might be on what I am about to speak.
The preaching and the praying, the wisdom and the prophetic words, are simply one small portion of the work as I travel. Perhaps 20%. The other part is in fact the coming on the inside.
It is the travelling as they travel, bouncing along in the back of trucks over rutted rattle-your-teeth-loose roads. It is sleeping at the train station just as many others are doing. It is being packed onto a motorbike with a couple others to get the last distance to our destination. It is making my butt fit into the eight-inch space left for me in the back of the bus (minivan packed with 20 people).
And what amazes me is how prepared I am for all this and how much I absolutely love it. The fellowship and camaraderie found on the inside is like nothing I can adequately describe. In this the Lord ministers to me profoundly. My own heart that has experienced so much loss and dysfunction relishes in these simple interactions that – thank God – are saved from pretence.
And I think this is what must mark any of our work and callings. Where are we simply glad to be on the inside? Where does our love extend past the inconveniences and difficulties?
You know, the Lord said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Where might that be for you?
For myself it has taken many years to get here. Primarily because it took this many years to eliminate the self-doubt, the lies I had believed, and the disqualifications that I held between myself and this work.
I still pinch myself at the amazing privilege and gift of this work.
Where might this be for you? What work are you called to that once you enter into it isn’t even work but rather a saving of self and deep fellowship and ministry to others?
But I suspect these are the wrong questions. For until we get there we cannot recognize this place. Rather, I will ask these questions:
What is the biggest disqualification that you are holding between yourself and what the Lord might call you to?
What are the deepest failures and regrets of your life? Where is your loss the most profound?
To what have you had the most sympathy, to whom are you drawn to help? Where do you keep tripping over yourself in your eagerness to assist? Where have you been most rejected in your attempts to help?
The answer to these questions is the same answer to those other questions.
Begin systematically and boldly removing the lies and the disqualifications that you so gladly hold up for all to see.
Put them down and begin the process of entering into work made just for you.
I am thoroughly enjoying the cool air of home. Today is overcast and rainy, chilly to the bone… I love it! The only thing I have trouble with in Africa is the heat. And during this past trip I bordered on serious heat and sun exhaustion a number of times. Note to self: when I go to India (cause I believe it is even hotter there), take an umbrella.
It was strange sitting in Heathrow Airport halfway home clueing into the Christmas decorations present, “Oh yeah… Christmas…” It was strange to read a comment on Facebook about Halloween and have my brain slowly trying to make sense of it, “Oh yeah… halloween… that happened while I was gone…”
Ever since I’ve begun international ministry I am pretty much out of sync with seasons, time of year, and generally where I am in the calendar year. It’s like perpetually living in another time zone.
Little things like rain don’t bother me whatsoever anymore. What are a few little drops? I’ve been to Africa and back by myself! What once made sense, doesn’t. What seemed so important, isn’t.
There is a freedom to life now that I never used to have. A strength and resilience that can only be found when we place ourselves in situations where things must come together, or fail miserably.
The day a few years back when I shaved my head for a friend was a profound moment. I’ve never been the same. There is something about radical movements of heart and soul and body that deeply change us from the inside out. Literally, nothing has been scary after shaving my head.
I’ve been home from Mozambique now for nearly a week and rambling away, but bottom line, I too am still asking myself, “Who do I want to be in this life?”
The answer to this, we go after that. Such query is a lifetime worth of work and it just keeps getting better the older we get. This I know.
What are you going after? What edges are you taking yourself to? What kind of person do you want to be in this life?
What radical movements of heart and soul and body might you make in the near future?
Bitter root judgments are nasty business. The thing is, we’ve all had them.
A bitter-root judgment is recognized by the decisions we have made about how life works. Its the determinations about people and places and things.
The problem with bitter-root judgments is that they are not conclusively true. We may have recognized a certain truth but then, in our judgment, blew it up out of proportion and have often assigned the same judgment to multiple people and situations.
And what we expect, that is what we get.
What we focus on, grows.