Friday, April 29, 2011

What's that on your head? (and INS week 5 link-up)

Today I'm seeing my kids off to school, packing my suitcase, and heading to Atlanta to speak at First Baptist on Saturday.  It's a mother-daughter luncheon with a garden party theme.  I wish I could take my own daughter, Alaina - the one you "met" in chapter 10 this week if you are reading along with Melissa.  But she has a talent show Friday night at her school and a soccer game on Saturday morning.

The attire for this luncheon is "southern garden party with hats welcomed." So you know I had to find a proper Southern hat to wear with my dress.  And I found one, at T.J. Maxx.  I put it on tonight with my dress and modeled it for Alaina.  She exclaimed, "I love that hat!"   Then I went upstairs and found Rick.  His eyes got really big.  Clearly he was surprised but I couldn't tell if it was a good surprised or a bad surprised.

"So whaddya think?"

"Wow ... wow ..."

"Wow, what??"

"Wow ... that's a hat."

That was all he would say.  I'm not sure how to take that. If I manage to get a picture of me this weekend in the hat, I'll post it and you can tell me if it's fashion fabulous or fashion faux pas.

My friend Brenda from church wants to see a picture of it too.  If I don't get a picture, maybe I'll wear the outfit with the hat to church Sunday for her ... and see if Rick walks 5 steps behind me or not.

If you blogged this week about the chapters in It's No Secret, feel free to link up below.  And if you have any idea how to travel on a plane with a hat, without a hat box, without crushing it and without wearing it, do let me know!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Taking a Load Off

We're entering the home stretch of the online study of It's No Secret. And I feel like I've been a little rough on you these past few weeks ... getting into your business about giving and forgiving, pointing out how you drive people crazy with your perfectionistic expectations, and encouraging you to sell out to God. 

I'll admit, I've been challenging you in this book. If it helps, I'm preaching to myself in these pages too. At least this week gets a little easier. This week you get to REST. I know what many of you are thinking, "Oh but rest is hard for me. That's not my natural bent - I'm a doer. I've got a full schedule. And time is money." 

Yes, I know. We're all a little brain-washed by the cult of speed and efficiency. But we can only serve one master. OK, so I'm starting to get rough on you again - I realize that.  But as Carl Honroroe writes in In Praise of Slowness, "Some things cannot and should not be sped up. They take time; they need slowness. When you accelerate things that should not be accelerated, when you forget how to slow down, there is a price to pay."

In chapter 9 of It's No Secret I talked about taking "Sabbath style" rests. You will notice I didn't lay out any prescriptions for this. I didn't say what day this has to be, or that it has to be a full day. I didn't say you cannot cook, or do laundry, or watch football. I didn't say you can't go sailing or bowling. I didn't say you have to spend the day reading your Bible. I didn't say you can't invite company over for dinner.

It's a mindset thing more than a list of actions thing.

In my mind's eye, Sabbath is a hammock. It beckons me to take a load off and rest awhile. To give up worry, and linger in the breeze ... careless ... trusting God and enjoying life. To lay aside my drive, kick back and read something enjoyable. To sip something refreshing. To study the dandelions and watch the clouds while I dream. To take naps. To eat something particularly yummy or especially healthy. To snuggle up and enjoy my family. To remember grace. To reorient to what is truly essential. And, most importantly, to thank God for it all.

Mindfulness of God, thankfulness, prayerfulness, and restful renewal - that's how I define a Sabbath rest.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's in your pink tool box?

End of last week we were reading together in chapter 8 of It's No Secret - "Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends."  I said that it was a revelation to me to realize that God hardwired us to need each other.

As a "good American," I always figured I was to pull myself up by my boot straps and become self-sufficient.  And as a good Southern belle, I thought I was to become a Steel Magnoilia. Strong and self-reliant - only looking delicate. Turns out, I'm really a redwood - which makes sense if you read the chapter. 

The other peice to that revelation was that God gifted us to help one another. I don't have all the tools in my pink tool box - you have some that I don't have. So I'm going to need you to use those on my behalf.  And I'm going to need to use my tools for your sake, on your behalf.

I recently came across an interview with Anita Renfroe, offering some terrific advice on stepping out in your gifting.  HERE's the article link and HERE is the video link to watch it.

There's good wisdom there. Don't you love Anita?  I'm so glad God dropped that huge hammer of humor in her box for our enjoyment. Here's one of Anita's best songs, just in time for Mother's Day approaching.

Friday, April 22, 2011

INS week 4 link-up

It's crazy the things that go through the mind of a perfectionist.

Things like equating one small mistake with complete failure. Things like if one little part is less than "just right," the whole thing is totally ruined. Things like every house on the block is tidy and clean but mine. Things like I'd have to be so much better before I could attempt to do that. Things like, "I can't ask her for help."

Aren't you thankful God doesn't treat us as completely ruined and useless when we make a small mistake or when we commit a massive sin? His mercy is new every morning - thank God for the daily sunrise! His grace and help abound.

I am thinking of trying a new venture. I'm nervous about it.  I don't know if I'll be any good at it.  But I told my friend about it recently and sought her help.  Days later she drove in from out of town and handed me some help. I don't know if I could do this thing without her - maybe I could, maybe I couldn't, maybe I just wouldn't. But I realize I don't want to. I still don't know if it will turn out well, but I'm embracing the process and thankful  for the support of friends who have walked this path before me.

If my new venture flops, I will have learned that old dogs can try new tricks and that I have some terrific friends that are willing to step in when I ask for help.  That's invaluable. That's worth the price of admission.  That's worth the risk of failure.

So as this week's study draws to a close, I want to remind us of what is essential in life (love, grace and relationships) and what is not (a 20” waist, snow-white teeth, or following all the advice in Real Simple magazine). What non-essentials tend to dominate your focus?  It's important to recognize what has the power to distract you from relationships and grace-based living.

I'm looking forward to reading what you all posted this week from the chapters "Adjust Your Scale" or "Get by With a Little Help from Your Friends."  Link up and I'll stop by. 

Have a glorious Easter, my Yahweh Sisters!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kick Perfectionism to the Curb

So after this week's post I trust you see how counterproductive perfectionism is. It is not our friend! It works us like a slave. Or else, paralyzes us from accomplishing anything for fear of not performing perfectly. It saps our joy, sidelines us from opportunities, and erodes our relationships.

Are you are ready to kick it to the curb?

Great! – but you’re probably gonna need Jesus in order to do that.

These are deep-seated tendencies. Knee-jerk ways of thinking. Auto-pilot ways of reacting. They will take time, effort and some supernatural help to overcome. But I assure you it can be done. Nothing is impossible with God.

No, that doesn’t mean that if you have God you can work full-time as the top employee, raise 3 well-mannered & high-achieving kids, keep a beautiful large home, cook regularly, serve as PTA vice-president, teach Sunday school, make your own hand-stamped cards, volunteer at the soup kitchen, plant annuals every spring, stick to a vegan diet plan, read a book a week, keep your nail polish from chipping, never forget a friend’s birthday, and run marathons. It means that with God you have all you need for life and godliness – including the ability to overcome the tyranny of perfectionism. (see 2 Peter 1:3)

We have to come back to the sobering truth we started with in chapter 7 of It's No Secret. And that is that “life and godliness” is not about stain-free carpets, blemish-free faces, chip-free nail polish and typo-free reports. It’s about giving and receiving grace and love. It’s the character of our heart, not the surface level issues we’re stressing over. We have to reprogram with this truth.

With all that said, I promised you some practical strategies for overcoming perfectionism. Here are 7 things you can do to kick perfectionistic impluses to the curb:

1) Set small, realistic, reachable goals based on what you have accomplished in the past. This will enable you to rein in unrealistic expectations and experience the satisfaction of achievement. As you reach a reasonable goal, set your next goal one step beyond your present level of accomplishment.

2) Learn to prioritize. Decide which tasks you want to give high priority to and which are are less important to you. On less important tasks, purposely put forth less effort in favor of increased rest and emotional stability.

3) Focus on the process of doing an activity, not just the end result. Evaluate your success not only in terms of what you accomplished but also in terms of how you accomplished it. Did you remain calm and loving? Did you find any joy in the process? Do you have any regrets about how you did that?

4) Use feelings of anxiety or depression as reminders to ask yourself: “Have I set impossible expectations for myself in this situation?” “Am I giving in to fear?” “Have I lost sight of what’s essential in God’s eyes?

5) Confront the fears that may be behind your perfectionism by asking, “What am I afraid of?” “What is the worst thing that could happen?”  "What does the Bible say?”

6) Recall a recent mistake you made and list several things you can learn from it. Mistakes are powerful learning tools. Most growth and success involves learning thru mistakes.

7) Pray daily, giving your stresses and to-do list to Christ to oversee. Meditate on verses like 2 Peter 1:3, Psalm 18:30-32, Ecclesiastes 7:16-18, and 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Have a great weekend with your friends & family. And don’t sweat the small stuff!
Happy Easter my Yahweh Sisters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are you performance-based?

We'll be talking here about perfectionism this week - corresponding with chapter 7 of the book we're studying together. You may not think you are very perfectionistic, or very performance-based, but stay with me this week and I think you might be surprised what you find.

Today I’m going to lay out two ways our perfectionist attitudes start frustrating cycles in motion.

The Stress Cycle:

First, perfectionists set unreachable goals based on unrealistic expectations. Second, naturally, they fail to meet those often well-out-of-reach goals. Third, they become stressed, anxious and self-critical over their failure. Finally, rather than realizing the true problem – unrealistic expectations – they demand a more perfect performance next time, or else avoid the pursuit entirely.

And that’s why procrastination isn’t always tied to laziness as people assume. Often it’s tied to perfectionism. If you can’t do it “right” – or don’t have time to, or don’t have the time to do all of it right now – then you just don’t do it. Which, of course, leads to more stress and self-condemnation.

Another issue may be feeling that it is already ruined so why bother. We perfectionists have lots of quirks based on our notions of what is a “perfect state.” Like, what do we do with clothes that have been worn once, and are not soiled but are not “perfectly clean” anymore either. We can’t hang them back in the closet with the perfectly clean clothes (that will contaminate the clean ones!). Or if the carpet has stains that won’t come out, why bother taking care of it now and vacuuming it often because it’s already ruined. So we abandon it’s care, lament it and hate it. Some of us have done this with our bodies/figures. All of this is stress-producing!

The Relationship Cycle:

Sometimes without even realizing it, perfectionists can apply their unrealistically high standards to others, becoming critical, demanding and difficult to please. Those who live or work with perfectionists regularly feel they can never do right, never quite measure up. The perfectionist’s frequent lack of grace, or unwillingness to cut any slack to themselves or others, damages their relationships.

Children often take on their parent’s perfectionist thinking – causing the stressful, self-defeating cycle to perpetuate through generations. Meanwhile, co-workers, spouses or friends may simply “check-out” of the relationship as much as possible after growing tired of trying, or of being fussed at.

Because perfectionists often lash out at others - in their stress, frustration and unrealistic desire for everything to be just so - they frequently wind up feeling guilty or bad about their relationships. But they get in the habit of controlling and criticizing, of nagging and nitpicking, and can’t seem to stop themselves. Their desire for perfection wins out over their desire for love and peace and fun. When they look back on it, they usually regret that priority.

Furthermore, perfectionists avoid letting people see their mistakes, not realizing that self-disclosure allows others to perceive them as more human and thus more likeable. Because of this, perfectionists often have difficulty being close to people. Keeping people at arm’s length, they only let people in when they are confident they can control the situation and the other person’s perceptions of them. This results in unsatisfying relationships – which only confirms in the perfectionist’s mind their lack of value or their need to strive harder. It’s a giant self-defeating cycle - a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Are you maybe more perfectionistic than you thought? Marybeth Whalen and a few of her kids are coming by the house today to visit us - I'm looking forward to seeing her. So I've got to scoot off of here (resist the urge to clean like crazy) and make the kids some brownies. But later this week I'll post about what we can do about these cycles.
Meanwhile, think and pray through this post – realize what your perfectionism is really costing you. And realize the extreme gift that GRACE is. Let's aim to be grace-based today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

INS week 3 round-up

Oh my gracious, what a week I had. I spoke out of town last weekend, came home Sunday and by Monday I wasn't feeling well. By Tuesday I could hardly get out of bed and it was evident why - stomach flu. And on Wednesday, I had to drive a few hours to speak at another church Wednesday night.

I wasn't sure if I could make a long drive up a highway with no exits and no bathrooms near by. I wasn't sure if I could make it through a 45 minute talk. Not being able to keep much food or water in me, I was weak and light headed. And I knew that if I was going to stand and deliver a coherent message well Wednesday evening, it would be by the grace of God.

I had to battle fear as well as the flu.

The way things unfolded once I got to the church - I wasn't late, there were just some technical issues and snags to take care of behind the scenes in the sound booth that took a looong time to solve - it was basically as if I walked from my car to the front pew just as the worship leader took the stage for the opening song. I had no time to get my bearings - I didn't even know where the steps to the stage where. It was being videoed - I didn't know where the cameras were. As the music began, I turned to my friend Amy Carroll who had come with me and said, "Could I feel any more scattered right now?"

Everyone stood to worship, I stood a minute, then dropped into my seat and prayed - desperate for strength and assurance and anointing. The music ended, I took the stage and Jesus showed up and called me to Him on the water. At least that's what it felt like to me.  To the audience I'm sure it just looked like a typical Wednesday evening at church. But I knew that Jesus had carried me through more so than usual.

So that was my small storm on the lake this week.  Are you reading It's No Secret along with us?  We've just completed chapter 6, "Don't Be Afraid in the Dark." And we've learned that when Jesus doesn't calm the storm right away, it's usually because He has something for us to see first (pg 126). 

In my case this week, I'd gotten an invitation to speak at a big church on a difficult topic and I wasn't so sure I could do it.  I was ... fearful. My focus was on the magnitude of the event and my own limited abilities, rather than on God. Then along came a stomach bug and Wednesday night's event, and God showed me that He can carry me through any event - that I'm never alone and I'm never dependent solely on my abilities.

Did this week's chapters stir up anything in you? Did you blog about it?  If so link up here and I'll come read your posts. Oh, and be sure to stop by Melissa's blog to comment there and maybe win a prize!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On the Road Again

A couple weeks ago I came across a powerful article on living generously. I thought those of you stuyding It's No Secret with us might want to read it.

I'm hitting the road today to speak at Grey Stone church in Durham, NC tonight.  Then I'll spend the night with my friend Amy Carroll who lives nearby - looking forward to some girlfriend time!

Hope you have a great day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Blessed to Give

We're reading chapter 5 in It's No Secret this week and talking about giving. Is giving something that comes hard or easy for you? It doesn't come natural to me, but I do recall a few early times I wanted to give...

A strong early memory I have of wanting to give someone a gift dates back to elementary school. I wanted to give my dad a Father’s Day present – an actual gift, not just a picture I’d colored for him. Only I had no way to go buy a present. So I rooted around in the back of his closet and found an old, probably out-of-style tie that I had never seen him wear. I wrapped it up and presented it to him. Dad played along, pretending he didn’t recognize it. He smiled, hugged and thanked me.

I beamed over his apparent pleasure as I got my first taste that it is more blessed to give than receive. Up until that early point in my life, I'd only really received.

I also recall the first time I gave to a stranger. With my newly minted driver’s license in my jeans pocket, I headed to the mall with a friend. At a stop light I noticed a man outside with a sign that read: “Will work for food.” I’d never seen anything like this.

I continued on to the mall but couldn’t get him out of my mind. As I turned my two-seater around, my friend questioned, “Where are you going?” “To buy that guy back there some food,” I said. I certainly had no work to offer him.

We went through the Hardees’ drive-thru and I used the paycheck from my part-time job to buy a value meal. I couldn’t fully read it, but I’ll never forget the look on his face when I pulled up to the intersection, held out the bag and said, “Here you go.” He paused for a few seconds, with that look, then accepted it and kindly said, “Thank you very much.”

Years later I realize this could well have been a scam. Some who beg are not destitute or honest. Some don’t intend to work for food at all. At the time though, that never occurred to me. And something good was cemented in my heart that day as I experienced what it felt like to help a stranger in need. So I care not if he was for real, because I learned a very real lesson about blessing others from him.

I learned the act of giving blesses me as well.

Can I challenge you to keep your eyes out this week for someone you can give to?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding HAPPY

After speaking out of town this past weekend  - and nearly 6 hours worth of flight delays yesterday - I woke up this morning wanting to do two things and only two things:

1) mop my kitchen floor
2) make a simmer-all-day marinara sauce from scratch

Now, both things are very "me." I'm slightly obsessive about the cleanliness of my kitchen floor. The rest of the house?  Well, let's just say notsomuch.  But my kitchen floor has to be clean or all is not right in my world.

I also like to cook. I haven't always liked to cook. I've grown into it.  Or I'm growing into it - I think I still have a way to go. (Actually, I made the decision to grow into it more than I just organically grew into it.) I am still not, however, the type who wants to spend her entire day making one meal.  Until this morning. This morning, it was all I cared about.

I should have known that strong urge to cook and nest was the beginning of a tidal wave of estrogen that would hit me full force by lunch time. By lunch time I couldn't remember anything, including why I wanted to cry.  You had those days? Please tell me you do. It's annoying!  And exhausting.

I did mop the floor but I couldn't make the marinara because I had an article due this morning and a meeting with my co-author to prep for this afternoon.  Oh, and my taxes to finish - that's probably what made me want to cry.

I didn't get home from my afternoon meeting until 5:00.  Not enough time for homemade marinara.  But still I just wanted to turn on music and cook.  So that's what I did.

I sauteed an onion in olive oil.  Then added some garlic. Then added some chicken breast, browning both sides. Then I transferred all of that to a 9 x 13 baking dish.  I deglazed the pan with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar.  I brought it to a boil and then simmered it awhile.  Adding half a jar of sun dried tomatoes at the end before pouring it over the chicken and onions.  I covered with foil and baked at 350 for 20 minutes.

I loved it.  Rick really loved it. Caleb tolerated it well enough.  And my pickiest eater, Alaina, loved the chicken - even had seconds (although she didn't eat much of the onions or tomatoes).  The extra sauce with the balsamic and veggies made for terrific dipping or bruchetta topping on the sour dough bread I served with it. Plus, a side salad with a few of the spinach leaves I grew on my window sill.

Finally, I am a happy woman today. (Though there could still be a 20% chance of irrational tears.)

Today really wasn't about the eating so much as about the cooking.  I just needed to chop and saute, combine and stir, and then taste the results.

It pays to know what will reliably make you feel happy. And to be able to make that happen. And if you can't make what will make you happy happen, it pays to learn to be made happy with what you can make happen.

I hope that makes sense.

Friday, April 8, 2011

INS week 2 round-up

I'm on the road today - well, actually on a plane - to speak at a women's conference this weekend.  But tonight I'll return to my hotel room, put on my jeans, fix some tea and log on to read your comments & posts.

This was a challenging week of chapters.  It's hard to swallow our pride, or lay down our rights, or relinquish our desire to fight back when insulted. It's stinkin' hard! I haven't always done it. But I've found that when I do go to Christ for my comfort and strength, and trust Him with the situation, I feel empowered.  Empowered even though I'm not fighting back. It's a paradoxical, priceless feeling.

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

So what have we learned this week? Stop competing for a share of "the good life." Stop trying to create a name and life for yourself - then you'll find the life He creates for you. That life is going to include humility and service.  It's not always an easy life, but it's a good life under the banner of His name. Besides, let's be honest - it was never easy trying to create life for ourselves on our own, asking God to bless it.

I have a note card taped up by my desk. On it I wrote this note-to-self: "The secret of true gospel change is being convinced that Jesus is the good life and the source of my joy." It's when I lose sight of that that I start comparing, competing and selling out to things not worth selling out to.

Maybe you'll want to write that down too, and put it somewhere you'll see it regularly.

So, got an INS related blog post you want to share?  I'd love to read it.

And if you haven't read Melissa Taylor's last post - it's worth the read.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!

I'm hearing some great feedback on the It's No Secret study. That encourages me. Many have commented about how challenging (in a good way) it is. I guess I should have warned you that I teach college ... so I write challenging study questions!

A Yahweh Sister reading with us wrote to ask about one of the study questions on page 95: "At what point are you free to retaliate?" She wanted to know, "Are we ever free to retaliate or can we hold the one we forgive accountable if he in turn chooses not to forgive?"  

Girls, this is tough stuff!  It seems so simple - be humble, be kind, trust God.  It's seems like no-brainer Christianity.  But it's really challenging stuff to apply.

I think someone could casually read through this book - skipping the study questions - and enjoy it for it's stories and girlfriendy style.  It can be a quick, easy read. And they might conclude, "That was a nice overview of basic Christian principals."

Oh, but I believe it's so much more than a simple overview - I think the stuff in these chapters is where the rubber meets the road in our journey to become like Christ. It has been in my life. I can memorize the order of the books of the Bible.  I can debate with you who wrote the book of Hebrews and whether or not Song of Solomon is a literal or allegorical story.  But what really matters is how I love God and love others.

And how I handle my pride and ego.

So back to her question.  The answer is at no point are we free to retaliate according to God's Word.  But there's a difference between confronting in love and retaliating.  There is a difference between holding someone accountable for their actions and retaliating against them. The challenge is to check your motives and make sure your "holding accountable" isn't really retaliation in disguise.

Retaliation is driven by the desire to hurt someone back. To get revenge, or get "even" as we call it. It's the, "I'll get you my, little pretty, and your little dog too!" sentiment. That is different than confronting someone in love about their sin with the hopes of restoring them.  Or, letting someone know that they've hurt you repeatedly, and you've forgiven them, but you feel the need to distance yourself some in this relationship but will continue to pray for them.

Make sense?

In the movies we see some guy cheating on his girl repeatedly while telling her she's the only one he is dating. We get mad for her. We want him to be punished. Finally, she finds out about it and goes to the other girl's house. Finding his car out front when he is supposedly at work, she slashes all four tires. And we stop eating popcorn long enough to cheer for her. Yeah, that serves him right!  He had that coming.  That'll teach him!  I know, I cheer too.

It makes for a satisfying plot line - or a hit song for Carrie Underwood - but really,  it's no example we should follow. We're to choose door #3, take it to Christ, and leave the "teaching" to Him. Oh, and resolve to pick a better boyfriend next time.  (wink)

We do not have to be doormats, but we do have to be righteous in all our dealings - even when we feel hurt. Not easy. Clear, but not simple. It takes restraint. This doesn't make us weak, but strong. And it makes Christ - our defender - pleased.

To read more on the topic of overlooking offsenses and little interpersonal slights, check out this post.

Tomorrow I'll put another link-up here so if you've written an INS blog post you can share it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Your Secret to Greatness

Did you read chapter 3 yet?

Ever noticed how upset people get when someone cuts in line? In elementary school, it was a great offense! Watch a driver’s reaction when someone cuts them off in traffic, and you’ll realize things haven’t changed much since school. We don’t like people getting ahead of us.

Jesus knew this. He talked to His disciples about it in his last few days before His crucifixion.

In Mark 8, Jesus predicts His death for the first time. Then He calls His disciples to His side and says: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it” (vs. 34-35, NLT).

Soon after, on the road to Capernaum, Jesus told them again of his coming death, but they didn’t understand. They began talking among themselves as they followed behind Jesus. They were arguing about which of them would be at the front of the line in God’s kingdom.

Once they arrived, Jesus asked them, “"What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because they had argued about who was the greatest. Then Jesus sat down and called the Twelve to Him and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:33-35, NLT).

After leaving Capernaum, the group met a wealthy young man of status on the road - the one we read about in chapter 2. He asked Jesus what he could do to gain eternal life. After a short discussion, Jesus told him to sell his possessions and follow Him. However, the man did not wish to give up his elite life of comfort and power … even if it would lead to eternal life. And he walked away, depressed.

The disciples, while not nearly as wealthy to start with, had done what Jesus told this rich man to do. They had left everything to follow Christ. And Peter mentioned this to Jesus - we saw this in the last chapter, remember? So Jesus' reply will sound familiar - but read it thru though b/c I'm quoting here from Luke rather than Matthew and there's some extra parts I want you to see.

Jesus replied: “And I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then (Mark 10:29-31).

Soon after, on the road to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His death a third time. Then James and John told Jesus, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” My how we jockey for position. Jesus told them they didn’t understand what they were asking for and He added, “I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen” (Mark 10:40).

Wasn't that parable about the wedding feast seating powerful in chapter 3?

“When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:41-45, NLT).

Jesus was teaching them the essence of true greatness – serving others with a humble, God-centered heart. He was letting them – and us – know that greatness in His kingdom is not determined by status but by service. Let's marinate on that divine truth today.

Meanwhile, tell me, if you could have dinner with anyone famous dead or alive (except Jesus!), who would it be and why? You already know who I'd have meatloaf with.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ring

For those of you still waiting on your copy of It's No Secret to arrive - I'm so sorry! Be patient! I'm signing every copy P31 can get their hands on and they are sending them out. Yesterday I checked my local Barnes & Nobel and they were sold out. I asked the bookseller and she said the B&N warehouse was out and they were waiting for the publisher to make more. As of this morning, however, Amazon has some copies back in stock for you.

It's not too late to join us for this online study. You can order a copy and read the first part of the book here.

Last week I promised you I'd show you a certain ring.  You know the one. So I took a few pictures of it during my hot date with Rick at Carrabba's on Saturday night.

Please ignore my need for a manicure. I honestly can't remember the last time I had one. Sometime in 2010.

Rick took this one while I was reaching for the olive oil.  I reach for that a lot.


This shot shows a little of it's sparkle.

After cozying up at a table for two and both of us taking pictures of my ring, our waitress thought we were just engaged or just married. I did not tell her about the ring's, um, "true status." (our little secret.)

Want to see what I ate?  I thought you might.  It's almost as pretty as the ring. Salad and Chicken Parm.

We also had bruchetta, but I ate that so fast no one had time to snap of photo of it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

INS week 1 link-up

“There is a price to godliness and godliness is never on sale. It never comes cheaply or easily.”
~Jerry Bridges in The Practice of Godliness

By now you've completed chapters 1 and 2 of It's No Secret in this online study. And I'm loving hearing what God has taught you through it so far. Don't miss Melissa's video comments on it today - isn't she fun?!

The teaching and study questions within these two chapters are quite possibly my favorites in the whole book. Here's why - they reliably stir up my soul. They generate a holy revolution within me. They focus me on what is truly important and motivate me to live a little higher, a little more zealously for Christ than I tend to - and there's something satisfying about that.

A couple years ago I was staying in a friend's vacation home.  The TV in the home got very few channels clearly.  On the clearest channel was a marathon of the reality show Whale Wars.  I watched one episode, and thought these people were plum crazy! Then I watched a second episode and thought them irresponsible. Then I watched a third, and I was hooked.

After returning home from vacation I continued watching Whale Wars, and I wasn't even sure why. I have very little in common with these people who volunteer their time and even risk their lives to go into the Arctic ocean for months at a time to try to stop Japanese fishermen from harpooning whales.

I like whales but I'm just not going to do that. I like boating too, but not in a frigid sea with a hole smashed in my hull and fishermen throwing bolts at me!

It's not the kind of show I would normally watch. They have to "beep out" words in every episode. I don't even agree with all the tactics they use in their attempts to stop the fishermen. I'm not sure who is in the right and who is in the wrong here, legally or otherwise. Yet I was captivated.

It took me weeks of watching to figure out why I was so drawn to these "Sea Shepherds" as they call themselves. I finally realized it's because they have totally committed to what is important to them. They don't just talk about it - they actually live sold out for it.  You don't see that a lot these days.

Sure, people sell out for money, power or fame, but that's not the same thing. And I'm convinced that when we stand before God, we'll clearly see none of that is worth the price.

Personally, I wish these Sea Shepherds were as committed to Jesus and saving men as they are to saving the whales. Nonetheless their willingness to abandon themselves to their cause inspires me. As does the woman, risking ridicule, pouring the pricey perfume on Jesus' head in our study.

I wonder, could you feel your soul stirring as you read these chapters? Did something stand out to you?
Did God whisper something in your ear as you pondered and studied this week?

If you've blogged about something from this week's study, post the link here so we can all share in your discovery. It's a great way to learn from each other and get to know each other. Just enter your name and the URL of the specific post (not just your general blog address) below. I'll be stopping by everyone's blog this weekend.