What Would I Do For Love?

By AbbyA

What would I do for love?  My answer to that is Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him.  Matthew 16:24.  We learn what the Word means when it comes to life in our hearts.  I once was a downtown, boutique firm girl with aspirations of influence and notoriety.  I also was a newlywed.  Actually, I was a pregnant newlywed.  Married in May, pregnant in November.  Blue?  Is it blue?  What do you think, honey?  Is it blue?  Yes, I sat on the toilet in disbelief.  Disbelief turned into excitement.

But then, after a few days, I remembered my aspirations of influence and notoriety.  I became very sad and cried for days.  My poor husband didn’t know what to do to console me.  My mom sort of tsked me about the obvious consequences of not using birth control.  My dad, who had told me the month prior that I should wait five years to have kids, said he was very excited and took back his prior recommendation.

So, what happened in my heart to cause a 180 degree turn around?  I came across one of my favorite verses to date – – Matthew 16:24 – – Deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him.  This verse changed my sorrow to true happiness.  This life change wasn’t about me and my selfish aspirations.  While I could have chosen to be more responsible, wherever we are in our life’s timeline, it’s about following Him.  And, following the path He has set before us.

Yes, I know, God has to work around, with and through our free will choices and obvious humanness.  He has to revise His blueprint and connect the dots for us as we trash and trample the good and perfect plan He has for us.  Yes, stuff like materialism and achievement are strong magnets for the flesh – – even when we are in the midst of ministry.  But, if we are in constant check with the Holy Spirit, our little curves toward self-ambition, hedonism and the like can be straightened out long before actually turning our back on Him.

As JMathis, Bindu and I set out to serve God and our readers through this blog, it would be silly not to acknowledge our humanness . . . affinity towards sin and wipe-outs.  But, it also would be silly not to acknowledge that most of us have a dream set inside of us.  And, most of the time, it is not our day job.  May I remind us that it is God who created us and set that dream in our hearts.  And, isn’t it just the lie of Satan (that wretched, puny snake) to convince us that the dream in our hearts is somehow against His will for our lives?  As if life isn’t hard enough . . .

As we inch towards the end of our week on keeping the spirit connected . . . seek God for the dream in your heart.  We can’t possibly attain it in our own strength, but we also can’t achieve it without using all of the strength God has given us.  Ah, the balance . . . If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5.

Fall in Love Today!

Go to fullsize imageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

“For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:41b

As I read JMathis’s post yesterday, this was the scripture that came to mind. When I read her post, I, too, begin to feel the strong stirrings of conviction. I’ll be the first to confess, that, I, too, have had many dreams of grandeur in terms of my writing ambitions. Yes, I do want to encourage women through my writing. Yes, I do want to inspire them to pursue their passions while also serving God. But secretly, I do confess that I’ve imagined doing all of this from my beautifully furnished home office…the one I spend my days in since resigning from my corporate day job. It has a beautiful view, this office…ocean view on one side…mountain view on the other…modern espresso colored desk and bookcase…a cozy velvet couch, perfect for sipping hot tea from porcelain teacups while trying to battle those pesky writer’s blocks! Oh, wait, I didn’t mention God anywhere, did I? Hmmm…well, it is for His glory anyway, riiiiight?

Yes, JMathis is right…sometimes our dreams take little detours that have nothing to do with our original goal of serving and honoring God.  I want to want what God wants for my life…really, I do! But somewhere in there, very quickly, materialism and hedonism quickly creep in and push God out of the way until there is no room for Him.  Sometimes, to be quite honest, both my spirit and my body are weak. So then what?

Pray. Pray for that desire to want God. Pray for that desire to want to please Him.

Lest we forget, it is the first commandment. All of us know the Thou shall not steal…Thou shall not kill…But how many of us know what Jesus described as the first and greatest commandment?

“Jesus replied. ‘And you shall love the Lord, your God, with all of your Heart, Soul, and Mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’”  Matthew 22:37-38

And ironically, it is often the first one we forget.  Of course, most of us would say, yes, we love God…but can we say we loooooooooooove God? That we are in love with God? Jesus didn’t say just love God with your heart. He said to love him with your heart, soul, and mind. Basically we are told to love Him with every fiber of every aspect of our physical, spiritual, and emotional selves.

Why? Because He said so? Maybe… He is God…He makes the rules…But I think of it this way…remember the early stages of being in love with your significant other…Remember how you thought of them always? How you considered their feelings, sometimes before your own? What you wouldn’t do for them because you were in love with them?

Those of you with kids can think about them…yes, unconditional love at its human finest! What wouldn’t anyone of us do for our children? Sure, they’re helpless and unable to do for themselves, especially when they’re babies. But that’s not what goes through our minds when we look at them or when they cry. Love. Love gets us up in the middle of the night when they’re sick. Love keeps us up at night when they missed curfew. Love keeps us loving them even when they don’t act loving towards us.

Love is a powerful motivator. Imagine what YOU would do for God…not because you had to…not because you were told to…but because you wanted to…because you loved with God with all of your Heart. Soul. And Mind.

Jesus knew the power of love. After all, it was love that motivated Him to come to earth. It was love that caused Him to give up His life so we, too, could have Life. Not just life…but Eternal Life.

So my challenge for you today…tomorrow…and always is to love God. With every fiber of your being. Heart. Mind. Soul.

And let’s see what YOU will do for love…

Stripping Down to Nothing

By JMathis

Forget who you want to be.” –AbbyA

I must admit that I am having great difficulty with internalizing these words.

From as far back as I can remember, I have been fueled by crazy, maddening ambitions for myself. Ambitions about career, fame and ministry have always been at the forefront of my mind, and unfortunately, my brain just won’t allow me to forget who I want to be.

I suppose I could euphemistically spin and characterize myself in a positive light–that God has blessed me to be a driven and forward-thinking individual. Indeed He has, but as far as I can tell, this would still be a disingenuous lie. After all, my desires for the future often have very little to do with God and His plans.

In fact, the hard questions that I have been asking lately involve whether the desires of my heart are even truly aligned with the will of God and His very best for my life. How do I really know that I am not using my God-given talents just to push another one of my personal agendas?

While I love the Lord deeply, the more I engage in self-analysis, the more I realize that most of my pursuits have everything to do with my quest for personal greatness—even those very pursuits that I am supposedly doing in God’s name—pursuits such as church-building, helping the homeless, writing this blog.

This desire for personal greatness, this deep-seated need to be recognized and applauded, stem from my sins addressed in I John 2:16: For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

This verse makes me remorseful and sad. Sad that I have consistently taken credit for God’s work in me. Sad that I have attributed to myself all of the successes, gifts and abilities that He has given and revealed to me over the years. Sad that I haven’t truly given back to my Creator.

Sad that there is still so much left of me.

In this 31-Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, I am looking to strip away the things that are not of my Father. To strip away my desire for the accolades and successes of this world. To strip away my need for material things and worldly adventures. To strip away my compulsion to be better, to be more, to be GREAT.

To strip myself of me.

How do I go about doing that in just 31 days? This very pride that took a lifetime to build? How do you just strip all that away in just one month?

As in strip-poker, where you have to begin somewhere (a toe-ring, a hair clip, a watch), here is a start. A start towards a real future. Will you start this journey with me?

1)      Practice repentance: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

2)      Practice contentment: “…be content with what you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

3)      Practice patience: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

4)      Practice humility: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice repentance, contentment, patience and humility. Over and over until you are stripped.

Strip away everything that pertains to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Make it a daily exercise to strip yourself of you.

Practice forgetting who you want to be.

It is then you will find Him, so that you can finally hear what He wants you to be.

Have You Taken God’s Job Lately?

By AbbyA

Flashback to 1999.  I am a twenty-two year old first year law student.  If you know anything about becoming a noteworthy law student, you will be a member of a “law review.”  Yes, you can be smart enough to be invited to be a member or you can go through the painstaking task of writing an exceptional article that just might be good enough to get you “written” into the law review.  The latter is me.  Yes, the latter is me, because “good enough” and “perfect” are my middle names.

Flashback to 1988ish, 1993ish, or 1997ish.  It all looks about the same.  Living under the burden of achievement and perfectionism.  One can be fairly successful at achievement and perfectionism until failure hits you smack dab in the face.  And, then it’s time to look into the mirror.

Failure.  My hard work, dedication and brains failed me brutally that first semester of law school.  I didn’t shine, I wasn’t smart.  I was defeated, broken and tired.  My parents raised us to believe that we could do anything, be anything.  That we were equal to others no matter wealth, race, gender, education or religion.  At that time, I saw no equality; I judged myself of lesser value than my classmates.  And, without His permission, in the depths of these crashing waters, I determined that I must have failed Him as well.  I wasn’t sure where I would stand now that I was less than perfect.

In the late fall of 1998, I looked at myself in the mirror of my mom’s bathroom.  I had about 18 inches of notes, case law and articles in my arms – – ready to be reviewed for my write-on to the public interest law review.  I am not sure exactly how it happened.  The Spirit said something to me without words.  He gave me His permission.  My mom had a pretty big wicker garbage can right below me.  I dropped every last paper into the garbage can in one, single shot.  I walked out on perfectionism.  And, the law review too.

Law school was my defining moment.  Not academically, but spiritually.  God put me under circumstances that I could not bear; under pressure that I could not rise out of without Him.  This thread of perfectionism had grown longer and stronger in me over the years.  And while planning, organizing, working hard and achieving are all good qualities; they are minor and inconsequential in comparison to the good work God does in you.  For one, your greatest achievement is God saving you.  Once that rang clear in me, once I breathed in that my very, greatest work was something He did, I then started the journey in getting lost in Him.  Of sinking into His arms.  Of seeing His intervention in my life to make all things happen according to His plan.

A few months ago, I grabbed a book on sale called “The Relief of Imperfection,” by Joan C. Webb.  In some ways, it has taken me back to the garbage can in my mom’s bathroom.  I have the thrilling feeling of that moment tucked away in my spiritual memory.  And the years following, even until now, I have great love for my Savior who has shown up so faithfully for my good.  I recognize, to this day, that He can do all these things without my help.  I don’t need to be Him, I only need to be me.

This is from my heart.  If you are like me, you have a tendency to take God’s standard of excellence, and ring yourself out dry with perfectionism.  God can’t do much with you when you are a dried out rag.  It is your relationship with God that matters.  God “has no unrealistic expectations of you and me.  He just expects us to be the person He designed us to be.”  Joan C. Webb, The Relief of Imperfection.

I will leave you with my “forget” list.  I hope that you will add your own “forgets” to it and get on with your highly anticipated, highly imperfect life of you running the good race with Him as your partner.

Here is my forget list:

  • Forget the appearance of your imperfect marriage, family or kids.  That also means to accept where God has you.  Don’t drool over another’s life or isolate yourself because you think you are different.  You are part of God’s family.  That is enough.
  • Forget where you live and what that says about you.  That also means forget about your beat up car or your Mercedes-Benz – – whichever it is for you.  You have a home (and a ride) in heaven.  That is more than enough.
  • Forget who you want to be.  “. . . As God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk.” 1 Corinthians 7:2.  “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality.”  Deuteronomy 10:17.  There are no favorites; yet you are His favorite.  That is better than good and far exceeds enough.

Are You a Heckler…in Your Own Life?

View ImageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

Are you a negative person or a positive person? Do you look at the glass and see it half-empty or half-full? Until a few years ago, if you had asked me those two questions, I would have readily answered that yes, I am most definitely a positive person. After all, I’m always encouraging my friends. Yes, I’m that friend—the friend my friends call when they get discouraged or frustrated with life. The friend whom they can say anything and everything to without fear of being judged. The friend who will tell them that things WILL work out and actually sincerely believe it will.

Until one day I was talking to a friend about a particular tough situation I was going through and even after she encouraged me, I replied that “yeah, it’s probably never going to work out.” She seemed surprised by my negativity and shook her head and said, “I didn’t realize you were such a pessimist.” It was my turn to be surprised because I knew I wasn’t, and I immediately delved into a diatribe of how I wasn’t actually believing that it wouldn’t work out but explained how I only said that more as a way of protecting myself in case it didn’t. “You know, I just don’t want to be disappointed…just in case” I replied. She shook her head unconvincingly back at me. I know I sounded like a pessimist, but I knew I wasn’t so I tried to explain it further. “You know…hope for the best, but expect the worst.” She shook her head at me again. I wasn’t going to win this one, I realized and let it go.

But then a few hours later I caught myself with a string of negative thoughts. Nothing ever changes. Why do these things always happen to me? I have the worst luck.

And then later again, more negative thoughts. There’s no point in even trying. Man, life sucks. Why can’t I do anything right?

The funny part is I didn’t actually believe these things. At least not on a conscious level. But yet I still thought them. So what was that about? Just a momentary frustration? A blip? Or was it a reflection of what I truly did believe about myself or my life?

No…and then I realized what it was…I was just a heckler in my own life.

Hecklers…you typically hear them at events like comedy shows and sport events. You hear about them in the news when there’s a political press conference or speech.

Out of curiosity, I looked up the word to see the “official” definition, and the dictionary defined a heckler as a person who shouts a disparaging comment at a performance or event, or interrupts set-piece speeches, for example at a political meeting, with intent to disturb its performers or participants.

Interesting concept, isn’t it? That we can be hecklers in our own lives. But doesn’t that describe what we often do to ourselves in our every day lives? We taunt ourselves, telling ourselves like, “You’re an idiot!” “You can’t do anything right!”

Maybe that heckling is a result of past verbal abuse…or maybe it’s out of insecurity…or fear.  However it started, it is probably now more a habit than anything. It may seem innocent enough…after all, it’s only in your head.  But make no mistake…words do hurt. And you’re only hurting yourself.

Think about it. What are your fears? Speaking in front of a group?  What is it you would like to do that you wish you could do if you only had the guts? And when you actually think about doing that very thing, what thoughts go through your head?

Take some time today to listen to what you’re actually telling yourself on a daily basis. Because even if you don’t believe those words, you’re still listening to yourself and those words will eventually have an impact.

As much as we all love to get encouragement from other people, we often have to be our own cheerleader. And often, believing in yourself and believing in positive things about yourself is often the first barrier into achieving our dreams and enjoying our lives.

24 Hacks for Getting Out of Your Funk (with apologies to Michael Hyatt and Bon Jovi)

By JMathis

I have always wanted a life coach, but never really wanted to fork over the dough to invest in one. I think God may have heard my prayer, because somehow I stumbled upon Michael Hyatt’s blog, and immediately I found the mentor I have always yearned for in my life.

(Yes, it is a wee bit pathetic that my “mentoring lessons” are imparted to me through blog posts he writes to hundreds of thousands of people each day. But, he really is quite the motivator, so cut me some slack, people. I need to start somewhere.)

One particular blog post of his dealt with getting out of your “funk”. Yeah, you know…THE FUNK.

The Funk is that seemingly intractable rut we get into from time to time in our lives—ruts at work, ruts in our marriages, ruts in our spiritual lives—ruts that cause us to lose our motivation, focus and drive, so that it feels like we’re expending all this energy, but not making any headway whatsoever. A lot like jogging in place.

Here are Michael’s “24 Hacks for Getting out of Your Funk” and with my apologies to Michael, there is bonus commentary from yours truly: moi.

  1. Write a list of 10 things you are thankful for. Be specific.

I am thankful for: rainy days, SPANX, hot chocolate, my fellow Writer Femmes who inspire me daily, cookbooks, the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ, chick flicks, my crazy dog, the beach and Bon Jovi. Yes, Bon Jovi.

  1. Put on some upbeat, happy music. I like Keith Urban.

Hmmm…how can you keep frowning when you hear some of this??

Shot through the heart,
And you’re to blame
Darling, you give love
A ba-a-a-a-a-a-d name!!!

  1. Go for a walk—or a run.

Or, how about dancing to some Bon Jovi? With an air guitar and feathered bangs?? Okay, have I overdone the Bon Jovi bit? “Bueller?……. Bueller?…….Bueller?”

  1. Plan a vacation or, better yet, go on one!

This Saturday, think STAY-cation: Mimosas for breakfast, bike rides to nowhere, a dip in the pool, a two-hour nap, a luxurious bubble bath…and, drumroll, please

  1. Schedule an appointment with a counselor.

Does Dr. Phil count?

  1. Talk to a good friend who knows how to listen.

Preferably over an ice cream sundae.

  1. Have a good cry. It’s okay. It will cleanse your emotional system.

Note to self: buy the good Kleenex. With Aloe. Must.not.get.snot.everywhere.   

  1. Take control of that little voice in your head. “Change channels.”

Why is my channel always stuck on Nick, Jr.?

  1. Turn off the TV and the radio.

Hello? I’m already there! Didn’t anyone read my blog post on Monday?

  1. Read the Psalms.

My favorite Psalm? Psalms 139. It makes me weep when I think about how much God truly loves me. P.S. Don’t forget the Kleenex from #7.

  1. Do volunteer work with a local charity.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1: 27

  1. Organize your desk and/or your office.

Magic Words: TRASH CAN

  1. Take one “baby step action” for each of your top three projects.

Done. Writing this blog post counts for all three. Your turn.

  1. Take the afternoon off and take a nap.

YAWN…

Now, rinse and repeat.

  1. Get a massage or sit in a hot jacuzzi or tub.

Did I mention how much I LOVE this list?

  1. Change positions. If you are sitting, stand. If you are standing, sit.

Or, if you’re a couch potato, think about making a potato, not being one. Fully loaded with all of the requisite, indulgent toppings, please.

  1. Pray. Pour out your heart to God.

Don’t forget the Kleenex from #7.

  1. Smile. Your emotions will usually follow your body’s lead.

I really like this one. Just make sure there isn’t food between your teeth.

  1. Do that one thing you fear the most.

Admit out loud that I love Bon Jovi??

  1. Write a love note to your spouse and mail it.

Does a Poke on Facebook count? How about a Love Tweet? Just kidding, honey!! Does anyone have a stamp??

  1. Excuse yourself from negative conversations.

“OMG Becky, look at her butt. It is SO big…”

  1. Resist the temptation to complain—about anything!

Geez, Michael Hyatt, how long IS this list?? How many more witty things can I possibly come up with to write?  

  1. Forget the past. Ignore the future. Be fully present NOW.

Love, laugh and let go in the arms of the great I AM. He IS your NOW.

  1. Stop worrying about things you have no control over.

Have I said too much about Bon Jovi in this post? What if everyone thinks I’m obsessed? I’m really not THAT big of a fan. Or, am I?? JON, I LOVE YOU!!!

What really is “good”?

By AbbyA

JMathis and Bindu are talking about all the noise in our lives.  More often than not, it is “good” noise that we are flooding ourselves with.  Do you know what JMathis was watching before she wrote Monday’s blog on worshipping television?  She was watching the very intense, survival interview of Jaycee Dugard.  Good story.  On Tuesday, Bindu talked, in part, about using technology to wind down, get her mind off life.  This is “good” noise, right?  In our fast paced lives, what really is “good” is a hard question.

My little boy asked me, “Mom, why do we have to go to church today?”  I said, “because God blesses us all week long and we have just one day for just a few hours that He asks us to come to His house to worship Him.”   He is a very easy-going, laid back child, so he didn’t say much back, but I could tell he was not really convinced.  I got somewhat fired up and said, “QK, if you want God to keep blessing your mind so you can keep getting good grades and, if you want God to continue giving you favor in your endeavors, you have got to give Him this day.”  QK was convinced; we have the kind of relationship where he trusts me on such things.  He changed his attitude and off we went.

Since we have been home from vacation (two weeks), I have “forgotten” my phone 2-3 times on the way out for the day.  Although I truly forgot the thing, when I remembered, I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on me.  “AbbyA, you left it at home because I planned it that way.  Lay off the emails, texts and internet so I can plant more important things in you.  Even if that means silence.”  I changed my impatient attitude and off I went.

My downfall isn’t tv, but it is my severe tendency to be on several missions all at the same time.  I am so severe in this multi-tasking mindset that I don’t hear anything around me at all.  It all comes to a halt, however, when I push so hard that I find myself physically dizzy.  So, I ask myself, instead of my boy, “Do I want God to keep blessing me, giving me favor in my endeavors, giving me health and a sound mind?”  What really is good for me in my Savior’s eyes? 

As our Body-Mind-Spirit Challenge continues, ask God what really is good for you.  It may be that He has a night of relaxing tv in store for you.  It may be that you are so reliant on your night-time tv routine that you don’t even hear your Lord saying hello, checking in on your day, telling you He loves you.  Maybe you are not a tv addict, but you are so busy with multi-tasking that you are physically dizzy from it all.  If you can get un-plugged, it may be that He has perfect silence planned for you.  And, in that silence, while you may not hear His voice, you may just feel His presence.  I don’t know exactly what He has in store  for you, but I do know that, if you are willing to turn off even the “good” noise, it will be better than you imagined and more than you hoped for.  No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.  1 Corinthians 2:9.  Go with that, it will be worth it.