Category Archives: Personal Growth

Authenticity = Totally Undisputed Credibility; The Difference Between Character and Reputation

images-4It is fascinating to me in our contemporary culture,  how easy it can be for an individual to foist a reputation that is based on very little true substance.

Our current society feasts on the fluff of evaporating charisma while it starves for the true grit and moral fiber that is needed to shape history.   It has become simpler and simpler to manufacture a reputation with little or no personal foundation to back it up.

At every venue in society–the media, politics and even in church– bigger than life personas grab center stage with very little conscience about their ability to back up their act.  Things that used to matter, like character, authenticity of heart and a call to serve others have fallen by the wayside and are being negligently overlooked.

In short, in my opinion, character is very different than reputation.  Below, in the remainder of this post, I have put together some quotes to stimulate thinking on the subject.  Please feel free to comment and add your thoughts about the differences you observe between character and reputation.

 

Do You Have Character or Reputation?

Reputation is seeming; character is being.

Reputation is manufactured; character is grown.

Reputation is your photograph; character is your face.

Reputation is what men say you are; character is what God knows you are.

Reputation is what you need to get a job; character is what you need to keep it.

Reputation is what comes over you from without; character is what rises up within.

Reputation is what you have when you come to town; character is what you have when you go away.

Reputation is what is chiseled on your tombstone; character is what the angels say about you before the throne of God.

Quote by Robert Stuart MacArthur, Quick Truths in Quaint Texts

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Beware Fall Fall-out, Shelter Needed from Death by Watching…

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As the temperatures descend and the evenings get chilly most of us move indoors.  Fall leaves fly and the center of family life changes from the backyard and the patio grill to the family room and the entertainment center.  It is a natural change but beware the subtle fall-out that fall may bring to your family nest.

Fall-out is a term that was invented in the nineteen-forties to describe a phenomenon connected to the after-math of a nuclear blast.  Fall-out is the word used for the slow descent of minute particles of toxic radio-active debris into the atmosphere. “Fall-out” expands outward from the site of an atomic explosion and becomes largely invisible, extremely poisonous and can lead to a slow-death for those who come in contact with it.  While the metaphor is admittedly a bit overstated, the sad truth is that the effects of a fall-winter-and-spring spent tied to an entertainment center, can produce its own version of a deadly fall-out—a deadly fall-out that leads to what can only be termed “life-decay.”

Today the number one form of leisure activity in the United States is T.V. watching.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “American children and adolescents spend 22 to 28 hours per week viewing television more than any other single activity other than sleeping.  By the age of 70 they will have spent 7 to 10 years of their lives watching T.V.”  Former president George Bush on C-SPAN in an interview about American T.V. consumption stated, “They put an off button on the T.V. for a reason.  Turn it off…I don’t watch much T.V.  His wife Laura Bush an ex-librarian and reading advocate categorically stated, “Children cannot learn to read by watching television.  Television is just background noise and a distraction.”  Prominent voices seem to agree that too much T.V. watching is not a good thing.  

If the inordinate amount of wasted time spent by children and others watching were not enough there are other deleterious effects linked with excess T.V.  It should be pointed out that—for every hour spent in front of the tube—over fifteen minutes of that hour is spent solely in the viewing of advertising.  Commercials are the centerpiece of programming and are meant to penetrate our minds with thoughts of consumption, need and greed.  Jerry Mander, an expert on media and its effects on society explains, “While watching television, the viewer is not seeing the world as it is.  He or she is looking at a world created by advertising.  Television programs are put together with the conscious attitude of promoting a consumer society.  The fall-out of television advertising overload is a spirit-poisoning, self indulgent attitude that subtly begins to creep in and controls us.  The consequence for our society is an ever-expanding consumerism that keeps us all knowing exactly what we must obtain next if we are to be truly happy.

Consumerism isn’t the only kind of harmful fallout American families who are glued to the tube are susceptible to.  The harmful fallout from T.V. watching is not limited to the effects of overdosing on advertising.  In 2014, the number one type of T.V. programming was “Reality T.V.” a popular style of programming with its own set of dangers.  “Reality T.V.” is that genre of T.V. that has no real story, no content, it is just watching someone else experiencing some part of life while you sit back and voyeuristically observe.

Millions of people each night settle for living life vicariously through others while life passes them by.  They watch the loves, the losses, the adventures, the successes, of strangers on the small screen while experiencing little “true living” themselves.  Reality T.V. is a type of video entertainment fraught with serious fallout. We are on the verge of becoming a nation who “loves to watch” above all else.  We put on hold our emotional, our physical and our spiritual interactions—in order to spend hours watching—and the result is a numbing slow death to what it means to be human beings created in the image of God with a plan and a purpose.

This fall as you move indoors consider the invisible fall fall-out your family becomes vulnerable to as you face off with the entertainment center once again.  Pay attention to how much time you spend in front of screens—inactive and focused on “synthetic life” with its demands and absorptions.  As the leaves fall why not consider turning over a new leaf and make each hour of each day more productive and full of living and giving.  You may need to schedule some alternative activities to fill the vacuum left by fewer hours in front of the T.V.  Why not take a walk and talk to God, prepare a home cooked meal with the family and catch up on small talk, attend a small group fellowship with friends, go for a Starbuck’s with your spouse and have some “couples time”, or get creative and start that home improvement project you’ve been putting off.  Experience LIFE that’s what living is all about!

Contemplate the reality that we are all God’s workmanship created for a life time of living out good works that He has planned for us (see Eph. 2:10).  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to miss out on the abundant life God planned for me because I fell numb under the effects of video fall-out, a life-decaying—death—by watching.

 

 

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We Need A “Community” In Order To Really Know God

The pub where Lewis and his friends experienced "community.

My husband, Tom and I have been discussing an amazing quote used by Tim Keller in his book “The Prodigal God.” It comes from C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves.

For context, it’s important to point out that Lewis is referring to community within the Inklings, a small group of men who met weekly for almost 20 years. Lewis’s closest friends seemed to be in this group, and Charles and Ronald were both members. “Ronald” is J.R. R. Tolkien and “Charles” is Charles Williams.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity…Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically *Caroline joke (see below). Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases.

In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious ‘nearness by resemblance’ to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to one another. The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

*”Caroline” is an adjective which comes from the Latin for Charles, which is (I believe) Carolus. So a “Caroline” joke would be a “Charles-y” joke – in other words, a joke of the type Charles told.

Another interesting tid-bit gleaned from the blog world, Tolkien never liked Charles Williams and wondered what Lewis saw in him. He also was a bit jealous of Lewis splitting his affections between him and Williams. So we may wonder to what degree he would have endorsed this paragraph from Lewis!

What are your reactions to this quote and the importance of community that it underscores?

Other posts you might like: A Vision For A Church God Can Grow https://womenatcrossroads.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/vision-2009-%E2%80%93-a-vision-for-a-church-god-can-grow/

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Rethinking Beauty Part 2

In part 1 of this series I discussed in detail the fact that most women whether they think they are beautiful or unbeautiful  struggle with talking honestly about beauty…Here I pick up where I left off and continue on with a discussion of–what incorruptible spiritual beauty really is!

…If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.

What I think is interesting however is that we have been fed a bill of goods about what true feminine beauty is.  In centuries past before visual media could be blasted throughout the known world—the social norms for beauty were wider.  You had a few very beautiful girls in your community and you also had some not so beautiful ones–but the community determined what beauty was and most women fell somewhere in the middle.

Today however it is much different from—those days gone by—today the media—decides what is beautiful and then airbrushes it and sends it around the world.

While the average size of a woman in the U.S. is a 14, Madison Ave has decided that “what beautiful is” is a size 0 or 2 and they reinforce their taste by featuring only models, actresses and spokespersons that fit that narrow grid.

And ladies it is not only those who think that they are “unbeautiful” who have it bad!

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also struggle because they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.

So you see, the pressure to be beautiful and keep your beauty in our society is an equal opportunity crazy maker.

But the question is–are we really viewing beauty accurately? –Or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Because–whether society will ever recognize it or not, God says true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!  The Bible is emphatic about exhorting women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I Peter 3:3-4

Now to be brutally honest when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion. I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.

Upon closer examination however, I was surprised to find out that the terms translated “gentleness” and “quietness” in English in the NT — did not mean exactly what I believed them to mean.

“Gentle” is the translation of the Greek word praeos, a word that is routinely translated in the NT as “meek”.  When Jesus referred to himself,  “meek” was the word that he was most likely to choose. Today the term meek tends to carry with it an idea of passivity and subservience, but it must be understood: the Biblical concept of meekness is different.

In the first century “meekness was a good thing” and meek was one of the great Greek ethical words. Meekness is strength under the control of God; it is the quality or characteristic of being even-tempered and having composure in every situation.

The term “quiet” in 1Pet. 3:3-4 is also different than we might think.  The Greek word translated quiet is better translated “restful” or “tranquil.” It has nothing to do with “not talking” or being “silent” but instead depicts a relaxed God-controlled disposition.

Perhaps what stands out to me most about both of these biblical characteristics is that they are qualities that do not come “NATURAL” to anyone. They are not qualities born of a personality type but rather born of the Holy Spirit of God working in one’s life.

I LIKE THAT, because God is not expecting me to shed–the personality that He has given me, but He is instead calling me to submit all that I am to Him–that my personality might be channeled appropriately in a Christlike way.

And on rare occasions in my own life I have actually witnessed “strength with composure” and “a relaxed God-controlled” spirit coming forth as a result of the Holy Spirit working in me.  It does not involve me not being me, but me– surrendering who he has made me be–to His Spirit and His divine superintending of my life.

In Eccl. 3, God promises that He makes everything beautiful in His time Eccl. 3:11. By His hand he works miracles in us that beautify us.  He places us in situations and circumstances that make beauty come forth and sometimes the places where beauty blossoms forth the strongest are in the most difficult places of life.

In man’s realm time diminishes beauty, while in God’s realm time perfects beauty—Beth Moore

I love God’s realm don’t you!

It takes a lot of courage to say this, but the truth is: I am beautiful as I am.  I have the looks and the shape that was gifted to me.  My breasts are no longer perky like when I was younger and my hips are wider than a fashion model’s–but for this I am glad, for these are the signs of a well-lived life! and meanwhile I know that God is at work on the inside of me—gracing me with his incorruptible beauty and making me more beautiful that I ever dreamed possible.

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Rethinking Beauty–Part 1

Rethinking Beauty…

Who is beautiful to you and why?

Is beauty truly in the eye of the beholder?

Beauty is one of those tough topics for women. It is tough because so many of us have been avoiding REALLY talking about it in honest ways for most of our lives.

I think we avoid it–because it makes MOST of us feel INSECURE.

If we don’t deem ourselves beautiful, beauty is certainly not going to be one of our favorite subjects.

If we don’t believe we fit the narrow stereotype current society says is beautiful; talking about what beauty entails–tends to make us feel inferior, inadequate and just plain not good enough.  It’s a painful topic.

But those who think they just might be pretty, have it equally as bad or worse.

Those who think they might possibly be beautiful, also don’t want to bring up the topic–they know that beauty is fleeting and that they can age, change, or fall out of style and be un-beautiful again in a flash.

If the truth be known, even the most physically beautiful women wonder how long they can hold on to their beauty.  And ladies, that–makes them even more insecure and miserable than the “average” girls.

So you see, beauty as a subject, whether you figure you have it or you don’t, is not a popular topic for deliberation among females.

But the question is, are we really viewing beauty accurately?–or are we viewing the entire subject through a faulty lens?

Whether society will ever recognize it or not–true and lasting beauty is on the inside of a woman!

The Bible exhorts women not to be absorbed with outer beauty but to build up the hidden person of the heart.  According to the Scriptures we are to adorn ourselves with incorruptible beauty–a gentle and quiet spirit–that is precious in the sight of God.

I Peter 3:3-4 tells us, Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

So, where does that leave us, to be brutally honest, when I first came upon this verse years ago I hated it with a passion.

I felt it was unfair that God should show a discretionary bias towards a gentle and quiet woman.  Was He prejudiced against women of strength who possessed a voice?

This was my opinion, because in my mind, He had created me the polar opposite of the “gentle and quiet” stereotype that I believed He deemed beautiful.  I viewed myself as “strong and extroverted,” and deep down I resented God for crowning the lucky “gentle and quiet” ones as the queens of the ball. How fair is that?

It brought up some of the same emotions I had experienced growing up as a brunette and realizing that “blonds had more fun.”  In those days it felt like the media had made a pejorative judgment against all women with dark hair judging our lives dull and boring.

But in the case of the “gentle and quiet” girls, now it was GOD telling me that they were better. I wanted to run out and get a personality transplant!  It was irritating, because once again, even in the “spiritual” beauty department, beauty seemed outside my grasp.

INSECURITY raised it’s ugly head.  Would I ever be able to attain “incorruptible beauty” in the sight of God, as a strong female leader, who liked to talk?  It was from this starting point of utter frustration that my own personal investigation into “what is true inner beauty?” was born.

In Part 2 of “Rethinking Beauty” I will seek to unravel the mystery of what having a “gentle and quiet spirit” really entails.

MEANWHILE, I know many of you agree that–it is tough being a woman in a world so preoccupied with outer beauty. What are your main insecurities when it comes to the subject of beauty? (Be honest)! I would love to read your thoughts and experiences…so…please feel free to join this thread.

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What You Always Wanted to Know About Sabbath-rest but Were Afraid to Ask!

I took some much needed time off this week. It was a brief respite away from home and my daily grind but it yielded great benefits.

 

Given a few days away, I began the gradual unwinding process that is always needed and required for me to find true rest.

 

Today, I am back at home and I am much more in touch with my need for rejuvenation and restoration and the need for us all have to have Sabbath-rest for our souls.  As a result of contemplating the topic of rest, reminding myself of the basic info and doing a little research; I came up with the following post.

 

The Bible orders us to rest.  In fact—one of the “big ten” in terms of commandments is the charge “to remember the Sabbath rest and keep it holy.”

Ex 20:8-11, tells us, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

 

The root idea of Sabbath rest is simple.  It is as simple as the changing of seasons and as basic as the inhale-exhale process of breathing— living things were designed by God to flourish only with a pattern of regular rest and rejuvenation. 

 

The Bible specifies the need for one day of rest out of each seven day interval.  And a day in Scripture is always measured from one evening to the end of the following day-light period. Gen. 1:5 states, God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.  In accordance with this the Jewish Sabbath began in the evening and ran from sunset to sunset. 

 

Jewish tradition also dictated that the weekly “rest interlude” was always preceded by a time of preparation.  Beginning at 3 P.M. every Friday the faithful would prepare their food for the next day and perform all labors which were forbidden on the Sabbath and yet had to be done. Before sunset they would bathe and purify themselves, dress in their festive apparel, set their tables, and light their lamps.

 

The observance of the Sabbath always began with the Hebrew family partaking of the pre-prepared Sabbath meal followed by prayers and the compulsory call for the whole household to sleep.  The arrival of night and the opportunity to sleep was not only a necessity but symbolically it provided a natural relinquishment of control.  A good night’s sleep broke the cadence of work and set a rhythm for the entire Sabbath rest period. When we are sleeping, we cannot be working, we cannot direct anything, or control anything and we give ourselves temporarily over to God’s care.  A believer shuts his eyes and believes that the Lord will take care of him through the night.  Appropriately the first hours of Sabbath observance were spent sleeping.

 

Sabbath rest is a time that is supposed to be sanctified or set-apart for God’s use in our lives. However in our present day American culture few of us have really understood or appreciated the concept.  What we don’t seem to understand is the fact that Sabbath rest is not just discretionary free time.  It is not just a block of open time to be utilized as we see fit.  Sabbath rest in actuality is to be used in a deliberate manner for rest and restoration of body, soul and spirit.  And in remembering the Sabbath, we are to put aside work but we are also to put aside our own time agendas and even the act of creating.

 

Many people miss the importance of taking into consideration the Sabbath that God Himself modeled for us.  God initiated Sabbath rest first and foremost by resting from creating.  In Gen 2:3 we are told “And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”  If God needed to rest after creation how much more do we also need to be re-created after our creating? Working wears us out and creating pulls from our pool of resources and literally empties us out!  We do not have unlimited resources as God does and as humans beings our finite resources are limited and must be restored.  We cannot be creative, fruitful, and productive or reach our long term potential without Sabbath rest.

 

One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping in contemporary life is leisure.  Leisure competes with the concept of Sabbath and is what Sabbath-rest tends to become when we don’t know how to sanctify our time.  The definition of leisure is “vacant time without occupation to be used at one’s will.”  Leisure is an attempt at Sabbath rest without any focus on the sacred aspects.  One author has rightly stated that “the Golden Rule of Sabbath Rest is to cease from what is necessary and instead embrace God and what truly gives life!”

 

Some present day believer’s may bristle under the call to Sabbath rest because they believe it to be an antiquated Old Testament ritual. The necessity of rest however is not just an Old Testament pronouncement; the need for rest is emphasized throughout the entire Bible.

 

Jesus promised that knowledge of Him would bring rest for the soul. Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matt 11:28-30 (NKJV).  And He insisted that his disciples should rest. The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Mark 6:30-31 (NIV)

 

The Bible proclaims that a pattern of sanctified rest is a vital and needed practice because it supplies us body, soul and spirit with what is needed to survive and thrive as humans.  The Bible teaches that rest it is an important vehicle for “making contact with God.  God tells Moses in Exodus 33 that rest and His presence go hand in hand, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”  Psalm 46:10 states clearly, Be still, and know that I am God.   The central nature of rest is underlined for us in psalm 23.  In the familiar psalm David speaks of the Good Shepherd’s dogged determination to make his beloved sheep rest, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; Psalms 23:2-3 (NKJV)

 

Rest is a physical reminder that we are not in control of everything and that at the end of the day; we are not the ones who have the power to hold it all together.  After all, ultimately managing things—being in control– is God’s job and we need to remind ourselves of that regularly (say at least once a week).  During busy times it’s easy to be distracted from our relationship with God and treat our work as if it is our God.  We must not however fall prey to work-worship for very long.   If we make work our God we can in an incredibly short time find ourselves reaping some very serious consequences. 

 

Work-worship has the ability to take an incredible toll on a human being and can jeopardize our physical, emotional and spiritual health.  As Christians living in this incredibly stressful era we must repent and hear the clarion call back to one of the most basic principles of life and give God the time that is due Him. When we practice sanctified rest we focus back on God and allow Him to restore us—and that is a very good and necessary thing.

 

What are the culprits in your life that keep you from realizing the divinely ordained benefits of Sabbath rest?  Have you fallen victim to inserting leisure into the place of Sabbath rest in your weekly routine?  What is your opinion about the priority you believe Sabbath rest should play in the lives of contemporary believers?  Please feel free to reply to these questions or any other question this post spurs in your mind.  As always any comments are encouraged and welcomed!

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Making a Believing Preparation for the Divine Blessing

 

A Word For Today

From Morning and Evening

by C.H. Spurgeon

Entry May 16th Evening Verse

 

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing. Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

 

 

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

 

 

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him.

 

 

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply –there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

 

 

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which Thou art so willing to bestow.

 

I felt the Holy Spirit as I read this entry from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional today, so I decided to post it. If after reading it you feel it is fitting for the situation you are in or your church is in or if you have an insight or opinion please take the time to comment.  

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Passing on Wisdom: The Art of Mentoring

 

Throughout history, training in the areas of marital life, childbearing, mothering and homemaking have always been lessons best passed on through one-on-one relationships.  Generation to generation, the most important of life’s skills have been passed on informally in the context of community.  “True wisdom” has continued down a chain linking older to younger and more experienced to less experienced for millennia. The term given to this life-driven kind of guidance is mentoring. 

      

           What is a Mentor?

 

 

The English word “mentor” has ancient origins; it is derived from Homer’s Odyssey.  In this Greek classic, Odysseus goes off to war and turns the guidance of his son, Telemachus, over to his friend, Mentor.  With his father gone, the boy is “mentored” by Mentor in the paths of life.  In the Bible, we see mentoring as the major means of educating women. Naomi takes on the guidance of her daughter-in-law, Ruth, Mordecai is a voice into the life of Esther and Elizabeth serves as a mentor to Mary.  The basis of the relationship is that the mentor has authority in the mentee’s life.  Due to this responsibility of speaking into the life of another, a mentor is usually a rare type of person. Mentors are individuals of unimpeachable credibility whose advice rings true. They are people whose past achievements back up their counsel and whose diverse experiences are what qualify them.  The accomplishments of the mentor should correspond with the area that she is mentoring in. For example, if you are a mentor for mothers, it is more important that you have raised a houseful of healthy children than that you possess a college degree. 

 

Why is Experience the key?

 

 

Experience is the key to mentoring because mentors base their life-shaping instructions on their real life experiences rather than the teaching of empirical knowledge.  The mentor imparts what she’s learned through sharing stories, anecdotes and experiences, not through covering materials or working through a curriculum. Mentoring requires an intimate relationship characterized by vulnerability and spontaneity.

During mentoring, training occurs in a free-flowing informal exchange.  Mentoring takes place through conversation and hearty dialogue rather than monologue. A mentor is not a college professor in front of a classroom surrounded by students taking notes. Mentoring is less formal than teaching and more about the individual being mentored than the information that is being exchanged. It is because of this unique characteristic of mentoring that the mentor must check any personal agenda at the door. 

 

 No-Agenda required!

 

 

In short, mentoring is not about one person living their life through another person.  Serving as a mentor is not about creating a mini-you. The mentee is a unique individual with unique talents and abilities who is following their own God-ordained course in life.  An overriding theme inmentoring is the intention to help someone help themselves. Wise mentors recognize that their guidance is most appreciated when it’s specifically asked for.  They offer up plenty of possible suggestions to their mentees without requiring a specific course of action.  They refrain as much as possible from telling their mentee what to do.  It is as if the mentor and mentee are driving down the road of life together.  The mentee is the one in the driver’s seat and the mentor is riding shot gun.  The mentor’s job is to ride along offering up advice and warning the driver about approaching bumps and turns but the mentor never takes the steering wheel and begins driving the car herself.

   

 

What about Trust?

 

 

A solid mentor-mentee relationship is rooted in trust.  Trust has to be established from the beginning of the relationship and must deepen over time.  In a successful mentoring relationship a strong alliance will be built.  The mentee trusts that the mentor is on her side. The overall atmosphere of the relationship should be one of mutual sharing and caring. The mentor must be willing to give the valuable gift of their time to the mentee and it can never be a “don’t call me, I’ll call you,” arrangement.  The mentor makes herself available as needed within reasonable limits.  The best mentoring takes place in ordinary life settings where mentor and mentee have casual and regular exposure to one another.  In these life settings, the mentor can come along side the mentee as she tackles the normal obstacles of life.  

  

          Where do “life’s Obstacles” fit in?  

 

 

Learning how to overcome obstacles is one of the most important lessons mentors can pass on.  Obstacles in life create a learning curve and cause the mentee to be more open to receiving new input.  Obstacles make for teachable moments. The crisis makes any help the mentor is bringing even more meaningful and useful.  Mentors tap into their own experience banks for examples of how they confronted similar obstacles.  Tackling tough situations together is what bonds and cements a solid mentoring relationship.

       

       When is “Real” mentoring taking place?    

 

 

The atmosphere of the mentoring relationship is relaxed and real. An intimate mentor-mentee relationship necessitates genuine sharing of insights, observations and suggestions.  Mentors offer an objective ear but they also offer real accountability.  They are not meant to be syrupy-sweet cheerleaders offering only affirmation, or speaking only what their protégé wants to hear.  Mentors give feedback on performance and offer opinions and confrontation when it is called for.  A good mentor can share hard things with as much openness as easy things.

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Demonstrating Spiritual Maturity Through Our Emotions

One of the most incredible parts of existing as a human being is coming to grips with the fact that we were created in the very image of God. 

 

As creations made expressly in His image He gave us a mind, will and emotions. 

 

We have the ability to think, to feel and to make choices. 

 

Francis Schaffer said, “…as God is a person He thinks, feels and acts: so I am a person who thinks, feels and acts.  Yet despite the reality that we were created to be all three intellectual, emotional and volitional in nature, many Christians today have emphasized the mind and the will to the exclusion of the emotions. 

 

This prejudice regarding the superiority of the mind is demonstrated in the current stream of evangelical thinking.  Among most evangelical Christians, the mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to acquire facts and store biblical knowledge.  Many church systems perpetuate the idea that the more biblical truth you can cram into your brain the more spiritually mature you are.  This is a fallacy. 

 

While knowledge of the Scriptures is important, spiritual maturity comes through transformation of the whole person.  It involves applying the Scripture in order to be conformed to Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

The Bible is clear that the basic way to know whether a person is a Christian or not is not to assess how much a person knows but to look at how a person lives.  It is not only important that one think rightly one must also act rightly.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is clearly an emotion, so evidently the expression of emotion in a believer’s life is also a vitally important part of Christian maturity. 

 

Throughout the Bible, we see God expressing His emotions.  In the Old Testament, for example, one thing we are graphically taught is that God can be pleased and made happy and that God can also be displeased and moved to anger. 

 

In the New Testament, God’s emotional repertoire is definitely expanded.  We see Jesus as God incarnate expressing the entire myriad of human emotions.  He feels love, compassion, joy, fear, sorrow, grief, discouragement, frustration, hurt, loneliness and anger.  In fact, just like us, He experiences every emotion on the map and yet He does it all without sin.

 

Emotions despite the judgments many of us might make about them are neither negative nor positive.  They are neutral.  What we do with emotions is what causes the positive or negative impact on our lives.  How we express them determines the constructive or destructive quality of that emotion.

 

What separates Jesus and His expressions of emotions from our expressions of emotions, is that Jesus felt emotions and always expressed them appropriately and without sin.  Jesus’ most common description of himself was, “I am meek and lowly of heart.” 

 

The choice of the adjective meek is an interesting preference of descriptors. Meek is one of the great Greek ethical words and was a word charged with meaning for the first hearers.  It is an understatement to say that it does not have the same meaning today in our culture as it did in the culture of the original recipients.  While meekness in the culture extant at the time Jesus walked the earth described a person who had every instinct, every impulse, every passion and every emotion under control, the term has been downgraded in our society to mean gentle.

 

Use of the word “meek” today conjures up images of Casper Milktoast.  Meekness in the first century however, was attached to images of strength.  Meek meant power put under control.  Now it has come to mean the opposite “powerlessness”.  In Jesus’ time, meek was commonly used to describe an animal which had been trained to obey the word of command from his master. It was used to describe a horse which had learned to answer perfectly to the reins.

 

Meekness as an attribute said something very admirable about our Lord.  It said that although Jesus had all the resources to be all-powerful He chose to express himself as a person under restraint.  He expressed His personality, His emotions appropriately, always keeping His impulses and passions in check.  He was meek. 

 

As we desire to come into conformity with the nature of our Lord it also falls to Christians to cultivate meekness in their own lives.  We are to experience the full gamut of emotions that God created us to experience in his image, yet we should demonstrate true spiritual maturity and like Jesus exercise control over our emotions. 

 

Jesus expressed righteous anger in the temple when He cast out the money-changers.  He chose to overturn their tables and run them out of the place.  It should be realized however, that He could have struck them dead on the spot, summoned angels from heaven to destroy the place or caused an earthquake to level the temple. He demonstrated control.  He exhibited the appropriate emotion with the appropriate force for that circumstance. 

 

In conclusion, emotions are a valid part of each of us created in God’s image.  As Christians, we should never deny, ignore or even downplay the emotional part of us.   True spiritual maturity involves being conformed to the image of Christ in our mind, will and emotions. 

 

Christ expressed a wide variety of emotions in His life, yet always in appropriate ways at appropriate times. That should also be our goal.  We need to be truthful as we express the emotions that are inside of us; that’s what makes us human beings made in the image of God. The key is that as Christians, we must strive to communicate our emotions in proper God-honoring ways.

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Establishing New Habits—Tips to Help You Keep Those New Year’s Resolutions

It is good to remember that when we speak of habits, we may either be referring to something good or something bad. In the case of the Christian life, we are often speaking of replacing bad habits with good ones. This process is really called repentance, since the bad or sinful habits lead away from God, while the good habits or virtues lead toward God and eternal life.

Many people believe in changing their ways at the beginning of the New Year, but any time is a good time to begin forming a good habit. In fact, the best time to root out the bad and institute the good is always the present moment. Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:2)

Ten Be-attitudes for developing new habits:

 

1) Be Patient – Understand that cultivating a new routine will take time. It is encouraging when 21st century Christians find out that what contemporary secular experts discover, using scientific methods, the Church has known and practiced all along. One such recent discovery is that it takes about six weeks, or forty days, to make a certain practice into a habit. The period of forty days has since Old Testament times been that amount of time necessary to prepare for something significant or purge oneself of something negative.

 

2) Be Realistic – Trying to change too many behaviors at once can back fire on you.

Pick one new positive habit you’d like to develop and stick with that. Many New Year’s Resolutions fail because overly ambitious people who want desperately to change try to do too much all at once.  When individuals do this all their good intentions tend to go down the drain before January is even over.  For instance a person who is trying to lose weight, launch a new daily devotional routine and do a makeover on their finances all at one time would probably be biting off more than they can chew. Instead of trying to change everything all at once, pick one area to focus on and follow through on changing that one area.

 

3) Be Concrete – Choose something tangible and measurable to change. It is difficult to assess whether you’ve met a vague goal. For example, instead of deciding indistinctly “I will have a better prayer life in 2009, be as specific as possible. Rather than the loose goal of deciding to “pray every day,” decide to “pray first thing in the morning for 30 minutes” and track your success on your calendar or in your day-timer.

 

 

4) Be Intentional – Record your goal and post reminders in places you will see on a daily basis. There are many good places to place a reminder: a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, a note under the magnet on the refrigerator door or a message on the screen saver of your computer monitor.  Remind yourself of the commitment to change that you have made.

 

5) Be Prepared – Make it easier to begin your new behavior by preparing for success ahead of time.  Make sure you have all necessary equipment and materials available beforehand.  For instance, if you’ve decided to work out twice a week, make sure you have all your work out clothes and necessary items in a bag ready to go the night before your scheduled work-out so that all you have to do is pick up your bag on the way out the door.

 

6) Be Kind to Yourself – Rewarding yourself with a small reward each time you perform the new habit will help pair it cognitively with positive emotions. In general, research shows that rewards work better than punishments and will be most effective if they occur as soon as possible after each occurrence of the desired action.

 

7) Be Smart and Link Habits- An effective way to establish a new habit is to pair it with an established habit. This is called the Premack Principle after the Behavioral psychologist David Premack. Premack proved that a frequently occurring action can be used effectively to reinforce a less frequently occurring behavior. For example, if you are trying to remember to drink more water, it is helpful to place your water bottle next to your coffee maker and remind yourself to drink your water before you down your customary “lattes” each morning.

 

8) Be Accountable – Utilizing a social support system is one of the best ways to establish a new habit.  If you make a date to work out with a friend or a bunch of friends it can increase your sense of accountability and help you stay on track.

 

9) Be Public – One way to further increase your sense of accountability is to tell other people about your efforts. In addition to your accountability partner also announce to others that you are establishing new patterns then it will be even harder to let those new habits slide.

 

10) Be Gracious to Yourself – When you experience a set-back and fail to practice your new habit, don’t condemn yourself and give-up, give yourself a second, third, fourth or as many chances as needed to get back on track. Stay positive and believe you can change, if you stay proactive and motivated and get right back on task—the change will eventually come!

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Sacred Places of the Heart

 

Throughout God’s Word a recurring metaphor becomes evident; faithful believers are likened to travelers or pilgrims on the road of life.  Psalm 84:5 declares, Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  A pilgrimage is a long journey to a sacred place, especially one of exalted purpose or moral significance.

The idea of pilgrimage is introduced in Genesis. God reveals himself to Abram and requires of him that he leave his homeland and go to another land of God’s bidding.  Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”  Gen 12:1-3 (NKJV).  Why did God call Abram out from his familiar surroundings? God knew he needed to be removed from old friends and situations that might hinder his full obedience to Him and that his departure would provide a definite step of faith.  God has, throughout the centuries, required his people to come out from among the world and to be separate.  We are special people with a special destination – heaven – and as Christians we are all pilgrims. We have realized that this world is not our home and we have started our trek to “our Father’s house.” 

 

 

Hebrews 11 gives a long list of Bible characters and explains, All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it and they agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Heb 11:13-16 (NLT). According to this passage, all the faithful characters listed shared a common understanding that they were pilgrims, sojourners, travelers and nomads—human beings just visiting this planet on their way to their true and promised habitation.

 

 

In reading the accounts in the Bible of the lives of the many pilgrims that have come before us, it is clear that life’s journey is almost never a simple excursion.  Instead the path God provides is almost always a circuitous expedition over extremely adventurous territory.  As Christian sojourners our hearts are on the road that leads to heaven and God, but the places of the heart we must visit on the way offer unique and varied challenges. 

 

 

As we traverse this foreign land we can be assured of many side trips to “spiritual locations” along the way.  Like required stations or stopovers along life’s journey, there appear to be compulsory sites we must all experience.  Many places of the heart described in the Bible have geographical titles that tie them to a metaphorical map of life’s journey.  Similarly to our predecessors who followed the Lord through literal deserts and valleys and like those who climbed actual mountains in order to be obedient, those on “spiritual” pilgrimages also take visits to places both uncertain and sublime. 

 

 

Visits to the desert, the valley, the high seas, the fruitful places and the mountaintops are among those sacred places that we all have an opportunity to discover.  They are inevitable sites of the soul that God’s itinerary almost always dictates and has in store.  The Bible provides rich symbolism to be researched and understood about each of these sacred stopovers that are so common to God’s people.  Much can be gleaned as we interpret the imagery of Scripture and apply the wisdom and experiences of other pilgrims who encountered these sites along the way. 

The desert or wilderness is an arid expanse of land that is unsettled, usually used as pasture for animals and is suitable only for the nomadic lifestyle. A sojourn in the desert or wilderness in the Bible is associated with seasons of temptation, solitude, persecution and barrenness.

The valley is a tract of low lying land between mountains. The valleys of ancient Palestine were mostly dry, rocky, glorified riverbeds where occasional torrents caused flash floods during the winter.  In Scripture, the valley symbolized low times of affliction, pain and vulnerability.

 The mountains of the mid-east are known for their stark appearance. They have no great forests on their slopes and are instead characterized by cliffs, crags and rock overhangs. The mountains symbolized strength and steadfastness.  They depicted God’s power and were the backdrops of great spiritual events and revelations.

The sea refers to the Mediterranean and the Jews had a natural tendency to shrink away from the sea. Traversing the sea was associated with great danger, little control and constant fear.  To pass through the “deep” was symbolic of passing through a time of heavy affliction wrought with tossing waves and storms.

Fruitful places or gardens in biblical times were usually walled enclosures, in which there were paths that led among the trees and foliage.  An individual could rest among arbors decked with aromatic blossoms and enjoy the effect. Gardens were used as sacred places and fruitful gardens symbolized prosperity.

 

We can look into the lives of Scripture’s pilgrims, compare notes on their journeys and learn from their successes and failures. The question becomes “how did those who came before navigate their course through life and how will I navigate mine?” Peter in his epistle warns Christians, “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you… 1 Peter 1:17-19 (NLT)

The apostle Peter believed that we should be wise and fear the Lord because of the lessons others had learned during the times of their pilgrimage. We should pay attention and realize we are also foreigners on a sojourn paid for through the precious blood of our Savior.  I agree with Peter and I would add we should not be accidental tourists along life’s path because each place we are fortunate enough to visit has a beauty and a lesson of its own. I think what we often fail to realize is that each place is actually a meeting place with our God and a site to be savored and walked through with Him.  Each of the sacred places of the heart, even the difficult places, give us an opportunity to grow closer with Him and to know Him in deeper and more intimate ways. 

 

Fellow pilgrims, October 17-19, 2008, the Women at Crossroads are heading to Winter Park for what we hope will be a life-changing women’s conference.  Grab your backpack and your Bible, because spending a weekend adding to your understanding of Sacred Places of the Heart is bound to impact your relationship with God in countless beneficial ways. 

 

  

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