My 2016 Reading Shelf: January

Last year, I had a post of 30 something books I wanted to read in 2015. Yeah…that was a fail. While my long-term goal is to read that much, I realize that I needed to break it down more and be more realistic. So, I’ve adopted a Reading Shelf list for January, and I’m not going to add to my shelf until some of the other books come off. That way I am at least accomplishing something. 

Last year, I started a few books, but didn’t finish very many, if any. So my first goal is to finish some of those 2015 books, finish a couple of new ones I started over Christmas, as well as do some “research” reading I need to do this month for a speaking project and a couple of book groups. I also want to keep at least one fiction book on the shelf. So, when I pick a book to read this month, here are the books on my shelf:

Soul Transformation…

The truth about significant soul transformation is this – change is possible, but it is harder than we want and takes longer than we expect.

From The Relational Soul: Moving From False Self to Deep Connection by Richard Plass and James Cofield.

My 2016 One Word: PLANT

plantThe word PLANT came to my mind last week as I was considering a possible theme for my life this year. At first I thought it was a little too obvious considering we are about to plant a church, but upon reflecting on my recent years of life, I think this word adequately describes where I am in my life church plant and beyond. The majority of my life I was a doer. Then God brought that idol crashing to the ground. For the past two years I have had to come to peace with the fact that this isn’t one of the primary descriptors of me anymore. There are seasons of suffering and seasons of rest, reflection and recalibration after suffering. That’s a description of my past two years. But now, by God’s grace, it’s time to start doing again. This time I’m starting that process of doing with different motivations and most importantly, very prayerfully, not to make an idol factory out of my effort.

This year I just want to sow to faithfulness, righteousness, good works, mission, love, joy, peace, study of his word and writing. I want to plant seeds of these things and learn to grow in trust that God is working redemption in all of my imperfect effort. I want to discern better when I am to sow and when I am to wait, and to not be overly concerned with others vineyards or their expectations of the seeds I am planting in my own. And I want to grow in cheering on other’s planting to all things good because I am coming to believe with CS Lewis, “The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.” My sister or brother in Christ, with that huge beautiful vineyard, well…they are not my enemy. They aren’t even my competition. Jesus multiples loaves in his provision. There is enough of His majesty for all of us.

There are seasons in life of suffering and then we take time to recover and rest. And that is okay. But, I’m discerning for me it’s time that I exit that season. He’s given me a lot of seeds to plant as a result of this recalibration, and I’m so grateful for all the lessons I learned.I know I will continue to learn. And I know I need to exit slowly and plant sparingly. Maybe at the end of this year I’ll find I wasn’t quite ready to plant or maybe all the seeds sown don’t grow. Maybe it all fails. These things are quite possible, but my worst fears aren’t reasons not to sow. God has promised to provide for me, even if all my sowing fails. I can walk forward sowing seeds in faith resting in the promise that HIS effort and plan and promise, not mine, is the final word over my life.

So, cheers to a year of Farmer Mindy and planting! Who knows, maybe I’ll even finally be able to find the perfect pair of overalls I’ve been wanting.

The Dead Man Principle & Supernatural Living

My goalsThere is a simple rule of goal-setting I learned in my thousands of dollars of behavior therapy and support groups called the Dead Man Principle. I haven’t been able to find the origins, but I’ll share it with you…and for free!! The basic principle is that when setting a goal you should never set a goal a dead man could do better. Goals such as, stop over-eating, stop being anxious, stop getting upset…all of these things a dead man could do better than you ever could.

After hearing this for the first time, my mind immediately went back to a sermon Chris preached once on Romans 6: Dead to Sin, Alive to God. In it, he talked about how when the Bible says we have died to sin, it means we are like that of a dead man- these desires and passions are no longer alive in us. This truth is the ultimate expression of the Dead Man Principle.

Christ took our sinful desires upon himself when he was crucified – when he died, we died. But because of His resurrection, we are now alive in Christ and can live in ways that are contrary to our sin nature. The way we live our life on this earth should be a reflection of this reality. Because of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been given the power to live a supernatural life. Therefore, our life goals should also be a reflection of this. Rather than saying, “stop being anxious,” we say, “walk by faith.” Walking means we are alive. Life, not just death. And walking by faith requires putting off anxiety, renewing our mind, and supernatural dependence on the Lord (Ephesians 5). In Christ, we are dead to sinful anxiety and alive to faith.

Here’s how Francis Schaeffer describes our life of faith:

According to the Bible, we are to be living a supernatural life now, in this present existence, in a way we shall never be able to do again through all eternity. We are called upon to live a supernatural life now, by faith. Eternity will be wonderful, but there is one thing heaven will not contain, and that is the call, the possibility, and the privilege of living a supernatural life here and now by faith before we see Jesus face-to-face. This is the demonstration that God intends in the world until Christ returns, and it is the Christian who is to be the demonstration. Christians are called upon to be a demonstration at our point of history that the supernatural, the normally unseen world, does exist and, beyond that, that God exists. They are to do this individually and corporately, each generation of Christians to their own generation.”

Living a life of faith is not your average, run of the mill January goal setting standard. It is unique, extraordinary, and supernatural. It is more than a life free of binge-watching Netflix and binge-eating ice cream. It is water walking. It is living in love. So when we purpose how to live in 2016, sure let’s set some goals. But let’s also remember that the old nature in us died with Christ, so let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us walk by faith in newness of life.

 

**Note:Goal-setting sheets pictured are free downloads from Money Saving Mom. I use these each year for my goal-setting process/review.

The supernatural life here and now…

According to the Bible, we are to be living a supernatural life now, in this present existence, in a way we shall never be able to do again through all eternity. We are called upon to live a supernatural life now, by faith. Eternity will be wonderful, but there is one thing heaven will not contain, and that is the call, the possibility, and the privilege of living a supernatural life here and now by faith before we see Jesus face-to-face. This is the demonstration that God intends in the world until Christ returns, and it is the Christian who is to be the demonstration. Christians are called upon to be a demonstration at our point of history that the supernatural, the normally unseen world, does exist and, beyond that, that God exists. They are to do this individually and  corporately, each generation of Christians to their own generation.

An excerpt from True Spirituality by Francis Shaeffer

New Year, New Associations

stovesI started 2015 prepping for a lot of impending change. We were moving to a new city and saying goodbye to some dear people as well as many other structural supports that essentially built a wall of protection around me during my war with inordinate fear. What would I do without that wall?

Change, even good change, is difficult and scary for someone like me. That’s not an excuse. It’s just a fact. If I don’t prep for it or gain perspective quickly once it happens, my ability to adapt is like that of a fit throwing toddler. That’s why it’s sometimes easier just to stay stuck.

I worked with my therapist the entire month of January 2015 to prep for the upcoming changes that would happen in my life. She helped me see that although change is difficult, it also brings with it the opportunity to build new associations in my brain. On a new, fresh day I haven’t done the things of yesterday, so I can choose new ways of living, or in other words, choose to associate with all things good or pure or true. It’s like Anne of Green Gables once said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” As a new day and new year begins, the more I choose to associate with good things, the more they overpower the old things.

Exhibit A of this concept: My stoves in the picture above. On the left you will see my Arlington small space living stove. I checked and double-checked this stove countless times to make “sure” it was off. Although I gained a lot of victory over this fear before I left Arlington, the fear was still strong. Even if I behaved right and didn’t re-check it, I would still have these nagging obsessions up to the end: Is it off, are you sure it’s off, maybe you got distracted, you don’t really know, you should go back and check it to be sure. After understanding the nature of OCD, I learned not to give into these obsessions by checking, but the thoughts and fears didn’t stop as quickly as they did in other areas. But in my new Omaha apartment, I had never been a slave to checking a stove, so I could build a new association with the new stove. And guess what, I did it. As I was tempted to go down the path of checking, I told myself I didn’t have to go down that road because it was an opportunity to build a new association, a new path, and choose faith. By God’s grace, I haven’t let this stove enslave me. It took a few months, but the power of that stove checking fear and obsession is so much less. The nagging thoughts of being “sure” it is off have stopped for the most part because I built new associations in the way I was going to behave. Now, I don’t leave my house and continue to obsess about if my stove and oven is off.

Sure sometimes I double-check or slip up in my fear or the “what-if” fears come. But in those times the Holy Spirit meets me and reminds me that in Christ, I am dead to fear but alive in Him (Romans 6:11). The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). New mercies are given each day (Lamentations 3:22-23), each year, so we have the power to associate with and give all allegiance to our Savior.

So as we begin this new year, and purpose to have a Happy 2016, may it be a year we show our true allegiance to King Jesus by embracing His new mercies each day. When we embrace new mercies we are building new associations by putting off the old, renewing our minds, and putting on the new (Ephesians 4). Christ is worthy of all our devotion and he has given us all the grace and power we need to live in the goodness of newness of life.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary heard these words from the Angel Gabriel recorded in Luke 1:28. They “greatly troubled” her, as she didn’t understand what they could mean (v. 29). Favored one? The Lord is with me? “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (v. 30). And the prophecy came. She would be the Mother of the Messiah, the King. She was told that day, “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (v. 32).

So she submitted herself to the spirit, calling herself a servant, and went on her way with the Light of the World growing within her. She believed. This was said of her by Elizabeth, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (vs. 45). And she praised. She said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant, For behold, from now on all generations will called me blessed” (2:47-48). Mary, Mother of Jesus, believed the Word of the Lord and was blessed.

And in that stable, fleeing from harm, she birthed the Messiah. As she took that journey in faith and then laid this tiny Savior baby in a manger, in the midst of all the uncertainty, she must have trusted that what the angel said was true, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” She had found favor: “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

A Savior had come. This was foretold. And now, there would be a king who would reconcile sinners to God. The Word made flesh (John 1). A king whose life brings grace, unmerited favor. ‘Perfect love that casts out fear.”

And so, as Mary, we abide in this love, have confidence in this love, speak of this love, and give this love….

14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:14-19 (ESV)

There will be a day when the Lord will come again to judge the world, and for those who abide in this Love, the Lord will say as he did with Mary when Jesus came the first time, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Covered by Grace, the unmerited favor found in Jesus, those who believe In Him will have confidence on that day. And so we can rest in that Love today knowing that just as Mary knew when she held baby Jesus, “perfect love casts out fear.” The Word has come to bring Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. Through Jesus, we live in these things and by these things until He comes again. Believe the Word of the Lord and be blessed.

Let Us Live Full of Joy

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

JoyHappiness is found in temporal circumstances. Joy is found in eternal circumstances. So, I asked myself this week: Do I live for the happy moments or do I live for the joyful moments?

If I were honest with myself, I think it would often be that I live for happy moments. I know this because I can sometimes find myself jealous, discontent, bored, despairing, or impatiently waiting for blessings not yet bestowed. There are a lot of inconsequential things that could trigger these negative feelings. It could be someone else’s museum trip in a city I used to live, a wonderful snowfall in the town I grew up, or a 1st year birthday party for a child of a blogger I don’t even know. These all seem to me like such happy moments, and I want them for myself. But these are temporal moments, meaning, you aren’t gong to bring them to heaven. And sometimes, I wonder if we are all starting to believe that because we snap a picture of it, these moments will be there forever.

I’ve found this even more in my heart as we moved from an “adventurous” city. There are times that I find myself discontent that I don’t have that level of adventure at my disposal anymore. This is interesting coming from me because although I grew to love DC in the end, that was mostly not the case when I lived there. It was there that I thought happiness would mean a slower or quieter life. But I lived there long enough that even though I’m not by nature an adventurous person, I’m more wired for adventure now. And so I try to seek experiences in my new city, exploring the sites and restaurants that meet the standard of happiness and adventure to which I have now become accustomed. There is a lot my new city has to offer. But there is one thing that it can never offer. And that is Joy.

I’ve learned since moving from DC that I am far too easily pleased with a life of good food and adventure. I know this because I am dissatisfied when I don’t have it. I’m not saying enjoying good food or having adventure is wrong. And I’m not saying you can’t have these things plus Joy. I’m just saying that no matter how much your life lives up to a standard of gourmet or adventure, it’s “mud pies in a slum” compared to the Joy found in Christ, to the joy we will experience in Heaven. If you set your hope in happiness, it will fail you. Maybe not today, but some day. If you set your hope in Christ, your eternal circumstances speak Joy over your life.

So let’s not be content with happy moments. Or be discontent with other’s happy moments. Let’s not be satisfied with temporal circumstances or with a heart that does not delight in the Lord. Let’s give our lives to sharing with others the Joy found in Christ. Let’s be like Christ, “who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross” (Hebrews 12;2). This Joy was obedience to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan on earth, reconciling sinners to God the Father, even if it meant suffering. We know Joy will be found in heaven. And so we pray, let “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This joyful prayer is why Christ came, lived, and died. And because He came, lived, and died, this same Joy is offered to us today. Sure, I hope to snap a few happy pictures at Christmas. But these won’t be there in heaven. Christ will be all. Rejoice in Him today and long for His return. Let us live for more than just happy moments. Let us live full of Joy.

Our Trustworthy God Brought Peace

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

PeaceMy former pastor  once said, “Worry is a future without God.” God must be present for there to be peace. That’s why God sent Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to reconcile us, who were once enemies, to God (Romans 5:10). We must always remember that true peace comes from being reconciled to God’s presence through Jesus, not in the absence of fearful things. Remembering this helps us not to create safe and comfortable lives to avoid fear and gain superficial peace. But I have also found that in order for his presence to bring peace, I must also believe the right things about God. Isaiah 26:3 says God keeps a mind at peace that is stayed on Him “because he trusts” in God. Peace requires a mind stayed on God, and trusting God requires right belief about God.

One of the best explanations I’ve found of what it means to believe rightly about God is in the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. In this book you will find Bridges unpacks how the bible teaches God is Sovereign, Loving and Wise. These are the core beliefs about God that help you know he is trustworthy. Another book I read referred to this as the “Trusting God Triangle.” To process through my anxiety, I often ask myself this question: Where am I struggling to believe God is Sovereign, God is Wise, and God is Loving? If you battle with belief in any of these areas, you will find yourself anxious or lacking peace. When I work through my anxiety, it always leads back to the fact that I struggle with God’s wise and loving plan. If God is not loving or wise, then I am just waiting for the pin to drop and things to go horribly wrong. In my anxiety, I am just certain that his provision for me will be the worst thing my mind can imagine. So I begin to take control, forgetting that he is sovereign. I try to usurp his authority and become the God of my own life. When I get like this, I think I must keep myself safe because God is not to be trusted. But it is exhausting and anxiety producing to try to play God because I am not God. I am not all-knowing, all-present, or all-powerful. I’m limited. And so I’m trying to be things I never was meant to be.

It’s when I work through these things and ask God to help me with my unbelief that I am able to let God take control, lay down my anxiety, and rest in the good and loving promises of God found in Christ. I then have peace and stop that civil war with God and remember who the enemy truly is. God’s loving, wise and sovereign plan is never your enemy. The distortion of who God is and what He has said is your enemy. This distortion has always been one of Satan’s tactics (see the garden temptation and the temptations of Jesus). You will never have peace until you stay your mind on who God TRULY is, not an inaccurate view of who he is. So to add some to what my pastor said: Anxiety is a past, present, or future without a Sovereign, Loving and Wise God. Peace is the presence of a God who is Trustworthy.

The thing that gives me greatest peace in my moments of inner civil war is believing that a Trustworthy God has set his love upon me. Think about what God has done to set a redemptive plan in motion. Look around and see him saving sinners. His plan is wise even though sometimes it doesn’t seem such. There has not yet been one thing that has come into my life that I cannot look back on and say- wow, the way he connected the dots were for my good and his glory. He did it in a way that only he could, not just for my comfort but bringing about true redemption and restoration. And his love…well he sent his beloved son, his prince of peace, into this world. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” It was at Christmas time that Immanuel, God with us, came. His presence brought with it a plan for true peace. Believing in this good and wise redemptive plan is not just a thing for the past. It’s for the present and it’s for the future. This God who is the same yesterday, today and always is coming again, bringing final peace and restoration. Keeping our eyes stayed on these promises of our trustworthy God, helps us live in the goodness of the peace he brought and bought.

Robbed of Hope & Waiting for Help

hopeLast year my pastor preached a sermon about the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). For most of my life, I have looked to the example of the Good Samaritan in the story, seeing him as an illustration of how I should live. But last year, after having gone through a season of suffering, I began to identify with another person in the story- the man who was robbed and beaten. Maybe you feel robbed of health or a dream or hope. Maybe you were robbed of a relationship. You feel beat down and you feel like someone came and stole all of your joy, and there you are, laying on the side of the road- waiting, hoping, praying someone or something will show up. You might not even know what you need, but you know you need something.

It’s hard in the midst of feeling defeated to know what to do. And the enemy tries in all ways for you to think you are alone and that all is taken from you, after all, he “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, ESV). From my experience, can I encourage you with two thoughts, that I hope you find helpful?

1) Pray for courage to ask for specific help, both practical and spiritual. Many times people want to help; they just don’t know how (or, if you haven’t told them you are suffering, they might not even know you need help). This is especially true if your suffering isn’t something others have experienced, or, if in your suffering you are like me, and you put walls up that can make it very hard for people to know how to help you. It takes a very bold and fearless person to not let the walls we can intentionally or unintentionally create in suffering deter them from being a Good Samaritan, so we must try to give others grace. And this requires courage on our part to speak up and say, “I need more help than I am getting.” For me, looking back, I know I should have asked for meals and more companionship during my season of suffering. I was not eating and losing weight quickly and having people bring me meals would have been a huge help, especially during the day when Chris was at work. But, many times when people asked me generally if I needed anything, I said no. I didn’t want to inconvenience people, or I thought they should just “know” what I specifically needed, or I was scared that I would contaminate them if they entered my house. So, I suffered more alone (and hungrier) than I needed to if I would have had the courage to say, “Yes, I do need help.” Once I had a friend help me realize this, I did get more practical help and that is when I started to get better.

2) You are not alone; pray for God to help you believe this. Although you may feel robbed of all else, you are never robbed from the presence of God. There is nothing that can separate you from His Love (Romans 8). When you are suffering, there will be arrows coming at you saying things like “God is not faithful” and “He is not near.” It can feel, at times, He has abandoned you. But this is a complete lie. There is nowhere or no one else you can go to receive the help, deliverance, and comfort to meet the deepest longings of your soul that are there for you by God through Jesus Christ (John 6:68; Ps 40). If you believe in Jesus, it is a promise of God that he will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus said “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:10). Yes, one of the main instruments God uses to show the love of Christ to us is the church, and that is why we need the body of believers. But sometimes, when it feels like there aren’t any Good Samaritans around, we are tempted to feel completely abandoned. However, when I look back, I see that those times of feeling alone are what God used to bring me to a greater belief that He is truly walking with me every step by his Spirit (John 14:16-17). This is why we need the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It is in Him that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). So pray that God would help you believe and hold on to His promises. Sometimes I pray when I’m anxious, “Lord your Word says that you promise [insert any promises revealed in His Word]; I’m going to trust that you will prove that to be true. Help me believe.” I prayed the words found in Mark 9 a lot during my suffering – “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

In this season of Christmas, we celebrate Immanuel, God with us. The beauty and power of that reality is never so amazing as it is in a season of suffering. It’s the message that we truly need more than anything. Jesus entered into the pain and suffering of our world and experienced the deepest of suffering himself, all so that we could be in relationship with the Father through Him. What it cost and what was purchased through this process was complete and final and this helps me believe that he isn’t just going to stop being there for me. He knows. He really does know all about suffering and pain because He entered into it freely, willingly, with joy, and in complete obedience.What a comfort that is as we seek to be boldly honest about our true needs and courageously seek to enter into the suffering of others ourselves.

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” In our suffering, we are moving toward restored Hope. So let’s enter into each other’s suffering, let’s let other people enter into ours, and let’s give God all the glory for what He accomplished for us and the work He is doing in and through us, as we walk this life with Him, Immanuel.