Freedom from prison

I have named this year Freedom. It is becoming increasingly clear why this word came to me on the eve of 2015. I will soon be posting the particulars about a big conference that the women of my church are organizing that has everything to do with freedom. I think it is amazing what the Lord orchestrated us, His daughters in a small country church, to do; but that is a story for another day. Today I am linking to Leslie Leyland Fields’ post. She asked fellow bloggers to link up to her because she felt her message needed a wide audience. I was a bit blind-sided by what I read there. I can’t imagine anyone asking me to do what a woman asked Leslie to do for her, but, nonetheless, I trust Leslie. See what you think.

For freedom,

Dawn

Cognitive Training that Outsmarts Our Desires

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My Lenten journey has intersected with my weekly First Place 4 Health Bible study and given me such a jolt. It’s like I got shoved in the shoulder by the one and shoved again by the other. “Say, Dawn, did you get this yet?” It all began with the Bible verse for this 5th day of Lent, Matthew 6:16:

‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

I was to read the verse three times and then pick the phrase that I believed could re-form me the most. The verse that called out to me was “…they have received their reward in full.” No matter what the circumstance, if one gets some kind of instantaneous reward from their behavior or choice, that may be enough for that behavior or choice to become a habit. For instance, if eating a sweet brings joy or comfort or distraction from boredom then, whenever one needs those rewards, one may go for a sweet. If being melodramatic during a spiritual discipline elicits sympathetic commiseration, the one who desires accolades for taking on a spiritual discipline may find themselves being melodramatic. In each case, the person has succeeded in meeting his/her needs, but at what cost? Jesus says, “…they have received their reward in full.”

What if the person would have fasted secretly? What if the person would have kept their “weight control” rule of not snacking between meals? Was Jesus insinuating that there would be something better for those with the discipline to wait? My First Place 4 Health Bible Study took me to Matthew 4:4

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

and Deuteronomy 8:3, the Old Testament record of what Jesus was quoting

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Hmmmm, they were hungry and were fed to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus tells them the physical bread is not the issue. The issue is learning that they are to live beyond food; they are to live on every word that comes from the mouth of their Lord. He is the Bread of Life. They are to feed on Him. He further tells the crowds in John 6:27

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’

And if we do seek after things eternal, He promises in Matthew 6:33

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well

How do we effectively turn our attention from our temporary physical needs and prioritize our eternal spiritual needs? I found some of my answers in reviewing the marshmallow experiment that I had written about almost 4 years ago. You can read about it here.

We have to come up with a plan that outsmarts our carnal humanness. It seems that the habit of delaying gratification quellswell-fedsoul the heat of desire, nullifies the longing for the forbidden. Jesus tells us to turn away from whatever is taking us from Him and deliberately/intentionally turn to Him. He will fill us, satisfy us and keep us forever.

In freedom,

Dawn

Wisdom of the Sadhu: A Book Review for Plough Publishers

sadhuWisdom of the Sadhu: Teachings of Sundar Singh  –  Compiled and Edited by Kim Comer

I had never heard of Sundar Singh, but when I read that a young man from a devote Hindu family became one of the leaders of Christianity during the first half of the last century, I wanted to read more. He was not known as a systematic theologian, an apologist or an evangelist. He was simply a personal teacher, an Indian holy man who just happened to be a Christian, but his teachings captured the attention of the world. This book contains snippets of conversations, books, articles and conversations with others who knew him.

The book gives example after example of Sundar Singh’s thoughts, interpretations and beliefs. I will share three of them to show the richness of his God-given discourse. He tells the story of a woman praying to God to cleanse her heart as she was sweeping cobwebs from her house to get her house clean. She was frustrated when, the very next day, the cobwebs had all returned. Sadhu explained, “You will always have cobwebs until you get rid of the spiders. In the same way your heart will continually need cleansing until you get rid of the sin that makes it unclean.”

In teaching people how important their witness is in the world, Sundar Singh spoke of the deep sea creatures that shine their lights in the deepest depths of the ocean and the fireflies who shine their lights throughout the darkest jungle nights. Nature, he implied, teaches us to shine.

The story that meant the most to me, however, was the story of the Sadhu and his guide trekking through the Himalayan SnowMountains. They were making good time until a snow storm blew up bringing with it bitter cold and wind and they were still many miles from the nearest village. They proceeded along slowly, the numbing cold making them wonder if they would make it in time. Along the way they found a man lying in the snow, unable to continue against the wind and snow. Sadhu knelt by the man to help him when the guide said, “We can not take this man with us or we will all die.” Sadhu ignored the guide and proceeded to make preparations to take the man with him. The guide ran off toward the village on his own. Sadhu struggled with the man on his back, but he trudged along little by little. Hours later he could see the lights of the village! He knew he was going to make it. Just outside of town, however, he saw the guide lying frozen in the snow. He knew he had made it because of the heat of the man on his back. Sadhu taught, “This is the way of service. No one can live without the help of others, and in helping others we receive help ourselves.”

Wisdom of the Sadhu will bring depth of vision to anyone who reads it, but will most certainly bring the Christian reader refreshment. Although the narrative is not always engaging, I found that the nuggets to be found were well worth the panning.

There is freedom in Christ,

Dawn

The Greater Good

gaspricesRuss and I were watching the news last night and the story was about how gas prices are dropping. My husband commented that the Arabs are selling us their oil dirt cheap to try to put American oil out of business so they will have a monopoly. The report showed multiple interviews with domestic oil drillers and refiners who say that they are going under because of the cheap oil coming from the Middle East. Those in the Middle East are taking a temporary loss for an ultimate gain. Why do we not know this in the US? Why do executives in the oil market not buy domestic products even if they cost more so that American business can survive? I know that there will always be a foreign product that can be bought for less, marketed for a lower price and, thereby, mean more profit for the broker. I see it on my corner every day. Citgo will price its gasoline $.02 cheaper than the Sunoco station across the street. Citgo is a Venezuelan company. The Venezuelan dictatorship has purposely told Citgo stations to be the lowest-priced gas in every city across America in order to destroy American entrepreneurship. Why do Americans not understand this and make their purchases based on the greater good?

The “greater good” principle was brought home to me in my Bible study this week, also. I am reading about prayer and how AngelGod answers prayer and I discovered that God seems to use the “greater good” model to answer prayer. In one of the prayers in my First Place 4 Health study guide is the line, “[God”s] will has a greater purpose than what I desire.” Not even God’s son could escape this principle. In the Garden, the night before his crucifixion, He asked the Father “If You are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done.” He knew His crucifixion meant salvation for the world. He had to die for the greater good. God did not remove his trial, but he did send an angel from heaven to strengthen him (Like 22:43). At any moment, Jesus could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free, but he willingly chose the will of the Father for the greater good. The salvation of the world became his desire trumping the desire to escape the personal agony looming before him. When Jesus’ heart and God’s heart were one, personal release became a moot point.

I John 3:21-22 says that “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God and whatever we ask, we receive of Him because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Jesus could do what he did because he put his trust in God’s purposes not in his own desires. God’s purposes are always for the greater good. May we have eyes to see, but trust Him even when we can’t see (which, for me, is most of the time).

The Truth will make us free,

Dawn

An Advent A-ha!

IMG_1850During Advent, my husband and I add the Jesse Tree to our morning devotions. This morning we read the story of Moses and hung the 10 commandments ornament on the tree. We are using Ann Voskamp’s book and ornaments that I took from her web site several years ago. The book and ornaments have since evolved into a colorful hardback book called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:A Family Celebration of Christmas and 3-D ornaments can be made or purchased online in paper or resin. I love the ones I made years ago. I downloaded the pictures from Ann’s blog site and pasted them on sparkle paper and then laminated them so they would last. The pages that go with the ornaments were pulled together and bound with spiral binding.

This morning was no different from any other time I have read Ann Voskamp. She gets right to the heart of the matter. She was tellingIMG_1848 her readers that God only gave 10 rules and that in our sinful state we can’t even keep 10. In fact, she challenged us to pick one commandment and see if we could keep it for a whole day. I thought to myself, “Well, that shouldn’t be too hard. Take something really safe like ‘You shall not kill,’ Dawn. I mean, really how many times have you killed someone? Have you ever?”

About that time our new dog, Biscuit, started to bark and bark and bark. It got me to thinking about the same barking at 5:30 this morning when the garbage man was so loud emptying my neighbor’s garbage that he woke the the dog and me. I caught myself saying to my husband, “If I could have gotten my hands on the garbage man this morning, I think I would have killed him.” Honestly, it couldn’t have even been a half hour after I hung the 10 commandments on the Jesse tree. Did I actually hear myself say, “I would have killed him”? Of course, it was a gross exaggeration to illustrate my frustration with him, but there it was, the seed of death. Jesus said if we kill we are in danger of judgement, but he also said if we are angry we are in danger of judgement Matthew 5:21-22. He does not differentiate between killing and anger. He said if we break the least of the commandments, we will be least in the Kingdom of God.

I’d be in the “least” category if it were not for Christmas. Because of Jesus the Lamb, I have been redeemed. The Babe in the manger came to pay the price for my sin and raise me out of the hell I deserve. Why would He do that?

My husband said, “You know, Dawn, that garbage man is our garbage man.”

I said, “You’re kidding.”

He said, “No, he’s the same man who will come here tomorrow to collect our trash.”

I was really sorry then. I really like our garbage man. He takes care of all our trash and is kind to our dogs. I couldn’t believe he was the same person who made all that noise at 5:30 am. I know him beyond the loud garbage collection incident and so I wanted to give him grace. Then it hit me. That’s exactly why Jesus paid the price for my sin. He knows me and loves me. We have a relationship. I am His child. He knows me intimately and, in.that.knowing, He gifts me His love, His mercy and His grace.

Each day of Advent I unwrap another layer in preparation for His coming…

His coming for all of us.

 

Prayer Magic?

CircleofMagic

Magic, the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, is the first definition given by http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/magic. When prayers are said, are we not speaking to a supernatural [and mysterious] being and are we not, many times, asking Him to influence the course of events? Is prayer, therefore, like magic?

IMG_1686I attend a Christian weight loss group every Friday wherein we do a Bible Study, pray, memorize a verse of Scripture, exercise, learn to eat proper portions in a healthy manner, and encourage and weigh-in to be accountable to one another. This week for Bible Study we are focusing on prayer. Yesterday I was struck by a Scripture that I thought I knew well and that comes from my favorite chapter in the Bible, Romans 8:IMG_1682 (NIV) 26″…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”

Many come to our group for a certain reason.

“I will do the Bible Study if I have to, but what I really want is to lose weight.”

“I will come, but only because it’s a Bible Study. I’m not really interested in the health stuff.”

“I really need to get out of the house and breathe a little. This looks like a good group for fellowship.”

So, while some are praying for weight loss, some for Bible knowledge, and still others for friendship, all are praying that God will work His magic and they will get what they came for. Those verses from Romans should draw the believer up short. They say that we don’t know what we really need. The Holy Spirit does. “He searches our hearts.” He, also, knows the mind of God for us and it is He who takes our questionable prayers and motivations and intercedes for us “in accordance with the will of God.”

I wonder just what my prayers sound like when the Holy Spirit intercedes for me. Do the requests He takes to God on my behalf resemble anything I originally said? Author and Bible teacher Jennifer Kennedy Dean says, only if the pray-er prays in the will of God:

The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purpose of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine, to reflect God’s mind, not change it….[Of course] changing my prayer focus from my own satisfaction and happiness to God’s glory and eternal purposes would take a brand new heart.*

I John 5:14,15 “and this is the confidence we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us; and if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” (KJV) No, it’s not magic. Answered prayer is the result of the heart of the believer. “If the believer delights in the Lord, He will give her the desires of her heart. If she commits her way unto the Lord and trusts in Him, He will bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:4,5

Thanking Jesus for a brand new heart,

Dawn

small-heart

*Jennifer Kennedy Dean, Live a Praying Life: Open Your Life to God’s Power and Provision (Birmingham, AL: New Hope Publishers, 2011), p. 30.

Jesus didn’t really mean that, did He?

Morning starts as usual. After I walk the dog, my husband and I sit down to have breakfast and devotions together. We get through fruit and peanut butter toast, yogurt and bran (breakfast of the aging). We then turn to Jeremiah, Titus, a Psalm and a Proverb. Finally, we pray. That is usually “it”. We rise and go about our separate tasks in the home. This didn’t happen today.

We talked about those battling ebola. I asked The Preacher, “What do you think Jesus would have us do? When the going gets tough, I mean, when youJosephineSellu may actually die ministering to another, do you think he wants us to retreat?” I read about Josephine Sellu, deputy nurse matron at a government hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, where, at the date of this article, 15 Ebola nurses had died in rapid succession and she thought about quitting herself.

She is a rare survivor, one of three women on the original Ebola nursing staff who did not become infected. They watched their colleagues die and are still carrying on. Josephine says her best defense against despair is to keep on working.

“There is a need for me to be around,” said Ms. Sellu, 42, who oversees the Ebola nurses. “I am a senior. All the junior nurses look up to me.” If she left, she said, “the whole thing would collapse.” http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/24/world/africa/sierra-leone-if-they-survive-in-ebola-ward-they-work-on.html?emc=edit_th_20140824&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=66282052&_r=0

Jesus said to the rich young ruler, “Go sell what you have and follow me.” He  pointed to the widow who gave all that she had in the offering at the Temple and said to His disciples, “She has given more than anyone else because she gave her all.” Jesus also told His followers not to put their hand to the plow and then look back. He set the standard. He gave His all on Calvary.  It seems to me that Jesus is pretty clear about what our commitment should be, and, after his death and resurrection, His followers continued to stress it, “Don’t think that a double-minded man will receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:7.

Here I sit in my little house in Pennsylvania. There is no ebola here. It is safe. I have no plans to go to a training session on how to care for those with ebola. I have a physician friend who just got back from such a training and she is waiting for her call to go to West Africa. Me? I am being faith-still to hear Him. I am placing my ordinary life before God as an offering, praying for sensitivity to recognize what He wants from me and to quickly respond to it. [Romans 12:1, 2 The Message]. In the old King James language it was known as “presenting oneself as a living sacrifice”.  I may not have to go anywhere. Ebola is now in the United States. It may be coming to me.

God is with us and that makes all the difference,

Dawn

Yellow Tuesday Forces Me to Faith It

Everywhere the world seems to be crumbling. The foundation of morality and just plain common sense has been lost somewhere. Rational folks don’t know where to begin to recoup what seems to have vanished. When did any people group get the idea that children can be beheaded, women raped, and people abandon their faith or die? Insanity reigns. I felt like Jamie Jones and it paralyzed me. Being so American, I thought I must be doing something to stop the madness, but since I could not think of what in the world to do, I did nothing. I thought prayer would be good, but it seemed so Pollyanna-ish.

Enter Rachel Swenson and her Facebook event Yellow Tuesday – Pray for the Middle East. Here was a place for those of us who wanted to pray, but wanted to pray BIG (with others, many others). Rachel also gave me the privilege of inviting my friends so we could communicate with one another throughout the day. Moreover, people began to share their personal insights and gave links to bloggers who shared their thoughts. Not only did my prayer group become bigger, but my prayer became bigger. I began praying for all the players in the Middle East not just the Christians. All of a sudden ISIS was on my prayer list and the election in Iraq and a Jewish man in Bulgaria offering refuge to those fleeing Iran, Iraq and Syria.

I began prayer with my husband at breakfast. We sat down to our usual fare and were reminded that Christians fleeing Iraq were stuck in the mountains of northern Iraq surrounded by ISIS soldiers. They had nothing to eat, indeed, have had nothing to eat or drink for days. Food and water was being dropped by US military planes and humanitarian agencies were in the area. We prayed the people were getting what was being dropped and that humanitarian aid could reach them.

I had on a yellow tee shirt to remind me to pray. As news came in, I prayed. A video clip by a member of the Iraqi IMG_1513Parliament pleading for her people, the Yazidi, fueled my passion in prayer. I went into my basement to iron my blouses. As I ironed and prayed, I was struck that the blouse I was ironing was yellow. That blessed me. God was listening (of course He was, but I am still such a child so He gives me signs).

Next, my husband alerted me to news that Yank Barry, who used to sing with the 60’s band the Kingsmen, was using his money and influence to fund a safe haven and chance at a new life for refugees fleeing Iran and now Iraq and Syria. The name of his organization is Global Village Champions. I needed such good news of someone doing something to balance the horrors coming from the mountains of northern Iraq.

It is pouring down rain here, but it let up for a minute so I went out to walk my dog. He was jumping and skipping along. I was praying in the Spirit. As I was praising for the refreshing physical rain, I prayed for water for the Iraqi Christians. I was praying for rain in the desert. I wondered why I would have rain when those who needed it so desperately did not…so many questions. Then, I saw this:  IMG_1514Frankly, I don’t think I ever saw a yellow bike before. Thank you, Jesus!

I took off for lunch about 11:30 am. When we got to our little salad bar restaurant my husband remarked. “Wow, they changed their placemats!” Really? My husband doesn’t usually notice such things. Then I looked at them. You’re right, they were yellow! We went to the salad bar to make a salad and there was no lettuce, no tomato, no spring greens, etc etc. I would normally have been complaining, but those yellow placemats reminded that there were people on a mountain without any food or water. My husband and I prayed for those without and thanked the Lord for teaching us. When we returned home, we saw this Kurdish rescue

Ann Voskamp said it aptly for me:

I’m only afraid because I’m comfortable. It’s too easy to let the stuff make you comfortable, to use stuff as a shield to protect you against the headlines.

What if we are all only afraid because we’ve settled for being comfortable? What if we are all only afraid when where we’ve settled is not where the Comforter is — because where the Comforter meets you is precisely when you are outside of your comfort zone?

More than being afraid of a dangerous world, maybe we should be much more afraid of comfort zones….

When you’re tired enough of listening to all the talking heads, you can listen to the One who speaks to your soul. The One Who calls you to freedom of the expanse outside of comfort zones, to give yourself away and not be afraid. Life is too short to miss out on the harvest opportunity for which God has specifically blessed you for in the first place.

Prayerfully, so as not miss my God-ordained harvest opportunity,


Dawn

IMG_1515

 

We all need oxygen

We left the Cancer Treatment Center after my husband’s treatment today. I left the car running to keep my husband cool while I ran into the oxygen place to see why we were charged $120.00 for a no-charge visit. I was told to take a seat. I did. There was one other person in the waiting room. He proceeded to tell me why he had oxygen. By the time he was waited on and left the store, I knew his whole disease process, his wife’s disease process (she was at home and couldn’t come along–too sick) and how important he was the 38 years he was a teacher at the high school. Even after retirement he substitute-taught because they needed someone in the “hard” sciences like physics, math and chemistry. “Not everyone can teach those subjects, you know, but I choose them. The kids know they are going to have a good class when they see me.” I simply nodded at appropriate times, but I don’t think he noticed the timing.

Ann’s blog today summarized my moments at the oxygen center:

And there’s always someone who makes sure you know how much smarter and wiser, bigger and better, known and greater they are.

There’s always someone who snatches the horn to sing too loud…

This man was hooked to an oxygen machine at 4 liters per minute. Without it he would not be able to make it to his car let alone drive home. He and I were no different–both dependent on the God of the universe for every breath. Yet, the need for stardom was thick in that room. What did Ann say about that?

Stars are always very small…

Kingdom principles are clear: to be greatest in the Kingdom of God, you must be the servant of all. Must remember this

Amazing grace,

Dawn

Freedom – A Prayer for Wendy

O Holy Father, Thou hast freely given Thy son,JesusPaidItAll

O Divine Son, Thou hast freely paid my debt,

O Eternal Spirit, Thou hast freely bid me come,

O Triune God, Thou dost freely grace me with salvation.

Prayers and tears could not suffice to pardon my sins,

nor anything less than atoning blood,

but my believing is my receiving,

for a thankful acceptance is no paying of the debt.

 What didst Thou see in me?

that I a poor, diseased, despised sinner

should be clothed in Thy bright glory?

that a creeping worm

should be advanced to this high state?

that one lately groaning, weeping, dying,

should be as full of joy as my heart can hold?

that a being of dust and darkness

should be taken like Mordecai from captivity

and set next to the king?

should be lifted like Daniel from a den

and be made ruler of princes and provinces?

Who can fathom unmeasureable love?

As far as the rational soul exceeds the senses,

so does the Spirit exceed the rational in its knowledge of Thee.

Thou hast given me understanding to compass the earth,

measure the sun, moon, stars, universe.

but above all to know Thee, the only true God.

I marvel that the finite can know the Infinite,

here a little, afterwards in full-orbed truth;

Now I know what a small portion of what I shall know,

here in part, there in perfection,

here a glimpse, there a glory,

To enjoy Thee is life eternal,

and to enjoy is to know.

Keep me in the freedom of enjoying Thy salvation continually.

~ from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett.