Cognitive Training that Outsmarts Our Desires

fasting1

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

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The mind of Christ

I Corinthians 2:6-16bible_geneva_from_1581_p7110004-geneva-bible-picture-427x341

Yet when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; if they had, they would not have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.”

10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. 14 But people who aren’t spiritual (in Christ),can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. 15 Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. 16 For,

“Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?
    Who knows enough to teach him?”

But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ.

GoodFridaylighteningI was reading my daily Bible reading to get myself through the Bible in two years. The New Testament passage was the Scripture above. Reading it caused an explosion in my mind. The Holy Spirit lives in me, therefore, I have the mind of God. I am privileged to see the ‘big picture’: God’s plan for the ages: ‘Christ in me [in each of us], the hope of glory’. Colossians 1:27  There is such beauty pondering this during Lent. His passion and death, the final steps before His rising again to go to the Father, brings the Holy Spirit to stay with me, to live in me….In me, I have the mind of Christ! Think of it!

In the glory of His light,

Dawn

Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know.

Prescription for fatigue: Waiting on the Lord

Yesterday I told you how tired I was and how I had so many things to do. Here was my Scripture for Bible Study this morning, Isaiah 40:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is an eternal God,
the Creator of the whole earth.
He does not get tired or weary;
there is no limit to his wisdom.
29 He gives strength to those who are tired;
to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy.
30 Even youths get tired and weary;
even strong young men clumsily stumble.
31 But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength;
they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings,
they run without growing weary,
they walk without getting tired.

Here is my prayer for this morning:

Teach me that I must act by a power supernatural.

whereby I can attempt things above my strength,

and bear evils beyond my strength,

acting for Christ in all,

and have His superior power to help me.

From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett, p. 185

He is with us no matter where we are,

Dawn

The whole world changed one Sunday morning

I plan to get up about 5 am tomorrow morning. I don’t want to miss celebrating the most significant event in world history. Everything and everyone was dying. There was no hope. The world was spinning out of control. Evil wrapped its dirty tentacles around the creation and it died. Beyond the grave there was no assurance of a better world. There was no way to get cleaned up, no way to get rid of the filth. Men studied the stars looking for a sign that would point the way out, but somehow the celestrial bodies never lined up quite right until one day…

they pointed to a manger in a cave-stable on the outskirts of a little town called Bethlehem. Hmmm…just like the prophets said would happen. Some people realized who this baby was and the story began. God had come to earth to talk to us up close and personal about Who He was and what it was He wanted. He came to Israel so He was Jewish and spoke Aramaic. We learn about God through this cultural lens until the day the powerful Jews got tired of having Him around, and crucified Him on trumped up charges. Well, so they thought. Actually, God gave Him(self) up to them as the blood sacrifice needed to save the world. His death happened on Friday.

Friday at lunch my mother’s husband, Terry, asked where Jesus went from Friday after his death till Sunday morning. My husband, the Preacher, said the Scriptures and church tradition have Him going to the dead to preach to them before He showed Himself again to His followers. I hadn’t thought much about it before, but Jesus was busy during his grave days. He wasn’t just lying around in grave clothes. Could it be that behind the stone that blocked the entrance to His tomb no one was there? Was Jesus somewhere else?

At what point was Jesus risen? Joseph of Arimathea, to his own peril, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ dead body. He wrapped the body in a linen shroud and placed it in a tomb chiseled from rock that had never been used. (Luke 23:50-56). The same Scripture says the women followed Joseph and then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes. I remember when I was a kid I would think that my toys and stuffed animals would come alive after I left my room. I would run back quickly to try to “catch” them at it. I would love to have been a mouse along the wall of this hand-hewn tomb after the stone had sealed it shut, to have seen what went on in the tomb from Friday after Joseph and the women left until Sunday morning! Jack, over at http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/does-the-bible-tell-us-where-jesus-was-the-three-days-between-his-death-and-resurrection/ goes through a thorough exegesis of what Christ might have been up to on Saturday, but wouldn’t it be marvelous to know?!

I DO know that He came to earth to die for the sins of the whole world and He did die. I DO know that He came out of the tomb on Sunday morning, and when He did that, He showed us that He had conquered death. The whole world changed that Sunday morning. My whole world changed that Sunday morning! I want to celebrate!

Happy Easter!

He is risen!

Dawn

Wash Day

Debbie Steinbacher shared a blog site on her Facebook page today from http://www.aquinasandmore.com entitled It’s Wash Day. Yes, Maunday Thursday of Holy Week is Wash Day. It is the day that the disciples were told to get an Upper Room ready for the Last Supper where they would eat, He would say His good-byes and wash their feet. Sylvia over at http://www.sylvrpen.com said this morning that Jesus had 24 hours to live and her blog was about what He did with his last day.

Sylvia said that He connected with His closest friends, said His good-byes and gave them instructions on what to do after He died. It was really important that they understood His instructions so He set up an experiential learning exercise which also served as His last gift to them: He washed their feet. I would have been very much like Peter and not have wanted the Lord of the Universe to wash my feet (besides, I am so ticklish that it would have turned a beautiful, solemn moment into a laugh fest, but I think Jesus was up to the challenge. I can see Him smile in my mind’s eye.) A simple reprimand from Jesus, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” settles the issue for Peter and, in true Simon Peter fashion, he replies, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” John 13:8,9

Yes, it was Wash Day. Jesus washed the feet of each one of His disciples and then He began the debriefing, “Do you know what I have done to you?”

“You call me Lord and Master, and ye say well, for I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” John 13:13-15

Carrie posted verse 15 today on her Facebook page. Now I know why. “You should do as I have done to you” is the quintessential lesson of Wash Day. For those who do the wash in your family, you know how unrelenting it is. There is always something that needs washed. Jesus knew that. He could see the mess and He set out to take care of it. He didn’t hire the job out. He couldn’t. He was the only one who could do it and He did.

Who will we pass today who needs to know what Jesus is going to do tomorrow and why? We can keep it to ourselves in a small group in an upper room and feel special because we got our feet washed or we can spread it around. He left us instructions.

May I be faithful,

Dawn

When God interrupts us

“This has almost always been the case for me with God’s will. I was always pointed someplace else, moving ahead, doing what I thought I was supposed to do. I wasn’t seeking; I wasn’t looking. It seems as though God has always come to me as an interruption.”  ~ Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus

I’ve been thinking about interruptions. Last night I was making a Jacob’s Ladder photo booklet with some friends. It is a booklet made from a set of square coasters bound together by three ribbons that enable an optical illusion to occur when the viewer “operates” the booklet. The pictures on the coasters are viewed as the coasters fall open in a cascading fashion and by flipping the top picture in the cascade it flips to reveal the pictures on the underside of the cascade. Here is a You Tube video of the Jacob’s Ladder toy after which this photobook was modeled:

Jacob’s Ladder Toy

After the evening out with my wonderful ladies under the superb instruction of Kat, I got to wondering why this was called Jacob’s Ladder. I did an internet search that did not yield much illumination so then I went to Genesis 28 to read the Bible story of Jacob’s ladder to see if that would help. Da! I should have gone to the Bible first. Here is the story recorded in Genesis 28:10-17 in the New Living Translation (NLT)

Landscape with Jacob's Dream, c. 1690, by Michael Willmann

10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.

13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” 17 But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”

The key verse for me (and it fairly leaped off the page at me) was verse 16. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” Isn’t this what Ann tries to teach us with each and every blog at A Holy Experience? Isn’t it what 1000 Gifts is all about? Slowing our lives down so we notice things, so that we become aware of the now; not always mulling over the past or impatiently waiting for the future, but being now here. As my friend Andrea Dawn so wisely noted one day, “If we are not now here. We are nowhere.”

In the Jacob’s ladder toy (and in my photo book) half the pictures are hidden until the viewer flips the “ladder” and then all new pictures show up. It’s kind of miraculous. Indeed, one can make objects appear and disappear according to how the pictures are viewed. I don’t know why the “toy” was called Jacob’s Ladder in the beginning, but this is my explanation. Life has many layers of meaning. It’s the art of life to get the meaning, right Andrea Dawn?  In January I thought I knew where I was going and I got interrupted. My Jacob’s Ladder flipped and the hidden parts I wasn’t seeing before replaced what I was seeing every day. It was truly a new landscape for me. I think of that now as I look at my Jacob’s Ladder photo book and as I remember Jesus’ death this Friday. Jesus’ crucifixion could be viewed as the interruption of a young and vibrant life, but from God’s perspective it is the fulfillment of the plan of the ages. Believing makes the whole scene flip and then one can see that Jesus’ death is THE sacrifice that takes away the sins of the whole world.

Walking with Him Wednesday,

Dawn

The Broken Heart

O Lord

No day in my life has passed that has not proved me guilty in Thy sight.

Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart;

Praise has often been praiseless sound;

My best services are filthy rags.

Blessed Jesus, let me find a cover in Thy appeasing wounds,

Though my sins rise to heaven Thy merits soar above them.

Though unrighteousness weighs me down to hell,

Thy righteousness exalts me to Thy throne.

All things in me call for my rejection,

All things in Thee call for my acceptance.

I appeal from the throne of perfect justice

to Thy throne of boundless grace

Grant me to hear Thy voice assuring me:

that by Thy stripes I am healed,

that Thou wast bruised for my iniquities,

that Thou has been made sin for me

that I might be righteous in Thee,

that my grievous sins, my manifold sins, are all forgiven,

buried in the ocean of Thy concealing blood.

I am guilty, but pardoned,

lost, but saved,

wandering, but found,

sinning, but cleansed.

GIVE ME PERPETUAL BROKEN-HEARTEDNESS,

Keep me always clinging to Thy cross,

Flood me every moment with descending grace,

Open to me the springs of divine knowledge,

sparkling like crystal,

flowing clear and unsullied

through my wilderness of life.

~ A prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

remembering it is Lent and that Jesus is headed for Calvary.

With a broken heart,

Dawn

Absolutely No Good

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.

– Samuel Johnson

This quote, posted on Facebook by a friend who has very often been mistaken as my twin sister, intrigued me. I had heard the name Samuel Johnson, but I could not recall the genre. I googled his name and quickly remembered, “Ah, yes, Brit Lit. I do remember now.” What I didn’t recall was much about the man and so I spent many hours on Monday getting to know Samuel Johnson who lived from 1709 – 1784.

Samuel Johnson:

born to a poor book-seller who succumbed to madness

facially deformed from small pox at a young age and weakened from tubercular lymphatic disease

at end of adolescence, began to make gross guttural sounds and lunge uncontrollably probably suffering Tourette’s Syndrome

at age 26, married a woman 20 years his senior who was not put off by his appearance and mannerisms and who, he says, saved his sanity and gave him back his self-confidence

politically incorrect for his day: encouraged women writers, was anti-slavery and anti-republican

when widowed, sheltered a motley crew of dependents in his home including a former prostitute, a blind poetess and Francis Barber, a boy who had been a slave in Jamaica who ended up being Johnson’s heir.

Samuel Johnson looked and acted like a man who could do no good and people treated him as such. Few could get past his small, sickly, grotesque outward appearance to embrace the brilliance of his mind and fluency of his speech. Samuel was treated like an idiot and, he later related, would have lost his sanity had it not been for the Porters. Mr. and Mrs. Porter were a wealthy couple who valued his company and conversation. They welcomed him into their home where he was a constant guest for many years. Upon the death of the husband, Mrs. Porter coaxed Samuel to stay with her and was overheard to tell her daughter that he was “the most sensible man she had ever met.”

[I]n 1735 they were married. She was 20 years older than he, and brought to the marriage a dowry of over 600 pounds. In those days the interest alone on such a sum would have been almost enough for the couple to live on. There is every indication that it was a love match on both sides. On Tetty’s side, the love was reinforced by the perception of future greatness. On Johnson’s side, the love was reinforced by gratitude toward the woman whose approval and acceptance had given him back his sanity and self-respect. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/20.html

Did one couple of societal means make the difference for Samuel Johnson? It appears so. After Tetty’s death in 1752, Samuel was deeply saddened. He set to work and was able to stave off disabling melancholy for many years. In 1766, Henry Thrale and his wife Hester, friends of Johnson, visited him and found him most agitated, with his depression in an acute form. They resolved to bring him to their country home, where they thoroughly pampered him, and in effect made him one of the family. Their treatment of him brought him out of his depression and may have saved his sanity. Mrs Thrale wrote of him,

He loved the poor as I never yet saw anyone else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy.

…he nursed whole nests of people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the sick, and the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence his little income could secure them.

And just as he would give all the silver in his pocket to the poor who watched him as he left the house, so, on returning late at night, he for years had been putting pennies into the hands of children lying asleep on thresholds so that they could buy breakfast in the morning. http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/20.html

Samuel Johnson truly loved others because he had known real love. Living on the edge of insanity, Samuel had difficulty as a believer, but, as a young man, he was challenged when he read William Law’s book, Serious Call To a Devout and Holy Life and lived a life of faith till his death. Samuel Johnson’s life makes me pause. I know whom I would have been among the players in Samuel’s life. Friday I will tell you who, and how I know.

I close today with a prayer from one of Samuel Johnson’s diaries

O Lord, who wouldst that all men should be saved, and who Knowest that without thy grace we can do nothing acceptable to thee, have mercy upon me. Enable me to break the chain of my sins, to reject sensuality in word and thought, and to overcome and suppress vain scruples; and to use such diligence in lawful employment as may enable me to support myself and do good to others. O Lord, forgive me the time lost in idleness; pardon the sins which I have committed, and grant that I may redeem the time misspent, and be reconciled to thee by true repentance, that I may live and die in peace, and be received to everlasting happiness. Take not from me, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit, but let me have support and comfort for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Learning to love those who can do me absolutely no good,

Dawn

Video

The Intersection

God has been leading me these past weeks to a point–to an intersection of sorts–and now that I am here and standing in the middle of that intersection, I am ripe for revelation. I remember watching the movie Castaway in which Tom Hanks plays a Federal Express manager whose plane carrying Fed Ex packages crashes into the ocean and he is the lone survivor on an island in the middle of a vast ocean. He eventually gets off the island, but when he returns home he finds everything he is living for has changed. At the end of the movie he has a monologue where he says, “I learned I must just keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise and who knows what the tide may bring in.”

Castaway – The Intersection

I am in a place where my future is uncertain. Tomorrow is not routine. Tomorrow the sun will rise but I don’t know what the tide may bring in. I don’t even know where I will be tomorrow when the tide comes in. As I have just kept breathing, however, this time of “no-where-ness” has become the perfect place for “now-here-ness”. One who is “now here” sees each and every moment and all that is encapsulated in a moment as meaningful and valuable. Andrea Dawn clued me into this. She calls it the Art of Life. Now-here-ness (what she calls “getting God’s message”) changes even the most-hardened castaway. I am proof of that.

Dawn and Mary Ann

For the rest of this week, I want to share with you the thoughts that have brought me to this intersection. It all began with a quote that Mary Ann, who some say could be my twin sister, posted on Facebook. The quote was by Samuel Johnson:

The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.

This began my relentless mini-pursuit to know the man whose quote so captivated me. Please come back tomorrow to see what I found out…about Samuel Johnson and myself.

All is grace,

Dawn

I thank Him and learn to dance in the rain

Yesterday I lit my first candle on the cradle to cross wreath. Each Sunday in Lent is a mini-Easter and the way I count the 40 days of Lent is not to count the Sundays but simply light a candle on Sundays to commemorate the Lord’s Day. On Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, the last white candle will be lit. So on this Multitudes on Mondays I am 6 days into Lent. One of the “sacrifices” I was going to make over the weekend was to do something for someone who could not return the favor. I soon got a phone call from a friend who is struggling a lot with retirement. I asked her to go to an educational retreat with me to gain clarity. She was ecstatic to go. I also got three prayer requests for people whom I never met and will probably never meet, but for whom I can pray: Justin, Josie and Fran. These individuals need me to stop what I’m doing and focus. I have been.

But  then I went to church. When I opened the door to the sanctuary, I was met by a rainbow of colors, every hue and shade of every color. The colors were draped over the backs of pews, over the altar rail and down the banister to the basement fellowship area. These were the colors of the yarns that were the main material in the dozens of lap robes the women of the church had spent a whole year making. Every March they give the lap robes so the elderly in area nursing homes have warm throws for their laps and shoulders. Our women never see the elderly get them or use them, yet they diligently knit and crochet hour after hour all year long. Some of our women have done this for decades. This was a true example to me of doing something for someone expecting nothing in return–not even the joy of seeing that someone receive the gift. I got the message.

I am so thankful

#530 that He teaches me with real-life examples that are larger than life.

#531 that my lessons are taught to me gently, but powerfully.

#532 that my friends touch base with me and encourage me often.

#533 that my sister gets my situation because she has just been through it herself, somewhat differently, but still the same.

#534 that people share their stories of hurt and acknowledge my anger, but will not allow me to dwell on it.

#535 that Lent is a time of sacrifice. If Jesus carried a cross, why shouldn’t I?

#536 that the Lord supplies the needs of my family without the need to exchange money.

#537 that I am learning a new way to dance because the rhythm of life has changed.

#538 that there are many instances in the Bible where praising released people and so I am encouraged to praise even when things look bad.

#539 that I can think out my thoughts on this blog and that, sometimes, it may even be helpful to someone besides me.

#540 that I can connect with Ann’s community at Multitudes on Mondays

and meet you here,

Dawn