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

Advertisements

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.

The road to Emmaus is a 5K walk/run

So happy, she parked at the end of the row near an incline in the grass. There was no room for someone to park on that side of her leased car so she felt it would be safe parking itummmtooclose there. No one would be able to dent it by opening their car door into the side of her car. She was there to support a friend who was running a 5K for a charity. She met her friend and found out that it was a 5K walk/run and her friend invited her to join her and walk the route. She signed up and got a number.

Since she was now a participant and not just a bystander at the 5K, she returned to her car to leave some belongings there. Coming up over the rise in the lawn to go down the incline to her car she saw that someone had just pulled in next to her car and was parked ON the incline. She was crazy with rage. She ran down the incline screaming and waving her arms, “How could you park there? You must be insane. You won’t be able to get out of your car without banging your car door into my car. What were you thinking?”

The woman in the car rolled down her window and replied, “I promise I will keep my hand on my car door and open it slowly. I will not hit your car.” She demonstrated that she was capable of doing that and got out to face her deranged assailant. She said she was a pastor and was there to pray over her parishioners who were participating in the race.” Seemingly unruffled, the pastor continues, “Do you know where the runners are starting?”

 Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! “Helll-l0-0, you  are a Christian,” my Friend says to herself. “Act like it!”

“Yes, I do. Do you know that the race is a walk/run? I am going to walk the whole course. Why don’t you join me?”

The woman said, “I would, but I have a knee replacement and I would be too slow.”

“Oh, I have a hip replacement so you won’t be any slower than I. I could use a buddy. Please won’t you go with me? We could both raise money for this great cause.”

One hour later they had finished the 5K together, talking and sharing the whole time. One Christian invited the other Christian into fellowship. The other, not taking offense at the erratic first encounter, accepted the invitation to fellowship. Both lives were transformed in the afternoon sun, walking a 5K neither had intended to walk, but Jesus had other plans and both accepted His invitation.

 

Barbs5K

In His light because of His grace,

Dawn

 

 

 

Nightmare

Last night I had a nightmare and I didn’t want to go back to sleep because I thought it would continue. I was in a boat going through hatches to get to someone and I had gotten through one of the hatches and looked back to see a man coming out of the bedroom closet (you know how dreams are?) with a hatchet in his hand. I awoke in fear. I have been wrestling with one relationship in my life and I was wondering if that wrestling was coming out in a bizarre dream somehow.

The day before I had read Ann Voskamp’s reading for the 9th day of Advent. Here is what stuck me to the core:

You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph’s, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob’s,  who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God’s arms have you. You can never be undone….

‘If the worst things work for good to a believer, what shall the best things?’ writes Puritan Thomas Watson. ‘Nothing hurts the godly…all things…shall co-operate for their good, that their crosses shall be turned into blessings.’

And so my friend (who was like a sister to me) was running around, left her children and husband and took up with the one she was running with. Now she is married to him and shares custody of her children with her former husband. She has accepted Jesus as her Savior through her new husband’s influence and she posts video on Facebook of her teen daughter singing worship songs. Well, I have to tell you, I struggled with all this until Ann opened my eyes to the likes of the line of the Lion of Judah. Then the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair flashed through my mind and it looked like my friend kneeling there at Jesus’ feet. I remember Jesus saying, “She who is forgiven much, loves much.” Hmmmmm, and He looked at me and said, “Simon, when I came in your house you did not kiss me, you did not wash my feet…”

I was brought up short on this one. I like how Peter says to Jesus in the movie Jesus of Nazareth, “Oh Lord I am just a stupid man.”

Psalm 37 people

HealthyHolidayLivingI  am journaling in a book entitled Healthy Holiday Living. Today the lesson was on trust and commitment. I remember my Dad being very adamant about my keeping my word to other people no matter what. I can vividly remember cancelling a play date with a friend because one of the popular kids asked me to do something with her at the same time. My Dad overheard me cancelling with my ever-faithful everyday friend. When he realized what I was doing, he told me to call Miss Popular back and tell her I had a previous commitment and to keep the first commitment I had made. Isn’t it amazing that I remember that small clip of my life out of the thousands of hours of my childhood?! Perhaps my earthly Dad’s emphasis on building trust through commitment is why this day’s devotional captivated me.

The author of this day’s devotion, P. J. Bahr, asked the question “What are you asking God for that He hasn’t answered yet? She followed the question with the statement “Stop focusing on what you want and start asking God for what He wants.” Then she said “Record the changes in your attitude and your request.” With that pattern for reflection, I found verses rushing into my mind about how to get my prayers answered and they all dealt with praying God’s will. If I prayed what He wants, I’d get it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding and He will direct your paths. Pr 3:5

Delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Ps 37:4

If you ask anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:14

That lead me to ask myself the question, “What does God want?” I found the answer in Psalm 37, where David’s psalm lists the attributes of God people. They

do not to fret

trust Him

delight in Him

commit their way to Him

rest in Him

wait patiently for Him

cease from anger

forsake wrath

depart from evil

do good

keep His way

have the upright as examples

If we put our trust in the Lord, He will help,  deliver and save us. (v. 40) We will have peace. (v. 37).  P. J. writes,

When you feel that God isn’t answering your prayers, or isn’t showing you any signs at all that He is even hearing you, don’t be anxious, but continue persevering in prayer. He may be working behind the scenes to answer your prayer above and beyond all that you could ever ask or imagine.

The emphasis should be on desiring Him not desiring what He can do.

ChangeWhatYouWant4

He is with us,

Dawn

Earth Day

IMG_0796I was studying “Humility” with my First Place 4 Health ladies this Friday. Our study guide tells us that the Latin root for “humility” is humus, meaning “from the earth”. We might say, in modern times, a humble person is “down to earth” which means that the person is approachable and not too lofty. This is a trait that all Christians should possess. If one is not approachable what kind of relationships can she build? Our Bible verse was I Peter 5:5

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.”

By this verse in my Bible I had written a note from a past pastor’s sermon. It said, “‘humility is the work apron. Peter is literally saying here, “Slave, put your work apron on.”‘ In Philippians 2:3-4 Paul says that humble people think of others before they think of themselves. They prefer the other. Paul was telling Christians they need to have such an attitude if they are truly going to make a difference serving others. Humility is the covering that makes us true servants and not “do good-ers”. It separates those who use the poor to look good from those who help the poor attain their highest good.

I lamented that humility was not one of my strong characteristics, and that wearing an apron to work may be a healthy reminder for me throughout the day of just Whose I am in Christ and the necessity of humility in my relationships. The circle of women got excited at this prospect. One even offered to lend me her Mary Englebert apron. At that point I got a mental image of actually wearing an apron throughout the day. Another lady (so witty, she is) responded without hesitation, “Well, Friend Dawn, simply Don (Dawn) your apron.” That cinched it for me.

When I got home after Bible study, I found an old apron crumbled in the back of a closet space. I took it out. My husband said, “Are you going to wear that?” I said, “Yes, I think I am.” He did not know the humility story, but he ironed it for me. There was no turning back now. When your humble husband, irons you an apron, the Lord is not being subtle, no, He is not…

humilityapron And so, Dear Friends Who Pass By Here, if you see me this week out and about with a green apron on, you’ll know why. It’s back to the earth for me. After all, I am but dust, am I not? And just to reacquaint myself with the primordial home of my physical self, I pulled weeds and dead flowers out of the flower bed in front of my house. There was much dirt and dust, but so much living there, insects of every kind. At one point a grasshopper hopped onto my shoulder. He could come to me because I had positioned  myself so that I could ‘be with him’ in his environment’. What a metaphor!

He is with us,

Dawn

At the proper time

I have read the Bible through a dozen times or so. Today after reading of the Israeli military escapades and the ghastly stabbing of King Eglon by Ehud, Caleb’s youngest brother’s son, at the end of Judges 3 in the Old Testament, I was transported to the upper room. As I read from Luke in the New Testament, I imagined myself sitting down on a cushion at the last supper, listening to the conversations and receiving my piece of bread to dip into the bowel. Wondering how I’d have reacted to Jesus washing my feet and drying them with a towel……….

last-supper

Luke 22:14 At the proper time Jesus and the twelve apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have looked forward to this hour with deep longing, anxious to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat it again until it comes to fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus was facing Gesemane and the betrayal, the arrest and the trial. He would soon be standing as the crowd cried, “Crucify Him.” He would have blood dripping down His brow from the crown of thorns and down His back from the cat of 9 tails. After the flogging, He would then carry His cross to Golgotha, the hill shaped like a Skull, and THEN the nailingNailed and hanging and ridicule. All this was planned. All was happening ‘on schedule’. He did it all ‘at the proper time,’ in God’s time.

The words ‘at the proper time’ leapt off the page. What is proper about suffering, especially my Lord’s suffering?! I’m pondering this as I give my thank you’s this Multitudes on Monday. There seems to be a time for suffering, a scheduled time. It is a part of life in this fallen world. If my Jesus had a scheduled time of suffering, why should I question when mine comes? And probably, just most likely, mine is, at least in part, a result of my erring ways. He was without sin…and still, it came…at the proper time.

I am thankful for

#1271 His willingness to face it all.

#1272 His willingness to accept it all.

#1273 His willingness to bear it all (without calling 10,000 angels to set Him free as He could have done)

#1274 His willingness to love through it all (Father forgive them for they know not what they do)

#1275 His example–because my world and His are very much the same.

#1276 the example of my Coptic Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt after the Brotherhood burned 40 of their churches on Thursday

CopticChristiansPray#1277 those who live in victory through very grim circumstances. I know many people like this.

#1278 trees that shade in the afternoon sun as I walk my youngest dog, Mickey.

#1279 a big cyst on my little dog, Sebastian, that broke and healed over. He seems much happier and better.

#1280 a young girl named Libby who loves the Lord. I am praying to see if she might be my next Scripture memory accountability partner.

#1281 responsibility given at work that lets me know my bosses trust me with the building up of their business.

MarkLevine#1282 for those who are fighting to stop the gutting of my country’s Constitution and restore the rights of the States.

#1282 the birthday of my friend of 55 years.

#1283 the nursing supervisor at St Anthony’s Free Medical Clinic who cares about patients after hours and gets them what they need.  (not what they necessarily want, she gets them what they need)

#1284 the privilege of being part of caring for a nun who loved my daughter Joyce when she was a child.

Dear Readers: As I finished typing #1284  my husband came into the room and said, “Dawn, I am sorry to interrupt you, but something just happened in Georgia and I have to talk about it. A White woman was walking down the street pushing her baby in a stoller and two Black boys came up and demanded she give them money. She did not have any money. They told her if she didn’t get them money they would shoot her baby. She pleaded with them, but they shot the baby in the head.” Was it the proper time for this to happen? Ecclesiates 3 says there is a time to live and a time to die; a time to love and a time to hate.  Folks, I really hate this. It’s so difficult living this side of heaven. I don’t want to pray for these boys. How do my Coptic friends pray for their destroyers? Betsy ten Boom’s words to her sister Corrie while they were in the Nazi concentrations camps ring in my ears, “No hate, Corrie, no hate.”

#1285 a merciful Savior.

He is with us,

Dawn

First place thanksgiving

Are there some times in your week that you just get excited about? Do you have structured places, intentionally-booked times, that are the posts in the fence of your life? Do you have “watering holes” spaced strategically that, when you drink deeply from them, you can feel your strength renewed and your spirit refreshed? Do you appointments with people whose spirits can witness with your spirit wisely and with grace? At 10:00 am on Friday, my friend, Barb, asked if anyone would like to pray. I surely did! The abundance of gifts I got the hour I had just spent with the 8 ladies in my First Place 4 Health Bible study had me bursting with thankfulness to the Lord for each and every one of them. They were a formed group when they asked me to join them 3 months ago. Ann and Barb asked me to join them and the others loved me in. I have learned so much in relationship with them.

This week I am thankful for:

IMG_0408#1180 the unusual perspective I get every Bible study. The leader sees things so differently. She gave me a card with a verse that said “Won’t you come into the garden! I would like my roses to see you.” ~ Richard Sheridan Those ‘upside down’ vantage points tickle me and I so appreciate them.

#1181 those who persist toward a goal. They have not yet reached it, but they keep trying. Sometimes the hill they climb is steep. I admire those who can keep on even after years of seemingly little advancement towards the goal. They believe that experience comes with each attempt which will make the next attempt easier. Thank you, Determined Ones, for your example.

#1182 mothers who pray for their children over and over and over. They pray for their social lives, their intellectual lives, their physical well-being and their souls. Praying mothers  remind me that the meek inherit the earth and they know it. I love that.

#1183 the amount of intellectual ability I have been given. Many times I have shown the Lord displeasure that I was not quicker and more able mentally. In recent months I have seen what intellect can do in an unruly vessel. I am an unruly vessel and I could not do the damage I have witnessed lately because I was not as quick and as able mentally as the one I have been watching. God knew what He was doing!

#1184 health. I have discovered a new core routine that is actually helping my lumbar spine. It has been 4 years this month that I have had the herniated disc and 2 other bulging discs in my lumbar area. I have agonized over this, trying to find an answer for the misery and relief from said misery. I think I am beginning to get it, but about 2 years ago I met a woman who was diagnosed with a painful neuro-muscular disease. Her situation was a monstrosity compared to mine. I watched how she handled it. I am thankful for the chance to have been able to see my situation from another vantage point. I think my uncovering of a way to help myself was a direct result of intersecting with this woman and sharing remedies with her.

#1185 David dancing before the Lord. I come before the Lord dancing and meet other dancers there. These are sisters who walk intimately with the Lord, raise their hands to Him and sing to Him with all their hearts. We read the Bible, memorize Scripture and pray. I am thankful for the Lord of the dance Who unites us.

DavidDancing

#1186 the movie “The Trouble with the Curve”. It teaches, in a practical way, that not everything that is real is seen. There is a knowing that comes with experience. Thank you, Lord, for this practical application of an important truth. It also shows how several bad situations end up being good–in the end. It is a movie with a good lesson in never giving up hope.

#1187 I have three days off work after a 7-day stretch. It’s a time of rest. I am thankful for this!

God is with us,

Dawn

More than bird seed

In the midst of a discussion on Facebook about people committing atrocities and whether or not we’d be capable of such atrocities and how we should be praying for those who can not only commit such atrocities but order others to commit them, also, my son simply posts Mark 4:4

As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.

Here it is again, Faithful Readers, that parable of the Sower and the Seed. This is the parable that Jesus said, “If you don’t get this one, you will not get any of the others.” So I pull a Soupy Sales’ line here, “What does He mean by that?”soupy

Facebook friends were leaving comments on the atrocities of the past month in the news: Gosnell and the Philadelphia abortion clinic, the rape of a young girl by football jocks and the Boston Marathon bombings. We must pray for the masterminds of abuse, search our hearts to make sure that ‘we’ indeed are not ‘they’, and we must reach out to abusers as we were/are reached for by Christ. My son merely posted: Mark 4:4. Ah, I am lead right back to the parable of the sower and the seed.

sowerJesus sows His seed across a field. He warns, He teaches, He entreats. He looks everyone in the eye, even the blindest of them; and some see, but others, not at all. Even in the midst of a miracle only some see, but there are those who see miracles everywhere even in the midst of atrocities. And so I ask myself, “Am I seeing?” He is scattering seed and some of it is falling on a footpath. Am I a footpath? A footpath is hard, the topsoil is worn off and stones are exposed in the most worn parts.  Very little can take root on a footpath because of…, well, the feet and all their activity!  Continuous activity keeps the ground packed, worn and rough. Without floating down into soft soil and covered over, the seed is at the disposal of the elements. In this case, the birds come and dine. What good does it do a bird to have the Seed? It is unable to use it for anything but physical sustenance…and so it does.

Am I a bird feeding on the seed, but never really moving beyond the physical print on the pages. Does the seed pierce my mind and transform my thoughts? Does it give me new eyes and a new heart? Am I plowing up my fallow ground so the seed can grow? If not, the seed, the Word, remains print on page and has nothing to do with my living. I must, by His grace, be good ground. Yes, you may smell manure, but it’s a process, Dear Friends.

He is with us,

Dawn

Warning! Warning!

robot

I was thinking of the robot from the tv series “Lost in Space” when I read this portion of Scripture this morning with my husband. I remember when the robot would wave his roboty arms and cry out in alarm “WARNING! WARNING!” I thought it would have been appropriate for him to have done that just before reading Mark 4 after breakfast. So, if you are old enough to remember the robot and his antics, picture him warning you and read what Jesus said just after He told the parable of the seeds and the sower, a parable about which he said, “If you don’t understand this story, you will not understand all the others I am going to tell you.”

Mark 4:23-25a

Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!

And be sure to pay attention to what you hear.

The more you do this, the more you will understand.

and, even more besides.

To those who are open to my teaching, more understanding will be given.

But to those who are not listening,

even what they have will be taken away from them.

God is with us,

Dawn