The Practice of Spiritual Friendships {The LIFT Project}

In week 3 of the LIFT Course on The Leader’s Soul, Mindy Caliguire gave us 6 spiritual practices leaders must consider in terms of soul care:

Prayer {Central to everything, the language of our relationship with God, the most direct and obvious way our soul opens up to God – His person, His grace, His healing}

Use of Scripture {Not one particular but all… study, memorization, meditation, praying scriptures, etc.}

Spiritual Friendship {One that often gets left off the charts because we want to protect ourselves.  People in ministry tend to isolate themselves.}

Solitude {connecting to the idea of silence to exempt ourselves from the demands of life where we can hear from God}

Soul Searching {Examining your heart in the spirit of Psalm 139: “Search me Oh God and know my heart…”}

Simplicity {NOT about making your life more manageable but a focused life on Jesus, living with integrity and faithfulness to the life He has called you to}

Mindy says the biggest enemy to simplicity is actually duplicity.  Where we are one person in one environment {church, small group, Bible study} and another person in a different environment {school, work, at home}.    It occurred to me that in order to live a life of Biblical simplicity, one cannot avoid the call to live in and through Spiritual Friendships.  Sometimes called “fellowship,” spiritual friends are those who you can be your authentic self with, who you can go to when you need prayer for the deepest, darkest parts of your life, those who you have invited to hold you accountable to walking in the way of Jesus and those who spur you on to love and good deeds, who encourage you, who help you maximize your strengths but are not afraid to walk alongside you in your weakness.

It is through spiritual friendships that we can come face to face with the living God, when we can actually touch, see and feel the work of Jesus in this broken world.  Through spiritual friendship we learn, are stretched and are even broken by community. 

Authentic spiritual friendships are where the temptation to live in duplicity is broken down and the joy of living in simplicity is ushered in.

We were asked at the end of this session to discuss two questions:

1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a leader in engaging in spiritual practices?

2. What is one spiritual practice that you most depend on these days?

My answers… number 1… prayer and silence.  A mom of 4 has little time for silence and I see now why it’s called a discipline.  Discipline is difficult and it requires a will with intention and perseverance.  Honestly, I’m tired most of the time and when it’s silent I tend to fall asleep.  On a good day I will wake up early and take a few moments to myself that include silence and prayer.  This requires the discipline of setting the alarm and not being distracted by housework, emails, Facebook etc.  But the practice of prayer… really consistently going to the face down with own life and the lives of those I love and shepherd is one that I need to set aside time for.  Sure, I pray all day long…quick popcorn prayers that I believe whole heartedly God hears, loves and answers.  But the kind of prayer you take a considerable time for, the kind that nurtures your soul is one I crave.

Secondly the discipline I rely most on is that of spiritual friendships.  For me as a leader, I’m thankful that I’ve never been tempted to isolate from the few who I know love me despite all my shortcomings.  Without these friends, first and foremost my husband, I don’t think I could survive.  Yet the fear of disappointment, the fear of of not measuring up, the balance of loving my family as much as I love my friends are all distractions that have their way of creeping in.

Practice makes perfect they say.  So spiritual practices or disciplines if you will, are a necessary part of sanctification that God so desires for us.

“And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:4

What about you?

1. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a leader in engaging in spiritual practices?

2. What is one spiritual practice that you most depend on these days?

The LIFT Project: The Leader’s Soul

I’ve been taking an online class through Willow Creek Association’s Leadership Institute for Transformation called The Leader’s Soul.  It has been eye opening, heart opening and quite revealing all at the same time.  The class, focused on the soul of  a leader has challenged me in the way I care for my own soul while being in a so-called soul-care vocation, if you will.  As a church leader it is an honor, privilege and blessing to walk alongside others in hopes that God may use me to care for the soul of another, pointing them towards Him… the Shepherd of our souls.

Yet if I’m going to be truthful, I would have to admit that it is far too easy to neglect my own soul in the middle of life.  Kids, schedules, meetings, late night studying, piles of laundry, meal planning and the ever increasing collection of dust and baseball dirt in the house leave me with little but moments here and there to tend to this soul.

I want to spend a little time this week sharing what I’ve been learning in hopes that it may encourage you.  The very first week of the course proposed two questions:

What are your symptoms of soul neglect?

What are your symptoms of soul health?

How do you know when you are neglecting the care of your own soul?  How does it become a problem for you in your relationships? Your parenting?  Does it effect your work?  I know when I am neglecting my soul when my general attitude towards people becomes more snarky.  I tend to have a dry sense of humor…witty…ahem… okay, I’m a little sarcastic.  But the line is crossed a little too easily when I am depleted of every good thing that keeps my heart and mind focused on the right things.  I get snarky.  Sarcastic at the wrong time with the wrong people.  I also am tired very quickly… I want to check out, shut down and go to bed.

But when my soul is being fed, nourished and healthy… I am far more patient, I laugh a lot more often and things are more peaceful at home.  My soul needs regular moments of quiet.  Time in the word, not just reading but thinking and writing and asking God to change me.

Mindy Caliguire, who is one of the instructors of the course pointed out that just like care for our physical bodies through eating right and working out, our souls need care to be strengthened and nourished.  Not only that but every day we make a choice one way or the other to care for our souls or neglect our souls.

The Leader’s Soul class has challenged me in my choices… there are many things about life that cannot be changed and many things I would not wish to change.   I really believe that if we care for our souls and stay on course with Jesus, He gives us a grace for whatever He has for us in life.  It comes down to choices in how we are going to be faithful to that which He has given us.  For me, where I gain my perspective, from Whom I draw my strength and the way I choose to use and give my first fruits of time and energy MUST change.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

What about you? 

How do you know when your soul is healthy? 

How do you know when it is being neglected?

When You Need a Moment to Ask Yourself

On Sunday night our Women’s Leadership Team came over for dinner and a meeting.  I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt during these meetings because although it’s considered “work,” I love these women and would have them around my dinner table any chance I get…whether we serve alongside one another or not.

Before the meeting, I thought about each one and where they are in their lives and wondered if I had it right.  So I asked them to write down on a card the answer to the following questions with one to three word answers:

1. What is currently occupying most of your brain space?
2. How are you doing?
3. Who are you becoming?

It was hard for all of them at some level or another because first, we often don’t take time to ask ourselves these questions and admittedly, there are times when we don’t like the answers.

Here are my answers:

1. Are my kids okay? {Explanation: All the boys are in various stages of “growth spurt,” if you will.  I’m wondering, are we shepherding them through said spurts well}

2. Good and Tired.  {I’ve surrendered to the Tired 30s and the ebb and flow of sleep that comes with a baby}

3. More confident in Jesus in me.  {Explanation: I’m becoming more humbled by own short comings.  The scripture “apart from me, you can do nothing,” is becoming louder and clearer}

Your turn…

Creating and Nurturing a Culture of Authenticity

The Women’s Ministry in which I serve at King’s Harbor Church has become a refreshing place of authenticity for many women, including myself.  Because of God and how He is stirring among us, we are increasingly leaving off our “church faces” and drive for perfection and becoming more and more okay with who we are, recognizing where we’ve been and trusting God to not leave us stagnant.  As God peels back the layers, it’s crucial for women to partner with Him in creating a culture where we can allow Him to do the deep work in and through us.

In the time I’ve been leading the women at King’s Harbor Church, there have been so many lessons learned from those I serve alongside.  I’m so thankful to be guest posting the thoughts produced from these lessons on Lifeway’s Women Reaching Women Blog today.

Would you stop by and read more about Creating and Nurturing a Culture of Authenticity by clicking here?  Please consider sharing some of your thoughts as well in the comments about what you have learned about authenticity.

It Only Takes One

The days following a big event, a weekend of preaching, a conference of speaking, a worship set of leading… it’s not exclusive to one person or vein of service to God… there is a let down.

The let down comes in rejoicing but it also comes with a slew of “What if’s,”  “I should haves,”  or “I could haves…” 

Doubts.  Concerns.  Too much or not enough.

Last weekend at our women’s retreat, I had the honor of seeing God move in only the ways He can.  Setting captives free. Releasing women from shame and condemnation.  It is the stuff the Scriptures are made of. Women falling into puddles of tears and other women scooping them up to cover them in love and prayer.  There were women who carried their friend to Jesus like those four guys who brought their friend through the roof because they knew Jesus could save him.

Yet there were those things I had in mind that did not come to pass… my plans.  Not necessarily His.

Yesterday as the thoughts entered into my mind, I went to battle with this…

One person put their trust in Jesus.

One person got baptized.

At least one was set free.

This is not to boast but to give glory God because it only takes one.  If all our labor is for just one… the Bible is clear, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” {Luke 15:7}

Heaven rejoices.

If you are a pastor, leader, worshiper, intercessor, usher, greeter, steward, tech director, Sunday school teacher and you experience the let down… trust in Jesus that it is He who is at work in the seen and the unseen.

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

It’s more about Him than it is about us.

And it only takes One to make us feel it’s worth it.

Do you experience the Monday let down?

If so, how do you battle it?

Wholistic Care for Women and God’s Psychology

One of the best things to come out of 2011 in terms of my ministry involvement is the beginnings of the Women’s Care Team at King’s Harbor Church.

Every leader has areas of weakness in which they must compensate with by bringing people on the team who have the gifts they don’t have.  For me, my weakness is in the area of counseling.  I can counsel someone to a degree, but to stay in the long haul and help them get unstuck and moved on to the next place in their growth can be really hard for me and well… not my best contribution.  That being understood, I invited 9 women from our church who either counsel people professionally or have spent years in the trenches with women through the local church.  These women have blessed me so much with their wisdom, enthusiasm and genuine love to see women walk in the ways in which God has called them.  Out of their prayers and team work will come a new and better way to care for women in our church in a more whole way… heart, soul, mind and strength in 2012.

One woman in particular who has become a good friend has just published her first book.  I love hearing Terry’s perspective of psychology and how God has created our minds to work, heal and seek after Him.  She is a licensed therapist with a PhD and has a profound understand of God’s Truth and a desire for women to walk in that truth.  Whatever your bias is towards psychology, I would recommend her insights to you.

I’ve personally benefited from cognitive therapy a few times in my life.  With the help of Christian professionals I’ve been able to clear the clutter that’s been in mind and heart and make way for the God to do a work of sanctification and transformation in my life.

What about you?  Have you benefited from therapy/counseling before?

God is Not an Indian Giver

My ears and heart are perked up to the subject of Spiritual Gifts because we are in the middle of a series on the Spirit Led life and also because my friend Angela just published her book, Beautifully Gifted.

It seems many of us are in need of is a better sense of our wiring and how we are gifted.  The avenue to discover that is still something I’m unsure of.  Having grown up in the decade in which we were “tested” to discover our gifts and talents, coming away to declare them more than demonstrate them kind of put me off a bit.  Personally, I think the best way to go about finding your gift is to ask God to show you, do a little self-discovery to understand what it is you do that you can’t NOT do… what it is that you do that makes you feel alive, that helps you sense God’s presence and pleasure {cue theme song from Chariots of Fire} and of course hear it from the mouth of someone who knows you.  Angela’s book and workshops help to facilitate these things.

Last week, one of my dearest friends came to speak to a women’s group at our church.  She had spent years leading and teaching through Young Life, youth ministries at local churches and women’s ministries until she finally decided to pull away and tend to the youth group that was growing under her roof.  It had been a while since she taught but when she opened her mouth last week, God brought it through a deeply moving and gracious message on contentment.  A message that all of us moms needed to hear.

As she was speaking it occurred to me… when God gives us gifts he doesn’t take them back. 

He may change the course of our lives as such that His gifts are manifested in different ways through us.  There may be seasons when we are called to a different place and to different responsibilities. Yet the Creator God is even creative in the way in which He chooses to gift pieces of Himself to us and through us.  Our gifts are given to us for the common good so they are not for us they are for those who He has placed us with.  When we bloom where we are planted it’s for all to enjoy, benefit and in effect, be changed.

Sometimes I get tangled in the now and fret about the things in my heart I think need attention right now…before its too late.  Yet I see more clearly that sometimes the now is just the now… and if I spend too much time thinking about what isn’t right now… I’ll miss the now and the next may not be quite as good.

“What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.   He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”

~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 

Look

It’s amazing how many distractions we have to fight against to have a simple conversation with someone. It takes a concerted effort to lock eyes with a person to let them know verbally and non-verbally you are listening, you see them and that you care.

A look can go a long way.

Eye contact during a conversation without looking around at who is coming or going. Not looking at your phone to check the time, your Facebook or Twitter.  Letting the other person know you are there, fully present even for five minutes and you are trying to understand them.

Yesterday at a leadership meeting we unpacked the importance of this in ministry, marriage and with our children. A great part of caring for someone is actually looking at them and what you communicate with your eyes.

In John 8, Jesus is teaching in the temple when all of a sudden he is interrupted by a group of men who bring into the middle of the room a woman caught in adultery. No doubt she was literally “caught” so imagine what she may have been wearing and how disgraced she must have been.

The way the men looked at her must have robbed her from all dignity. I imagine her eyes falling to the ground as she holds back her tears and prepares to be stoned to death.

Could it be that Jesus bends down to write with his finger in the ground in order to lock eyes with her? To say, “I see you and I love you.” He takes the eyes of the men off the woman and puts them on Himself.  And with one statement, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” he shifts their eyes from Him onto their own hearts.

One by one they walk away and Jesus, left alone with the woman stands up and says to her, “Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She looks around and sees no one but a Savior who does not condemn when He looks at her. Instead, He sets her free, gives back her dignity and with an unfathonable amount of grace releases her with a second chance to go and sin no more.

He looks at her with compassion, with grace and understanding. She did what was probably the worst thing a woman could do and yet He looked at her and loved her to become a better version of herself.

How do you like to be seen? Do you see yourself the way God sees you? Forgiven, redeemed, rescued, with grace and well pleased?

When you look at others do you ask Jesus to help you see them the way He does? With compassion, without condemnation, with hope and encouragement?

In all your conversations this weekend and when you look in the mirror, may it be so.

You are not the artist, You are the Canvas

In the last 4 days, I’ve sat under some amazing teaching via Catalyst West Coast and the Beth Moore Simulcast we hosted today.  You’d think I am on teaching overload, but that’s not the case.  I’ve feasted on truth, heard amazing stories and accounts of what God is doing through others and now I’m trying to re-read my notes and process it all:

From @scotmcknight:

What would a Christian look like if we really did what Jesus did?

1. Ignite people’s imaginations (Imagination excited by the Kingdom of God)

2. Yearn for justice (the Beatitudes are not Jesus’ fruit of the Spirit but a description of the people who are in the Kingdom)

3. Love others (Do you love God? Do you love others?  – Not just tolerate them)

4. Surrender our whole lives to Jesus (Death to self, life to the fullest)

5. Join Church (because when the Holy Spirit came, a community emerged)

From @michaelhyatt:

“Good leaders influence their audience and engage who is already listening.”

“A platform is NOT a pedestal”

“It’s not about elevating yourself, it is about extending good.”

From @andystanley:

“Reality causes your dreams to shrink.  All things are possible and we need not let the realities of today crush our dreams.  Because… there is a cross hanging over the emperor’s entrance in the coliseum.”

“We are stewards of the message of the resurrection.”

“Your fully exploited strengths are of greater value than your marginally improved weaknesses.”

“Do less to accomplish more.”

From @pastormark (Mark Driscoll)

“Be clear on what God does and what you are to do.”

“God empowers leaders”

“Grace is not only saving, but empowering through study, solitude and prayer.  Not just doing ministry, but being a Christian.”

“Ministry is putting on a little hard hat and going to work with Dad.”

“God’s grace enables you to be who He’s called you to be and do the things you can’t do.”

From Dallas Willard:

“Unless you understand that Jesus invites you to put your confidence in Him to live in the Kingdom now, discipleship and transformation do not exist.”

“The gospel isn’t about how to get to heaven when you die, it’s about how to get into Heaven before you die.  How to live with God now.”

“The Kingdom of God, is God in action.”

“Grace= God acting in your life to accomplish what you can’t do on your own.”

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.”

“Discipline= Do things within your power to enable you to do things you can’t do.”

From @LouieGiglio:

What kind of Church was the Acts 2 Church?

1. They taught the teachings of Christ

2. They were eye witnesses of the resurrection

3. They had the Holy Spirit

We have:

1. The teachings of Christ

2. We have seen the power of the resurrection in our lives

3. We have the Holy Spirit

From @donmilleris:

“Doctrine is the actual facts of the story by which we live.”

From @kaywarren:

James 1:7 is the litmus test for your followership.  Have the courage to ask God, “Do you want our family to adopt?”

“If the answer is no, we are still responsible to do something.”

Finally, from Beth Moore:

“You have nothing to gain from insecurity.  It will not improve your relationships, your circumstances, your calling… nothing.”

“Insecurity and humility are NOT the same thing.”

“Insecurity is a weakness… it is unbelief in the promises of God.”

From Ephesians 4:17-5:2:

A SECURE woman is one who:

is Saved from herself, Entitled to truth, is Clothed with intention, is Upended by grace, Rebounded by love and Exceptional in life.”

It begins with our minds, we must make up our minds to walk with the will He gave us to be secure and not be weak willed women.

“Perfectionism is insecurity in an art form.”

“We can keep letting the culture get to us, or we can let Christ overtake us.”

What about you?  What did you get out Catalyst West or So Long, Insecurity?