Nov 4, 2013

Circles of Perception

In the Bible, Satan is called the father of lies. Lying is Satan's MO and one of the primary ways that he works against us, including in our marriages and relationships.

Take a look at the diagram. The innermost circles are the minds and hearts of two people in a relationship. The outer circle is reality or truth. Only God can see reality in a way that is pure and undistorted. The rest of us perceive reality through our five senses and we color that perception with our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This perception barrier is represented by the middle circles.

So, when an event happens, each person in the relationship sees that reality in a slightly different way, filtered through their own perception barrier.

Outside of the circles, Satan is working to insert his lies into our perception barrier. For a believer,
Satan cannot get inside us, but he can influence our thoughts, perceptions, and feelings. So, he inserts Lie A into your mind, and Lie B into your spouse's or friend's mind. Now the perception barriers are even more distorted. He orchestrates these lies to work against each other to create the perfect storm. These lies often come in the form of accusations against the other.Thankfully, God, the one who created reality and sees it perfectly is able to insert His truth into our very core, and He is on our side.

Let me give you an example. Mark and Susan have an older car and the expenses for repairs are becoming more and more frequent. Mark believes his family should have a new, dependable car and Susan thinks they should wait until their existing car dies. Mark is motivated by a desire to protect his family and Susan wants to be a good steward of their resources but the Accuser tells Mark that Susan is a cheapskate and Susan that Mark doesn't care about their financial security.

If a situation like this arises, first pray for God's perspective. He sees the situation objectively, with perfect clarity. Then take the time to ask lots of questions before accusing or jumping to conclusions. For example, “Can you help me understand the reasoning behind what you're saying?” “What financial numbers are we looking at?” “Are there options we're not looking at?” Gather all the facts you can and make a list of pros and cons.

As you seek to understand another's perceptions, remember that you are not perceiving reality directly either. As you explore, you may get some insight into your own barrier and see some possible misconceptions you may have that are contributing to the situation.

We want to spend less time convincing and more time understanding. We want the grace to give others permission to have their own perception barrier, to see the world as they do. As we work at discovering and understanding the perception barriers of others, we not only understand another person better, but we understand reality better, seeing it from a point of view outside our own. And maybe we can have fewer, less intense conflicts, and greater harmony.

Oct 8, 2013

What Is God's Will for Me?

Sometimes it's hard to know if a task set before us is something God wants us to do. The difference between the old covenant law and the new covenant law gives us some insight.

God gave Moses the law written on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). Today, under the new covenant, the law is written on our living hearts (Romans 2:15).

When something feels like a heavy weight on our shoulders, an obligatory should, a pressure from outside ourselves, that is usually the tablets of stone. When I feel this way, I question whether it is from God.

When the impetus to do something comes from within, a pressure from the inside wanting to get out, that is usually the law written on our hearts. The thing may be difficult and take us out of our comfort zone, but it comes from inside.

Of course, this is not infallible. There are often things that feel weighty and obligatory that obviously have to be done, like changing a dirty diaper or mopping the floor. On the other hand, a compelling desire can come from within and be totally wrong for us. But this principle has proven to be true many times for me as I have sought the Lord's will. I hope that when you are facing a decision it may be helpful to you as well.

Sep 12, 2013

How Jesus Prayed All Night

There are several Scripture references that tell us sometimes Jesus prayed all night (e.g., Matthew 21:17). For some reason, I always imagine Him out in the wilderness kneeling over a rock, laboring in prayer in the dark.

It is a little intimidating, really, if you think we should try to live as Christ lived. I am pretty protective of my sleep and, honestly, I'm not sure I would be willing or able to do that.

 But as I was sitting on our deck swing one evening, talking to God, I realized my imaginings were probably incorrect. I like to be outside in nature and talk to God, and I think Jesus did, too. He was surrounded by people most days, and He needed solitude to commune with His Father. I can see Him lying in a meadow looking up at the stars, feeling a gentle breeze on His face. I think He soaked up the presence of God with joy during those times.

If “the darkness is light to Him” then He must have thrilled in the beauty around Him. In fact, He probably enjoyed it so much that he never went to bed. I believe Christ's example is not to labor in prayer over a checklist (although fervent prayer can be work). He does, however, teach us to take time and to find solitude and beauty and, most of all, to enjoy the presence of God when we pray. That is something we all can do.


Sep 4, 2013

God Cares About the Small Things

My husband, Mike, gave me a pair of earrings for my birthday a few years ago. Two months ago, I lost one of them and had given up hope of finding it.

I walk almost every morning on a trail near our home that goes right from the city into the woods (see picture). It's like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. It is a graveled path that follows a stream, about a mile and a half long. Two weeks ago I happened to look down and see a glint of something underfoot. Curious, I bent down and dug it up and it was that very earring! I'm sure it was mine because I had bent the metal in a particular way. Somehow it was unscathed even though people had been walking on it for two months.

A week later I lost another earring … the other pair that Mike had gotten for me on the same birthday. It was a little discouraging, and even a bit confusing because I felt God had a message for me in restoring the first pair and now I had lost the other earring so what did that mean? I retraced the steps I had taken that day and couldn't find it.

Two days ago, I stopped at a convenience store to go to the ladies room and remembered that was the one place I had been that day that I hadn't checked. I thought I may as well ask the cashier if they had a lost and found. They did and the earring was there! She said it was once-in-a-lifetime luck.
I told her about the other pair and said, “I think God is trying to tell me something.”

She said, “I think he's trying to tell you to put those little rubber backs on your earrings.” Ha ha!
I believe God intervened in restoring those lost earrings.  In honesty, I don't know what the message is except that He cares about every little detail of our lives – He even counts the hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). If He will take the trouble to reach down into our world of time and space to alter circumstances that really aren't that important, how much more will he restore the big things in our lives.

At times it may seem as though God doesn't care and isn't doing anything, but He does. He may not restore the exact thing that you lost but, if He doesn't, He will give you something better.  “Even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you,” (Zechariah 9:12).

The poor and needy search for water,
but there is none; 
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia,
the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together
Isaiah 41:17-19

Aug 22, 2013

Lessons From a Veterinarian

I awoke one morning recently with some symptoms that I was afraid could mean kidney failure. I was scared because some of the medications I take for rheumatoid arthritis can do that.

The doctor got me in right away and did a few tests. I remember sitting there in his office before the results came back, talking with God. I was wrestling with myself to get to a point of letting it go into God's hands. He answered me with a word picture about taking our dogs to the vet's.

Snickers (our 12-year-old blind terrier)  is quite stoic and usually unfazed with difficulties that come her way. Doodle (a 5-year-old Maltipoo) gets afraid quite easily. But both of them somehow know that the vet is trying to help them when we go. I believe most animals are like this. No veterinarian would hurt an animal on purpose, but sometimes it is necessary to do a painful procedure to protect the animal from something worse.

The thought God challenged me with is this: Do I have as much faith in God as my dog does in the veterinarian? Do I believe that God takes no pleasure in my suffering and would never allow me to go through something painful unless He was protecting me from something worse? Do I believe that God is at least as good as my veterinarian?

There was no condemnation with these thoughts. Actually it was quite comforting as I mulled it over because it reminded me that God is good and was helping me right then, actually protecting me in that moment, whatever the tests showed.

Soon the doctor came in and told me that it was not my kidneys. It turned out to be a side effect from a medication that they were able to change. I was back to normal in a couple of days. But I continue to carry with me the comfort of what God showed me that day: If a bad thing happens, God will only allow it to protect us from something worse. It is something we would choose for ourselves if we could see what God sees. If you are going through a painful trial, I hope you will be encouraged as well. :)


May 30, 2013

Dwelling in Safety

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord, 
 make me dwell in safety. 
Psalm 4:8 (NIV)
Notice this verse says we dwell in safety. God doesn't just keep us safe, he envelopes us in safety. defines "dwell" in this way:
to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside
Safety is all around us. We "live, and move, and have our being" in safety (Acts 17:28). Above us, beneath us, in front and behind, it is there. We breathe safety.

Abba, may we rest in you. Amen.

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Apr 19, 2013

Fear and Religion

On my walk today, the thought came to me ...

If love casts out fear, I wonder, does fear cast out love?

It seems the things men do out of fear in the name of religion are devoid of love, certainly, and are sometimes filled with absolute evil.

Sometimes the things I do to my neighbor, or my own husband, in fear aren't much better. When I act out of fear I am unloving and unloveable.

1 John 4:18

Mar 18, 2013

Abandon Ship?

They were bailing for all they were worth, but it seemed that the next wave that plunged over the boat would be the last.

As is often the case, we think of praying as the last resort, which is why the disciples waited until this moment to wake Jesus. I always assumed  that he could sleep because he knew the future of the fishing vessel. But the exhaustion of healing and encouraging hundreds of people over countless hours, caused a slumber so profound that it was difficult to rouse him.  As the shouts and shaking penetrated his deep sleep, Jesus woke up angry.

"What is it?? Can't a guy get any down time? This better be good." He groggily stood  up on deck and looked around at the wind, the waves, and the hysterical disciples.

"Quiet!!" he bellowed more to the unbelieving fishermen than the storm. "After all you have seen, do you have no faith at all?"

Silence. Calm. Absolute quiet.

Glaring at the now-blissfully-silent disciples, he said, "Now leave me alone and let me get some sleep," and turned to go back into the hold.

Was Jesus as human as he was divine? Does Scripture come to us as a skeleton, sometimes no more than an outline, so that we can put ourselves and our experiences into the story? The outcomes can be  insightful and revealing, even though we are merely speculating.

Sacrilegious? Join the fisherman on their voyage and decide for yourself.

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