I just landed at the airport. As we were making our descent I was struck with how little the world looks from this view. Gazing down I imagine people like ants, racing along the little roads in bug size cars that are taking them to their miniature houses. Life doesn’t skip a beat, it moves with a rhythm—day in and day out synching up with people that God created and loves.
And though life races along day by day…life is short. None of us are in a dress rehearsal. Today when you woke up, you had some choices to make about how your are going to live out this day in your one and only life. Being you were created to love God and love others, perhaps that’s where we start and stop….over and over again.
Each of us are in God’s development process. We are women in life-long development. Day by day, situation by situation, step by step, God is working in us. We might not see his work, but he is at work, completing the good work that he started in our lives ( Philippians 1:6)
All of the next dares have to do with how we treat other people. They are challenging and practical. They might grate against your flesh, snap your very last nerve and frustrate you….but if you will push yourself to explore your heart and expose your actions before the Lord, you will experience
God in the practical place of relationships.
Loving people sounds poetic and lovely until we have to love a real person who disappoints us. Forgiveness is great in theory but harder to practice when there is a real person or situation to forgive. Putting others first sounds heroic and spiritual until we just don’t want to do it! You get the picture!
My prayer has been to love from the center of who I am, and if the center is ugly and negative, then the outflow will not be that of the beauty of Christ. Being accountable for my mouth is to love in a way that impacts the center of me.
Years ago I had a friend who stopped at a mini-mart while on a road trip. Looking for some quick energy she picked up a candy bar, and continued on her way. Without looking at the candy she ripped into the wrapper and sunk her teeth into the chocolate…only to find that in the center were maggots. Yuk.
The chocolate was wrapped right, appeared to be the right thing…but the center was spoiled, rotting with bugs. In the same way, we can look right, appear to be the right-Christian, and be spoiled on the inside of us…rotting away with things unspeakable or with things spoken in private conversations, ugliness can permeate us from the center place.
This last week is the time to pay attention to your mouth, your words, your attitude, and the idea that kindness in speech can be a blessing to help in the wholeness and healing of other people.
I would like to close with a word of thanks….
God knew I needed each of you. It’s humbling to be so vulnerable but I know it’s what I am to do. I need to thank you. Because as you all signed up to do The Faith Dare, I have decided to join you. This time each dare struck me differently than they have in the past. My reference point is now tender, grateful and appreciative. As bad as cancer is, the softening of soul that comes with a cancer diagnosis makes everything seem different than before. This summer, more than ever, I have needed this accountability and challenge. I have also needed your prayers.
As a result, I am handling a real life drama very differently than I would have if my perspective was not focused on truth. On September 4th I will begin 6 weeks of daily radiation treatment. This will be followed by a drug that I am scheduled to take for 5 years. The prayer is that the cancer will not come back. Why is this a concern? Because, with the what I have, it often does. Can I change things by worrying over them? No, but just as the world below me looked so small from the plane tonight, my problems seem little when seeing things from above the problem rather than trying to push up from underneath.
I hope you have enjoyed setting aside 30 days towards having a more focused heart. It is my prayer that the ripple effect of these dares will begin to draw people to Christ through you. Bless you, my sisters, together our lives can make a difference. Because, Jesus is the difference maker!
Assignment For This Week
Pray for Debbie as she goes through six weeks of daily cancer treatment starting Sept 4. Put a reminder on your cell phone. Pray for Carla Brooks our ministry leader also going through breast cancer treatment.
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These past dares probably hit home for most of you. The way we, as women, view ourselves is usually through a negative and faulty lens. This view breeds insecurity. Insecurity sneaks into all our relationships and daily situations. Insecurity even affects the way we view life, the way we handle change, and whether or not we surrender to God.
This has been the summer of surrender and change for me. I could kick, scream and fight my way through my circumstances or I could practice letting go and yield my pieces to the peace that is available to me through Christ. Most of us know how to throw a tantrum, but many of us need to practice living in a place of yielded peace. I am finding that it happens when I take my current circumstance and all it’s raw emotion and stop the train of negative thoughts. I exchange the negativity for a stream of praise and prayer. In this place I can practice embracing the good, and accepting the things that I can not change. I am having lots of practice rounds with this breast cancer piece. I can spend my days feeling terrible about my change in appearance and the way my body feels without its beloved estrogen—or, I can turn my thoughts to a place of embracing this life change and asking God to enable me to surrender more fully. My circumstances don’t have to define me.
Just when I thought I was handling disappointment pretty well, one more came across my path. My dear friend let me know her family was moving away. Emptiness. That is the emotion that wrapped around my heart. Off to Los Angeles they go, creating new memories, making new friends, and yes, following Jesus and His path for them. But for me, the emptiness hung like a cloud. Changes once again left me feeling insecure in the circumstance. Surrender to another change? Another disappointment? Is God big enough to be working in this? Yes!
Surrender is not a hugely popular subject. It sounds a bit barbaric but it is actually beautiful for those of us who are surrendering our lives more fully to Jesus. It’s only through surrender, the letting go of self, that we can become the woman that He had planned all along. These past dares have had much to do with surrender: not living for self, not thinking ugly things about ourselves, not fearing change, not looking at life through the wrong mirror, not letting our mind sit in the wrong stuff, and surrendering to the power of praise and thanks no matter what circumstance we are in.
Believe me, some powerful things can happen in our lives as we surrender, or yield to God’s way.
But, sometimes we don’t want to! We want to focus on the negative because we know how to do that, right? Learning to praise and turn our thoughts around takes energy, often energy that we don’t think we have left in us. The secret is this: when we turn our thoughts around to the good, we ARE energized in ways that we could never imagine.
Here’s truth again: Life is filled with hard times. Period. Jesus let us know. Paul reminded us through his teachings, James told us to count it all joy. Life is hard and we have the privilege of learning to surrender to the power and love of Jesus. This surrender is the only unchanging thing in this life.
How do we praise in hard life? We make a choice. We pray for the grace to learn to live above our circumstances. We open our mouths and repeat something positive. Scripture reading out loud helps, daily affirmations help, praising God that He is with us works. Whatever it takes for you to turn your mind around, refocusing on the good of God rather than focusing on the bad of your circumstance.
I am going to Hawaii in a week. I will sport a lopsided breast, a fluffier body thanks to the drop in estrogen, but my goal is to sport a positive attitude as I make sure that I bring my mind in focus to what really counts in life. When all is said and done, the most important things are what Christ said and what He has done to pave the way for freedom.
Dear friend, may we learn to live with a new surrender that is fueled by a security in His love for us. This love is a love that has planned for each of us from the beginning of time. This love is the foundation on which all else stands. This love can move mountains, heal the sick, raise the dead and give people new hearts. This love is calling out to us today.
“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” Jude v.20
Keep yourself in the love of God. It’s a choice to remember. It’s a choice to surrender to that love. As women unite in surrender to God, the ripple effect will change the world!
Practicing living as an overcomer…one day, one choice, one thought…at a time.
Ten Dares. Ten themes. Ten steps of obedience. Still three things running through my thoughts today…
Time. Make time to pray and seek. Yes, I know it’s important, but I need to be reminded.
Connection. Make sure there is not a kink in the cord and every prong is plugged into the power source.
Mind. After time and connection, the rest of the day revolves around where my mind is camped out.
All three are easy to talk about but harder to practice. Each of us have habits of living that must be addressed and challenged. Change doesn’t happen with one day’s dare. One day gives a taste of the victory and life change that can happen with focused living. Lasting change happens with choices made one day at a time, over a long period of time.
I like this quote that I found by Rick Warren on an internet devotional: “ Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. God is far more interested in who you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings. You must make a countercultural decision to focus on becoming more like Jesus. Otherwise other forces like peers, parents, co-workers, and the culture will try to mold you into their image.”
These dares are choice prompters to make that counter cultural turn in many different practical areas.
Why counter cultural? Because we are bombarded, whether we realize it or not, to live for instant gratification, feelings based results and quick fixes. A current magazine cover promises I will find 122 quick changes for health, body, home and happiness. I must admit, I am a sucker for this stuff. It also promises that I can lose thirty pounds without even trying and redo any room in the house in just forty-eight hours. I like the promises.
Unfortunately promises for quick fixes leave us hopeless in the end.
The Apostle Paul held out real promises.
“Being confident of this, He who began a good work in you will complete it” Phil 1:6
This is a promise I can count on, sink my heart into, and not be disappointed in.
The other promise I can count on is in Day 9—that God gives good gifts to His children. When my prayers are not answered in a snap, when two weeks turns into two months or two years—has God been unfaithful? No, the truth is, His timing is perfect and he will not give me, or you, the snake instead of the bread. ( Matthew 7:7-11) If we could wrap our lives around that truth principle we would frame each of our unanswered prayers much differently. We must realize that some of what we want would not be God’s best for us, or the timing that we want it in,would not be good for us.
This brings me to one last thing….our minds….. Dare 10 is a pivotal point in our journey together. “Bad thoughts are like flies. They dog us, change the way we view things, and come in like a swarm to discourage us.” Oh, Jesus give us grace to guard our minds!
Can I pray for you, for me, for those who will be touched by the ripple effect of this Faith Dare?
Father, I am asking you in Jesus name to do within us something supernatural. Take your word and make it real to us in ways that apply to us as individual women whom you love. You know our hearts, lives and circumstances. You know our needs, fears and failures. You stand with arms outstretched bidding us to come to you. Give us the courage each day of this Faith Dare to take a step in your direction. If we are having problem with finding time, show us how. If we forget to connect in the morning, remind us. When our mind is drifting into the negative places of fear and doubt—bring us around to focus. And, Jesus may we be so touched in this fasting of self, that your light shines in us in a way that ripples love and hope to all whom are in our personal ponds. Make our waters fresh with grace and our lives filled with love. We love you and want more of you! Amen
Praying for you my dear Faith Sisters!
Assignment For This Week
Read the daily dares in the Faith Dare book
Join a small group discussion at the Womens Bible Cafe™
God provides for us. It might not seem like he does, but He does. Even in bad circumstances, His love holds us. I am reminded of this as I started the Faith Dare on August 1st. Though I wrote this book four years ago as a dare for local women in leadership, doing it this summer with all of you means more than I can express. Timing, as they say, is everything.
In June I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Things moved quickly and within 10 days I was having surgery followed by consultations, appointments and treatment plan decisions. This summer has not turned out as I expected. And frankly, this is not something I have welcomed with open arms. But over the past few weeks I have slowly begun to make peace with a diagnosis that I have no control over.
That’s where faith comes in. The beginning of this faith dare has much to do with how we view our lives. There is a reason we have been pausing to look at our heart, our mind and our thoughts. Understanding who we are and whose we are will go a long way when dealing with the problems and perils of real life. Knowing I am loved and that my life has purpose does not take cancer away. But, knowing I am loved and that my life has purpose gives me a different perspective while walking through the valley of cancer.
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of streams…they go from strength to strength…” Psalm 84 5-7
The Valley of Baca is speaking of the desert. What do you do in the desert? Get hot, bothered, thirsty and exhausted? No whining will change the heat! We can make our problems more terrible than they are or we can actually make our problems a place of refreshment. When our heart is set on the pilgrimage — which is an extended journey with a purpose—we are blessed and strong. The heat of our desert, test or trial becomes a place of oasis for us.
The key is setting our focus on the journey and the fact that everything has a purpose. As I keep my heart set on this sacred journey of following after the God who made me, loves me and has purpose for me—my perspective is very different. With this focus my circumstances don’t rule me, but finding God in the middle of the circumstances does.
Each of us are familiar with hardships, trials and challenges. God could take away anything bitter from our cup of life. But He often does not. Is that love? I think so. Just this week My Father and I had a little talk about this cancer business. “ Lord, couldn’t you just take this cup from me?”
Gently and firmly this is what my heart heard…I could, but when I don’t take the cup from you, it’s because there is something for you in the cup… Something for me in the cup? Could this be what scripture speaks of when we are instructed to count it all joy when going through trials? Could it be that there is something for us in each thing we journey through?
The dares the past few days have held me up. I have set my alarm, told myself the truth. Gone to bed with the truth, woke up with new truth and have experienced strength rising as I am intentionally focusing and rebooting daily.
I have found renewed strength and peace. I have treatments on my calendar and hope in my heart. I might not want this cup, but I am His. Because I am His and He is Love…I can have faith that He’s got me.
What about you?
This week we will start focusing on how we live in this world. Are we transforming by the power of God ? Or are we conforming to the culture that wraps it’s allure around our vulnerable hearts and minds?
Will you join me in learning to Live UP one day at a time?
P.S. ( can you do a P.S in a blog? Not sure of blog etiquette… ) The little boy that I spoke of on Day 4, is a grown up now. Imagine my joy as I saw him leading worship at a Christian Festival on the same day that coincided with his story in the Faith Dare devotion that day. My mind flashed to many memories of raising him. I was reminded that we are living for the bigger picture, raising children for God’s purposes. You can listen to his worship album, Found In You, on itunes or JustinBrier.com
Assignment For This Week
Read the daily dares in the Faith Dare book
Join a small group discussion at the Womens Bible Cafe™
Welcome to the Womens Bible Cafe™ and our Faith Dare study! We are reading and discussing The Faith Dare by Debbie Alsdorf.
Guest Blogger Debbie Alsdorf
This is the beginning of a 30 day faith challenge, The Faith Dare. Today represents an important mental shift that will help us get ready for the spiritual re-boot that will happen as we daily walk out the Biblical Truth we are reading in each day’s dare.
Why do we need to challenge our thoughts and beliefs?
Because if we don’t hold on to faith in God, we will learn to live according to our own understanding, reasonings and emotions.
Life is filled with challenges. From small to large, each day we are presented with many choices. Will we trust God? Will we put our faith in Him? Or will we live like the rest of the world, just getting by, pushing ourselves to be better, stressing ourselves to try harder? Scripture has much to offer us, much to teach us, and much to challenge us with.
For instance…let’s think of the Samaritan woman. She was a woman like us. She had a past that she hoped could be changed into a better future. She put up with disappointing relationships and the circumstances of the day. She was a sinner and she knew it. It’s not that she was proud of it, but she knew her steps and mis-steps. Her view was changed the day she met a Jewish man at the watering hole, a man who promised her that if she drank the water he gave her, she would never thirst again. She hoped it could be true, and maybe you hope it could be true too.
It’s time to drink from God. Time to live our lives differently. This is the season to look up into his eyes while listening closely to his voice. When we do we will find the source that will fill us in such a way that we will never thirst again. Now is the time to begin.
Let’s begin the re-boot with a Scriptural base:
Colossians 3:1-3, 5, 7, 17
Taken from The Message ( highlighted emphasis mine)
“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ, that’s where the action is. See things from His perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life–even though invisible to spectators, is with Christ in God. He is your life…That means killing off everything connected with that way of death…That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God…You’re done with that old life… Let every detail in your lives, words, actions, whatever, be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
Let’s begin our reboot:
Power down from self, and come to Christ each day, for the next 30 days. How? By determining an intentional space of time where you will power down from everything else for about 15 minutes as you read that day’s pages in The Faith Dare Book. Reading is not enough, you will then respond to what you have read by being still enough to listen to God speaking to your heart.
The first section is a preparation for the dare. It speaks of trials and tests actually producing something within us, and this section is an important part of the dare. After the introduction you will then start the 30 day dare. You may want to journal and you will want to end with prayer. That intentional time is step #1, the rest comes in practicing walking out the truth that you just processed. Walking out the truth, is the dare. If mornings are hard for you, try doing the reading and processing before bed, with a plan to practice the DARE the entire next day. Always remember to pray, asking God’s Spirit to do the work of freedom within you as you dare to walk by Faith in the Promises of God.
Open up to new possibilities, experience the difference he makes in a surrendered life. I am praying for us all, each day, during this time. I am daring my self as I am daring you….to run into the arms of Jesus, learning to reframe our lives in the truth of His Love for us.
Assignment For The Week
Read The Introduction, and Chapters One and Two in the Faith Dare book
Beginning on the 1st of the month, start reading the first dare…then on the 2nd the second dare and so forth…..
Each daily dare ends with three journal questions for you to answer. Use the book or a personal journal and complete these daily.
Each daily dare ends with a “Daily Prayer.” If you have a smart phone, I want you to read the prayer aloud and RECORD your own voice saying the prayer. Use the voice memo app on your smart phone if you have this, and then later in the day play back your own voice with the prayer.
Join a small group discussion at the Womens Bible Cafe™
Welcome to our final week of the Gideon Bible study by Priscilla Shirer. Throughout this study we’ve learned how God is able to turn weakness into strength. By now you realize there is more to Gideon than wet fleece! Our final chapter this week unveils the obstacles Gideon faced- his own self interests and idolatry.
We had the opportunity to complete “The Interview” and then reflect on own situations from a Biblical perspective. Did you claim your own idols after the lesson on page 150? It’s easy to read the pages of scripture and judge Gideon, and as we learned this week, much harder to judge ourselves. Yet for a Bible study to be effective and have lasting impact, we need to apply scripture to our individual lives. We need to live it…not just read it!
What impacted you most during the Gideon Bible study? Which lesson or statement from Priscilla Shirer took root inside your heart? It would so so wonderful to gather together at the Table and hear your personal stories. In the meantime, we have s all group experience where you can gather and share your thoughts with each other. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook look for the hashtag #LessonsfromGideon and see what others are posting about this Bible study.
In the final chapter this week, I personally discovered how something inherently good became an idol in my life. I’ve know that I struggle with emotional eating, and food which is good has power over me when I use it to fill an emotional need. I was reminded this week that only God fills those empty spaces in my life, and the solution is to turn to Him in prayer and not food.
Chocolate is my cure-all for any mood…and something I need to limit inside my home. I use chocolate to celebrate something or to comfort a feeling I might be having. How about you? Is your idol a Facebook game, a television show, an addictive habit…what are you a bit obsessed over? For some women, even Bible study can become an idol when it becomes a badge on the wall and replaces a relationship with God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.
Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 2 Cor 13:5 NIV
Pause from your busy day or your heavy burdens and examine your own heart. Make sure you are in alignment with His will, in relationship with Him and detached from potential idols. This needs to be a daily habit as you center your life inside His Presence.
My prayer for you is that by finishing this Bible study, you now recognize your own strengths and weakness from a spiritual perspective. With this knowledge, you are then in a position of authority in spiritual warfare. Walk in victory…beside Jesus.
Thank you for joining us in this Bible study! It has been a pleasure to spend this time with you. Thank you to our 20 volunteers who lead the small groups and pray for you by name. God is good, always!
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Tell someone how much you enjoyed the Gideon study!