12×12 Challenge (begins December 26th!)

Twelve!

With New Years’ resolution time just around the corner, some of us are thinking about trying something new.

Our annual resolutions, whether formally made or attempted under the radar, are usually about making improvements. Positive changes. Reversing the negatives. Increasing willpower. Minimizing the guilt that we create from months and years of living beneath our potential. Trying harder to do what we think needs to be done better. Sound familiar?

Before you make your resolutions for 2013 (or before you choose not to), consider joining in the Pink Shoes Ministries 12×12 Challenge!

  • Romans Chapter 12
  • 12 Versions
  • 12 Days
  • 12 Minutes each day
  • 12 Words to carry with you into the coming New Year

The 12×12 Challenge begins December 26th and runs through January 6thEpiphany.

The 12 Days of Christmas.

Epiphany marks the arrival of the wise men – faithful seekers of the One sent from God. Upon finding Him, they bowed and worshipped, gave gifts and celebrated that their journey had brought them face to face with the child who was born to be King. Those moments with Jesus must have been made sweeter by the passion of these travelers – pilgrims of promise and vision. And light.

The word Epiphany means:

Sudden realization.

A sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence.

‘Ordinary but striking…’ This is what the 12×12 Challenge is about. Taking the ordinary – our ordinary, everyday lives – and watching God appear in sudden and striking ways. Epiphany also means:

Appearance of [God]. The manifestation of a divine being.

Your participation in the 12×12 Challenge, should you choose to engage, will result in Epiphany because that’s what happens when you offer your time, your focus, your thoughts and energy to the only One Who can make the ordinary into something (or someone) extraordinary.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching God-potential being wasted. I’ve seen too many gifted believers settle for something other than God’s best for him or her. Apathy, fear and a lack of gutsy teaching from the Word is keeping many Christians from stepping out in risky faith on a daily basis, and I for one can’t take it anymore!

You may not be able to commit to resolutions for an entire year, but you CAN commit to 12 DAYS.

You might not have time to attend a Bible study, but you CAN study here, with us.

You may be skeptical about your ability to understand God’s Word, but you WILL hear Him speak through Romans chapter 12.

Are you up to the Challenge?!

Check back here daily, from December 26th through January 6th for:

  • A daily reading of Romans chapter 12 (from a different version of Scripture each day)
  • A word or phrase to think about, meditate on, carry with you through the day (based on the teaching found in Romans 12)
  • A prayer for personal Epiphany in light of the word for the day.

The 12×12 Challenge is about exposure. Exposure to the Light (think: wise men & star). Exposure to the Word (think: face to face with Jesus).

The 12 minutes you spend during the 12 Days of Christmas to read Romans chapter 12 twelve times will be loaves and fishes to our God Who is able to multiply and maximize the ordinary in often sudden, always striking ways. Let His Word work on you, creating energy for God’s best to be accomplished in you in the coming New Year!

See you on Wednesday!

Discover. Uncover. Recover. Spiritual Disciplines for the Expectant (Part Two)

ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG - A PROJECT OF THE MUSEUM O...

It’s got to be down there somewhere.

Your passion for living. Your energy for service. Your desire for the ways of The Lord. Your Christmas spirit. Buried, no doubt, under years of doing business-as-usual.

It’s a subtle shift – an almost imperceptible process – that takes a redeemed child of God from her baptismal waters to what ends up looking less like a river and more like a dried up wash in the Arizona desert. In July.

Years of stuffing the important so that we can deal with the seemingly urgent takes its toll on those of us who used to expect much from the coming of Emmanuel. Some of us truly need to find our focus and fix our eyes on Jesus, opening ourselves up to DISCOVERING God’s presence as we have never sensed Him before – that’s what we talked about last time. But others of us are yearning for something we know we already have, it’s just that its been covered by debris left over from the whirlwind of life. Unless we take disciplined measures to unearth what lies beneath, we will continue the frenzied living we’re accustomed to while our foundation gets piled over like an ancient archaeological dig (with khaki-clad university students standing by and armed with shovels).

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather do my own dig. That’s what the spiritual discipline of UNCOVER is – removing the layers to uncover the good stuff. And just like a successful dig for ancient finds, we must tread carefully so as not to damage our buried treasure.

It’s got to be down there somewhere!

Here are a few ways to begin –

UNCOVER.
We get busy and blast our way through the day as if armed with dynamite. Checking off the to-do list, shuttling children to school and high-tailing it to work (because we’re always running late). Can’t eat lunch – too busy. The only time we sit is in the car or on the couch as we doze off to the disturbingly consistent bad news on TV.

In order to UNCOVER the good stuff within, we’re going to need to schedule in some slow time. Time to ask ourselves some important, daily questions and then listen to our answers. You will need a minimum of 5 minutes near the end of the day – every day – to develop this questioning habit.

Find a quiet space (lock yourself in the bathroom if necessary).
Put these questions on your smartphone.
Read and answer each one. Journal your answers if you’re so inclined.

Daily Questions:

  1. What am I thankful for?
  2. What worked in my life today?
  3. What didn’t work today? (Relationships? Choices? Attitudes? Behaviors? Emotions?)
  4. Now that I have exposed these things to God, what comes next?
  5. Ask God to enter your life – such as it is right now – and make you better than you are.
  6. Resolve to respond to God by acting in obedience to His Spirit and His Word.

Anticipate breakthroughs and surprising discoveries as you begin your daily dig! If you would like more tools like this one, consider employing the ancient practice of Examen as you review and respond to each day.

God wants to pour on the blessings! The problem is, most of the time we treat God’s gifts like those Christmas presents that make us smile as we open them but are soon added to the pile, set upon a shelf, forgotten and collecting dust.

God’s gifts – the good stuff in our lives – aren’t just meant to be opened.
They’re meant to be used.

Take time in this busy season to UNCOVER the real present…

The PRESENCE of God in your everyday life.

Check in next week for Part Three. Until then…
Expect MUCH!

The (lesser-known) Spiritual Discipline of Defragmentation

Defragmentation

Defragmentation (Photo credit: jmehre)

Along with a dozen beautiful believers-under-construction, I am re-reading the classic ‘Celebration of Discipline‘ by Richard Foster. Clearly an oxymoron to the spiritually faint of heart, Foster makes a strong case for placing the words ‘Celebration’ and ‘Discipline’ into the same sentence. Week after week my small group of women comes together to wrestle with the possibility that the result of a disciplined life might really be something worth celebrating.

According to Foster, “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving His grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.”

He goes on to say that “By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s means of grace.” It is in the act of laying bare our wounded hearts that God’s best work begins and we find ourselves on the path to reconstruction and restoration. “We must always remember,” says Foster, “that the path does not produce the change; it only puts us in the place where change can occur. This is the way of disciplined grace.”

This is also the way, by the way, of the lesser-known Spiritual Discipline of Defragmentation.

You’ve probably heard of the classic Disciplines – things like prayer, study, service and worship. Words that have in many circles become so churchified that they have essentially lost their meaning and, consequently, their practice has ebbed as well. Perhaps it’s time for a more culturally relevant illustration in making a case for the benefit of focusing our attention more purposefully on God.

According to Beth Bartlett at eHow.com:

Defragmentation, also known as defragging, is a process that takes all the file fragments scattered across a computer’s hard drive and rejoins the multiple pieces of each file into one area. This can speed up your computer, save you time and extend the life of your hard drive. Defragging can be a lengthy process, but it is an essential part of regular computer maintenance.

The definition begs the question: does this sound like you? Does your inner-life contain fragments of thoughts, memories, ideas, plans, lists, activities and schedules? Are your relationships and priorities scattered across your mind and heart in the form of pieces – a little bit here, a little bit there?

One predictable side effect of life is fragmentation, and women know as well as anyone what years of multi-tasking can do to the most well-intentioned follower of Christ.

We know we need to change. We feel the need to change. We really WANT to change! But until we let go of our desire to CONTROL the change we need the most, we haven’t got a chance.

Enter… the Spiritual Discipline of Defragmentation.

You may have taken your computer through the process of defragging, so let’s start there – with what we know. To defrag your system, you access your computer’s control panel and select the ‘defragment your computer‘ option. There’s a great visual provided by most computers when you opt to ‘analyze’ your computer before defragging. After a few minutes, your computer will show you what your hard drive looks like – in full color – with bits and pieces here and there throughout the drive.

Disorganized. Inefficient. Hard to navigate. Time consuming. So you take the next step and you click ‘defragment‘ and the magical process begins. You sit there. Watching. Waiting. Knowing that good work is being done. Knowing that this is out of your control now. The computer is doing its work and soon a new picture will display, with bits and pieces that have been rearranged and put back together in a way that makes much more sense and much better use of your system.

Wow! What an amazing tool!

In the spiritual life, your head and your heart are your operating system – your ‘hard drive’ in techie terms. The Spiritual Discipline of Defragmentation requires that you open up your control panel and give that control to the Operator – the One who knows how you run best. The One who created you! Let Him show you how the bits and pieces of your life are scattered and disorganized. Allow Him to analyze your true state and to make His case for the defragmentation of YOU!

The next step is actually your FINAL step, and that is to make the click. Choose to begin the process. Put yourself on the path where real change can occur. Opt for the system tool that will result in a healthier you. It’s true that Spiritual Defragmentation can be a lengthy process, but it is an essential part of regular spiritual maintenance.

YOU choose to undergo Defragmentation by giving God access to every last bit of you through focused, quiet time – but the work isn’t actually yours. You sit there. Watching. Waiting. Knowing that good work is being done. Knowing that this is out of your control now. God Himself is doing His work and soon a new image will be displayed in you, with bits and pieces that have been rearranged and put back together in such a way that YOU look more like JESUS.

Wow! What an amazing God!

God IS ‘The Plan’ (a PINK Tuesday post)

god

Image by the|G|™ via Flickr

They were gathered along shore and night was falling. The water pounded past the rocks at flood-stage pace, though their hearts pounding in their chests at the prospect of tomorrow was keen competition for the river. Thousands of men, women and children waited and some tried to sleep, if their anxious hearts would let them. What lay ahead for this tribe of desert-weary travelers was a mystery, save for the God who had brought them to this place.

Israel learned that their God often prompts action without there being any human plans in place (and with no guarantee that everything will come together as it should). As Richard Foster and Julia Roller write in “A Year With God: Living Out the Spiritual Disciplines”:

“The water was only parted once they had acted in faith and followed God. They could not count on any plans, because God gave them none. He only gave them himself. God was the plan.”

God was the plan when He rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, and God was the plan when He held back the waters of the Jordan for His people to cross over into the land He had promised them. No marching orders were given. No map or what-to-expect pep talk were shared. No itinerary. No five-year plan.

There was only God.

In this new year, ‘our choice is either to trust our plans with all our heart or trust our God.’ (Foster & Roller)

That’s it.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

Some of us (including me) have been inclined more than once to make promises and plans and resolutions in January, fully intending to change the trajectory of our lives and maybe even clean up our act a bit in the new year. We know how long those promises are kept. We are experienced in failing ourselves, no matter how great the plan sounds on New Years Day. Even when we trust our plans with all of our hearts, we get burned (or eventually, we just burn out).

Because even if we stand a chance at controlling what we ourselves do, we are powerless to get everyone else to cooperate with our great plan.

Age is a great teacher, however, and I find myself captivated by words spoken to a frightened Israel by God’s friend, Moses, in Exodus chapter 14:

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

They did.

God parted the sea.

They crossed it safely.

Their enemies did not.

And freedom was found on the other side.

You are facing the unknown as you open the calendar to 2012. Some of us don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep the house. Some of us are pretty sure that the family we celebrated Christmas with last week will be smaller when we celebrate next year. Some of us have jobs that are iffy, bills that are piling up, and health concerns that threaten to take over our lives in the year ahead. Even the best-case-scenario among us is a big, fat question mark in this tumultuous economy that does not discriminate as victims are chosen. Yet in every situation and every circumstance, we have a choice.

Trust my plans, or trust my God.

Which is it going to be?

If Israel “had insisted that, before they left Egypt, scouts sent in advance report back that the route was clear, the Red Sea parted and waiting… They would have remained slaves.” (Foster & Roller)

And if you insist that, before moving into 2012, confirmation of your plans as “right” or “in God’s will” be provided before you make your move, well, you too will remain a slave to the illusion of control.

Freedom waits for us, my friends! This is GOOD NEWS! Stand firm and SEE the deliverance that the LORD will accomplish for you this year! He will FIGHT for you, and you need only be still. And wait. And watch.

Trust your God. And be set free.