Processing Life 

Hi friends, 

My silence and inability to podcast or post blogs these last several weeks has been unavoidable. I apologize. 

My husband and I are yet again in another work/life transition. It’s my hope and prayer that we will get settled into our new life quickly so I can get back on my writing schedule. I appreciate all your prayers and patience as I continue to try to grow this budding ministry. 

Blessings Tamara

Living Life Lessons

ETERNAL GLORY


IN THE LIVING LIFE LESSONS COLUMN EACH MONTH I’M SHARING VARIOUS LESSONS GOD HAS TAUGHT ME. This story tells how i learned that god uses all my life experience for my good and for the good of others…

 

 

It was late in March 2006 — Houston, Texas. I had been in addiction recovery a little over a year and was soaking up God’s Word every chance I could. I listened to Joyce Meyer daily and had recently purchased an Amplified Bible to read along with her lessons.


On this particular day, I needed to take my mother, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, for a routine doctor appointment to update her prescriptions. 

I remember momma sitting on the exam table with her feet swinging, waiting for the doctor like a little kid. The diseases had her in a child like state, this was no longer my mother but a young girl in an old woman’s body. 

The elderly doctor made his way into the exam room. Having performed a brief examination of momma, he began making notes in her file. 
During these early recovery days I never left home without a Bible. So while I was waiting with mother, I opened up my new Amplified Bible to 2 Corinthians chapter 4. I was so taken by these verses, which I had never read before, that I had to read them aloud to momma. The doctor also paused and listened intently. 

(Please read the verses below aloud, slowly before you proceed.)

For all [these] things are [taking place] for your sake, so that the more grace (divine favor and spiritual blessing) extends to more and more people and multiplies through the many, the more thanksgiving may increase [and redound] to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.

For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],

Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (Amplified Bible)

Now think about where I was…

I had just come through what was probably the most difficult time of my life. I was in the early stages of recovery from multiple addictions, my family was scattered and dismembered, I had recently experienced jail time, and was pressing desperately into God for healing. You can read my life story here.  

Here with me this day were two elderly people, my mother and the doctor, who, no doubt, had each been through various turmoils in their long lives. 

After I finished reading the verses aloud, both momma and the doctor smiled and chuckled with a sense of satisfaction. It was a moment I will never forget.

This section of Scripture quickly became my Life Verse. Time and again I have drawn on it for strength. I am there yet again. God is taking me to a deeper level of holiness, but not without pain. Struggling through new areas of sobriety, He is peeling off more layers of the flesh that must be removed so I can live unencumbered by worldly desires and bondages. 

Paul’s words give me hope that these momentary trials are fleeting in the big scheme of eternity. If I will keep my eyes focused where they should be…

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (NIV) 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION:: What are your momentary troubles today?

 
If you can’t see a screen below CLICK HERE for a beautiful Hillsong worship video.


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07.17.13

The 12 Steps of Humility :: LISTEN MORE THAN TALK

IN THE 12 STEPS OF HUMILITY WE ARE CLIMBING SAINT BENEDICT’S LADDER OF HUMILITY.  WITH EACH RUNG WE COME CLOSER TO THE PERFECT LOVE OF GOD.

 

The ladder is our life on earth, if we humble our heart God will raise it to heaven. ~ St. Benedict 
 

THE NINTH STEP OF HUMILITY: A monk restrains [her] speech, not speaking until an answer is required.

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. ~ Proverbs 10-19 (MSG)

 






In a culture big on watching most of us don’t really know how to listen. Do you find yourself listening to friends or loved ones with virtually no eye contact or verbal responses while surfing email or social media on your smartphone? 

Turn listening into a living response rather than a cerebral activity. That means we may have to listen when we don’t want to. If we pick and choose we may miss an important message God is trying to bring us. Besides that, it all comes back to honoring Christ in the other. It’s basic Golden Rule behavior really.

To listen closely, with every fibre of our being, at every moment of the day, is one of the most difficult things in the world, and yet it is essential if we mean to find the God whom we are seeking.*


Benedictine spirituality calls us to listen to four things:

  • The Gospels.
  • The Rule.
  • Each other.
  • Life around us.


We won’t hear God through any of these unless we stop talking, typing or texting!

If we want to grow in grace, we must learn to talk less and listen more.** 

 
RESOURCES:
Wisdom Distilled from the Daily: Living the Rule of St. Benedict Today by Joan Chittister
Twelve Steps to Inner Freedom: Humility Revisited by Joan Chittister
A Guide to Living in the Truth: Saint Benedict’s Teaching on Humility by Michael Casey
Saint Benedict’s Toolbox: The Nuts and Bolts of Everyday Benedictine Living by Jane Tomaine
The Rule of Saint Benedict edited by Timothy Fry

Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants by Dennis Okholm**

Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal*
 

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09.03.14

Celebrate Discipline

MEDITATION

The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. ~ Richard Foster

 

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES:  activities that make us capable of receiving more of God’s life and power; exercises unto godliness.

The Spiritual Disciplines call us to move from surface living to deep inner transformation. But to change our inner most being requires dedication, an intentional commitment to new actions, and new habits.

MEDITATION: a long, steady look at God, His creation and His Word; stopping to give God our undivided attention.

Meditation is an inward discipline, one that leads to intimacy with God, a deepening of our life, making more room for God.

Many Christians are turned off by the word Meditation. Christian Meditation is unlike traditional Eastern Meditation where the goal is total emptying of the self. What we are talking about here is meditation upon God, His goodness, and His Word… sitting in stillness and listening for His Voice to speak to your spirit; a filling of our spirit with God’s Spirit.

Let’s consider a few practical questions regarding Meditation: 

  • WHAT TIME OF DAY SHOULD I MEDITATE?
Personally, I prefer my meditation time be in the morning when I first wake. But with work schedules that vary around the clock, not everyone is waking in the morning or sleeping at night. The important thing is that you find a time that fits your schedule and dedicate it to meditation. Start small with just five or ten minutes. As you get more and more comfortable with meditation you will find yourself forgetting about time as you soak in God’s Presence.

If I’m sleepless at midnight I spend the hours in grateful reflection. ~ Ps 63:6

  • DOES MY POSTURE DURING MEDITATION MATTER?

We should find a comfortable position, but not so comfortable that you get drowsy. It’s often best to begin with sitting in a straight back chair. If you lay down you may end of falling to sleep. Not that that’s a bad thing, but save this relaxation technique for bedtime. I practice Yoga each morning and find this a wonderful time for meditation on various Scriptures. Surprisingly, a long hot bath is where I have my best meditation time.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

  • WHAT AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF MY MEDITATION TIME? 
There are many benefits to meditation the least of which is a closer walk with God. With a foundation of silence and solitude in meditation we will find ourselves less stressed, daily life comes with more ease. We will have greater appreciation for the things of God: His Word, His Creation and most importantly His Presence in our life.

I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished and give a long, loving look at your acts. ~ Ps. 77:12

Here are some suggested meditation activities:

  1. Take a nature walk, meditate on the wonder of God’s Creation around you. Enjoy the plants, trees, birds, squirrels, clouds, the breeze… This world is full of beauty that we miss everyday!
  2. Select a section of Scripture (Ps 139, Ps 86, Ps 42) read through it slowly. When a verse pops out, ponder it. What is God saying to you? Write down feelings and questions that surface.
  3. When in a public place, take time to meditate on people, see them as God sees them, hurting, loving, joyful. Delight in them as He does. Take some time to pray for them.
  4. Without getting too bogged down, meditate on current events. Look at the world through God’s eyes. Is He prompting you to pray in a new way?
These are just a few ideas to help you get started in your meditation time. The main goal of Meditation is to gaze deeply on God, His work and His Words. Anytime you can do that it will be wonderful!

What are your favorite things to use for meditation?

You may be in a place of reflection on past transgressions and needed desire to change. One of my favorite things is to meditate with choral music, specifically Gregorian. Here is one of the most beautiful of all: Miserere Mei Deus written in the 1600’s by Gregorio Allegri. I suggest reading Psalm 51, on which this song is based, before meditating on this exquisite music. You will be transformed! https://youtu.be/3s45XOnYOIw 


Resources:
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun
Devotional Classics by Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith

01.09.13

Living Life Lessons

YOU WANT ME TO BE HOLY???

IN THE LIVING LIFE LESSONS COLUMN I AM SHARING LESSONS GOD HAS TAUGHT ME THESE LAST SEVERAL YEARS.  TODAY LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF LIVING A HOLY LIFE.


So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” ~ 1 Peter 1:14-16 

It wasn’t too long after I turned my life back over to God in 2004 when I ran across the above Scripture. After living a wayward lifestyle for several years I was faced with the pressure that I was now expected to be holy. 

How in the world can I possibly be holy?

The problem was with my own thinking and interpretation, not with the verse. I thought this verse said it was my responsibility to become holy. When in fact that is not the case. 

Holiness isn’t anything that I have the ability to do or be in my own power. It isn’t about following a bunch of rules or regulations like many churches would have us believe. Instead holiness is about a relationship with God.


Because the Holy Spirit can only dwell in holy places, when I received Christ as my Savior and the Holy Spirit came to live in me,my spirit became a holy place. 


Now that doesn’t mean my body and mind automatically became holy, because they didn’t. Certainly I still struggle in those areas. But God doesn’t ask us to do anything He doesn’t equip us to do. So by the power of the Holy Spirit and my efforts of studying God’s Word my mind and behavior are improving. 


The most important thing to remember is that God wants us to strive for holiness. He doesn’t expect perfection. He only asks that we make efforts toward perfection. Arrival at holiness isn’t expected by God. He only asks that we pursue it.


For me a red flag that I’m not walking in holiness is when past desires or behaviors flair up. This is a sure sign that I haven’t been spending enough time with God.

When God brings this to my awareness I get back to work doing what I know He wants me to do… Strive toward holiness… one step at a time.

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11.20.13

The Road to Recovery

STEP 10

IN THE ROAD TO RECOVERY COLUMN WE ARE WORKING THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF CELEBRATE RECOVERY THAT ARE BASED ON THE BEATITUDES, ALONG WITH THE TRADITIONAL 12 STEPS OF RECOVERY AS THEY ALIGN WITH THE YEARLY CALENDAR.

 

So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do’t fall! ~ 1 Corinthians 10:12

 

Step 10: We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

 

Principle 7 (Celebrate Recovery): Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. 

 
 
In Step 10 and Principle 7 we will begin to put into practice all the steps and principles we have learned thus far. We are beginning to live in reality vs. denial, we have made our amends and now we desire to grow in our relationships with God and others.
 
Principle 7 nicely complements Step 10. Taking our daily time with God for self-examination helps us prepare for our personal inventory. 
 
Something I learned about a couple of years ago was The Examen. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that helps us see God’s hand at work in our whole life experience. It is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day where we can detect God’s presence and discern his direction for our life. 

Here is how I like to work The Daily Examen:

1: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are most grateful.

  • If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?
  • When were you most able to give and receive love today?
  • Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so good.
  • Breathe in the gratitude you felt and receive life again from that moment.

2: Ask God to bring to your awareness the moment today for which you are least grateful.

  • When were you least able to give and receive love?
  •  Ask yourself what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult.
  • Relive the feelings without trying to change or fix it in any way.
  • Take deep breaths and let God’s love fill you just as you are.

3: Give thanks for what you have experienced. If possible, share these two moments with a friend. 

 

The Examen is a different way of taking daily inventory, but I like how it combines my prayer time with God and a daily reflection. There are many ways to work The Examen I hope you will look into it further and consider trying it. I think you’ll find it a sweet time with God as you look back over your day.

Enjoy this brief video that will walk us through The Examen. If you can’t see the video screen below click here .

 

10.02.13

Surrender

Fully Yielding Ourselves To God

One of the biggest challenges for the recovering person is getting to the place of surrender. Not only is this important, it is critical to the recovery process. This can be a tough, especially for those of us who are stubborn and willful! Before we will truly surrender we may have to go to the darkest of all places, possibly near death.

What does it mean to surrender your life?

The sense of not knowing can be paralyzing for some. We can’t go back but we can’t go forward either. We’re stuck sinking in our own quicksand of uncertainty and doubt.

How can we save ourselves? 

Surrender: to yield to the possession or power of another; to give oneself up to an influence, to abandon or relinquish; to resign; submit.

When I read Webster’s definitions I see myself walking in sin and addiction having already surrendered; just to the wrong side. I had yielded my power and abandoned myself to my addiction and the evil forces driving it.

Usually, when we think of surrendering, we think of a criminal surrendering to the police with their hands up; or perhaps in the old westerns and war movies — someone waving the white flag of surrender to the opposing forces. In these situations the surrendering party believes they have given up any hope of victory. These are good images of surrender because that is exactly what we must do when we surrender. We have to give up. But when we surrender ourselves to God we actually have hope for real victory.

The key element in the process of true surrender is accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior. Until we do we are trying to do everything in our own power and we know how that works – it doesn’t! We must first humble ourselves before God, fall on our face and confess our sins; acknowledge Jesus’ death on the cross and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness. Jesus Christ took the pain we suffer in addiction to the cross. Why should we want to continue to carry that ourselves? Healing begins immediately when we give ourselves over to Him and let him carry our burdens for us.

Surrender means to relinquish control over what we consider ours: our property, our time, our “rights”. To properly surrender to God we are simply acknowledging that what we “own” actually belongs to Him. But not just what we own, what we think and do also are His. He is the Giver of all good things. Also, the degree in which we surrender determines the degree in which we grow in our character. So if we are still holding on to something, by not surrendering it to God, that can inhibit our potential for spiritual growth and full recovery.

Similar to salvation, surrender is a gift we receive from God; we can’t will it for ourselves. But also like salvation, the gift of surrender requires a response from us: acceptance. And there must be fruit: a changed life! Actually living a life surrendered to God is so much easier than trying to do it on our own. But it is a daily choice, sometimes moment by moment, with every breath. So stop right now and do a few deep breathing exercises…God’s way in, my way out… You may not be happy about it right now, but in the bigger picture of life, you’ll be glad you chose to surrender your pain, your addiction, your life — to God.

 

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. ~ I Peter 5:6-7

 

 

09.14.08

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Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray

Audio Book

The book we are highlighting this week is Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray. Because it was published before 1923 it is in the public domain and available for free on audio in several places. I encourage you to take some time to listen to the wonderful classic book. This audio recording is great quality and the narrator’s performance is excellent.

 

Lovingly Patiently Quietly…

How Are You Waiting?

With most written words, the emotional inflection is up to the reader. The title of this article could be read several ways, with different meanings depending on the inflection. The sentences have the same words but when you read them aloud with emphasis on a different word, you get a different type of question, which in turn expects a different answer.

For instance:

WHAT are you waiting for?   (What you wait for.)woman_waiting2

What ARE you waiting for?   (More emphatically and specifically what are you waiting for.

What are YOU waiting for?   (Why are you waiting when others aren’t waiting?)

What are you WAITING for?   (Hurry up, stop waiting.)

What are you waiting FOR?   (The reason you wait.)

When God prompted me to write this, I was thinking about how we live out the waiting process.

Are we wasting our time, passively sitting back just waiting for something to happen? 

Can we find purpose in the midst of the waiting?

I’ve been doing a lot of waiting the last few years; so I’ve had time to think about this concept. During my waiting I’ve been reading Waiting On God by Andrew Murray. One of the most important points Murray makes is that waiting is really working for God. In other words, waiting is our job. As Believers we are expected to wait.

We’ll always be waiting for something. The thing we’re waiting for now, may eventually come. And when it does we’ll have victory in that area. But almost immediately we begin waiting for something new. Sure, there are the normal, daily routine things we wait for:

Waiting in line at the grocery…

Waiting for the stoplight to change…

Waiting for your child to grow out of this phase…

Waiting on a loved one to trust in Christ…

Waiting on your marriage to normalize…

Life is really just a series of waiting events processing out.

Whether we realize it or not, we are being watched by others as we wait. It’s important to keep good attitudes and walk in love especially during the longest wait. I believe God honors that more that we know.

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in His Word I put my hope. ~ Psalm 130:5

Question:  What are you waiting for? Are you finding purpose in your waiting?  

 

02-11-11

Suffering

Helpful or Harmful

suffer: to undergo, be subjected to, or endure pain, distress, injury, loss, or anything unpleasant

It’s true there is much suffering brought on us in the world today; by the economy, accidents, disease, natural disasters, etc…  Sometimes the consequences of our own poor choices, behaviors and decisions result in our own suffering, maybe even that of our loved ones.

How can we live out these consequences without suffering? 

Is it possible to take each day’s discipline with a good attitude? 

To accept our life as it is without complaining, be grateful for the freedoms and benefits we still enjoy? 

To be thankful that we have another chance at life, love and potential happiness?

Yes. But it’s not always easy. We think we’re suffering with our shrinking paychecks, expanding waistline, unexpected car repairs, never-ending family dramas, inconvenient court appointments, outrageous medical expenses, etc,

Instead of complaining about how bad we think everything is, maybe we can look at our suffering with new eyes and see real purpose. 

  • Why do we suffer? Sometimes even when we do everything right we will still suffer. The enemy tries to steal our joy & blessing before we can receive it by giving us problems. We need to see the bigger picture, maybe the purpose is to make us stronger.
  • How should we react in times of suffering? How we react reveals who we are and what we believe. Knowing why we are suffering can teach us to avoid the cause, but it’s more important to know how to respond. Rather than sit back passively accept suffering, we can step up, stand in faith and believe God to bring change.
  • What can we learn from suffering? If we listen, we can hear God speak to us in the midst of our struggles. Just as drought drive the roots of a tree deeper for water–so suffering can drive us from superficial acceptance to dependence on God for hope and life.

Is your suffering affecting change for you that is good or bad?

Suffering is harmful when:
We become hardened and reject God.
We refuse to ask questions and miss lessons that might be good for us.
We allow it to make us self-centered and selfish.
We withdraw from the help of others.
We reject that God can bring good out of calamity.
We accuse God of being unjust and perhaps lead others to reject Him.
We refuse to be open to any changes in our lives.

Suffering is helpful when:
We turn to God for understanding, endurance and deliverance.
We ask important questions we might not ask in a normal routine.
We are prepared by it to identify with and comfort others who suffer.
We are open to being helped by others.
We are sensitized to the amount of suffering in the world.
We are ready to learn from a trustworthy God.
We can identify with what Christ suffered on the cross for us.

Questions to ask in times of suffering; what to do if the answer is yes:

Am I being punished by God for sin? Is Satan attacking me for being a Christian?
Confess the sin and call on God for strength.

Am I being prepared for a special service, learning compassion?
Resist self-pity. Ask God to open doors of opportunity to help others.

Am I being tested?
Recognize in this sinful world both good and evil people will suffer. Remember, as Christians we have a promise that our suffering will one day come to an end.

Is my suffering for and unknown reason?
Don’t turn inward from the pain. Stand in faith. Know that God cares and wait patiently on His timing.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-3 NIV

 

(Some material excerpt from The Life Application Study Bible)
Image credit: itsmejust / 123RF Stock Photo

Originally published July 8, 2010