Self-Compassion

Finished my first Brene Brown book this weekend. 

Walking away with so much. I’ll share my two favorite things in a few posts. Here’s the first one:

Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you love.

This quote came from a section entitled How To Practice Self-Compassion. She shares this definition of self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin: “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.” Brown translated that definition to her simple mandate.

I’m guilty. Chances are the vast majority of us are. Sharing high criticism like, “John, that was stupid,” or, “You are such an idiot.” I’ve even said recently, before I read this section, that that is how God talks to me because he speaks my language. So, I’m going to go ahead and call myself out. “John, that’s a lie. When you come to him with honest repentance, God doesn’t respond like that. Stop putting God in your shoes. Try stepping into his shoes filled with love for you.”

If you share my tendency, I issue you this 7-day challenge: 

For the next week, listen to your self-talk. When you catch yourself saying something that doesn’t sound like God would say to you, hit the pause button. Restate the sentence how you believe he’d say it. And, just in case you can’t figure it out, ask him. This could be a classic “you have not because you ask not.” Go ahead. Call yourself out for some self-compassion.

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What Are You Waiting For?

Two posts ago, I shared a prayer exercise. Here are a couple of stories from my exercise.

One of my five desires that I listed in my journal was “detection of God’s movement.” Since yesterday, my desire has been granted twice.

  1. Monday morning I woke up and sent this message to a friend: “Not sure why, but you dominated my dreams this morning. I spent much time in prayer for you. God loves you.” Last night they responded, “Thanks, friend!!! Means so much and I was up at 4:30am also after bad dreams. Thank you.”
  2. After my race Monday in WV, I drove to PA to run a race Wednesday morning. On my drive, I decided to search for a massage therapist in hopes to schedule an appointment Tuesday. Just so happens, a chiropractor office was across the street from my hotel. I walked over, and they gave me a referral to a local therapist. Long story short, she only had one hour available today. Not only did she give my muscles what they needed, we also talked the entire hour about church, prayer, God, coaching, and life direction. We both agreed…that hour was an answer to our prayers.

If you haven’t tried the exercise yet, what are you waiting for?

Prison Time

“and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph’s authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there.”‭‭Genesis‬ ‭39:20-22‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Well, that sounds fun. I’m sure this was exactly what Josph prayed for, and he went in rejoicing that his prayers once again had been heard. SMH

To this point in his life, it’s hard to imagine that Joseph could have had a clue what his life’s purpose was. Regardless what his spiritual gifts assessment revealed or what an elder suggested was his calling, how in the world do you explain his life experiences to date. Yet constantly scripture reads, “The Lord was with him.”

These verses were in my @youversion devotion today addressing the topic of drudgery. Here are a few lines from the devotional thoughts:

What we call drudgery God calls humble and helpful service to others. Patient and steady toil, honoring God right where he put you, in some ways is just as worshipful as singing hymns in church. If you can do it without complaining, all the better.

“Right where he put you.” That’s a challenge. We allow ourselves to see only prison bars (been there, done that). We may even go so far as to break out of jail and basically snub God by saying, under our breath of course, “You Screwed Up…AGAIN!” That view is a flashing neon sign we have stopped thinking more about others and God than ourselves. Joseph’s prison season was quite short compared to his future season of purpose. He didn’t know that at the time, though. He had to trust God was with him and had actually put him there.

If your facing “prison time,” consider these questions:

  • What’s this season for?
  • What’s your trust level in God’s presence and purpose? 
  • How can you honor God in the next 24 hours right where he put you?

Praying Your Desires

James points out a couple of issues in prayer in chapter four.

You desire and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and wage war. You do not have because you do not ask. (James 4:2, CSB)

Issues: Lack of right motive and lack of asking

What if we addressed both issues simultaneously? Here’s a suggestion how:

  1. Write down your top five desires
  2. Ask God to check your motives behind each desire
  3. Edit the list as needed
  4. Then pray over the list

I did this exercise today. Here’s what I realized:

  • What I listed as my desires were not things I have regularly been praying for
  • The act of writing down my desires while asking the Holy Spirit what he thought about them made checking my motives easier and, as a result of having already invited him into the exercise, made prayer a normal, flowing, and immediate outcome

Give yourself fifteen minutes to try this exercise this weekend and see how yours goes. Let’s go after praying our desires.

The Ideal Image

About 24 hours ago I saw something beautiful. At the moment I didn’t recognize it for its beauty, but God did.

The outward portrayal on this human’s face may have been interrupted as sadness, maybe pain, or possibly frustration. Even though my mind told me that’s what it was, it didn’t sound, taste, or appear like any of those things. None of those words described what was on the inside. The outside doesn’t always portray the inside.

God sees the inside. What looks outwardly wrecked to me may look inwardly beautiful to him. Brokenness can be beautiful.  In fact, it just may be the ideal image he longs for. It took me a full day to come to the right word describing what the outward appearance was revealing about the inward condition: broken. And it was beautiful. Unexpected. Attractive.

When David wrote Psalm 51, he was in pain, tremendous sorrow, and recently aware it was his own doing. No human knew what to do for him. So he turned his heart again to God. He wrote that God was pleased with his brokenness and humility. God saw something beautiful.

Our brokenness doesn’t have to be tragic, destructive, or separating. Anything but. Our brokenness can be refreshing, reenergizing, and even breathtakingly beautiful. It’s possible when others see you sad or in pain, you can echo David to pray, “Lord, open my lips (even in my brokenness), and my mouth will declare your praise (even when I’m broken).”

Lincoln: A Relevant Proclamation

“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord, and in so much as we know that by his divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? 

We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

-A proclamation by the president, March 30, 1863, Our Presidents and Their Prayers

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this 156 years ago. What might he proclaim today if he were president? What national sins would he call us to confess?

Leadership Points

If you aspire to be a leader…If you currently have a leadership post…If you wonder how you’re doing as a leader, here are some points to consider (random and not exhaustive), especially for those serving the church world.

  • The only person to fear is the Holy Spirit.
  • Weigh carefully every “yes” and every “no.”
  • Be ready to say at any time, “I messed up.”
  • Expect disappointment, but don’t let it root bitterness.
  • Going to bed angry is always a bad choice.
  • You will never regret praying.
  • Professional Counselors are your friends.
  • Your weaknesses aren’t meant to bring you shame. They are reminders that you shouldn’t go it alone.
  • Horizontal affirmation will never be enough.
  • When you think you’ve communicated something well, ask yourself, “Did Grandma get that?”
  • God determines when you’re done.
  • The broader your reading the deeper your growth.
  • Your awe of God level produces your peace and contentment level.
  • Arrive prepared. Confess if you aren’t.
  • Assume you can always build more trust.
  • Thank the person or group who discovered the solution.
  • Believe someone else is the smartest person in the room.
  • You must meet people where they in order to lead them where they need to go.

The God of Overtime

Overtime. Not a fan. Particularly in college football. Anytime I’m watching a game that seems destined for overtime I’m tempted to zone out.

In my Bible reading plan this morning this subject was presented through the story of Elijah. 1 Kings 18 records the awesome display by God on Mt. Carmel. After something like that, you’d think game over, right? Nope. Immediately Elijah goes into overtime with Queen Jezebel. She’s out for blood.

Ever had that feeling? You’ve given all you had, thought it was enough, but quickly realized there’s more to come, to finish the journey. And maybe like Elijah, you thought, “Seriously. Not sure I got anything left. I want out.” 

“Overtime” comes when you least expect it. Perhaps your marriage goes through a big crisis and you’re reconciled but, all of a sudden, one argument seems to threaten it all. Or, maybe you’re a business owner and you landed the big contract when, all of a sudden, a competitor surfaces with a competing bid. Or, maybe the chemo treatments are over, but there is a new scan that raises questions and new treatment is recommended. Overtime. (excerpt from Everyday Miracles @Youversion reading plan)

In Elijah’s case, God sent an angel to minister to him. He didn’t sugarcoat the situation. He simply met Elijah where he was, prepared him to stay in rather than get out.

That’s who God is-the God of staying in. He has what you need in overtime. He’s been in overtime ever since the Garden of Eden. Surely He can help you in yours.

How might your overtime praying go? To give you a jumpstart, here’s the prayer at the end of the reading plan devotional:

Lord, when the spirit of Jezebel attacks, I know you are near. There is no discouragement that can overtake me when I know you are with me. When the unexpected “overtime” moments of life catch me by surprise, give me the grace to continue in the full armor of God. Though discouragement may crouch at the door, show me the great journey that you have set before me. Lift up my head and give my eyes a new vision for this new day. Thank you for the victory that has been secured in Jesus. It is in his name I pray, amen.

Specifically Bold

(Final day in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Several months ago during the prayer time after a Sunday morning sermon, a lady came forward and asked prayer for a job decision she needed to make. I can’t explain why, but I felt led to voice a prayer on her behalf that God make it clear to her within 48 hours what decision she should make.

A few weeks later she shared this with me: “I was taken back when you prayed so specifically that God would answer your prayer in 48 hours. But I have to tell you, that’s exactly what He did. Because of your prayer and the timing in which I had peace about a decision, I knew God had given me His answer. Thank you.”

Does that example mean I always get what I pray for? Nope. What it means is that we shouldn’t be afraid to pray specifically in order for God to give us direction. James wrote about this in the first chapter of his epistle.

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God – who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly – and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (CSB)

In Eugene Peterson’s The Message, he paraphrases verse 6, “Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought.” Many biblical characters voiced specifically bold prayers:

  • Hannah prayed boldly for a son (1 Samuel 1)
  • Elijah prayed boldly for rain (1 Kings 18)
  • David prayed boldly for forgiveness (Psalm 51)
  • Jesus prayed boldly for resurrecting power (John 11)

All of these prayers lacked doubt. All of them were specifically bold. All of them were answered. All of them brought God glory.

What specifically bold prayer could you pray today that would bring God glory?

Fearless

(Day 27 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

I’ve read about bold prayer and recently learned “bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less…The more specific your prayers are, the more glory God receives. Most of us don’t get what we want because we quit praying.” Do know how to properly pray to God?

Reading about bold praying helped me notice that I’m not being specific or really being bold during praying. I’ll say a little prayer just to make me feel good about praying for that moment. Then I read,

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:16

This passage taught me a lot with only thirty something words. Then I noticed something again. I don’t put enough faith into bold praying, or just a simple prayer. Life is full of battles that would be impossible to conquer without God’s provision. When we talk to God, we need to pray boldly, be confident, courageous, forward, strong, and firm. We have to abide by that.

There is a difference between wanting to receive something from God and being determined to receive it. Have you ever boldly prayed to God? If you haven’t, you should start now, because he wants to listen to you. “Determination brings forth bold prayers of passionate conviction. Wishing leads to shallow and unspecific prayers that are timid, hesitant, and bashful – encompassing the complete opposite of boldness.” -John Bevere

Approaching God through prayer is much more than just words. You need to be resilient and bold when you come to God. We need to be bold for God even when we are not praying. We need to be bold in everything we do.

By Shanti M. Washington