"My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I,of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories, in all their particularity,as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us most powerfully and personally." -Frederick Buechner

Saturday, April 30, 2011

God's Will

God's will, we say we want it. We talk about it. We "search" for it. We read about it. We are very busy about it.

"We focus on what God wants us to do and forget what kind of people He wants us to be."  Francis Chan,  Forgotten God.

I've heard others say the same thing over the years. So the challenge is to quit just hearing this message and start living, being the person God created me to be.

Friday, April 29, 2011

God's Will for My Life

Yesterday I had a long wonderful talk with a friend regarding possible changes in their life. She called me (and another friend) because we have traveled down a similar path in our past. She was wondering how God showed us His will for our lives at a point of decision making similar to where they are at now.  How many times have you asked "what is God's will for my life"?  I may not always use those exact words but I've asked it 100's of times I'm sure.  That said, I was recently challenged that that may not be a great question.

When I think about Biblical examples I can't think of one story I've read where God told his people everything at once. For example, He anointed David as king as a kid and then David went back to the fields with his sheep with no further instructions recorded as to when or how he would get to be king. God told Abraham to take his family and leave. He didn't give him an exact map and destination, just leave. The list could go on and on. The point is God gives us pieces. Do we act on those pieces?

Maybe a better question would be God, what is your will for my life TODAY? Francis Chan says in his book Forgotten God, "It's far less demanding to think about God's will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It's safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day."  Hmmm, that's a challenging thought. What do you think?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two for One for YOU Today!

As I wrapped up a few blog posts on accountability I was struck by a personal challenge by a fellow blogger (who just happens to be my daughter) - NO EXCUSES!  She is challenging herself to a time of "no excuses".  It's apparent to me that accountability is key here.  If she just challenged herself that is good, but when she failed or was tempted to fail, no one would no and she would probably go with her feelings. The fact that she shared it with all of her blog followers means she will have to explain to them what is going on in her life and what she is working on. Hmmm, I believe that is called accountability! (smile)

On Thursdays her posts all have a tie to marriage. She has been married for nearly two years now. She was married at 19 and her first husband died of cancer after about 4 1/2 years of marriage.  I've been married for 30 years the end of May.  We agree that marriage takes intentional effort and that it's a FANTASTIC part of life.  So how about it? Will join us on Thursdays sharing life in regard to marriage? We can learn from one another and deepen our marriage relationships at the same time! It's always helps to know we are not the only one "out there" thinking what we are thinking.  Let us know you are taking the challenge!http://www.lifelovegreen.com/ 

I've got to tell you I'm smiling big today.  I spent time last night with some women who are looking to deepen their lives with Christ through accountability. Each one of them told me their personal "goal" as they left and I have the honor of praying for them and checking on them in a couple of weeks to see how they are doing.

As you know, I don't believe in "reinventing the wheel" and one of my friends shared this in his morning post after spending the afternoon touring a business and meeting with their leaders to learn about building their businesses:
There are many instances when we need to seek counsel from others who have been there and faced that.  Scripture is clear that the “older men and women” should provide some guidance to younger ones.  I’m not sure which bucket I fall in – but I guess it can be both.  There is always someone who has learned and experienced things that are facing me, and there are plenty of areas I have messed up and can share some ideas with others facing those same struggles.  For this to work though – we have to be willing to ask those with experience – and we have to be willing to give which often means admitting our struggles – to those who need and can benefit from our help.  Are you involved with folks you can lean on for lessons from their experiences, and also with those who need to learn from you? It takes more than a casual relationship to be able to truly share at that level – not a hallway conversation in church on Sunday morning.  We need to be deep in relationships – involved in small groups where we can truly connect.   Are you seeking those opportunities?  They don’t usually just fall on our plate – we need to seek to learn and to share.  God has put us in community for that reason.  Are you living that way?

This is perfect. Accountability is a principal God set up to help us in every area of life, personally, spiritually, physically, even in our business we can learn from and be held accountable for our actions.

Let me know what God has whispered into your heart over the past couple weeks regarding accountability.  Today I believe I discovered our next topic of conversation.  Check back tomorrow to see what the Lord is talking to me...and maybe you about! :) 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

We Need Each Other

Accountability, what do we really hope to gain?  Well I'm thinking the answer to that question should very in details but a couple of points may be the same. One would be a free-er life. Another would be satisfaction that we are living as God intended for us to live.  I don't know about you but I KNOW that God knows more than me. I KNOW that He created me, knows me, loves me and has a purpose for my existence. I want to live out that purpose in every moment of my life. Really.  Accountability helps me achieve that.

Just yesterday one of my best friends called. She needed accountability. She was home alone and her thoughts were leading her down a very sad, lonely path and yet she was trying to discount her feelings to the point of not wanting to acknowledge them.  She needed someone to listen and to speak truth with love. Someone to care enough to be honest.  I care for her. We talked. I spoke truth - I told her that she can't "skip" her own feelings. It's "okay" to acknowledge your feelings. They are your feelings. It doesn't matter if they are as deep, or needed as the next guys. They are yours!  Then allow God to show you what to do with your feelings or what to learn and do it.  It's always easier to deflect to the next guy and not really deal with yourself. (I know. I'm a pro at it.)  That's an accountability partner. Someone you can be gut-level honest with no matter how trivial or big you may think the situation is.

A.W.Tozer talks about "true spirituality manifesting itself in certain dominate desires. Basically desires to really know God and live out that relationship in your life. He says "...this must be the operation of the Holy Spirit....No man can become spiritual by himself."  We need each other.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Accountability and Fear

I didn't post yesterday but spent the evening with nearly a dozen women discussing "accountability". It was a diverse group. We didn't really know each other, some had accountability partners, others did not. We agreed on the meaning as we've talked about in earlier posts and moved on to why we should have accountability in our lives.

The number one reason is because it is a Godly principal set up by our Savior.  Adam and Eve were accountable to God,(as we all are) David to Nathan, and the disciples went out in pairs or groups. The list could go on and include the over 50 passages where it talks about "one another".  We were created to live life in relationship. When you have relationships your decisions or lack thereof effect others. We've discussed the "ripple effect" before.

It was interesting when I asked what came to mind when they heard the word accountable or accountability. The responses were the expected defining type words, reporting in, explaining etc.  But one woman was brave enough to say what others were thinking, fear. (or lets say at least, anxiety) It's so sad but true that we are afraid of each other.  We are afraid of what they will think of us, afraid they won't be our friend anymore, afraid they will betray our trust and tell someone else our "secrets".  It is truly sad to me that we give someone else that much power over ourselves. That said, I know it's true. I feel it myself and have witnessed it in others countless times.

My own story testifies to the fact that if we give in to fear and don't become honest and open with someone we can really hurt ourselves.  More than 7 years ago my husband and I were in full time ministry and LOVED it. However our two part-time ministries had grown. (Praise God) However they now added up to at least 1 1/2 jobs. Add to that our mistakenly placed since of being responsible for everything around us and it was a one-way course to disaster.  It's always easier to see it in someone else and I could see problems coming in my husbands physical life. So I did my best to "help out".  There were people in authority above my husband that could have helped with the work load had we said anything. I hinted at it a couple of times but no one caught my hints. Why didn't he or I flat out say something and ask for help? Fear. Fear that they would think we couldn't do the job, weren't strong enough, spiritual enough...whatever enough.  My fear contributed to his complete crash August 2004. When I say complete, I mean complete. Our lives changed on a dime.  He is healed now. Life goes on and lessons learned. But I know now, in hind sight that if I had been honest and transparent with others or if we had regular accountability friends that we allowed into every area of our lives our crash wouldn't have been as all-encompassing. God is full of grace and mercy and we are able to minister again but in a much different setting and way.

James 5:16 from the Amplified Bible says this, "Confess to one another therefore you faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray (also) for one another, that you may be healed and restored (to a spiritual tone of mind and heart). The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available (dynamic in its working)."   When we open up to one another, including our weaknesses, asking for help/accountability we open ourselves up to support and healing and power.  It's very freeing.  Can you think of time when you've opened up to someone and felt freer after you did - no matter how trivial the topic might have been?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So by being accountable to God, He provides a way for the blessing of relationship with Him. I John 1:9
"if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." NKJV  There is freedom is openness and forgiveness.  Think about a time when you had a secret. It can be a "good" secret - like a gift for someone you love. Think about the waiting time between getting the gift and giving it. Sometimes keeping it a secret becomes a big job. You have to be careful not to give any "hints" but you certainly don't want them to go out and get it themselves.  The month of December can be a long time if you are hiding a very desired present from someone.  There is relief and even joy when you finally get to give it to them! That's the joy of being open and honest, transparent if you will with another person.

My friend, Mike had this to say after yesterday's post on Facebook. I went to a conference where a guy named Tal Prince was the speaker - his view of accountability was not like the Promise Keepers kind - AFTER the fact - his accountability team stayed close to him all day long, calling him when they knew he would be tempted and in danger, asking him how they could pray for him and be with him BEFORE he gave in. GREAT STUFF!  I agree totally!  That's the joy of relationship. If you have accountability with someone in your life. They are in your life.  They are aware of your general life routine - where you work, if your married or dating, number of kids, what your hobbies are, etc.  They learn your strengths and your weaknesses and therefore can have valuable insight into your life. One way this is referred to in the Bible is as "one another".  Check out these scriptures: (these are my synopsis - read them for yourselves)
Romans 15:14 ...admonish, counsel and instruct one another
Galatians 5:13 Serve one another
Ephesians 4:32 speak the truth as is useful and kind. Forgive one another
Colossians 3:16 teach, admonish and train one another

There are more scriptures using the phrase one another. Check your concordance if you want to see more. So lets keep learning together, teaching one another.  Do you have an example of a specific time you were accountable to someone else that you could share with us?

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Definition of Accountability

So I admit it, I checked.  I checked to see if anybody actually reads this blog or if I should just consider it a personal journal, on-line.  The stats show that there are people reading so I'm going to proceed with that in mind.  In case you weren't here at the beginning the purpose of this blog is to share life together. The ups and downs and all around with a focus on learning how to live out what we believe. I continue to realize that I'm not the only one who has trouble accepting God's love, mercy, grace, blessings and bigness.  But I'm fully convinced that the more we live our lives "out loud"the more God is glorified and others are drawn to Jesus. Isn't that what life is ultimately about? Relationship with God and with others.

So later this week I begin facilitating a very brief discussion on accountability. As I review and study through this topic again I'd love for you to come along with me. Challenge me, agree with me, ask questions, celebrate and commiserate with me - just SPEAK UP! :)  As we will see, God created us to support one another. So let's do it.

Today let's just think about the definition of accountability.  What do you think of when you hear that word? Is it negative or positive to you? (first impression)  My first thoughts are "reporting in to someone".  I also think I'm not sure I want to tell you what I need to be accountable to someone for, cuz then you'll make me be...accountable!

Turns out my idea is not too far from the actual definition. Webster's Dictionary to be accountable means to be "subject to having to report, explain, or justify."  Accountable: 1. Answerable. 2.Capable of being explained.  synonym = responsible

Our first accountability partner is God. It's unavoidable.  Have you thought about the fact that God asks Adam and Eve where they are? (Genesis 3:9) Why would He do that? He knows everything, all the time?  Bible commentators with a whole lot more education than me say it's His way of giving us a chance to explain ourselves. Adam is supposed to tell Him why, all of the sudden after walking with God in the garden, he would hide from Him.  God wants us to be continually checking where we are with Him. He doesn't want us curled up under some tree, sleeping just letting life pass us by. He (God) desires to be a part of our life every day, all the time. But, He waits for us to make ourselves available to Him. He wants us to choose to be with Him because we love Him.

So let's go back to what the word accountability means, report, explain, or justify. Does that sound hard or even scary to you? Why? If not, why?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Honoring a Life Well Lived

It's been awhile since I've posted and it seems like  a lot has gone on. Most recently a gal from my hometown area died. She was just diagnosed with Cancer a month or two ago and now she is with Jesus. Pat was old enough to be my  mother. She and Dave were married for over 50 years.  I met her when she approached me at the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference shortly after it had been publicly announced that our son-in-law had untreatable cancer. (age 21)  She very sweetly but purposefully approached me and introduced herself via e-mail. She told me she was from Harlan, a neighboring town from Elk Horn where I went to school. She stated that she was a nurse and her husband was a pharmacist and they had some supplements that they believed could help and they were willing to share them if we would take them.  I shared the information with our daughter and son-in-law, trying to protect them from the many, many people with possible "cures".  Pat wasn't pushy. She just offered. After reading about her suggestion our kids decided it couldn't hurt. A relationship started. 

Pat was a prayer warrior with a love of God and life that was remarkable. She and Dave love laughter and shared it as freely as they did the supplements. She kept in touch and now 7 years later I truly considered her a friend. We stayed in their home in November as they came to our marriage enrichment. How do you like that? 50+ years into marriage and they still wanted to invest in their relationship. A great example for us all.

While honoring this dear woman's life I want to challenged to think what does my life represent? What do others "see" in my life. Pat prayed and then she followed the Lord's leading, reaching out to those she knew and those the Lord brought across her path. She told God stories and proud stories of her children and grandchildren. She was positive and appreciative of all God had given her in her life.

Thanks Pat for the great example.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Who knew?

So we're watching American Idol tonight and who knew we could have a life lesson reinforced.  The judges comments after listening to James sing were interesting.  One of them said, James you sang from deep inside you, out of some pain, or something deep inside you. Another said something about it being so "real" and "vulnerable".  That's what people want, the real us.  Whether it's on American Idol or at home the people we listen to, respect and learn from the most are those who are willing to be honest with us. No pretending everything is okay when it's not.  Don't get me wrong. You don't have to (and shouldn't) share every detail of every situation in your life. But you can tell others when your frustrated with something going on in your life.  You can tell others that the situation in your life right now is hard. You can also tell them when you are thrilled with something!

So fellow followers of Christ take note. You are not perfect. Life doesn't always go as you expected and we don't know everything. Be honest. Speak from your heart. Share what you are passionate about and admit where you need to learn more. People will listen to that. They will share back with you. Who knows, you might even get what most of us want, some respect!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fully Accepting.

So I am on week 9 of 10 in a Bible Study called "David Seeking a Heart Like His" by Beth Moore.  (http://www.lproof.org/) If you've ever done one of her studies you know she does a great job of searching out what scripture really says AND applying it to life.  Well last week the gals in my group and I spent had all spent some time discussing David's parenting.  See David did some great things and he had some great failures, like all of us. But it appears David allowed his failures to rule in at least one area of his life, parenting. We were studying 2 Samuel 13 especially in regard to his children Amnon, Absalom and Tamar.  A huge tragedy all the way around from rape, to hatred and finally murder. There were parts of this awful story that David as father could have stopped, but he didn't. He did nothing. It appears that he believed the lie that since he had blown it in the relationship part of his life he had no authority to correct his family in that area of life.

Beth Moore says, "Two wrongs don't make a right. If we blow it as a parent, spouse, servant, employee, or leader, we should fall before God in complete repentance and ask Him what we must do to cooperate with restoration. Then we should follow Him in utmost obedience. Restoration does not mean you can no longer stand for the truth because you fell. Restoration means you must stand." pg 175 of "David Seeking a Heart Like His"  Later the question is asked, "Do you see how crippling our unwillingness to full accept the Lord's forgiveness can be?"  That's a stop and ponder point. In what area of your life have you not really soaked in God's love and forgiveness?  Chances are you are walking with a limp in that area of your life. And sadly, that limp not only effects your walk, but those around you. What about your children who want you to run with them in the park but you decline because you "limp". What about the joy your limp robs from you because you are so self-conscious when you have to walk in front of others publicly.  The examples could go on and on but the point is we do not live on an island where we are the only inhabitants. Our decisions effect those around us. Even decisions that are so personal like not fully accepting God's love and forgiveness' ability to wash us clean and make us new.

Paul prays for the people of Ephesus in Ephesians 3 that God would strengthen them, through his Spirit in their inner being so that Christ may dwell in their hearts.... It appears to me that he realized the struggle it is for us to fully accept God's gift of grace. He recognized the answer. Not only does God give us the free gift of grace but HE gives us the ability to accept it!  That's what I'm praying for these days. I'm praying that God will create a clean heart in me to fully accept His love and grace. Then I'm praying that decision will effect those around me in a positive way.