Lenten Devotional

Willpower vs.Willingness: A HV Lenten Devotional

I heard someone say this about someone else’s ability to resist something: “Man you have good willpower.”

It struck me. 

As a recovering addict, willpower is pretty much no longer in my vocabulary. Thankfully, willingness has replaced it.

Relying on my willpower was too much pressure. It was all me and what I could do and how much I could do it. I don’t say this to brag that I’ve got it figured out. I say it to share how I’ve learned to make a different choice. 

My Unhealthy Voice says WILLPOWER. "You got this."

My WILLINGNESS says, "God - YOU got this. I need you. Show me. Lead me." 

For me, willpower is a killer. I have to be willing to change. I have to be willing to trust. I have to be willing to look at where God is leading me. It’s not a forced will. It’s a surrender type of will.  

Iwas so done trying to cover up my insecurities with willpower. It had simply, not worked. Thinking this: “If I just do this on the outside, no one will see my inside,” could just no longer be my battlecry. 

My new one became, “Hey God, I don’t got this. I don’t have this all figured out. Forgive me for thinking I did. I know you love me, help me Lord cause I need you.” (Or at least today I know that’s where my heart is - but it took me a very long time to get there.) I had to slowly but surely learn to trust, and I STILL do. 

But here’s the beauty of willingness

God meets us right there, right when we become willing. In fact, his SWEET SPOT is our deepest pain. We somehow think with religion that he wants us to get everything right. But in relationship? He wants us to know he loves us right where we’re at. 

Luke 4:18 NLT says, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,” That is literally why he came. 

And not only that? He is the Great Healer. Psalm 147:3 NIV says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Yet isn’t it amazing? Somehow - we think we’re the ones who are supposed to bind our wounds to be good enough for him. That to me is why we’re so obsessed with willpower - because we want to get everything right.

My friend, f you are feeling stuck in insanity, you know - doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result? I get it. I been there and so have a lot of other people. 

I don’t know what’s got you. But willpower isn’t going to fix it. 

God will - if you want to know God, and see God and feel God’s presence in your life - you’ve got to find that willingness. Pray for it…

One more thing, I’m taking a class online right now with Brenee Brown and lots of other lovers of her book. I’m learning a lot about shame and how shame doesn’t like to be in the light. It doesn’t want us to talk about what we’re ashamed about, so we cover it up. And when we cover it up, we end up escaping with drugs, alcohol, food, and the like. So we think we’re doing a good job of covering up our junk, when in reality - we’re stuffing it. 

We’re doing the opposite of what we need to do - which is to get that stuff into the light. I don’t mean throw it all on Facebook. I mean become willing to look at it, to feel those feelings and find those people we can share those tough roads in our life with. 

Being vulnerable is freeing - but it is SERIOUSLY not easy. Why? Because we have all been hurt. We’ve all got scars and bruises. We’ve been hurt so we don’t want to trust. I’ve been hurt just like you! And there’s that huge part of me that wants to go into total protection mode, in fact I’m definitely vulnerable to that. But I have to be WILLING to call myself on it because hiding my pain does NOTHING but hide my light.

If you look in the Bible there is quite a powerful verse on shame (the whole chapter is really good actually). This scripture has helped me a ton getting through my shame (emphasis on through cause you don't overcome it by running from it.) I highly recommend reading the whole chapter, and going back to it over and over again because I’m sharing just an excerpt.

“Instead of their shame

my people will receive a double portion,

and instead of disgrace

they will rejoice in their inheritance;

and so they will inherit a double portion in

their land,

and everlasting joy will be theirs.”

- Isaiah 61:7 (NIV)

One last thing, since I always post a song that's singing in my head while I write, this time it's Hillsong United and the lyrics pretty much go with the it. So check it out if you need some worship for your afternoon.

Getting Unstuck from the Darkness: A Healthy Voice Devotional for Lent Week 5

Darkness and the glowing light of a sunset....taken in Leland, MI.   

Darkness and the glowing light of a sunset....taken in Leland, MI.

 

Do you ever feel stuck? I know my younger friends get this. You feel like everyone else's life is moving along swimmingly and you are just behind? Can you say late bloomer? 

It never helps us to compare our highlight reel to someone else's because all we are seeing is a small smidgen of that person's life. Yet we do it anyway. Well, I want to take a moment to tell you today - you can stop now. I know easier said than done.

Let me tell you about something that happened on my walk yesterday. I was walking by this one house whose garage had windows without curtains. I looked over and couldn't believe what I saw. There was this little bird stuck inside. I could see him. He could probably see me. But he was stuck - behind a glass, jumping up and down because he probably knew he didn't belong there. He belonged in the light of that beautiful day, not stuck inside a dark garage.

It kinda made me think about something I touched on in my Ted pitch last week. My call at the end of the speech I said, "When you leave here today and go back to your Facebook feeds, my question for you is - are you gonna show UP, or are you gonna show OFF." 

Think about showing UP as facing real life - like all your emotional and mental baggage and spiritual discontent so you can live in the light. Then think about showing OFF as actively hiding behind your news feed and staying in your own comfortable darkness. You can probably figure out what is going to give you the more fulfilling life. 

Do you have any control over what someone else is doing with their life, or showing OFF on their news feed? Absolutely not. But how much does it affect you internally? If we can only control how we show UP in our own life, then maybe we should think the next time we're gawking at someone else's news feed - or even worse, judging them.

If you DO feel stuck, maybe think about where your discontentment might be. What don't you like about your life? Where you do realize that you aren't showing UP? I will tell you this morning I spent some time listening to God for where he wants me next. It can be hard to decipher my voice from his. But more often than not mine is much more about getting what I want. Sometimes that is the comfort of my own darkness. But when I look at what I'm doing and what I want to be doing, I realize right where I'm not showing UP, and I say a prayer for God to change my heart and to show me his plan. It is a process, this faith life, but every day I learn to go a little deeper and walk further into the light. All I have to do to remember that is think about that little bird who clearly didn't belong in that darkness and do what I need to do, maybe even jump up and down - to get myself back into the light.

It reminds me of the parable of the lamp. Mark 4:21-22 (NLT):

"Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light."

We are not meant to hide in darkness under a bed where our light can't shine. We're meant to be on a stand so it can!! We get scared of our secrets coming into the light. But honestly, God already knows what we're trying to hide and if we bring it into the light he can use it for his good!!!

One last thing, don't ask me why but this song came on my Spotify when I was walking yesterday thinking about what I was going to write and it just moved me. I'm not sure I really understand the video, but try to listen to it more for the words - in a GOOD WAY - not in some punishing God way. P.S. I love how Bono paints, "Sinners make the best saints, J.C."

"Well you may throw your rock and hide your hand
Workin' in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What's done in the dark will be brought to the light

You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God'll cut you down
Sooner or later God'll cut you down'


Rivers of Living Water Available to Us: Lenten Devotional Week 4

Sabino Canyon Dam

Sabino Canyon Dam

Last week I had a picture posted like this on my Instagram feed. Obviously it's when I was in Arizona because we don't have anything like that near us in South Bend! But I wanted to share with you the inspiration I found while at Sabino Canyon Dam.

First of all I had to do one last hike in this place and the one to the dam was a quick few miles. When I got there I stood at the top of the water fall and hiked down to the base where this photo was taken. I took it laying flat on my stomach on a huge rock that overlooked the waterfall. As I laid there I just took in the scenery and let God speak through the beauty of nature. 

Here's what I heard...

"Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, 'Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'" John 7:38

I just kept hearing "rivers of living water", "rivers of living water" and when I went to this version that said "from his heart," it just hit me. We let His love into our hearts and it will FLOW from our hearts. 

I have many times in my life lived by a river - the Potomac in Washington, the River Lee in Cork, Ireland, the St. Joseph River in South Bend, and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. There are rivers all throughout the Bible. Rivers seem to be a theme and on this trip I realized how much God's love is just constantly flowing and available for all those who thirst for his righteousness. It's a beautiful thing.

That wasn't the only verse to come though. 

Proverbs 21:1-3 MSG

"Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever end he chooses. We justify our actions by appearances; God examines our motives. Clean living before God and justice with our neighbors mean far more to God than religious performance."

I also like the NLT Version of verse 2-3,

"People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines the heart. The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices."

As I was walking into this TedX pitch I gave earlier this week it helped set my intention for the moment God was putting me on that stage. His love flows out of me like a river because I receive it and he is more pleased if I share my heart than if I try to "show off." 

One final note. God didn't stop with that intention setting, the view or the verses. I heard these two songs about The River (both awesome) on my last evening there. I thought it was appropriate to share in this devotion if you want to reflect. Next week I'll be talking about how all things may be permissable but all things aren't helpful.

I SEEK YOU, FIRST: Week One of a HV Lenten Devotional Series

If you are interested in reading Matthew 4:1-11, here you go. 

 

 

Create in me a clean heart, Oh God and renew a steadfast spirit within me. - Psalm 51:10

Today starts the season of Lent. For 40 days Jesus wandered in the wilderness, and for 40 days every year we are given a chance to strengthen our relationship with Him.

Many people will mark the day by getting ashes on their forehead. Others will take time to be more intentional in their devotion. However you observe it, is the way you as a believer observe it. 

For years I didn't really understand what the ashes meant. All I knew was that I went to church and the priest put ashes on my forehead and said, "For you are dust and to dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19) I knew I had to give something up and I had to make sure I did it perfectly over the next 40 days or God was going to be mad at me. I realize today I was more focused on performance and less focused on what the season really means - getting closer to Him.

Today, I see it differently - only because I've learned more about what these 40 days are about from a Biblical perspective. When I read Matthew 4:1-11 NLT, I find that Jesus was hungry and the devil came to him in his time of weakness and promised him all the worldly things he could have if he'd just worship him. Verses 10 and 11 are the response:

 "'Get out of here Satan, Jesus told him', "For the scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus."

There is a powerful message in that, especially as we all give something up. In doing so, we can see what it really means to worship the one true God because we're giving up those things we've made little gods in our lives.  

It does often feel like we're in a wilderness. The cravings can be overwhelming. But we have to realize something.

In this reflective season, we are being given a chance to detach from our vices, come to Jesus. In so doing we get to create a bigger space in our hearts for Him to do the healing only He can do.

So when you get all frustrated in the next couple weeks because you can't have that thing you want that you gave up, just remember what you are getting - a chance to return to in that moment what truly satisfies you - knowing Jesus. I know it won't be easy - for you or for me. But I also know that with God's help I can do it. If He can do it, I can do it. If you struggle, I recommend you read Matthew 4 or listen to this song I posted below. For me, it made the most sense to kick off this season of Lent. It also gave me what I'm going to say every time I'm tempted:

"Lord - I seek you first."

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." - Matthew 6:33 NLT