Come, Daughter. Come Closer.

Wrestling with God, my Father, and his word. He gives me an invitation. “Come, daughter. Come closer.” Only to be followed by the enemy’s attack. Discord. Lies. Heaviness. Confusion. Isolation. Then busyness.

So the question. How? How do I come closer?

Stopping. Resting. Listening. Nagash. The Hebrew word for draw near. Close enough to touch.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Without pride. Without arrogance. Without wrong motives. Seeking wisdom. Learning how to pray. What to pray. God, you called your people, but they would not come close. Jesus. You longed to gather your people, but they would not come. (James 4:8, Deuteronomy 5:5, Matthew 23:37)

We were once far off. Now, in Jesus, we’ve been brought near. Once strangers, foreigners. Now citizens, family. (Ephesians 2:13,19)

Father, let me have a heart that desires to come closer. A heart fertile, plowed, prepared, ready to receive. Let me draw near and worship with my heart, not just my mouth and lips. In Spirit and in Truth. Approaching the Throne of Grace. Receiving mercy. (John 4:24, Isaiah 29:13, Hebrews 4:16)

Like Mary at your feet, Jesus, choosing what is better. (Luke 10:39,42) Thank you that I can come. Listen. Learn. Love.

Jesus, you call us. Come to me. Weary. Heavy laden. And I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

No rules. No restrictive laws.

God’s Spirit gives freedom. And as outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For the good news the Father has for us might be foolishness to the world, to the lost, to those who are perishing. But to us who come, it is His power. His life. For truly Jesus came to give us life. Abundantly. Full. Overflowing. Satisfying. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 2 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 1:8, John 10:10)

So come. Come closer.

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When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

With the rise in Christians wanting to make a difference in the world, Corbett and Fikkert address the many issues, challenges, and mistakes involved in working to alleviate poverty both domestically and internationally.  Who are the poor?  How do we help?  Most importantly, what do we do that actually hinders or hurts? The authors explore the good, the bad, and the ugly in helping the poor. They challenge some foundational beliefs and concepts about poverty and provide basic principles of the types of assistance (relief, rehabilitation and development) truly required to make a difference.

I read this book ten years ago, in the years following Hurricane Katrina. Our area had been the destination of many groups coming down to help rebuild. And our little church became a haven for a number of marginalized people. I wanted to learn about effectively helping those around us.

As short term missions came down to the coast, we experienced good help and not so good help. Unfortunately there were those who seemed to be there as a site seeing trip. There were many who came down with their plans, their agendas, their ideas of what they wanted to do. And there were those who came down and asked, “What do you need done next?” They were there for us. Not for themselves. They were there to serve. Not to make themselves “feel good.”

And as we walked along side low-income neighbors trying to get back on their feet, I felt overwhelmed and ill-equipped. So I started reading. Corbett and Fikkert opened my eyes to many of the preconceptions, biases and assumptions I had about those in poverty, in our country and in other countries. They also opened my heart to address pride and arrogance in myself. Both are critical to be effective change agents in the world.

Recently, my husband and I attended a missions banquet. He went on a short term mission trip to Haiti last year and is planning to go again in a few months. During the banquet, another trip also caught his attention. But what caught my attention was the endorsement of this book. Which compelled me to pull it off the shelf again.

Quotes:

  • We do not necessarily need to feel guilty about our wealth. But we do need to get up every morning with a deep sense that something is terribly wrong with the world and yearn and strive to do something about it. There is simply not enough yearning and striving going on.
  • When people look at the church, they should see the very embodiment of Jesus! When people look at the church, they should see the One who declared–in word and in deed to the leper, the lame, and the poor–that His kingdom is bringing healing to every speck of the universe.
  • …the church needs to rediscover a Christ-centered, fully orbed perspective of the kingdom.
  • …this mismatch between many outsiders’ perceptions of poverty and the perceptions of poor people themselves can have devastating consequences for poverty alleviation efforts.
  • If we reduce human beings to being simply physical–as Western thought is prone to do–our poverty-alleviation efforts will tend to focus on material solutions. But if we remember than humans are spiritual, social, psychological, and physical beings, our poverty-alleviation efforts will be more holistic in their design and execution.
  • The fall really happened, and it is wreaking havoc in all of our lives. We are all broken, just in different ways.
  • …until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.
  • By showing low-income people through our words, our actions, and most importantly our ears that they are people with unique gifts and abilities, we can be part of helping them to recover their sense of dignity, even as we recover from our sense of pride.
  • …the goal is to restore people to a full expression of humanness, to being what God created us all to be, people who glorify God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.
  • The goals is to see people restored to being what God created them to be: people who understand that they are created in the image of God with the gifts, abilities, and capacity to make decisions and to effect change in the world around them; and people who steward their lives, communities, resources, and relationships in order to bring glory to God.
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Just do the Next Thing

I’m a planner. And every January I set the calendar before me and consider the year ahead. I make a list of the books I want to read. I mark down events we plan to attend. I dream about some of the things I would love to do. Places I’d like to go. Goals I’d like to accomplish.

And I get overwhelmed by the details, the ideas, the plans. They seem daunting, intimidating, unfeasible.

As I prayed and asked the Lord what in the world I should do, I heard.

Just do the next thing

Of course. Don’t get ahead of myself. Don’t get ahead of the Lord. Don’t get caught up in what I have to do later in the year, next month, or even next week. Take the next step, not worrying all the steps ahead. The Lord will reveal each step as I need to take it. Each task as I need to do it.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Proverbs 16:9
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Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

A friend gave me the book Quiet a couple of years ago. This past year, it finally rose to the top of my nightstand stack. It’s a dense read, but worth it.

Cain, an introvert herself, braved crazy conferences (I had anxiety just reading her description of the Tony Robbins conference she attended), interviewed dozens of researchers, and hunted down other introverts on college campuses, businesses, and organizations. She compiled it all into four parts: The Extrovert Ideal; Your Biology, Your Self?; Do all cultures have an Extrovert Ideal?; How to love, How to work.

If you’re not sure whether or not you’re an introvert, Cain provides a quick assessment to see where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. (I scored 18 out of 20 on the introvert scale. No surprise to me, however.)

The first chapter debunks the myth that everyone should aspire to be extroverted. If you’re an introvert, you know what I mean. You’ve probably heard: “You should get out more”, “Smile, you look so sad”, “You’re too quiet”, “you need to assert yourself to get ahead”, and so on. Cain gives a brief walk through our culture’s history and when/where the idea of the extrovert ideal emerged.

She then goes on to talk about the strength and capabilities of an introvert as compared to the much coveted extrovert. She also points out that introverts aren’t always as quiet as they seem. We (introverts) just don’t like small talk. Instead, we want to delve into deeper, meaningful topics. And when we are in a comfortable and familiar environment, we can actually talk quite a bit.

Cain also touches on the balance both introverts and extroverts provide one another, when each recognize what the other has to offer (it’s not all extrovert bashing). She cites numerous studies explaining the disposition of both, addresses their strengths and weakness, and discusses the benefits of having both in our families, organizations and businesses.

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, I highly recommend this book. I find freedom in understanding who I am and who others are because when I do, I can extend grace both to myself and others and truly appreciate who we are and what we have to offer. I hope you can, too.

Quotes:

We all write our life stories as if we were novelists… with beginnings, conflicts, turning points, and endings. And the way we characterize our past setbacks profoundly influences how satisfied we are with our current lives. Unhappy people tend to see setbacks as contaminants that ruined an otherwise good thing, while generative adults see them as blessings in disguise.

Physcologist Dan McAdams
  • How did we go from Character to Personality without realizing that we had sacrificed something meaningful along the way?
  • Does it always make sense to equate leadership with hyper-extroversion?
  • We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be.
  • We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
  • Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine, it must be displayed publicly. Is it any wonder that introverts…start to question their own hearts?
  • One of the most interesting findings, echoed by later studies, was that the more creative people tended to be socially poised introverts.
  • introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.
  • …not everyone aspires to be a leader in the conventional sense of the word–that some people wish to fit harmoniously into the group, and others to be independent of it.
  • …it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice…identified as the key to exceptional achievement.
  • …the single-minded focus…is typical for highly creative people.
  • Indeed, excessive stimulation seems to impede learning: a recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street.
  • Peer pressure, in other words, is not only unpleasant, but can actually change your view of a problem.
  • …we should actively seek out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership and other tasks are divided according to people’s natural strengths and temperaments.
  • We can stretch our personalities, but only up to a point. Our inborn temperaments influence us, regardless of the lives we lead.
  • …highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in a ways that limit surprises… they have difficulty when being observed or judged for general worthiness.
  • The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk.
  • They love music, nature, art physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions…
  • Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply.
  • IN short, introverts just don’t buzz as easily.
  • “People with certain personality types got control of capital and institutions and power. And people who are congenitally more cautious and introverted and statistic in their thinking became discredited and pushed aside.”
  • Introverts seem to be specifically wired or trained so when they catch themselves getting excited and focused on a goal, their vigilance increases.
  • Introverts’ disinclination to charge ahead is not only a hedge against risk, it also pays off on intellectual task.
  • Extroverts are better than introverts at handling information overload.
  • But introverts seem to think more carefully than extroverts.
  • Persistence isn’t very glamorous. If genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-one percent perspiration, then as a culture we tend to lionize the one percent. We love its flash and dazzle But great power lies in the other ninety-nine percent.
  • Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity… In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.
  • So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race.
  • The point is not that one (culture) is superior to the other, but that a profound difference in cultural values has a powerful impact on the personality styles favoredly each culture.
  • …that each way of being–quiet and talkative, careful and audacious, inhibited and unrestrained–is characteristic of its own mighty civilization.
  • Gandhi’s passivity was not weakness at all. It meant focusing on an ultimate goal and refusing to divert energy to unnecessary skirmishes along the way. Restraint…one of his greatest assets.
  • I don’t really like being the guest at someone else’s part, because then I have to be entertaining. But I’ll host parties because it puts you at the center of things without actually being a social person.
  • “Restorative niche” the place you go when you want to return to your true self.
  • Will this job allow me to spend time on in-character activities like, for example, reading, strategizing, writing and researching?
  • …acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time–in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.
  • studies suggest that the former (introverts) tend to be conflict-avoiders, while the later (extroverts) are confrontative copers, at ease with an up-front, even argumentative style of disagreement.
  • …introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.
  • the number one this is they’ve got to really listen well.
  • my passion overcomes my shyness once I get started on a speech. If you find something that arouses your passion or provides a welcome challenge, you forget yourself for a while. It’s like an emotional vacation.
  • Figure out what you are to meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it.
  • The trick is not to amass all the different types of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.

One side note, a personal observation, however. Based on the studies Cain cites, introversion and extroversion are not limited by gender. Unfortunately, some of the more conservative circles I have belonged to hold up a “quiet” ideal for women and the “bolder” ideal for men. Both of which are shortsighted and misguided. They place unhealthy, limiting boxes on both sexes and tell them how they “should” act. In doing so, they miss and waste the gifts, abilities, and potential of bold women and quiet men.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.

Anais Nin

We are each created amazingly, wonderfully, uniquely. To know our strengths and be able to live, lead, and serve is to truly be all we are created to be. Abundantly.

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Give Life to It

Last month we had some time in bible study to listen. I sat outside and, since it was a cool December morning, I chose a warm sunny spot. My brain was filled with too many words and I just wanted to sit in the quiet for a little while. Even when we were called back inside, I stayed.

I prayed about the coming year and the things I wanted to finally accomplish. The things I felt like the Lord had put on my heart, given me, called me to. I wanted to listen and obey. But I was feeling spent, defeated, empty. I asked the Lord to open doors, to push the boulders, to surround me with helpers. Because otherwise, I would assume it was not something he wanted me to do or a role he wanted me to fill.

We were given a couple of scriptures to meditate on before hand.

But you must continue to believe God’s true message. Do not turn away from it. Continue to trust God as you did when you first heard the good news…

Colossians 1:23 (EEB)

Get your strength from Christ himself so that you become stronger and stronger. Continue to believe the true message that we taught you. And thank God very much for everything.

Colossians 2:7 (EEB)

As I prayed, I picked up a dried leaf. I turned it over in my hands, felt its rough texture, studied its now dead veins. In the quiet. Listening. I heard.

Give life to it.

That’s odd. How does one give life to a dead leaf? I certainly couldn’t. But sometimes the dried leaves, the dead branches, the weeds, need to come up so that new life can grow. Burst forth. Not spending time with what’s dead, but tending to what has life. And to give more life to it. Life needs rest. A time to let roots go down deep. Then the energy renews and life springs forth.

I’m not sure what that looks like. But I know the Lord will show me.

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