Saturday, October 6, 2018

Take out the enemy with your Tent Stake

There is another place in Scripture where a tent stake comes in handy.  It is in the form of a story. So, you can read it in Judges chapter 4 for the official impartation of this story...but I want to summarize it for you here.  If you are already familiar with the story, or if you are like me and just want to skip to the point because that’s all I got time for... just jump down below for the tie in with tent stakes. This isn’t my usual writing style, but settle in, it’s story time:

There was a time in the relationship between God and his people in which His beloved behaved outside the bounds of his protection.  Thus, they existed in a tension of oppression from an opposing nation and putting aside true worship for idol worship.  During this climate of disconnect, the Israelites were ruled by king Jabin of Canaan who ruled with a heavy tyrannizing hand. Sisera was the commander of Jabin’s army.

Deborah is one of the many brave badass women that God chose to write his story with. There is another remarkable woman in this story too that I am completely impressed with and am modeling some of my spiritual warfare tactics after.

Deborah was a judge over Israel which meant she spent her days under “Deborah’s Palm” solving disputes and matters of justice for Israel.  Scripture says she was also a prophetess. #girlboss

Her heart hurt for her people and it seems she had spent time with the Lord and sensed it was time to make a military move toward freedom from oppression. She called in a trusted military leader and told him exactly what God had instructed them to do. His response was, “If you go with me, I’ll go.  But if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

Her reply, “Of course I will go with you. But understand this:  with an attitude like that there’ll be no glory in it for you. God will use a woman’s hand to take care of Sisera.”  And she wasn’t referring to herself.

To shorten the story, there was divine intervention and Israel had the Canaan’s on the run out of there, but the leader of the army, Sisera, was still running for his life and he hid in a tent that he thought would be a haven.  A women that he mistakenly believed to be under his influence.

It was the home of Jael.

She greeted him, “Come in sir. Stay here with me. Don’t be afraid.” … she covered him up with a rug to conceal him and brought him water.

He told her, “Stand at the tent flap.  If anyone comes by and ask you, ‘Is anyone in here’ tell him ’No, not a soul.’”

So she waited until he fell asleep under that rug.  And this is where it gets real: She grabbed a TENT STAKE and a hammer and officially eliminated the leader of the enemy by driving that sucker through his temple.  #badass #enoughsaid********************************************************************

So, a few things that clang in my brain like I am in a belfry of an old church and it is clanging so loudly it vibrates my brain:
  • She killed him with a TENT STAKE. 
  • The head of the  enemy entered her home
  • She used what she had in her hands
  • She was patient
  • She knew God would enable her to be MORE cunning than he was
  • She was underestimated
  • She was a stay-at-home-mom
  • She played along knowing who she was and Whose she was all along 
  • She wasn’t afraid to step into the battle
  • She waited until the fight was hers, her eyes were only on her lane
  • When the enemy came into her territory, it became HER battle
  • She knew it wasn’t a “stand still and see the victory of the Lord” moment….it was a “fight with what God gave you and let Him show you how strong you are in Him” moment
  • She didn’t call the pastor, she didn’t read a book, she didn’t journal about it….she TOOK HIM OUT
  • It was a risk, it was scary, it was gorey, it was ugly, it was messy, it wasn’t something she was used to, it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t lady-like, it wasn’t easy. She probably had to do it with her eyes closed. She probably had to coach herself, “Just DO THE THING!”

To tether this to the spiritual discipline I named as “Tent Stakes”, it makes sense to consider the beliefs you decide to anchor yourself to as weapons.

Jesus said, “My Word to you is Spirit and Life” (John 6:63). Spirit in this verse is “Pneuma” in Greek and directly refers to the Spirit as PERSON, the Holy Being.  When His Words become the words on our lips, they are inhabited with power. When we tap on the Lord’s heart we tap into these tent stake gifts. This “Word”, when we “St. Benedict” it and insist on its place in our personal economy, we truly HOST the Spirit in active ways. This creates freedom because as we know, “Where the Spirit is there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).  Freedom from fear, anxiety, resentment, irritability, name it.
So, take the time you need to develop your tent stakes .  Reach out to me if you need help with this, please. Envision them as WEAPONS.  And use them. Cling to them. Let them hem you in and tuck strength you didn’t know you had into the moments of your day.

Mandi on Mindfulness: Child's Pose

There is a host of things to be said of posture.  Many stories in scripture have little nuggets that are easy to breeze by that have to do with people’s bodies and the position they are in.  Like, when Jesus fed the 5,000 with the couple of fish and bread loafs.  “…and Jesus told the people to sit down on the grass…” (Matt 14:19).  They were in a posture from which they could receive. 

Child’s pose is a pose holding sacrament. Meaning. Mysticism even.  It’s a turning in. Withdrawing from the things around you that your senses tend to run after like little rabbit trails.  It helps quiet you, turn you inward toward the dark quiet place you can be still and know.  Try placing your container (body) in different places as you practice the Presence of God.  Focus on your breath when your mind wanders.  And practice posture that poises you for rest and receiving.

Child’s Pose

1.    Kneel down on the floor and touch your big toes to each other as you sit on your heels. Once you are comfortable, spread your knees hip-width apart. Inhale.
2.    Bend forward and lay your torso between your thighs as you exhale.
3.    Now, broaden the sacrum all across the back of the pelvis, and narrow the points of your hip such that they point towards the navel. Settle down on the inner thighs.
4.    Stretch the tailbone away from the back of the pelvis as you lift the base of your head slightly away from the back of the neck.
5.    Stretch your arms forward and place them in front of you, such that they are in line with your knees. Release the fronts of your shoulder to the floor. You must feel the weight of the front shoulders pulling the blades widely across your back.
6.    Since this asana is a resting pose, you can stay in the pose from anywhere between 30 seconds to a few minutes.
7.    To release the asana, first stretch the front torso. Then, breathe in and lift from the tailbone while it pushes down into the pelvis.

Precautions and Contraindications
These are some points of caution to take into consideration before you do this asana.
1.    If you find it difficult or uncomfortable to place your head on the floor, you can use a pillow or a block for comfort.
2.    If you are uncomfortable in your knees, try tucking a blanket or block behind your knees
3.    It is best to avoid doing this asana if you are suffering from diarrhea or knee injuries.
4.    Patients with high blood pressure must avoid practicing this asana.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mandi on Mindfulness: Leaf Breathing

Mindfulness offerings continue:  For some of us, we fit into the stream of spiritual personality that feels most aligned, most in communion with the Lord when we are connected to nature. This personality type falls into Franciscan spirituality.  I teach a lot on this in my spiritual personality course, but this is a simple suggestion to try sometime.  I mean: SIMPLE. Use this graphic, or find a leaf in your yard or on your the spirit of practicing governing your breath to serve you when you feel undone, work on connecting pacing your breath as you trace a leaf up one side and down the other as the graphic offers.  I would set a timer and stick with it for 2 minutes.

This slowing breath on purpose and with intention not only is a beautiful prayer, it also creates that chemical shift in your brain that moves you from “fight or flight and panic” to “rest and digest and be at ease”.  It is so important that we pick up and use these little “built in the system” secrets that the Lord planted in our minds.  We can partner with the way he created us, and this intentional breathing  stirs up a different cocktail of chemicals in your brain for that poise you for listening to His Voice.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tent Stakes

For me, this is cornerstone.  This is glue. This is mission-critical.

They came out of a time in life where I was not in contentment or harmony with who I thought the Lord was.  I had spent sweet developmental years creating ground on which God and I operated in a love drenched, insight fueled, experiential relationship. I knew who God was because I had experienced him.

Then, we got bad news. I could not reconcile the character of God with the devastation I was looking at in the natural world, personal and specific to the ruin that now described my hopes and expectations. Not only that. How in the WORLD, once that door of the autricitys of the world is cracked open and you peek you continue to operate with the kindness of God as your mantle?

This post is not going to satisfy the above incompatibility of God’s kindness and world atrocity. Through experiential shaping and divine listening I have come to understand it all comes down to what questions I am asking.  And I plan to write some essential thoughts about that next month.  But here I would like to pass on my personal tool that is based in Isaiah 54, my life passage.

In the midst of the devastation, God showed up with out-loud, neon Favor for all the world to see. Like, inexpiable undeniable miracles that resulted in provision for our family I could have never imagined or dreamed up. I realized I wasted grief assuming God was a party to the ruin that scared me to doubt the goodness of the future.  I had prayed Habakkuk 3:2, and he answered:
2 Lord, I have heard of your fame;

    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
I then said to the Lord: “I am convinced and I commit to you, Lord, that I will NOT forget.  Next time things look on the outside that you are not for me, I will declare and root and choose to believe that you are at work in ways I do not see with my natural eyes. Because I saw you do it before. I know life is hard.  I know this is not the only gut wrenching hard thing that will come upon me. I know people get sick. I know life here in earth’s context is not as it should be: people die, people betray, precious things are lost.  Keep your promises on my lips, Lord, even when these things hit me over and over like waves of doubt Let me surf on the truth that Jesus is perfect theology and His character is clear to me and unchanging.” {Psalm 119:172}

Out of that prayer came tent stakes. These are core messages that I commit to hold tight to in the midst of those waves and outside evidence that God might not be for me.  They are my roots and I insist on claiming their reality no matter what the circumstance. This is the invitation from the Lord:

“Enlarge the site of your tent, and let your tent curtains be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your ropes, and drive your pegs deep.” Isaiah 54:2 CSB

You need to develop your own core messages (AKA tent stakes) that speak to your uniqueness.  However, in the spirit of explanation, a few of mine are:

     I will thank God for his provision of what I need before I have it in hand {Isaiah 54:1}
     God’s presence is the only thing that makes me well and it is what I pursue above all else. {Psalm 103; Isaiah 53}
     God is invested and knit into MY cause and MY fulfillment even as he unfolds HIS cause and HIS fulfillment wrapped around the whole earth. I. Am. Not. A Pawn. {Psalm 9:4; Psalm 18}
     Jesus is perfect theology {John 14:9}
     Small, mundane things are the stuff of holiness {Zech 4:10}

One more application to this offering is in addition to over-arching life tent stakes, sometimes in life I have needed to create a couple of handlebars of faith for a specific situation.  Maybe you are starting a new business or new pursuit, maybe you are going through a time of illness…What stakes do you need to claim?

Should you get into God’s Word, and should you ask him for an anchor….I would wage that you will get one.  And make that sucker a tent stake! And when doubt creeps in…”St. Benedict” it.  I made “St. Benedict” a new verb.  His famous quote is, “Begin again.”  So, when my mind wanders in prayer or yoga or should an anxiety nag while I am driving or trying to go to sleep, I “St. Benedict” it.  Which means I bring myself back again, and again, and again, and again to that which I am determined to cling to: my tent stakes.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Belly Breaths

Place one hand in the middle of your abdomen. Place the other at your heart. Take an easy seat that allows you to be comfortable and supported without striving.  You can sit up with a lengthened spine or lie back on the floor. 

Fill your belly with air and feel your hands gently rise and as you exhale feel them soften down. You should feel all sides of your container expand with air, especially focusing on filling the belly and flaring the rib cage open with air under your palms

You can use any breathing technique that you like or just let your natural breath be observed.

If distracting thoughts come into play, simply use one of the metaphors offered to non-judgmentally set that thought aside and bring your focus back to your breath.  

If a concern comes to mind, gently set it aside for later, and come back to your breath. Do this for 1-2 minutes.

Essential Mindfulness Practices

Monday, May 28, 2018

How to Deal with Distracting Thoughts

A.K.A. “Begin Again” Metaphors

Consider which metaphor below you are drawn to.  Imagine, for example, that as you are trying to pray, your grocery list comes to mind.  Simply place that thought on the cloud, wave, train, leaf passing by and bring your attention back to your breath or your word phrase you use to collect your attention back on the Lord.  This is where resolutely rely on the wisdom of St. Benedict’s encouragement: “Begin again.”   

·       Clouds floating, or birds flying, across the sky.   
·       Waves arising from the sea, then falling back in. You can watch the waves from the shore, without being swept away.  
·       Leaves and sticks floating down a stream. You don’t have to dive in. You can watch from a bridge.  
·       A passing parade. You can watch the floats pass by. You don’t have to climb on board.  
·       Trains coming and going while you stand watching from the platform.  
·       A waterfall. You’re standing behind it, not under it.  
·       Guests entering a hotel. You can be like the doorman: you greet the guests but you don’t follow them to their rooms.  
·       Cars passing by while you wait at an intersection.  
·       Suitcases dropping onto a conveyor belt at the airport. You can watch them pass by, without having to pick them up.  
·       People passing by you in the street. You can nod your head at them, but you don’t have to stop and have a conversation.  
·       Wild horses running across the plains. You can admire them but no need to chase them.  
·       Bubbles rising in a champagne bottle. They rise to the surface and then disappear.  
·       Fish swimming in a tank. Watch them come and go.  
·       Children running across a playground. You can stay still and watch, while they run wherever they want to.  
·       Actors on a stage. You can watch the play; you don’t need to get on stage and perform.  
·       ‘Pop-ups’ on the internet.  
·       Junk e-mail. You can’t stop it from coming in – but you don’t have to read it!
·       Text messages on your mobile phone.  
·       Luggage passing by on a conveyor belt.  

Take out the enemy with your Tent Stake

There is another place in Scripture where a tent stake comes in handy.  It is in the form of a story. So, you can read it in Judges chapte...