soul sizing your kingdom

Morgan Snyder has an inspired way to filter all the things we commit and devote our time to.  He suggests that we need to “soul-size our kingdoms”.  Meaning that we all tend to commit to more things and try to cram more into our lives than our hearts and souls can manage.  If we are in a state of overwhelm, exhaustion or living with very little margin to invest in the people we love or the activities that restore our soul, it is impossible to say, “it is well with my soul”.  Put in the most basic of terms,

soul-sizing = doing only the things God wants me to do

Bottom line of ALL of this we’ve been talking about these past few weeks = you must learn a way to sustain your whole-heartedness in a world gone mad.

Choice is yours.  Stay on the chaotic ride that is this world and you’re going to crash.  The world doesn’t care about your soul and will do nothing to help you here.  If you want to live whole-hearted, you’re going to need to be intentional.  That is what Morgan is talking about – I have to make the choice to right-size or soul-size my kingdom.  There are battles I cannot fight, work I can leave behind, demands I don’t have to meet.

More on this next week but too many of our souls look like this dried up sponge…

sponge-dry-e1574865583823.jpg

We’re so beaten up by the world, so frazzled, too many demands, too much to do, too much drama and we’re spent by the end of the day.  Nothing to give.  No Living Water in us.  The goal is this …

sponge

that I am saturated by the Living Waters.  That I have been so intentional to make space for the Holy Spirit, that I’ve communed with Jesus and taken in, taken in, taken in … that I now have much I can pour out on others.

Here are 5 tools to help you with this …

The One-Minute app from Ransomed Heart.  As I type this, mine just went off reminding me to disengage from the world for a few minutes so I can connect with the Father.  I have found this tool to be a real blessing as it “invades” my work two times a day and centers me back on the Father.

For me, the outdoors is incredibly healing.  The single best thing I can do when I come home from work is go for a walk – take the dogs and walk…

Honey on rocks

The beauty of nature, the exercising of my body, inhaling the fresh air, being with my dogs – it restores me, calms me.  It helps me leave work behind and reconnect with God.  Most days at work, I will take 2-3 calls outside walking around my office park.  I love to deer hunt, love to be in the woods.  I’ve seen so many cool things.  I adore red-tailed hawks.  They are sacred animals to me.  To see a big hawk or big owl flying through the trees hunting is breathtaking.  I am a better man after I’ve had some time outside.

red tailed hawk

Benevolent detachment.  Mark 1, Jesus’ ministry is getting going, He’s healing people and the crowds are coming.  Early in the morning, Jesus gets up early and goes off to pray.  Simon comes to Jesus and says the crowds are here, let’s go do this!  Jesus replies, “Let’s leave”.  He just walks away.  He has the capacity to just let things go.  To not be ruled by need, crisis or heartbreak.  Benevolent = kind.  It’s kind to them and it is kind to you for you to let it go and detach from their drama.  It is saying and meaning, “I can’t Jesus.  You can.”

To benevolently detach – the ability to let it go, walk away – not so much physically but emotionally and soulfully.  Detachment means getting untangled, stepping out of the quagmire.  It means getting some healthy distance.  Benevolent means kindness.  It means something done in love.  Jesus is inviting us into a way of living where we are genuinely comfortable turning things over to Him.

You can benevolently detach from people as well.  There are certain people I cannot engage with too deeply.  There are some problems I cannot fix.  It is benevolent – it is kind.  It’s not being a jerk.  It’s kind.  It’s healthy.  This will be helpful for you tomorrow at Thanksgiving.  When you feel the tension level rising, when your brother or brother-in-law starts in on you, when your Mother-in-law starts it … it is OK to excuse yourself and walk outside.  Just go grab some fresh air.  Breathe.  “Jesus, I give everyone and everything to You.”  Release them.  They are temporary.  He is eternal.

Play – Morgan Snyder tells this story about a visit to Hawaii on a long overdue family vacation.  Early in the trip, they went to dinner at Sam Ainslie’s house.  Sam is a Board member at Ransomed Heart.  When Morgan got there, he heard the lawnmower going in the backyard.  He went out on the back patio and saw Sam riding his mower around in crazy, zig-zag, round-about, wavy lines.  When Sam finished, Morgan asked him what he was doing.  Sam replied, “I was … playing”.  Morgan had no file in his head for playing.  It made no sense to him.  Morgan had become so driven, so “I must come through”, so “get it done, no matter the cost to himself” that he’d lost the category of play.  His sponge was completely dried out.  He had lost the capacity to play and to rest.

So, I encourage you to … play.

Sabbath – this is a new category for me, one I’ve yet to fully implement but it is fantastically restoring.  On the 7th day, the LORD rested.  It’s OK.  You don’t have to be “on” 24/7.  You can take a day off.  You can rest.  The world won’t encourage it.  Who cares?  It’s my life and my soul and I need to create a habitat where my soul can thrive.

This post is long so I will save the details on Sabbath for the next post but if you can, try to practice some Sabbath this weekend.  Find some time to just rest.  No agenda.  Just rest.

LiveUP!

come Wednesday

manschool will meet this Wednesday – the day before Thanksgiving.  We have some great material for you.  Even if you’re not a regular attender and if you’re reading this, I think you should come.

especially as you prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday and all that interaction with family … and all that can bring … I think you will find this week’s material particularly helpful.

to make it in this world gone mad, you’ve got to cultivate and invest in a way to sustain your whole-heartedness.  It can be done.  Some of the tools we’ll give you this week will help.

why I shut down my twitter

I used facebook for years – mostly keeping up with family and friends from college.  Over time, I noticed I was engaging in debates on facebook – over football, hunting, politics, etc.  The more this happened, the more frustrated I became wondering many times,  “Why am I subjecting myself to this nonsense?”  So, I decided to purge my account of the people that were drawing me into these senseless conversations.  A year or so later, I felt the strong urge of God to just exit it which I (sort of) did, dropping everyone except my immediate family.  But that wasn’t healthy for me either as it still gave me a gateway to all the people on facebook.  Even if they weren’t my “friend”, I could still peer into their lives.  Then came the “ah ha” moment.  Facebook is a portal into other people’s lives.  I can see things that I was probably never supposed to see.  You KNOW what I’m talking about – that just cruising around and looking offers us up the chance to see our friend’s wife, who is on a CrossFit binge and proudly showing off her toned bikini body on their wonderful trip to some island paradise.  Perfect people, perfect bodies, perfect vacation all coming into my world.  Because… I invited it in.  I am NOT meant to gaze upon another man’s near naked wife but my iPhone enables it.  Facebook enables it and I’ve written about this before but I believe it is a tool for narcissism (look at how great my life is) and/or voyeurism (that I can peer into your life and see things I’m not supposed to see).

Anyway, finally, I killed facebook entirely – finally followed my Father’s nudging.  Closed the account.  Deleted the app.  Boom – it was gone from my life and I do NOT miss it AT ALL.  My life goes on without having to know about my friend’s vacation or his opinion on politics.  They call it blissful ignorance.

It was not good for my soul and it required a choice – a somewhat rude, counter-cultural, almost monastic choice of “I’m simply going to walk away from it”.  Benevolent detachment.

Which leads me to Twitter.  Never had Instagram or Snapchat but I did have a Twitter.  I was very careful in who I followed there – either ministry related people like Beth Moore, Erwin McManus, John Ortberg, John Piper, etc. or leaders I respect like Dabo Swinney, Gene Chizik, Hugh Freeze or professionals in my career where it could be a research tool.  Twitter was never a big thing for me, I maybe checked in every other day.

Upon our return from Ransomed Heart and all the discussion about technology, social media, unplugging from the matrix, caring for your soul, etc. I opened my Twitter the next morning and this popped up …

AOC tweet

Now, I would never follow AOC.  I know enough to know her beliefs are toxic to me – they raise my blood pressure and distress my soul.  But, because I followed Barry Ritholtz and because he likes what she tweets, he invited her onto my feed and I have to see this nonsense she’s posting about.  Toxic to my soul.  This isn’t a political thing – Donald Trump might have the same impact on me/you.  The point is = pay attention to what these things are doing to youTension.  The need arising to argue with them.  The anxiety.  The worry or heartache. 

Whatever it is … why are you inviting these things into your soul? 

That’s the question for us.

What is fascinating is to realize that 6,427 people felt the need to weigh in on her tweet.  6,427 people who thought their opinion was so vital that they took the time to reply or to argue with the other side.  Almost 26,000 people retweeted it and 173,000 people felt it was important to “like” her comment … that it was that important to mankind that they weigh in.

do you see the madness of this?

This isn’t the real.  This is artificial, fake.  We are not having conversations with people.  We’re tweeting, texting and facebook messaging people.  We’re arguing with people we don’t even know trying to convince them they are wrong.

it … is … insanity.

and … it sucks the Living Waters from your soul.  It is an utter waste of precious time that will not add one thing to your precious life.  I said above, “pay attention what these things are doing to your soul”.  What is troubling is that many of us are oblivious to the impact and may say, “Oh I can read all that or see some dysfunctional friend’s rants and I just swipe right past it.  It doesn’t bother me”. 

the problem is … it should – but you’ve moved so far up into shallows that you’re now numb to it.

So, after all this, I immediately shut down my Twitter and deleted the app.  Boom.  It’s gone.  And I don’t miss it AT ALL.  It requires a choice to disengage from technology and bless you, if you’re reading this, you’re on technology doing it!

My challenge to you is this – don’t fast from it for a week.  Don’t take a day or two off from it.  Delete it.  Nuke it.  End it.  Take the radical step of saying, “I don’t know what’s on the other side of this but I’m going to walk outside in the sunshine to find out”.  This is just one small step to take your soul from this …

dried field

to this …

lush farm.png

 

 

soul care – will you pause?

(Note- we are meeting next week, the day before Thanksgiving)  You spend 93% of your time indoors – artificial air, artificial lighting, plastics, synthetic fabrics, etc.  Fake.  God is in the real.  The fake atrophies the soul.  Will you pause to seek Him?  Read on for a great tool that’s free for you.

You spend 4-8 hours a day on your phone.  10 hours a day on media.  It does not create margin.  Technology, while it ramps up efficiency, it consumes your margin.  20+ years ago, there was limited email and no texting and almost no internet.  You came home from work and that was that.  Work was left back at work.  Not now.  Now they can get you 24/7 and they expect you to always be available.

 

You should not ask your soul to live at the pace of your iPhone. 

 

How hard pressed are we that typing a reply to a text seems burdensome i.e. “I just don’t have the time to reply back to this, so I’ll send a thumbs up emoji”.   

We must learn a way to sustain whole-heartedness in a world gone mad.  This is a brutal time.  Insane pace of life.  Tsunami of media/technology.  We’re aware of too much heartache.  The madness and the pace of things has an impact on me.  Pay attention to my soul.  Notice how easily distracted I am.  I feel like my soul is getting shallower.  I’m lacking the ability to give God my presence.  The soul is not shallow – but it is being pushed there.

The hurried pace, the over-commitment, the over-scheduling, texting while driving to maximize your productivity, frenetic pace of information pouring through you … it has a way of pushing you into the shallows.  The shallow water.

Pay attention to the depth of a person’s soul.  CS Lewis Great Divorce – the people from hell were sent to Heaven but they were so shallow, that they couldn’t withstand the depth of Heaven.  Even the grass hurt their feet.

Shallow-fied souls that are turning into barren fields…

dried field

Starved of water, their soil dries up and becomes hard baked.  Barren ground cannot receive rain.  It is why flash floods happen – the water just rushes off.

The River of Life flows but we cannot receive it.

We medicate and distract.  Binging on TV.  Chocolate.  Apps.  Wine.  It does not heal the soul or the fragmentation that comes.

To navigate this hour requires a soul that is saturated with God – like this picture of the sponge.  Your life saturated by His love.  His wisdom.  His life.  His beauty…

sponge

The soul is a vessel designed to be filled with God and to overflow with Him.  A reservoir filled up and it spills over and from which will flow rivers of life.  Saturated with God.  Like a sail catching the breath of God – carried by it.  But if the soul is torn to bits, it cannot catch the wind.  This world is designed to shred the soul.

The reason you can’t find more of God is become you aren’t looking with much of yourself.  There’s not much of you left.  But, you can get it back.

How?

You don’t have to be on social media.  I’m not on facebook, instagram, snapchat and I just shut down my twitter.  My life goes on.  I don’t have to know what all is being posted there.  I don’t have to keep up with the impeachment trial.  What will happen, is going to happen.  Nothing I can do will change it but for me to engage in it, watch it, comment on it, read other’s tweets about it (or any other topic) … only serves to suck me into the drama.

Your soul was not meant to move at the pace of your iPhone.  Your soul was not meant to engage with media every waking moment.  To break free, you have to break ties.

Psalm 1:1-4  Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law, day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.

and then this …

Matthew 11:28-30 The Message   “Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion? Come to me.  Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

This is what we’re after.  And here is another great tool to help you.  Check out the “One-minute pause” app.  You can download this on the app store.  It’s free.  It will chime at you at 10am and 2pm (or whatever time you set) and center you back on God.  Check it out.  It’s a very powerful tool…

one minute pause

We will dig deeper into this next week at manschool

**** yes, we are meeting next week, the day before Thanksgiving ****

true surrender…

here are the slides from this morning > Clear eyes 8 – when we’re tested

We will all be tested.  We will all fall.  As we’ve established this fall, that day is coming for each one of us.  God’s Word is crystal clear on this …

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.   James 1:2-4

Blessed is the man who endures trials, because when he passes the test, he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.   James 1:12

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.”  For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone.  But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires.  Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.  James 1:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.  1 Corinthians 10:13

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:6-7

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.  1 Peter 4:12-13

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.   Romans 5:3-4

WE WILL ALL BE TESTED.

Lysa TerKeurst speaks to the “why” behind these tests …

“God doesn’t want you or me to suffer.  But He will allow it in doses to increase our trust.  Our pain and suffering isn’t to hurt us.  It’s to save us.  To save us from a life where we are self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed and set up for the greatest pain of all … separation from God.  The enemy would love for me to get caught up in the temptations of this world.  He would love for me to give in to the devastating pull of my constant cravings for physical pleasure.  The insatiable longing for all that I see.  The pride that comes with achieving and owning more and more.”

I don’t know about you but I KNOW I can very quickly become self-reliant, self-satisfied and self-absorbed.  Give me enough good times, enough success, enough smooth sailing and real quickly, it’s going to be all about me.  And, if I am lucky, God is going to allow me to get knocked off that high horse so He can teach me a lesson.  “Consider it pure joy … when you experience trials”.  “Blessed is the man that endures trials…”

Read this story.  It is such a powerful example of the point I’m trying to make …

In 2012, Kristen Ley started Thimblepress, a design, print, and gift shop in Jackson, Mississippi.  By 2015, the company expanded to more than 1,500 retailers across the globe.  “To the world, Thimblepress was a success.  To customers we were a success.  To anyone working with us, we were a success – but I never said, “How are you Kristen?  Are you giving yourself time to breathe?  Are you giving yourself time to get back to God?”

In October, Kristen spoke at a women’s retreat.  One of the Scriptures she read was Jesus telling His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).  She has had to learn that the hard way.

“Anything can be made an idol in our life. … I believe the devil knew exactly how to pull me from God.  I’ve always been super determined and strong-willed, strong-headed,” she said.

When Thimblepress started picking up steam between 2013 and 2015, “things were coming at me so fast.  Dramatic things, amazing things.  And I was like, ‘There’s no doubt this is the Lord. ….’ And I think a lot of it was.  But I think some of it was also the devil,” she said.  “I was still in prayer.  I was still in the Word.  But it was kind of like really a struggle.”

By 2016, Thimblepress was in 1,500 retail stores and Kristen was working on her fifth collaboration with Hallmark.  Her product was featured in Oprah’s magazine.  In November 2015, Kristen got an email from Target.  She thought it was spam.  By April 2017, Thimblepress was in every Target store in the country.

“I thought, ‘This is God — He is keeping me busy.’

“It’s hard for me to say no… So I was saying yes to almost every opportunity, (and) slowly my soul began to deteriorate,” she said.

“I stopped being in the Word.  I stopped praying.  I stopped going to church.

“I used to run six miles a day.  I stopped taking care of myself. … It became about, who can I be in this world?  How can I stand out in this world?  Because that’s how God’s using me. That’s how He’s going to show His love, through my accomplishments.”

(Do you see it? – self-reliant, self-satisfied, self-absorbed)  After Thimblepress launched in Target stores, “I was so busy that I didn’t even take time to really celebrate it. I was like, ‘What’s next?’”  She traded in her old hobbies – running and attending church – for more time to focus on her growing business, “If I wasn’t achieving something every week, getting X number of sales or announcing new collaborations, then I felt like a failure.”

The gap between more and enough never closes.

For several months, God tried to get Kristen’s attention in small ways. Then in May 2017, He allowed her world to crumble around her so loudly — in her work and in her life — that there was no denying God was doing something.  He was fighting for her soul.  But it felt like He was against her.

“I was in Carmel California when I got a phone call telling me we had been hacked and someone swindled thousands of dollars from my company.”  She scrambled to find a way to get cash to pay her vendors.  From Carmel, there wasn’t much she could do.  “God said, “I’m about to bring the hammer down on your life, and you’re not going to be able to do anything about it.”  She said, “I believe He put me in Carmel because had I been back in Jackson, I could have jumped into work to fix it.  In Carmel, there wasn’t much I could do.  I think God had been trying to get my attention for a long time, and out there, I was forced to pause and listen.”

“He broke my bones.  And I was so angry.  It took me a long time to admit that.”

After several months of praying frustrated prayers and yelling at God from the roof of her apartment, she finally surrendered her will for His in October 2017.  As much as she could at the time, anyway.

“It was a progressive development of true surrender.”

She started giving herself small goals for her relationship with God.  She committed to reading a daily devotional, reading whatever Scripture it referenced and praying. She wrote her prayers in longhand, as a journal.  “I started waking up early and spending two hours meditating, praying and writing down my prayers.  They were like 17 pages long, front and back.  I just started pouring everything out and getting back to why I started the business in the first place.”

She started realizing that God had been trying to get her attention for a year and a half.  Instead of yelling at God, she was now yelling at Satan — the one who had stolen so much of her time, energy and heart — in her apartment: “Get out of my home. Get out of this space.  Get out of my life. You are NOT WELCOME.  Remove yourself.”

God clearly laid out a plan for Kristen to radically shrink her business, eliminate her 20 person staff, close her store and concentrate on the core of her business.  Letting all those people go was painful but she followed God’s lead.  The process made her realize: Yes, you can grow a company very quickly, but how much will you lose in the process?“  I gained 80 pounds in 8 years.  I was mentally and physically unhealthy.  And I’m so thankful for that time, because it’s what brought me back to life and brought me back to God.”

Kristen knows that if God hadn’t turned her around, “scenario B” would’ve played out.  “I believe we are all built searching for something, which is God. … So eventually, because I was no longer in relationship with Him, I was going to start searching.  What would that have looked like?”

“Would it have looked like materialism?  ‘I’ve got to have all the things.’  Would it have looked like sexual immorality?” she said.  “Yeah, it could’ve.  And it could’ve even looked so bad as my mouth (becoming) a mouth for the (devil).  And Lord was like, ‘You’ve got a big mouth, and I’m not about to let you use it for him.’”

As God has used Kristen’s natural desire to teach and encourage others, she no longer sees Thimblepress as her one purpose.  At His direction, she is shrinking the company “down to the best of the best,” she said.  What’s more, she’s using Thimblepress more intentionally to bring Jesus to the next generation of women.

“I have partnerships coming out in January that I never could have imagined.  Half of the stuff coming out in January is faith-based.  (I used to say,) ‘But I want to make cool products.’  But they can be cool, and faith-based, and people don’t realize it until it hits them.  It can be seamless.  This year I came out with a hat that said ‘influencer’ on it.  But it had, like, a double meaning – as in, not a social media influencer.  I’m an influencer for Christ.”

So what’s her next dream?  “My dream right now is to float and just let God work.”

Ahhh, there is so much gold in this story!  We chase whatever balloon we think we need to find a fulfilling life only to later learn, painfully, that the gap between more and enough never closes.

Kristen lost herself in her career, her dream.  Eventually that dream became a monster that was devouring her.  She put God on the back burner to chase her dream.  Gloriously, He brought her back.  He never quit pursuing her and she began the “progressive development of true surrender”.  I love it.

This is it for each one of us.  What balloon are you blowing up that you think will define your life, make you who you are, meet the one deep need you have?  STOP.  Give it up.  Surrender.  Let God take you where He wants to take you.  Float and just let God work.