Deane's Blog

prayer

Wouldn't It Be Better to Just Hide?

House of HopeDeane Watters1 Comment

One afternoon while scrubbing in the bathroom, just doing my routine household duties, an image suddenly popped into my mind. With the image came a memory. The story with this image was familiar because it was told to me years ago while facilitating a class at House of Hope.

2016-04-30_0008The description was short but graphic and horrific. In the years since I heard it, it hasn’t gone away from me. I haven’t forgotten it. Tucked away in my memory, it stayed hidden, until an unguarded, innocent moment.

Another thought followed. Why do I open myself to the pain of others when there is the danger of keeping some of it stashed in the dark corners of my own mind? Wouldn’t it be better to just hide in my own little “safe” life?

This story was not mine. But the described image comes back every now and then. I see the scenario, hear the noises and imagine the pain. I wonder at unthinkable selfishness; the kind that heaps shame on innocent people.

I’ve come to call these flashbacks to a sister’s story - battle wounds. They are the cost of fighting for women’s hearts and souls. Fighting for freedom from shame and worthlessness requires heavy weapons, ones that present the possibility of wounding or scarring. Listening to the stories, Identifying lies, seeking truth, encouraging feelings, digging deeper and asking insightful questions requires insight, wisdom, prayer and diligence…and sometimes tears along with agonizing sadness.

2016-04-30_0007When I help others process what happened to them, I work hard. I seek connections and concentrate on details. I watch body language and pray as I go, desperately asking God to lead and guide me to His truth and wisdom.

But along the way, sometimes, I get hit with something I didn’t see coming; a story leaves an image that stays and once in a while, pops up unexpectedly.

Does that mean the work is too dangerous? Does it suggest that keeping myself safe is more important than getting out there and fighting! Should I have stopped long ago?

My answer is, "No!" I count it a privilege to suffer this flashback in honor of the women I walk with; the ones who bravely sift through the details and feelings of the life they have lived, step by step right through the lies and into the freedom of light and truth. For many, this process is life changing.

Amy Tan writes, “In the telling of stories something happens, your whole perception and memory of things begins to change and you can let go of what you have just told - you give it away.” In letting go, we begin the healing process.

And those of us who carefully and seriously walk along side, sometimes get hit in the process. But I can only count it an honor and remind myself:

  • I can keep an image that pops up in my mind or I can refuse to “savor” it by remembering Paul’s encouragement to think on whatever is true, pure, lovely and excellent. (Philippians 4:8) If it presents itself, I can reject it.
  • I can understand that this kind of work needs to be covered in protective prayer. I am not on my own here. I have powerful resources, God himself, who is with me to fight the battle.
  • God’s Word is here to help me also. It is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and I can use it for this protection. Psalm 5:12 tells me that the LORD surrounds those he loves with his favor, as with a shield. I can visualize this shield of protective love surrounding me as I do battle with evil in the stories I hear. This is not my fight. But it is outright war on horrible memories that seek to ruin people’s lives.
  • I can be self-controlled and alert, knowing that my enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I am called to resist him, standing firm in the faith.
  • I can stand in the Light. In Him, no darkness can remain.

2016-05-09_0001Yes, it would be easier to just hide from all this sister-pain. But I know from which I, myself have been delivered and so I remain firm in my determination to walk in the truth of God’s complete grace-filled love. Often we just need some healing in order to actually be free to experience that beautiful love. So I stand with the sword in my hand and declare: “You are not defined by what happened to you!” Come along and let me tell you some things about our great God’s amazing love and the truth He declares about you.

creating space

FaithDeane Watters1 Comment

One of the first times I heard the phrase, create space, our daughter-in-law was talking to a team of American college students she was leading in China. She was encouraging them to open up time and make space for God to speak. I tuned into those words, as she opened her hands, demonstrating an opening and inviting gesture. God loves to be invited but I don't think he is pushy. Developing a friendship with him works as it does with people. Time, a place, consistency, listening and talking create a space where relationship can form. For me, it took an intentional sitting with my Bible to see what he had to say.

2016-02-03_0003

Using one Psalm a day, with open hands, I asked God, "What do you want me to know? Who are you and what do you want me to see?" Deliberately going after him, I feel I have learned much. This search as led me to know that I am dearly loved, accepted, smiled on and treasured by him. I have learned that he cares deeply for the poor and the mistreated and that one day all things will be made right. Grace runs deeply through God's story and I find it everywhere as I read about how Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

This makes me long to offer grace to others who are somewhere along the path searching for him.

Jeremiah 6:16 says: This is what the LORD says: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

I've come to believe that we find more than a direction at those crossroads. We find a Father who has been waiting for us and who walks with us and illuminates the path so, together, we find our way.

How do you create space for God to speak to you?

 

my pen reveals

Deane Watters3 Comments

Last night I completed an interesting task. Over the past week, I read through seven spiral notebooks written in from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015. I meticulously read or carefully skimmed and took notes from the past 12 months of pages written almost every morning throughout the past year.

2016-01-18_0019

There is nothing grand or amazing about this assignment. It took hours to complete. My eyes got tired and my highlighter ran dry. But I was looking to find as much as I could about this past year. Not content to simply "remember," I wanted to truly find out what was important to me and how I had changed in 2015.

Morning Pages are simply a writer's way of dropping his or her angst on the page first thing every morning. I wrote them to check in, to listen, to invite dialogue, to pray. I simply got up out of bed, shuffled to the coffee pot and then to my "writing studio," opened my current notebook and started writing. My goal was purely to take note of my heart. What was I thinking or feeling each morning, fresh from a night's sleep? What, from the day before, needed to be thought through?  Could God use my pen as his voice to help me? Would I hear it?

As I read through this year's notebooks, I searched for a few specific things.

  • Was I honest with myself? Did I tackle how things really felt, rather than how I thought they should be?
  • Did my word, embrace, change over the year? Why did I choose it?
  • Were there consistent themes of angst?
  • In what ways did I talk to God about my kids using their chosen words?
  • Did I ally myself? Was I a friend; or was I a bully? Was I on my side, or not.
  • Had God spoken to me through this daily practice?
  • Were there changes in me over a year's time?

I will simply say that I have learned much.

Many websites and various ministries offer ways to "evaluate your year" but none better than this. It's like going to the horse's mouth, so to speak. I went straight to the source to hear from my own pen, how my heart was faring on a daily basis. I wanted to know how I  had responded to myself and the concerns that showed themselves on the page. I was digging to see if I lived out what I teach others about the amazing work of Morning Pages.

I came to some conclusions.

  1. I think I will always be tempted in some way toward inadequacy. Recognize my words - tempted toward - not sucked in, not taken over.
  2. I have fussed enough about writing. Get in the chair and WRITE, already!!
  3. I have prayed well for my husband and children.
  4. 2015 was the year I journeyed in prayer. Books read, sermons heard,  prayer meetings attended, and daily personal practice have taught me more than I ever intended to seek out. Prayer seemed to find me.
  5. Desperation leads to magnificent growth.
  6. God speaks when He wants to.
  7. Sometimes "depression" is part of "preparation."
  8. "Dark seasons stop me. They make me small so He can be big."
  9. I am brave and rarely back down from an opportunity to grow or to try.
  10. I am surrounded by God's favor as a shield. He knows me. He delights in me. I can rest in being His beloved. This is big. It changes everything. It stops the lurking question, "Am I lovable?" "Am I enough?" "Is what I do or write or say, significant?" Of course it is. I am held close and safe by the One who knows and loves me. How can I not move freely and confidently within that haven of protection?
  11. My favorite and most powerful ministry, the one I am best equipped for,  is one-on-one across the table with a cup of coffee and a scone in my hand. Some of the most delightful moments in my year were lived out in this way.
  12. Spiritual attacks happen when we risk for God. But when we know how the enemy custom designs his assaults, we can be prepared.
  13. I am a servant here. I am not called to shine or perform. I'm here to serve, to love and to shower grace.
  14. Joy arrives in unexpected packages. Oh yes.
  15. When God gets the first word, we get an earful.

I could go on and on. These pages are FULL of wisdom, questions, fussing, fear, lament, joy, discovery, delight and truth. God has indeed used my pen to reveal himself. Being a good friend to myself, I feel I have listened well. This end of the year review has led me to remember that I am loved, known and protected, even as I walked through some long, hard and desperate days.

This task was well worth my time and a new highlighter. I'm stepping up to another year of Morning Pages.  Are you interested in learning more about them? Let me know in a comment and I'll get back to you!

Plans for Lent

FaithDeane WattersComment

I was hyper-focusing today about how busy my life has been since Brian left 13 days ago. It is uncanny how many meetings, classes, appointments, visits, travel and studies I have been a part of in the past two weeks. Today was going to be full also.  All of this captured my attention completely so that my mind zeroed in on my to-do list the minute I woke up. Brian is my stabilizer. There is something about his steady, methodical way of approaching  life that is settling for me. Just a word from him, a point of view, some common sense bit of advice and I am happily on my way. On my own, I have a tendency to zoom in on things that would normally settle down after chatting with him. Sigh...I need the guy I guess. I'm so happy he is coming back...in 12 days.

Today sped by. Bible study at 9:30, short planning meeting at 11:00, lunch with a friend at 11:30 and then home. Get out the paper, make a list. Get out the vacuum cleaner, dust the floors. Get out the computer, answer emails. Then it hit me:

Today is Ash Wednesday! It is the first day of Lent and I was skimming right through it with nary a thought toward what it means and how I plan to observe the next 40 days.

2015-02-18_0001

Lent is a time in our year that we are invited into a deeper awareness of Christ's death and suffering. There are many ways to remember him and to commemorate his actions which will allow us to experience humility, awareness and deep thanksgiving during this short season. I have found an interesting website called 40 Ideas for Lent where many, from a variety of traditions,  have shared ideas about how they have observed Lent. Tonight I'm formulating my own forty day plan. Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • I plan to write, on the following questions, taken from 40 Ideas for Lent 2015:
  1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?             What am I preparing for? 
  2. Is there something in my life—a habit, a sin, a grudge, a fear, a prejudice, an addiction, an emotional barrier, a form of excess—that keeps me from loving God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? How might I address that over the next 40 days?
  3. Lent is a time to listen to God, but sometimes God speaks through others, particularly the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and suffering. To whom should I be listening this season? How can I cultivate a listening posture toward others whose perspective and experiences might differ from my own?
  4. Is there a spiritual discipline—praying the hours, lectio divina, the examen—that I’ve always wanted to try?  How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines?
  5. The cycle of death and resurrection is central to the Christian faith. In what ways is that cycle present in my life right now? Where might there be necessary change, suffering, death and decay, and how might new life emerge from those experiences?
  • I am reading Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett, a tale about a young woman who realizes she has lost prayer after the birth of their first child. Here she tells about her determined journey back.
  • Every morning I will open the scriptures with She Reads Truth to join in their Lenten study. From the scripture and commentary, I will write to pray and process the truths I have encountered.
  • Inviting God to join me while I remain silent for 15-20 minutes each day will be a new practice as I move through these 40 days of reflection. What does God want to say? How can I know unless I am still enough to hear? What might these moments of rest in his presence reveal to me?
  • At breakfast time, Brian and I will read through a book edited by Nancy Guthrie, Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, a compilation of meditations by classic and contemporary writers and teachers that "will draw us into an experience of the passion of the cross and the power of the resurrection." After reading and thoroughly enjoying her anthology of Advent writings, we decided to read this Lenten collection.
  • In the next few days I might decide on a few other ways to observe this season.

What might you be doing for Lent this year? Have you found a way to more fully focus on the cross of Christ? Just think how joyful Easter could be after spending forty days in preparation. I would love to know your thoughts or plans for making this a special set-aside season.

Perhaps choosing to focus on Christ and his suffering, I will be less prone to hyper-focus on my own schedule, to slow down and grow in my wonder and amazement over what Christ's  death truly meant for me and our world.

Won't you join me?