Appreciative inquiry – replicate what’s right

“There is a theory in organizational development called appreciative inquiry . . . Instead of  exclusively focusing on what is wrong and trying to fix it, you identify what’s right and try to replicate it.  Appreciative inquiry is playing to people’s strengths.”-  Mark Batterson

“And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”- Genesis 1:2 (ESV)

As Mark Batterson concludes Chapter 2 of Whisper, he states that although God convicts us of our sin, He also pulls our potential out of us.  In other words, God speaks to our strengths.  Thankfully, Pastor Batterson adds, God’s big enough to speak to each of us in a language we understand.  In fact, one translation of Psalm 29:4 describes the voice of the Lord as “fitted to the strength.”

Most noteworthy, Mark reminds each of us of this simple truth: “You are the answer to someone else’s prayer.”  Yet, we often react as if our gospel is too small.  Perhaps, the author observes, that also applies to our understanding of God’s voice.

Thus, Pastor Batterson shares one fundamental conviction: God is big enough.  He’s big enough to speak through doors, dreams, and people. And, He’s also close enough to speak through desires, promptings, and pain.

Furthermore, the Hebrew word paniym describes God’s proximity.  Regarding time, paniym refers to the split second before and the split second after.  Similarly, in regard to space, paniym refers to the place right in front and right in back.  Writing in The Attributes of God, A. W. Tozer pictures paniym this way:

“God is above, but He’s not pushed up.  He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down.  He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. . . . inside, but He’s not confined.  God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling.”

In conclusion, Pastor Batterson states, some Hebrew scholars believe the name of God, Yahweh, equates to the sound of a breath.  On one hand, Yahweh is too sacred to pronounce.  On the other hand, Yahweh’s whispered with each and every breath we take.

And when the Holy Spirit shows up, God’s not speaking any louder than before.  It’s just that you’re listening a little closer.  A little better.

Today’s question: What does appreciative inquiry reveal about your strengths?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Still predictably unpredictable”

Lean into hiddenness with God

“The ones who lean into hiddenness begin to see that conversation with God has more to do with a growing connectedness to His heart and less to do with getting the answer we want.”- Sara Hagerty

Sara Hagerty concludes Chapter 12 of Unseen as she talks about what true growth in God requires.  Ms. Hagerty states:

“Yet true growth in God requires that our perspective of Him grow with us.  Progressively, prayer becomes less about relating to Him as we’re certain He must be and more about seeing His bigness in the light of how small and limited we are. . . . It’s in this growth that we gladly exchange familiarity with God for the unknown and its surprises.”

Wrinkles and gray hair reflect physical maturity.  And they occur without our own effort.  However, Sara underscores, our hearts won’t mature deep into God by default.  Therefore, we must desire more and more of God.

Hence, the author notes, prayer (conversation with God):

  • is how we sink our roots into what is real and everlasting
  • fights against the vaporlike quality of a life rooted solely in what others see
  • laces our hearts to the unseen, mysterious God
  • tethers us to the truest, never-changing reality – God’s

In conclusion, Sara voices her desire to prayer her way through God’s nature – not simply read about it in the Bible.  As a result, prayer positioned her to notice the wink of God:

“The wink of God.  It comes when we believe He is capable of reaching tenderly and knowingly into our story.  It comes when we believe He wants to intertwined His story with ours and tell our story back to us.  His way.”

Furthermore, God stays right there in the secret, hidden places with us.  It’s there where we grow, deep.

Today’s question: How do you lean into hiddenness with God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “An understanding friend in God”

Conversations with God – tethered

“For Jesus, conversations with God began with desire, not discipline.  He stayed close to God.  Tethered.”- Sara Hagerty

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”- Luke 5:16 (NIV)

Today Sara Hagerty discusses thoughts three and four of ways to grow toward friendship with God (Chapter 8, Unseen).

3.  Follow Jesus’ example of being tethered to God.  Sara observes that often we approach prayer as mere discipline.  Yes, approaching prayer as  discipline provides a starting point for conversations with God.  Also, discipline functions as a tool for those in need of structure.  However, structure wasn’t Jesus’ foundation for talking with God.

Furthermore,  we can chase the work of God, in and through us, with such fury we miss countless opportunities for friendship.  For example, conversing with God on our journey.  Also, we fail to allow for stillness in order to hear God’s whispers as we work.

Yet, God remains faithful.  He continues to bring us back to friendship with Himself.  In the process, He layers our understanding of the moments behind our pursuits.

4.  Speak the Word of God.  Out loud.  When you being to speak the Word of God, Sara exhorts, your relationship to Scripture changes as well as deepens.  Hence, you realize the words of Scripture as “living Truth, loving Truth, the Truth (emphasis Sara’s).

Therefore, God’s Word nourishes our roots in God’s love as it provides life-giving food.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, “The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.”

In conclusion, Sara underscores, God’s Word contains the only Truth enabling us to see beyond the limitations -sometimes even lies – of our circumstances.  One minute at a time, we’re able to replace those limitations and lies with the spoken truth.  Sara encourages:

“Win back your day one minute at a time with the truth of God’s Word, . . . and watch what happens to your heart as His truth begins to speak louder than all the other noise of the day.”

Today’s question: Are you tethered to God through discipline or desire?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The crazy, transforming power of adoration”

Turning conviction into action

“It is certainly unnecessary to say that turning conviction into action requires great sacrifice. . . . Therefore the person who will ultimately soar like an eagle to the heights of the cloudless day and live in the sunshine of God must be content to live a relatively lonely life.”- L. B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

As Os Hillman concludes Chapter 10 of The Joseph Calling, he states that no birds live in solitude like eagles.  And a life dedicated to God knows divine fellowship (emphasis author’s), even though human friendships may have to be forfeited along the way.

Therefore, God seeks “eagle people.”  Without learning to walk alone with God, no one ever comes to fully realize the best things of God in his/her spiritual life.  As a result, through the experience of isolation the Lord develops an independence of life and faith.  Through this development, the soul no longer needs to depend on the continual help, prayer, faith, and care of others.

While assistance and support from others provides necessary stability, at times those things actually hinder one’s faith and welfare.  So, when God takes you into a time of isolation, Os exhorts, embrace it.  Use isolation to receive revelation from God you’d never have received without this time in your life.

In conclusion, Os summarizes:

“Perhaps God has place you in your own desert period.  Perhaps you cannot make sense of the situation in which you find yourself.  If you press into God during this time, he will reveal the purpose he has for you.  The key is pressing into him.  Seek him with your whole heart and he will be found.”

Today’s question: How has God provided you a foundation for turning conviction into action?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “If you don’t pick up your cross”

Holy grit and God’s abundant grace

“Standing strong and praying through those times in-between calls for holy grit and God’s abundant grace.”- Susie Larson

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”- Hebrews 10:23 (ESV)

Susie Larson concludes Chapter 7 of Your Powerful Prayers as she talks about contending for some of the things God puts on your heart.  For in the other corner, Satan works to steal your joy, kill your dreams, and destroy your sense of purpose.  Consequently, you must stand on God’s Word, even when it doesn’t feel true.  But this battle makes you a fiercer prayer warrior.  So, the battle’s worth it!

Thus, Susie observes, prayer requires:

  • perseverance and perspective
  • sensitivity to the Holy Spirit
  • strategy from God’s Word
  • holy grit
  • God’s abundant grace

As Ms. Larson summarizes, we’re most powerful when we pray.  In addition, we’re most influential when we walk in step with Almighty God.  It’s impossible for God to fail us.  However, it’s completely possible and plausible for God to delay giving us what we want.  Such times test and prove our faith.

In conclusion, Susie cites Jon Bloom, from his book Things Not Seen (2015):

“How things appear to us, and how they actually are, are rarely the same.  Sometimes it looks and feels like the Almighty is dealing ‘very bitterly’ with us, when all the while he is doing us and many others more good than we can imagine.  God’s purposes in the lives of his children are always gracious.  Always.  If they don’t look like it, don’t trust your perceptions.  Trust God’s promises.  He is always filling His promises (emphasis Susie’s).”

Today’s question: How has holy grit and God’s abundant grace strengthened your prayer life?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Time to reframe our disappointments”

God wraps His glory in hard circumstances

“Sometimes God wraps His glory in hard circumstances or ugly obstacles or painful difficulties, and it just never occurs to us that within those life-shaking events is a fresh revelation from Him.”- Anne Graham Lotz, Expecting to See Jesus

In Chapter 2 (“Dare to Pray for Perspective”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson reminds us we’re part of a bigger story.  Thus, if you’re in the midst of a not-yet season, involving heartbreak or disappointment, it’s most important to keep perspective.  You need to remember who you are and  hang onto God’s promises.  Even when they don’t feel true.

Therefore, what we say and pray (emphasis Susie’s) about our disappointments deeply matters.  For our statements and prayers reflect what we believe to be true about God and about ourselves.

So, Ms. Larson asks, how do we handle the disappointments of life that wallop us, leaving us breathless.  Do we:

  • stop praying altogether?
  • change our view of God?
  • turn our back on Him?
  • pray begging-pleading kinds of prayers?

At the outset of loss or pain, Susie notes, our souls instinctively cry out how or why questions.  However, the author stresses, such questions steal, rather than clarify, our perspective.  As a result, we must ask different questions.  Those questions compel us to look up, remember God is good, His promises ring true, and He always makes a way for us.

Thus, adversity signals a time for earnest, fervent prayer.  Most importantly, we must see ourselves and our personal needs in the greater story God’s writing.  It’s counterproductive to grab a self-serving solution that meets a short-term need at a long-term cost.

In conclusion, Ms. Larson observes we so often fail to remember that:

“God uses us not only through the blessings He’s entrusted to us, but also through the needs He allows in our lives . . . intended to compel us to pray bigger prayers that we’d typically pray.”

Today’s question: How has God wrapped His glory in your hard circumstances?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Destructive disappointment or divine appointments?”

God is still pursuing you – to love you

“God is still pursuing you after you’ve placed your faith in Him — not to burden you with more tasks on the to-do list or to whip you into shape, but to love you.  He pursues you with an intensity that can breathe life into you.”- Jud Wilhite

In Chapter 1 (“Dare to Pray Like You’re Loved”) of Your Powerful Prayers, Susie Larson states that, through the gift of prayer, God invites you into a two-way conversation.  Furthermore, it’s unutterably sweet to know that our Heavenly Father knows us completely.

Writing in The Knowledge of the Holy (1961), A. W. Tozer explains that our Heavenly Father:

” . . . knew us utterly before we knew Him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us. . . . His only-begotten Son, when He walked among us, felt our pains in their naked intensity of anguish.  His knowledge of our afflictions and adversities is more than theoretic; it’s personal, warm, and compassionate.  Whatever my befall us, God knows and cares as no one else can.”

As a result, understanding God wired us to partner with Him in a way that fits our unique style mobilizes us.  And so we pray.  Specifically, Ms. Larson exhorts us to pray like there’s a God in heaven who hears our prayers and answers when we call.  Because our God truly does all those things!

In conclusion, Susie reminds us, prayer functions as much more than just a vehicle to get what we want from God.  Prayer:

  • (first and foremost) connects us to the One who loves our soul
  • links us in fellowship with the Most High God
  • fosters intimacy with His purposes here on earth

Today’s question: How is God still pursuing you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “When we see the rainbow, the shower’s over”

To neglect communion with God

“Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”- A. W. Tozer

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”- Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

In John Eldredge’s foreword to Susie Larson’s book  Your Powerful Prayers, he compares giving up on prayer to a solder laying down his arms in the midst of a firefight.  Prayer, Mr. Eldredge adds, “is something you grow into, something you mature in and get better at over time.”  In addition, John adds that prayer’s far more like learning to drive than sneezing.

Thus, as Ms. Larson notes in her introduction, Jesus wants us to be comfortable with, as well as undone by His great love for us. As a result, God’s love and acceptance of us has everything to do with prayer.  Furthermore, Jesus invites us to:

  • know Him more intimately
  • walk with Him more profoundly
  • trust in His Word more confidently

Most importantly, Ms. Larson exhorts, as we get to know God’s love, our life spills with grace, insight, and power.  The author explains:

“If we want to be powerful in prayer, we must spend our lives learning to accept and embrace how fiercely God loves us.  We must continually stand in awe of the fact that Jesus defeated death and sin for us.  And then from there, live our whole lives in response to what Jesus has already accomplished for us.  This is what it means to stop striving and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what circumstances cause(d) you to neglect communion with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “That place where joy and faith collide”

Difficult people in our life – become the best version of you

“We all have difficult people in our life, but hear this: God can use them to help you become the best version of you — maybe even more than the people you like.”- John Ortberg

In Chapter 18 (“Find a Few Difficult People to Help You Grow”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that other people don’t create your spirit.  In fact, if God desires to grow some quality in you, He may bring someone into your life who tempts you to behave the opposite way.

Although we always hope God plans on giving us a life without difficult people, God used difficult people to mold many great Biblical characters.  For example, Moses had Pharaoh and David had Saul.  Pastor Ortberg explains:

“If God loves you and wants to shape you, he will send some difficult people your way.  But take heart.  You are the difficult person he is sending to shape somebody else.  If we can learn to have rivers of living water still flowing through us in these relationships, we will be unstoppable.”

Furthermore, John notes, people impact our lives in one of two ways.  The either energize us or drain us.  Life-bringers:

  • increase our energy
  • deepen our hope
  • add to our joy
  • call out the best in us

In contrast, life-drainers (a) add to our anxiety and (b) invite us to cynicism.  As a result, we find ourselves becoming defensive, depressed, or exasperated.

Since only God can touch the deepest place of another’s soul, prayer provides the only way to influence people at their deepest level.  In prayer, John states, we go with God into another person’s soul.  The space between you and your enemy = the space where love grows.  And love is the only way to live.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg tells us there’s a quarter-second gap between when an impulse takes place in your brain and when that action takes place in your body.  That’s enough time for the Holy Spirit to take control.  Remember, every difficult person is a real person with their own story.

Today’s question: Do you surround yourself with life-energizers or life-drainers?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When you discover your strengths”

Being alone with God – fully yourself

“Being alone with God, you can fully be yourself.”- John Ortberg

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”- Matthew 6:6

In Chapter 15 of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg states God wants to give us sanctuary.  Yet, we all prefer a unique way to experience God’s presence when we’re alone.

Commenting on Matthew 6:6, Pastor Ortberg suggests the room Jesus refers to might be a supply room- certainly not a private bedroom.  The supply room held food and tools or a few small animals. Thus, the supply room = the most humble room in a humble house.

When Jesus was baptized, Luke tells us, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as He prayed.  Hence, John notes, the flow of the Spirit connects closely to prayer.  Consequently, Jesus desired to pray when He:

  • felt crowded and drained by life
  • faced important choices
  • felt sad or frightened
  • needed strength for His work
  • worried about people He loved
  • faced an insurmountable problem

Therefore, when we desire to pray much, or deeply, we must move from what we think we should do toward what we want to do.

For Jesus, prayer energized, rather than drained, Him.  As we see God’s face shining on us, the same holds true for our prayer life.  Just as you gain energy when you meet with your best earthly friend, God wants to meet with us in the same way.

As Pastor Ortberg reminds us, prayer, more than any other single activity, places us in the flow of the Spirit.

Today’s question: What prayer ‘room’ fosters your ability to be alone with God – fully yourself?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Our capacity for connectedness”