pursuing the light


  
my daughter izzi and i recently had the opportunity to be a part of a fantastic ministry called, 'pursuing the light'. it was a weekend retreat for young ladies, ages 16-20, who have a passion for photography.  it was truly a blessing as izzi happens to be interested in photography! iz led us all in worship and i spoke. what a precious time of friendship! we met what i'm sure will be life long friends and had the chance to invest in the lives of some beautiful young women! photographers Katie Campbell, Kristin Wall and Jody Gray each spoke and taught. here are some photos from our weekend, as well as my teaching on comparison vs confidence...


{top row l-r} a flower i fell in love with; me with katie campbell, sweet photographer and one of the retreat creators/coordinators; they put me to work takin' pictures {middle row l-r} all the darling girls; Leavenworth, WA; kristin wall, the retreat creator/coordinator, me, emily wall, kristin's daughter, and izzi  {bottom row l-r} the girls during their stylized photo shoot...that's izzi on the left with the short-sleeved-polka-dot-top and ombre hair; me and jody gray; 2 of the girls during a fun listening exercise



   comparison vs confidence
 .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   
    
 the importance of being y o u 
1 :: c o m p a r i s o n
we’ve all thought it. we’ve all done it. “how do i measure up?” we get an idea in our brain as to what we think is cool, pretty, right, best, etc {it’s called having an opinion} and we compare ourselves (our work, our faces, our bodies, our clothes...) to this picture we now have in our heads. and at first glance, this isn’t such a bad thing. i mean, inspiration comes often times from another’s work or look. individuality is developed as we form opinions and decide what we do, and don’t, like. it’s part of becoming who we are.  the problem comes when we allow the picture in our mind to overshadow the reality of who we are. when we start to think that all the other stuff we see is better than what we see in the mirror. according to scripture, we are each unique, special, distinct.  
Psalm 139:13-18
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. 
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered! 
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me!
we can so easily get caught up in the negatives of comparison...what we’re not, what we don’t have, what we can’t do...and let that dictate our behavior. 
in Matthew 20, Jesus tells a parable of a land owner:
“For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.
 “At nine o’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing.  So he hired them, telling them he would pay them whatever was right at the end of the day. So they went to work in the vineyard. At noon and again at three o’clock he did the same thing.
 “At five o’clock that afternoon he was in town again and saw some more people standing around. He asked them, ‘Why haven’t you been working today?’
 “They replied, ‘Because no one hired us.’
“The landowner told them, ‘Then go out and join the others in my vineyard.’
 “That evening he told the foreman to call the workers in and pay them, beginning with the last workers first.  When those hired at five o’clock were paid, each received a full day’s wage. When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage.  When they received their pay, they protested to the owner,  ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’
 “He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage?  Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you.  Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’
 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”
i love Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on this:
‘the key to the parable is that the first workers hired demanded a contract and insisted on knowing how much they would get. the other workers trusted the landowner. if you ask God for a contract, you will only rob yourself, for He is generous with His workers. be faithful to do your job and avoid watching the other workers, and He will deal with you generously.’
the truth is we are HIS. HE made us. we are truly the clay and HE is the potter.  it’s HIS prerogative to give us, make us and use us as HE see’s fit.  
and yet, i can’t tell you how many hours i’ve wasted worrying about what someone else got (special privileges,  positions, publicity, promotions) and what i felt like i deserved.  that is called jealousy. and here is what the Bible has to say about it:
proverbs 14:30
A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;
    jealousy is like cancer in the bones.
do you see the contrast? peace equals health...in other words being content and trusting the Lord. jealousy destroys. kills.
and James 3:14-16
But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
whoa. that’s not what i want, it’s not what i thought i was doing. but it is EXACTLY what happens when we allow our thoughts to form patterns.  the old saying is true...
“watch your thoughts for they become words, watch your words for they become actions, watch your actions for they become habits, watch your habits for they become your character, watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”
the Bible says it better... out of the abundance of the heart...the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34)
what goes on in our hearts and heads...comes out of our mouths, through our attitudes, and ultimately through our actions.
the good news is that while there are clear reasons as to why we are prone to think this way,  there are clear solutions that will cure us, bringing hope, healing and straight-up happiness to our hearts.
first, we have to address the problem:
the enemy.
the Bible says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour.              (1 Peter 5:8)
and John 10:10 says the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. 
we have a real and immediate danger wanting nothing more than our ultimate destruction. if he can trip us up with subtleties, he will. by whatever means necessary he seeks our demise.  the crazy thing is he doesn’t really use new methods. he just figures out what works, then continually applies the same methods. and like idiots, we fall for it. again and again. 
i’m going to give you 3 things that you can do to combat the attacks of the enemy. 3 weapons.
BE AWARE :: our first line of defense is awareness. realizing there is an imminent threat. a ‘great’ enemy, says 1 Peter 5:8. a capable adversary. a bad-to-the-bone-villain. we need to know our weaknesses, where the chinks in our armor are. take a minute and jot down what you know in your heart to be that achilles heel, the vulnerability that typically trips you up.  i don’t mean what you see as your flaws...where you fall short...no. i mean areas in your heart where you know the enemy has it easy. 
BE ALERT :: that same passage also says ‘STAY ALERT’! now that you’re aware of your weaknesses, you need to be prepared. i love this definition of alert: wide-awake, swift; agile; nimble; an attitude of vigilance, readiness or caution, as before an expected attack.  this is our hard-core-super-hero to the bad-to-the-bone-villain. 
i will admit here, that most of my thoughts, decisions, actions and moves are first funneled through what i like to call, the ALIAS filter.  i love action. my husband will go romantic comedy all day long. no. give me indiana jones, gladiator. the bourne movies. and i love none as much as ALIAS. and Wonder Woman. i think as a kid i developed this sense of strength and power through imagination and it just never went away.  so when it comes to spiritual warfare...i’m all over it. i love the imagery of hero vs villain. and since i completely believe that every word of the Bible is true, it’s easier for me to visualize this spiritual battle raging for my soul.  i need to be on guard. anticipating the inevitable attack on my mind. as soon as we let our guard down, those weaknesses become liabilities. they expose us to the arrows of the enemy, giving him a clear shot. 
i assume that for most of you, there are a couple things that the enemy has been whispering in your ear even over the last few minutes. or maybe leading up to this trip.  and maybe you’ve spent time agreeing with him. you’ve heard his lies so often you’ve begun to believe them. stop giving him ground. quit letting him win. the Bible says:
greater is HE that is in you than he that is in the world   (1 John 4:4) this is TRUTH!! 
BE ACTIVE :: in order to defeat the enemy and gain victory we need a game plan. we must actively pursue that victory. we can’t sit around and hope it’ll just happen. that’s called complacency, and growth is stunted by it. in other words... it doesn’t happen. we do not want to be like the dumb guy in the parable Jesus told about the master who gave 3 different servants different amounts of money. 2 of the guys invested it and made a bunch more, while the 3rd guy buried his. buried it. sat there and waited for the master to return. and when he did return, he took the dumb guys money and gave it to the one who’d risked the most, invested the most, made the most. so we too have to risk and DO and pursue.  how can we BE ACTIVE?  
1. believe 
do you believe God is who he says he is or not?!  in Hebrews 11 the Bible says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. and it says that without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must BELIEVE that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. we have no chance of survival unless we first BELIEVE
2. resist
James 4:7 says ‘resist the devil and he will flee from you’.  he has undoubtedly used little bits of truth as bait to lead you into a lonely place, a depressed place, an inadequate place, a fearful place... i know i’ve followed those crumbs before and i’ve found myself in darkness and tears. all because i veered from the path of truth into the woods of lies. Philippians 4:8 says ‘fix your thoughts on whatever is true...’. don’t let the half-truths blind you. pull away and again i say stop giving him ground. quit letting him win. you have the power of the Holy Spirit...HE is bigger. HE is stronger. RESIST, hold your ground.
3. read and pray      
 ‘the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword’ (Hebrews 4:12) it is our most effective weapon. Ephesians 6 talks about the armor of God. every piece of armor mentioned is for our protection...except the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. THAT is meant for defense, for fighting back! for doing damage!! read it, learn it, memorize it, use it. hide it in your heart so that when the enemy attacks you can swing that sucker and strike! 
and pray. also in Ephesians 6 Paul says...’ Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.’  James 5:16 says..’The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.’

2 :: c o n f i d e n c e
where comparison (conceit and jealousy) tears you down,                 confidence builds you up
where comparison fills you with fear, confidence gives you courage 
where comparison makes you feel inadequate,                                 confidence makes you feel capable
when you are your true God-made, special, unique self...there is NO competition. Jeremiah 1 says that God knew you before he formed you in your mothers womb. and in Isaiah 43 He says ‘...But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says,“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.  the difference between conceited and confident is the fact that when you’re conceited you’re full of yourself, proud, self-absorbed, and have a quite favorable opinion of your own abilities. when you’re confident you’re full of the Spirit, aware of and dependent  on Christ’s power and enablement, secure in HIS love.
{homework}
look up and write down a handful of verses that speak directly to your weaknesses. for instance, i’ve struggled with fear most of my life...which the enemy continues to love to use to get me to feel inadequate for my job... so i memorized 2 timothy 1:7...for God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.