Ever feel uninvited? Alone? Isolated?

uninvited

It’s no secret that I do book reviews, and that I have cut down on the number of them this year.  I made a conscious decision to not just take anything that looked good or sounded interesting.  Instead, I wanted to focus on ones I would have purchased anyway, recommended to me, or that I felt led to read for a purpose.  Lysa TerKeurst’s book Uninvited fulfilled all three of those litmus tests. I did received a copy of the book for free for the purpose of reviewing, however my views and opinions are my own (in case you didn’t know, legally I have to say that).

Normally, when I do a review, I highlight the entire book.  I will share why I think you should read it, who I would recommend the book to, etc.  But, I want to approach this one a bit differently.  Why?  Because… I think this book is very important for YOU to read.  Yes, YOU.  Whomever is sitting on the other side of the screen.  YOU, the woman who feels alone.  YOU, the husband who needs to see his wife more clearly.  YOU, the parent who is present in body and absent in mind.   YOU, the women’s ministry leader that is shepherding the hearts of women.  YOU, the Pastor that needs a better understanding of sixty five percent of his church body that is crying out for value.

In the years that I have been serving women, secular groups and in the church, I have found a very common thread.  Women who are insecure in their identity.  Women who don’t feel valued or wanted, women that feel overlooked.  Women with baggage that still haunts them and needles away at their insecurities.  Women who feel left out and rejected.  Women who will hide themselves away in a false security.

If this even remotely sounds like you, or someone you love… I think you should read this book.  I think you should take your time reading this book.  I think you should have your Bible next to you as you read this book.  I think you should be writing down the things that jump off the page, your reaction to these words, and the issues it is bringing to head.  I think you need to take this to your spouse, mentor, or accountability partner and talk about it.  And, I think you need to pray as you do all of this with the goal of taking and LEAVING it all at the foot of the cross.

Because, you are loved.  You are valued.  You are created in His image.  You are called to Kingdom work.  You are welcomed.  You are invited to the wedding banquet.  You are adopted into a holy family.  YOU.  With your baggage, insecurity, anxiety, and all of the lies that you have listened to and told yourself.  YOU.

These are just a few quotes from the book, that may resonate with you…

“Broken boards can’t provide stability.” … “for years I’d been expecting stability from a broken identity.”

“Being hidden made me feel wonderfully secure.”

“I loved the feeling that life could happen around me but not to me.”

“… as long as I stayed hidden, life stayed in control and I stayed safe.”

“Things of this world all eventually reveal what incapable anchors they really are.”

Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

What are you anchoring yourself to? Where are you finding your identity?

Lysa’s book is important because it addresses the root fears in our lives that cause us to pull back from freedom in Christ.  It exposes the lies we believe, and turns our face to God who LOVES us… NO MATTER WHAT.    However, for the confident woman, I believe this book opens our eyes to the struggles that many women face.  It can give us compassion towards our fellow sisters in Christ, and encourage use to extend a hand of invitation.

Last year, I was at a party.  The ladies were going on about plans they were making for the following week.  My husband happened to overhear the women, and spoke up… “Gena hasn’t said anything about that.  Is she not going?”    At the moment, the women didn’t even realize that I hadn’t been invited.   I wasn’t intentionally left out, each had assumed another invited me and I just wasn’t able to come.

When I heard the women speaking plainly about their plans in front of me, I felt excluded.  I was hurt, and I didn’t speak up for myself.  My husband stepped up as my champion in that moment.  He knew something wasn’t right, and handled it in such a gentle way.  This is why I encourage you to not just read the book and take notes, but speak to your spouse or mentor about it.   You have others who can speak for you when appropriate, but can also give you clear perspective on finding your own voice.

It’s a great book, but be forewarned, you are going to have to open yourself up to being vulnerable (even with your self) to glean the best this book has to offer.

Are you ready?

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Swept Away By the Lord & In Fellowship

sweptawayretreat

I am a big fan of Conferences and Retreats, they are places where we get to pull away from the every day and put all of our focus on Him.  There are no distractions, there are no interruptions.  They are an opportunity for total immersion into fellowship with your brethren in Christ as well as God himself.

This weekend, my home church held a women’s retreat.  We were blessed that a few other local small churches joined us for this time of fellowship and communion.

Speaker Michelle Howe pointed us toward having a “Swept Away” life in the Lord.   It is easy to be swept away by the world, the enemy… but it is a great thing to be swept away into relationship with God.  She suggested these daily actions:

  1. REJOICE (Isaiah 44:2) — the Lord has swept away our sins, therefore we have cause to sing for joy!  Rejoice in thanksgiving, prayers, song, praises, gratitude.
  2. REBUILD (Nehemiah) — when our walls are dropped, we rebuild them with HOPE that is found in the Lord and find we are restored.
  3.  RENAME (1 Cor 5:17) — we are a new creation in Christ, the new is here and the old is gone.  Our new name is Image Bearer, Christ Follower… not the labels of our oldself.

She then had the women at each table write their name at the top of a piece of paper.  Then, we were to pass them to our right.  As we received another woman’s paper, we were to allow the spirit to lead us to a word or statement about that woman… and write it down.  I’ve done this exercise before, but it has always been with a group of women that know me.  This time, with so many women at the event, many of us were seated among women we had never met or at least didn’t know very well.

After we received our paper back, we were instructed to circle 3 things… a statement that surprised us, a statement we expected, and a statement that we longed for.  What I found interesting was that the word I circled that surprised me, was the same thing I knew the Lord has been working on in me.  PATIENCE.  I don’t see myself as patient, but I have released my need to know and control the Lord.  It was interesting that someone would see that in me, a work that is coming to fruition.  The second word, was something I expected which was STUDENT.  I’m a student of the word in many ways.   But the third, the thing that I longed for someone to see in me was CHRIST.  In the past, when I’ve done this exercise… I’ve gotten a lot of great compliments.  But I’ve always longed for CHRIST LIKE to be in that list.  It’s been a “few” years since I’ve completed this exercise… and a woman wrote I was “light, like a city on a hill”.  It means my love for Christ, is no longer something that is inside of me… but a light that shines for others to see.  PRAISE GOD.

You can view Michelle’s full presentation notes here:  How to Live a Swept Away Life

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A member of our church then shared her testimony, and I’ll respect that sharing by letting her story remain her’s to tell.  But I wanted to share a few things that I took away from it personally.

  • We do not fool the believers around us.  Whether we speak up or not, believers can sense when we are struggling and will pray on our behalf.  The Lord brings our names to the attention of our intercessors in the church.  You have people praying for you, and you may not know it.
  • We swim at our own risk.  We may see the signs that the waves are dangerous, we know what lurks in the ocean.  We may dip our toes in the ocean of sin, slowly walking deeper and deeper.  There will be those of us who feel a little nibble, take heed, and return to shore.  Yet, some of us will continue to wade deeper, ignoring the bites.  We may not be paying attention to the waves coming overhead… or we are pulled into the riptide.  Taken deeper, unable to save ourselves from our circumstances.  Life may be a “swim at your own risk” event, but Jesus is the Life Guard who is always on duty.
  • Pursue the Lord in PRAYER, HIS WORD, IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM

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Speaker and Counselor, Amy Oliver spoke directly to my heart as she engaged us on the importance of seeking God directly in His Word, as well as a solid perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman.   Some highlights of her presentation:

  • Knowing who Jesus is, and being thankful for Jesus is not enough.  We must be in active submission to His Lordship.
  • Our prayer accepting Christ as our savior is not a stopping point, but a launching point.
  • The Word constantly and consistently calls us to RETURN TO GOD, to FOLLOW JESUS.
  • There is a difference between REGRET (being caught) and REPENT (broken and called to change).
  • His Word helps us to not only know WHO God is but to recognize the counterfeit that the world and enemy will try and sell us.
  • The fruit of our spirit is not a works based faith, but instead a natural response to act in obedience to the Lord.
  • In Christ there is REAL FREEDOM, in the enemy/the world there is an ILLUSION of freedom (but a price will be paid).
  • Good Christian things can become an IDOL in our lives if we allow them to take precedence first and foremost over our personal, devoted time to God.

A Proverbs 31 Woman is:

  • FIXED – she is rooted/grounded/secure in her role as an image bearer.
    • Women have a tendency to shift their identity as their circumstances or seasons of life shift.  If our identity is in Christ, then we need not shift but be rooted, so that no matter how things shift or change… we are still first an image bearer.
    • Women’s image or worth is not found in comparison with other women or the amount of likes a photo or story gets on social media.
    • Media tries to tell us who we SHOULD BE, God tells us WHO WE ARE.
    • The standards of the word are cheap, and they don’t last.
    • God knows our BEST, he is our MEASURE or STANDARD
  • FOCUSED – she is focused on HER mission, not the mission or calling of others.
    • Her success is not based on the success of her husband, her children, or her activities.  Her success is based on the mission the Lord has given her, thus what things we say YES to matters, why we say YES matters.
    • Requests of her time are weighed against her God given mission, she seeks the kingdom first.
    • Her life looks distinctly different from non-believers because she is mission focused.  Distinctly different, reflecting him, illustrating redemption.
  • FIERCE – she is fiercely dedicated to her task, she is not distracted or strayed.
    • She does not multi-task between her walk with God and the ways of the world, it is impossible to do so.  She is sold out for the better, kingdom calling… abandoning the world for Him.
    • She doesn’t have a guilty pleasure that is of the world, because she knows that it bears no fruit.  It does not set her apart from the world as a redeemed follower.
    • She does not repeat bad choices or behavior with a false expectation that this time it will turn out differently.  She knows the result of all sin is the same.
    • She wears the full armor of God, saturating herself in the Word.
  • FEARLESS – she is not afraid of this world, but fears the Lord.
    • Fear of the world = anxiety, depression, worry, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord = awe, reverence, worship, trust, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord casts out all other fears from the world.

When we have an encounter with God, we are changed.  There is a visible and noticeable difference.  How do we encounter God, how are we changed?

  • Know Him in His Word – evaluate the things in your life closely to know if this is something wasteful or worthy.  Anything outside of Jesus is fake, when we know Him through his word and our relationship with him, we can identify what is false and counterfeit.
  • Know Your Place in Him – Image bearer, then wife, then mother… and so on.  You are a priority to God, He gave his son for you.  Find your value and worth in knowing you are a priority to God, not based on what the world sells as valued.  Don’t try to be someone else, envious of their gifts and talents.  Instead, know what you are good at and DO IT.
  • Know How to Care for Yourself – your spiritual health is important, be intentional about your time with God, take a break away and invest in your spiritual health.  Jesus often retreated to be alone with God, to hear from Him and be away from the noise and distraction of the world.   When our spiritual health is in check we are mission focused, dedicated in prayer, deepening our relationship with Jesus.  Learn to set boundaries.  Find contentment with what the Lord has blessed you with instead of what others have that you lack.

Thoughts => Feelings => Beliefs => Words => Actions => Habits => Character => Destiny

(=> means influences, builds)

You can view Amy Oliver’s full presentation notes here:  Swept Away!

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This will be continued on Thursday with some take away notes from our breakout discussions/presentations.