Lenten Thoughts: Accountability

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The first time I went to seminary, I took a preaching course with Dr. Charles Munson. I was pastoring my first church and felt like such a rookie. One day in class, he made this statement: “There are no secret disciples. Either the disciple will kill the secret, or the secret will kill the disciple.”

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Dr. Munson’s quote came to mind recently as I was reading my latest edition of Writer’s Digest. The article catching my attention referred to their spring writing contest. I thought to myself: I could do that. The longer I thought about the contest, I felt my resolve become: I’m going to do that. Later that day, after doing some research and writing, I told my husband about my plan. Now I’m locked in. He won’t let me forget. And that’s exactly why I told him: he will hold my feet to the fire of accountability.

I was taught the ABC’s of faith were: accept, believe, and confess. We can do the first two privately, but the third sends us straight into accountability.

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When I was still working as a family counselor, I worked with an agency that had several therapists at differing levels of experience and licensure. One woman in the group had “Independent” status. She chaffed at the suggestion someone needed to supervise her. She bristled at the thought of someone looking over her shoulder. I was a rookie at the time, so I was used to having my work scrutinized. Later, lack of accountability became my undoing.

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One of my favorite Bible stories finds the disciples hanging out in the Upper Room until Pentecost. Imagine the scene. These folks had to learn how to be together. There were so many different kinds of folks. Trust was the furthest thing from their minds or experiences. Zealots, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes, and fishermen had to learn to get along. Miraculously, it worked. They were able to connect and when they did a power came on them like one this world had never seen.

What happened in that room? I think they learned to tell their story, the story of what Jesus had done for them, done in them. And they learned to listen. They talked about their dreams and what they hoped to accomplish with their lives for God and for the Kingdom. They told their secrets and became accountable to one another.

And it changed the world.

What secret desires has God been wanting to unwrap and unleash in your life? Tell someone. Get accountable. Allow God to work. You may be surprised at what power you free up to blow through your life and the lives around you!

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Rebuilding With Nehemiah, Chapter 13 Day 1

Monday: What Happens Without Leadership?

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Text: 6 But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God.

Teach: As promised, Nehemiah returned to Babylon. While he was gone the people lost sight of the promises they had made. Nehemiah was mostly likely gone for ten to twelve years. That’s a long time to be without leadership.

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Take: When I read of the behavior of the people, their spiritual amnesia, I wasn’t surprised. It reminded me of when Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God. He was only gone forty days, a little over a month, and look what happened: the people created their own god to worship made from gold. The hymn writer put it well, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” (Come Thou Fount)

Task: Godly leaders hold us accountable. We may not always like it, but we need it. Today let’s pray for those whose responsibility is to keep us on track spiritually.

Rebuilding with Nehemiah, Chapter 5, Day 4

Thursday: Accepting Responsibility

Text: 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” (Nehemiah 5:11-12, NIV)

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Teach: Nehemiah was a man of action. He required that the lenders stop charging interest and return a portion of what was taken. This was major. Nehemiah didn’t just shame them for their actions, he called them to make things right. It wouldn’t solve all their problems, but it was a huge step in the right direction.

Take: We live in a time when very few people accept responsibility for their actions. We blame everyone else. The reaction of the people to comply with Nehemiah’s instruction was commendable and an excellent example for us today.

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Task: Accepting responsibility when we’re wrong can cost us—just as it did the lenders in Nehemiah’s day. Ask God to help you bring what you do in line with what you believe even when the cost is great.

Welcome Aboard.

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I think Lent comes at a very good time of the year.

Typically we start the year out with great resolve, high hopes, and a few plans for improving life. And we usually make it for a few days, maybe weeks…and then we peter out.

My spiritual word for this year is habits. I started out amazingly. I was exercising daily, eating well, and reading through my Bible. The only habit I have faithfully maintained is reading my Bible. Both my healthy eating and my exercise have been inconsistent at best for the last couple weeks.

What has made the difference with my reading?

I’m not doing it alone.

In my church we were challenged as a congregation to read through the Bible this year. But as nice as that challenge is, it hasn’t motivated me. It’s not personal enough.

The difference is I have an accountability partner. I have someone who not only asks, “So have you read your Bible today?” We also discuss some of the interesting, surprising, familiar, and favorite things we read.

My partner? My husband. It’s handy and it’s a blessing.

I have accountability partners for my writing, too.

Why? Do you want the long answer or the short one? You get the short one. When I’m not accountable, I can make all kinds of poor choices. When I am accountable I find I am more successful. And I want to succeed.

There are numerous examples and admonishments to be accountable in scripture.One for today as we think about this faith journey: Encourage one another and build up one another.(1 Thessalonians. 5:11)

It’s not that we can’t or won’t see Jesus on our own, but let’s look together.

There’s joy in the journey…together.

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PRAYER MOMENT: God you are our leader and guide. Your Word tells us you go before and follow behind. You led the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of fire and a cloud. A map or sign might be nice, but more than that we want to feel you beside us as we maneuver the hazards of life. Thank you for the encouragement we can receive from other travelers and help us to be encouragers as well. Create good habits in us this Lenten season as we seek to see you, know you, and find you daily. Amen.

My writing friend, Ginger Solomon, nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.

Now for the blog award. Having accepted, here are the rules I now must follow:

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

So here are the 10 questions from Ginger:

1. What does it mean to you to be a living sacrifice?
It means to me that my sacrifice is a daily and conscious choice. It’s about “being bought with a price” and honoring God with my body. I also love the way that God promises to care and feed me daily.

2. What are your writing plans for 2015?
I’m pulling together material for three professional critiques at FCWC and working with Shellie Arnold to begin a chapter of Word Weavers in Ohio. Out of that I hope to complete a devotional collection, a Bible Study, and a non-fiction book.

3. What are your long-term writing goals?
I would like to write a Bible Study on Philippians and see it published. And I would like to complete my book on the Prodigal Personalities.

4. What would you do with a million dollars?
I would invest it so my husband and I could retire and live off the interest.

5. Was 2014 what you expected it to be?
No. I expected to be a prolific writer.

6. What would you change about 2014, if you could?
I would pull out of my mental funk much earlier so that I could have written enough that I didn’t have to go back to work.

7. Your word for 2015 is habit. Name a good habit, besides exercise (it’s on your site), that you plan to implement in the new year.
Accountability. I know I need it so I have hooked up with individuals (thank you Ginger!), and face to face and online critique groups through Word Weavers.

8. What one book do you plan to read in 2015, besides the Bible?
I’m going to finish Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure.

9. What is your favorite season? Why?
Spring! I love the way the earth seems to wake up after winter. I love the greening. I love flowers…especially lilacs.

10. What is your favorite food? Why?
Just one? I love yummy food. I just turned to Nelson and asked him what my favorite food is and he answered exactly like I would: it’s a toss up between lobster bisque (he picked that because of the way my face looks when I eat it) and good pizza. He’s right.

Now you know more about me than you probably wanted. I nominate Mary Scro whose blog can be found at http://www.lifeisnotaformula.blogspot.com . Here are your questions, Mary, if you choose to accept.

1. If life is not a formula, what is it? Can you sum it up in 25 words or less?
2. What are your writing goals for 2015?
3. Are you a plotter or a panster?
4. Where is your favorite place to write?
5. What was a highlight from 2014 for you?
6. How do you decide what to write?
7. Cats or dogs?
8. Do you listen to music while you write? What kind is best for you?
9. What’s your best stress reliever?
10. Tell us about your retreat ministry.

Lessons Learned

Before Dorothy can leave the Land of Oz, Glinda asks what lessons she has learned:

I feel a little like Dorothy. This year has been quite a journey. Not all of it has been good. I didn’t reach many of the goals that I set for myself.

Part of me wants to stamp the file that holds this year with a big fat: FAILED!

But is it a failure? What did I accomplish?
1. I finished a job. The woman I provided care for died in November. I was with her right up to the end. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
2. I did some writing. But more importantly I put my book out there and have started the arduous process of editing and rewriting it. I have started a second book. I completed a daily devotional online for Advent and headed up a published Advent Devotional for my church.
3. I have connected with Word Weavers International and am involved in two online critique groups—one of which I’m leading. This has increased my vulnerability and accountability.
4. My husband and I did some major de-cluttering in our home, reclaiming space and rearranging things for better use.
5. I have made a major dietary change as the result of a major illness and subsequent chronic issues that developed. I have been gluten free for four months.
6. I spoke at three retreats and two speaking opportunities scheduled for next year already.

And that’s just a start. So perhaps not reaching my goals isn’t as much a failure as I initially supposed.

Perhaps God had other things planned for me. I can’t say I enjoyed being sick or the residual effects, but there has even been gain in that pain.

So what do I have to look forward to?

I’m not sure completely, but I know that there is much writing to do, a part time job to secure, a writers’ conference to attend, much Scrabble to play with my mother, and weight to be lost—for good!

The rest is grace and gravy…gluten free of course!

Giving Anything Up For Lent?

I decided what I’m giving up for Lent.

Laziness and excuses. No seriously. I’ve held on tighter to these than chocolate, coffee, or soda pop. I have procrastinated and frittered away my time mindlessly surfing the internet or vegging in front of my TV long enough. So I intend to be more active, more intentional, and more focused

Now that doesn’t mean I intend to give up being still. On the contrary, I will be all the more diligent in making sure that I carve out my time in the Word and for intentional blocks of communication with God. I will continue to daily read/study in the following devotionals: The Daily Message, Designed for Devotion, and Sparkling Gems From the Greek. I will prepare for my Sunday School lesson a little bit each day, taking time to absorb more and cross reference material. I will take more time with material for Bible Study. I will seek God’s guidance for the speaking opportunities I have in April and diligently prepare for talks.

With regards to my writing: I intend to have three things ready to submit for BRMCWC contest (due by April 20). I will complete half of the devotions for “It’s About Time”. I will create the guidelines and format to be presented to the congregation for our Advent Devotional series. And I will publish at least once a week in both my blogs.
With regard to my health and fitness: I will do some form of exercise every day. I will return to the more structured eating plan we started last summer.

I haven’t strayed so far from any of these goals, but I have gotten terribly lazy. I find any and every excuse to not follow through. And not a one of them is truly legitimate. Not one.

And I will be accountable to you in all these matters. I believe accountability is absolutely necessary and far too easy to get out of in our current society. And oh, the irony of it! We are connected on every level, but lack the accountability to be better people. It’s a sad, sad thing.

I have long believed that most of the “sacrifices” made for Lent, are for show and fail to get to the heart of the matter—our heart and our relationship with God. Lent was designed and has continued through the ages to provide us with a ready-made opportunity to live more focused and intentionally. The very teachings of Jesus, how purposefully he was as he set his face to the cross should be our example.

So that’s how I plan to journey to the cross. Each time I try to turn to an excuse for doing what I know I need to do, I will confess, repent, and get back to the task. This journey is not for the faint of heart. I can’t be lazy…Jesus wasn’t. I’m following him.

How about you?