Ugh. Come on.

I recently spent two weeks in the Arab world with team members (i.e. friends) and family. I enjoy these infrequent (but only for now!) in-person visits. Face-to-face conversations are so much better than Facebook likes, Instagram hearts, or WhatsApp texts. My time there was good for all of me: body, mind, heart, and spirit.

I came home and resumed my daily routine, which this year includes abiding time with Oswald Chambers. No offense to the author and editor of Live Dead Joy, but I needed something “new” this year. Of course, my copy of My Utmost for His Highest is far from new; it is proving to be fresh, though.

On the day of my return, I opened My Utmost and read the opening verse, “Lovest thou Me?” And I automatically answered with Peter’s words: “Yes, You know that I love You.” Then I read the devotional. And then I read the passage (John 21:15–19). And then I thought, “Do I actually love You? That question really hurts, Jesus.”

“Lovest thou Me?” That question cuts to the core. It backs you into a corner. It stops and makes you think.

I had just returned from a part of the world where five times a day a call to prayer rings in the ears of hundreds of millions of people—the majority being unaware of the deceit spoken over their lives in those moments. I had just stood on hill overlooking Cairo when that call went out. It was one of those moments when the saddest sound I know grabbed my heart and squeezed hard, and all I could was turn my heart to the Spirit and send my plea to Jesus for the lost of that city.

A week later I was home and faced with the question, “Lovest thou Me?” Yes, of course. I just returned from the Middle East and North Africa where I prayed that Muslims would know Jesus. It’s pretty obvious that I’m in this with You, Jesus.

There is no possibility of being sentimental with the Lord’s question; you cannot say nice things when the Lord speaks directly to you.
~ Oswald Chambers

“That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking, ‘Do. You. Love. Me? Do you? Love Me?’”

He had me. Backed into the corner. All I could do was cry and say and sing, “Jesus, I love you.”

Next day, I sit in my chair and open My Utmost. March 2 entry, entitled “Have you felt the hurt of the Lord?” Verse for the day: “Jesus said unto him a third time, ‘Lovest thou Me?’”

Ugh. Come on. Like Peter, I was grieved to hear this question again.

I read the devotional. I read the passage, again. And then I let Jesus ask me the question, “Lovest thou Me?” I felt less like a cornered animal this time. The question cut through me, but with Peter and Oswald, I answered in amazement and wonder, “Jesus, You know everything. You know that I love You.” His question cuts past every concern, delusion, lie, every answer, every doubt, every excuse. It pushed past every part of me to get me to this core question. “You literally know everything about me, and yet You still want me. You know that I love You.”

Peter was beginning to discover how much he did love the Lord, that there was no one in heaven above or upon earth beneath beside Jesus Christ; but he did not know it until the probing, hurting questions of the Lord came. The Lord’s questions always reveal me to myself.
~ Oswald Chambers

I stood in awe and amazement of Jesus. I need that question. And I realize I do love Him. And He loves me.

Next day, sit down, pick up book, and turn to March 3. John 21:17, “Feed My sheep.”

Whew. Got through the question.

But the conversation doesn’t stop at the question and the confession. Once you confess this love for Jesus, He asks you to spend it out.

What kind of oneness had Jesus Christ with the Father? Such a oneness that the Father sent Him down here to be spent for us, and He says, “As the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.”
~ Oswald Chambers

With Peter’s confession, “Jesus, You know everything,” Jesus says, “Feed My sheep. Spend that love out for Me. Spend it out.” Then Jesus lays it out for Peter, “You will, in fact, be led out, tied up and carried to some place you do not want to go.” Peter, you are now living dead. Peter offers no declaration of courage (Matt. 26:33–35), just confession of love. Jesus gives him a task to spend it out until death.

On March 4, My Utmost moved to another passage and I took this face-to-face conversation with me:

“Jackie, do you love Me?” He asks.

“Yes, You know everything. You know I love You,” I answer in awe.

“Spend it out.”

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Exercise as abiding

Abiding (maybe not always extravagantly) has been part of my life long before I/we referred to it as “abiding.” But it wasn’t until editing the dissertation on abiding for my brother-in-law that it became part of my missions worldview. Now my abiding time is a non-negotiable. Spending extravagant time with Jesus is essential to not only being a productive worker, but to being a fruitful follower of Jesus and an authentic daughter of the King.

In January team members are encouraged to look at their abiding. My newest discovery about my abiding time is that exercise is a key to healthy abiding for me.

I’m a runner, and like most runners, I prefer to run outside. But travel and cold weather force me to use a treadmill. The beauty of the treadmill, though, is I don’t have to worry about directions, distance, speed or traffic. I can run and let my mind wander in safety. So these past two weeks after finishing my fixed abiding time, I’ve gone to the fitness center, turned on my Exercise/Abiding playlist on Spotify, pushed ‘Start’ on the machine and started running.

Each time I told God that my eyes and ears were open to Him. And He has taken full advantage.

In John 15, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants but friends because you know what I am doing.” When we spend extravagant time with Jesus, we know what He is doing and He gives us strategy. The result of my renewed, disciplined effort in abiding ending on the treadmill is a flood of strategy, ideas, content and visions of conversations. God has dropped idea after idea into my head/heart. He has shown me visions of meetings with partners. He has given me writing ideas. He has taken what I read/heard in my fixed block of time and shown me how it relates to my strategy for reaching Dubai (like, physically reaching Dubai and spiritually reaching it).

My exercise time is now the time where God connects the dots of my abiding.

Exercise releases endorphins that energize the exerciser. It’s science. But I’ve experienced the additional side effect of a full heart and excited spirit. In Live Dead The Journey, Dick says, “Abiding is active in the reality that the spiritual disciplines position us to receive the life of Jesus…. Discipline leads to desire, which matures to delight.” And I found myself saying that last sentence as I walked to the gym this week. I thought, “I cannot wait to get on the treadmill so I can see and hear what God says. Huh. Discipline does lead to desire, which matures to delight.” I have never, ever in my life enjoyed getting on the treadmill as much as I do now.

My experience with abiding and exercise the past two weeks has changed me. As my friend Terry Parkman would say, “It’s next level.” Abiding brings strategy, and with all that lies ahead of me, I need His strategy.

I think I’ll start hashtagging things #treadmillidea so people know it wasn’t just any regular old idea.

p.s. God exists outside of our time, making a thousand years feel like a day to Him, right? It also seems that exercise time moves a lot faster when I am caught up in God ideas. I decided in God-treadmill time, He can make 40 minutes feel like 15.

What is abiding

Last year I went through the 12 kingdom fasts and learned some very interesting things about myself and my relationship with God. I treasure the lessons learned.

This year I plan to focus on the 12 Live Dead core values, starting with abiding. Abiding is both fixed daily time with Jesus as well as all day communion with Him. Essentially, it’s reading your Bible and praying every day and walking in His presence throughout.

(I spent the last few years editing my brother-in-law Dick’s dissertation that focused on abiding as mission; so I feel prepared to talk about abiding and its missiological connection to John 15. Ask me anything.)

The video below gives a good, quick overview of the basics of abiding as summarized by the acrostic ABIDES.

A – All Day
B – Blocks of Time
I – In the Word & Prayer
D – Disciplined
E – Everybody
S – Strategic

January 2016 – Abiding from Live Dead on Vimeo.

November = More Words

This month the fast is words. For the ones who love to talk about themselves, they should talk more about Jesus. For the ones who tend toward silence, they need to talk more.

In November I will fast words by talking more. Seems contrary, but whatever.

Since I live by myself and work from home, I had to make a plan in order for this to happen. So here it is: When I’m in Springfield, I plan to leave my apartment complex at least once each day to have a conversation with at least one person (be they friend or stranger). And for the days that I’m on the road, I will also have at least one conversation with someone who is not Alyssa or Vince (my co-workers/road companions).

Perhaps you find it strange that I have to make a plan to leave my apartment. What you are now learning about me is that I am part hermit. I can go for days without seeing or talking to people and be perfectly happy. So this month becomes about fasting my comfort zone of quiet to feast on divine appointments with people around me. Besides, when I leave Springfield for Dubai, I need to be ready for daily conversations with friends and strangers. This is practice for the future.

October = No Sweets

The Kingdom Fast last month was sugar. A tough one for a girl with a major sweet tooth. I chose to fast desserts and chocolate.

Like the caffeine fast, I found myself missing chocolate midway through the month. I just wanted something a little sweet. In those moments I started running through Romans 8. “For those who live according to flesh set their minds on things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things on the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace….”

We fasted sugar to feast on the sweetness of Jesus, and this month I realized the power of memorizing Scripture. When faced with a temptation (or a sweet tooth), I started calling out Romans 8 and regained perspective. Jesus is much sweeter and sustains much longer than any type of refined, processed simple carbohydrate.