life

The Cost of a Critical Spirit

I shocked myself. The negative words sputtering out of my mouth, declaring the worst over my circumstances and identity were detrimental to my mental, emotional and physical health. I found myself saying things that I rarely say, things like, "I hate that I'm like this." "I don't like myself." "I hate that I feel everything." "I hate that I want to quit and feel so depressed lately." "I'm an awful leader, incapable of inspiration or strategy." "Why do I even try?" "I wrote a book about freedom, but feel like a phony - how can I be in such a dark place of discouragement and be free, much less tell others how to be free?" 

Celebrating 15 years of marriage...   

Celebrating 15 years of marriage...

 

Thank goodness I said them in front of my husband, who reversed the curse of my words and declared the truth over me. I sobbed in his arms. These were the early hours of our 15th anniversary on Australian soil. 

Soon after my cathartic sob session in his arms, I got a text from a dear friend who was praying in the States for me. She said, "As I prayed this afternoon, this is what I sensed. Please feel free to disregard anything if you don't feel it's right so, the word 'witchcraft' came to me and I felt like there were some things that needed to be broken off. Witchcraft can mean anything as simple as a curse or negative declaration spoken over somebody or something. I had this sense that things have been said, or even people have agreed in their hearts with statements that are not true and you have been feeling the impact. I believe it is a critical spirit. I feel like it's trying to strangle any growth from happening"

She was right on. Cue more tears. Criticism. I had partnered with lies aimed at myself and our church. I had begun to criticize myself, speaking lies over my life and the endeavors I've been entrusted to steward. As I came out of my emotional fog, I realized I was deeply critical of myself and ready to surrender to the darkness. The cost of a critical spirit is great. It poisons the hearts of those who dish it out, and does the same for those who ingest it as truth. 

Destructive criticism is far different than constructive feedback.

One tears down from the sidelines, while the other invests and builds with a sense of ownership, partnership and relational reciprocity. We all know the "feedback" we've either been given or dished out that hasn't been with the intent to build anything. The ultimate cost of this is destruction and it takes its toll on the heart of the giver and of the receiver. 

I think of the times I've hurt my husband and children while operating in a critical spirit with words that lacked encouragement or eternal life. I think of the times I've been so high, mighty and "right", assuming others motives while judging those with a critical spirit in church leadership or just others in general who do life differently than I would.

I have brought division. Death.

I have been a part of the problem. I don't win, and it doesn't build anyone or anything. Repentance and humility are the cure and according to the Apostle Paul, living a cheerful life, without complaining or division among ourselves is key -  but that's easier said than done. 

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 2:14-16 TPT,

"Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless, and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe, offering them words of eternal life."

I desire to be a shining light in the world we live in today. But I have to choose to live from the abundance that is already within me, given as the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have to choose to break agreement with the ways of culture and instead transform culture with words that drip with Kingdom life and love.

My friend continued with a prayer in her text message that literally delivered me as I sat on the stairs up to our bedroom of our Airbnb in Sydney. Maybe you too need to be set free from the criticism of others? Like I did, maybe you need to repent of a critical spirit? May this prayer transform you and set you free.

"In the name of Jesus, I command the critical spirit to flee. You have no right to reside here and you must go now! Father, I thank you that your blood has already paid the price and taken care of our freedom, our LIBERTY. We are free. Andi [insert your name here!] is free. God, as all that is not of you gets chased out of the door, I invite your Presence to invade in a deeper, more tangible way that surprises and explodes like only you can. I pray for a turnaround in circumstances, hearts and spiritual climate. Fear, anxiety and negativity would be no more but JOY would be activated and where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. Thank you God for all that you are doing, seen and unseen. We are ready and waiting for you to blow our socks off!"

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. - Proverbs 18:21 ESV

Brain Tumors & Joy - "When Joy Gets In The Way"

I kept thinking to myself, "She must be faking it? I mean come on, you can't have an inoperable brain tumor and be so full of life and joy!"

My mother-in-law has stopped me in my tracks on several occasions and in this season, it's her contagious joy and peace that she lives enveloped in that often has me scratching my head in wonder. At first I thought it was avoidance, but now I see that it's a life connected to LOVE. I've asked her to write about it as a guest here on my blog. I hope it encourages you in this holiday season as we all look to 2017 and the year is to come. 

"When Joy Gets In The Way" By Jenny Andrew

The word joy is mentioned 815 times in the NIV version of the Bible. Just this fact alone makes the word significant
I was born Jennifer Joy. "Joy" was my last name or "surname" as we say in Australia where I grew up. It WAS my name, and although I was often teased as a little girl for the full label of "Jennifer Joy" or "Jenny Joy" as I was most often known, I wasn't aware of the potential significance of my name until recently. I began to see that my name was no accidental choice, that it was given to me for a purpose. Of course, when God is part of a decision, the potential of that decision is loaded with purpose. 

You see, I have recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

It has been described as being "like an octopus wrapped around the left side of my brain". This should, in most circumstances, instill fear and sadness in me. However my overwhelming emotions, and those of my husband, have been peace and joy. Occasional the blanket of peace is ruffled, but most of the time I feel covered and enveloped by peace. As well as the peace we are covered in, my "platform" for all I do now, especially in my fight for complete healing, is to choose "joy" as my weapon of choice before I chose to do anything or react in any way. It has become, not merely my name, but the banner over my life.
Joy may seem like an unlikely weapon. When we think of weapons, we generally think of aggression, fighting or inflicting injury. But as a Christian, I can assure you that JOY is all of these and more. Firstly, Satan hates joy. When he sees we are living in joy, he flees as he knows where joy comes from - God. When he sees me living in peace it reminds him that he has already lost the battle and we belong to Jesus! Secondly dealing with a challenge is so much simpler when my heart is in a good place and I'm looking at the best rather than the worst.  Although this season has brought its challenges, and will undoubtedly bring more, the joy and the peace continue. Recently I was speaking about my journey through this illness to a group at our Church and what I was learning along the way. I had my "notes" and my "plan" but it became increasingly clear as I continued, that I was to talk about living in JOY and using it as a weapon. This was not something I had planned to talk about at length - but JOY got in the way! 
We are surrounded every day by what the world sees- wherever we live, with worst case scenarios, doom and gloom, and negativity. There's a lot to be said for living in reality and it's important that we do so and don't bury our heads in the sand, but let's bring some light to the darkness by using joy, hope and peace to every situation. 

So there you have it. She LIVES this stuff. I heard someone say last week, "If the joy of the Lord is your strength, don't let Satan steal your strength." Well, Jenny is walking in that strength in spite of her circumstance and diagnosis and I'm still over here scratching my head at times while learning so much along the way. 

When something get's in our way, usually it has a negative connotation, especially when it's associated with fear, doubt or obstacles. When joy keeps inturpting you, invite the inturrption rather than pushing it away. Let joy get in the way.

My prayer for you in this season of your life, no matter the reality, darkness, pain or loss that you face is that JOY will keep getting in the way.

P.S. On top of her contagious JOY, my mother-in-law has been writing beautiful music in this season. It's perfect for your meditations or quiet times and is straight from heaven. Download it here!

http://www.jennyandrewmusic.com/ or look up Jenny Andrew Tranquil Worship and Tranquil Worship Two on iTunes! 

 

 

When It's Not "All Good"

The dam broke this morning.

The long-awaited tears that have needed to flow came out in a conversation with my husband and mom this morning, and we may have all shed a few needed tears.

The to-do lists have kept me sane in this season. Christmas with all its parties and preparation have almost been a unconsciously welcome distraction. Truth be told, "all the things I need to do" have protected my heart from feeling what it needs to feel. Avoidance has been my friend.

Instead of facing my reality, I've been short-tempered with those I love. I've let unhealthy anger rise to the surface more times than I'd like to admit. Frustration has been at its peak. At the same time, a looming sadness has lapped at my ankles with the internal anticipation that the tide is about to come in and drown me in its forceful flow. But maybe I want it to. Maybe it needs to.

My mother-in-law is sick. 

My mother-in-law that I deeply love as if she were my own flesh and blood has an inoperable brain tumor and is smack dab in the middle of her first round of radiation and chemotherapy.

This has changed all of our lives to say the least. Our schedules are different. Our priorities have shifted. 

We've never been here before. 

There's a tension in this season. On one hand, as a family (and a church family), we're all on our knees believing for a miracle. We love belting out the lyrics, "I believe in You! I believe in You! You're the God of miracles!", with everything we have. On the other hand, we're making the most of every moment. Making sure we are present, treasuring each breath. Sitting by the fire, telling stories, laughing, crying, and just being.

Life is full of tensions. It's not always "all good" and it's not always "all bad". Most days are filled with a tension somewhere in between. 

All I know is I want to feel it all, breathe it all in, live fully in each moment. The joy, the triumph, the pain, the reality checks - all of it. I don't want to shut down and switch off because to be fully alive is a gift. 

Today I'm deciding - yes DECIDING - to enjoy the chaos that comes with four children in a tiny NY apartment even when I may feel like I'm being pecked to death by chickens on occasion (okay, on lots of occasions!). I'm going to decide that Christmas isn't about to-do lists and making everyone happy, but it's about Jesus, the long-awaited Savior who came so that I could FULLY live here on earth and into eternity. I'm choosing to not condemn myself when I'm less than perfect and bark at one of my kids. I'm going to love myself and say sorry if I need to say sorry.  I'm going to cry if I need to cry and use up the whole tissue box. I am choosing to slow down. Look people in the eyes. Laugh more and stress less. I'm choosing to stop feeling guilty for all the things I "should" be doing better or more of.

I'm going to live.

I'm glad the dam burst this morning. Not so I could sit here and wallow in the tide of sadness that hit, but so I could wake up and live present. It's okay when it's not "all good". Sometimes that's just life and there is nothing wrong with you.

Jesus is present, even when we're not ready to be. The Comforter is comforting, even when we don't want to allow ourselves to be loved. Father God is gentle, kind and good, even when we can't see it through the fog we are in. 

So go on... Go ahead and really, truly live - even when all the to do lists, preparations and distractions try and get in the way. Every moment... Every breath is a gift.