An Important Update

It has been my pleasure to write this blog and share stories of faith and transformation.  I’ve tried to share as honestly and humbly as I know how about the power of God to heal and to help everyday folks like you and me; to remember that we don’t have to be rock stars, we just need to listen and trust God because He is!  After much prayer and thought, I am taking a brief hiatus from writing and posting.  Honestly, I am long overdue for some much needed R&R so that God can recharge my batteries.  And I’m falling in love.  I think these things are worth taking a short break for.

I plan to come back the beginning of September with fresh content, a fresh look, and a slightly different format to our writing team.  We will have a few less postings (2-3 per week) with a different rotation of our writers, and we will also be creating a space for guest bloggers—maybe you!  What won’t change?  The depth and realness of content you have come to expect.

Mostly I want to thank you for your loyalty and ongoing support, and for your comments and honest feedback.  We have grown from that initial group of just 20 or so folks to a group of over 500 subscribers and nearly 3000 readers a month—and growing!  My prayer is that when we launch the new format, you will love our new look and continue to share about us with your friends.

And as a reminder, if you’re looking for some inspiration in the meanwhile, you can always access our archives for some really rich content. You are sure to find some real spiritual gems there!  Sending blessings and God’s love your way as I continue to lift up the DF community in prayer.

From one Dented Fender to another,

Barb Lownsbury

 

Wearing the Title of Leader

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

Leadership is a heavy mantle that sometimes we wear too lightly.  While I never want my role as a leader to feel overwhelming, or worse, carry it as if it were mine to bear, I view it with sober judgement.  As a ministry leader, I carry people’s hopes, fears, dreams and devastations in my hands.  It doesn’t matter if I am dealing with them directly or indirectly. Whenever I assume the role of “leader,” my words and my actions carry more weight, whether I’m speaking to a crowd of thousands or passing by quickly in the hallway.  Yes, everyone (usually) knows I put my pants on the same way they do – one leg at a time.  Still, there is no denying the impact a leader makes, whether for good or for bad. And sometimes both, simultaneously.

Two scriptures immediately come to mind.  The first, by the Apostle Paul, comes after a long, long list of his sufferings for Christ.  He wraps it up in 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 by saying, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” Paul doesn’t think, Ah, well.  I tried. They’re accountable for the own actions before the Lord.  I don’t need to care or worry.  It is clear he loves the people he is serving, and takes ownership of their spiritual journey with the heart of a father towards his children.

The idea of not just caring for those within your sphere of influence, but caring deeply, can quickly get overwhelming to me if I don’t immediately place it in the context of the next scripture:  2 Cor 2:14-17: In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. But those on the way to destruction treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse.  This is a terrific responsibility. Is anyone competent to take it on? No—but at least we don’t take God’s Word, water it down, and then take it to the streets to sell it cheap. We stand in Christ’s presence when we speak; God looks us in the face. We get what we say straight from God and say it as honestly as we can.”

The victory in people’s lives rests firmly in God’s hands.  My job is to fully lean into Him, remembering it is He who directs my steps and guides me, and to keep my heart sincere before Him.  As I share and move and be, God is shining through.  My love for others, the words I share and the actions I take then stem from a position of humble and faithful obedience.  I don’t have to “perform.”  Rather, I serve with humility and compassion, leading from a position of meekness.  It’s like one beggar sharing a piece of bread with another beggar.  It’s the bread that matters.  Whether the other beggar accepts it or not—embraces the Lord or not—is out of my control. Jesus is the bread of life, not me. When I remember that, the unhealthy pressure dissipates, and I can continually offer the bread freely with a sincere heart.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  While you might not think of yourself as a leader, the truth is we all wear that title in one form or another.  Whether it’s with your family, your friends, your children or your co-workers, there are people who look to you for guidance and direction. Spend some time today reflecting on your leadership roles and how God can grow them.

PRAYER  Lord, I am humbled that you choose to use me, flawed though I am.  Help me to remember that it’s not up to me to make things happen.  That’s Your job.  Instead, help me to focus on giving my best effort to honor You, knowing Your grace covers the gaps in my leadership, and help me to continue to grow to become more like you.  May I reflect the aroma of Christ as I go about my day to those around me.  Amen.

BARB LOWNSBURY is the Executive Director for The Dented Fender.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

New Foundations

By KRISTAN DOOLEY

Running in a new place can be rough. In unknown territory, adjustments have to be made. Over the miles a runner learns her route. She knows when the path dips, how it turns and where it gets rocky. The known foundation underneath her pounding feet welcomes her consistently. It’s  freeing to know where you are. Freeing in a way of energy conservation. To the runner, a known path is an easier path because she can direct her energy on what is ahead and not what is below.

We are on vacation, which means this morning my running routine was different. New place, new space, new foundation. Instead of the often cold, hard running trails in Ohio, I found myself on the soft, sandy beach in Florida. Total upgrade, I know! Only, instead of breezing through what should have been just a beautiful run, I found myself struggling tremendously. Where I had easily completed six miles at home two days ago, today I struggled to complete three!

The terrain was different. Instead of the normal blacktop, the soles of my feet were met with fleeting sand. Each time my foot connected with the sand underneath, it sank, making it a lot harder to pick back up again. Not only was I struggling to connect my stride, but the ground was uneven, causing one side of my body to overcompensate and throwing me off balance throughout the duration of my run.

I thought about stopping when I sensed God speaking.

“Slow down, take a deep breath. This is a new place. The ground here is different. Today, you are going to work new muscles into your old routine. You won’t be able to run as fast as you could at your old place and that’s okay because look around you. Don’t allow the new terrain and the pain of what you don’t know distract you from the beauty surrounding you. You’ve never been here. It’s beautiful. Enjoy it. Learn it. Get used to it.”

Isaiah prophesied about the struggles the Israelites would have coming out of captivity. Though the new scenery surrounding them would sing of freedom and adventure, they would find themselves wildly concerned with the unfamiliar terrain. Focused on the unknown, they would struggle to move forward.

“This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:16-19 NIV)

With so much still ahead of them, they couldn’t waste energy dwelling on things behind them – even the good things. God is the God of today – but He is also the God of tomorrow and because of that we can keep going even when it’s different.

I kept running on the beach and eventually the sand solidified under my feet and became a place of consistency. It still wasn’t as comfortable as my everyday run at home, but it was more beautiful than what I was accustomed to. Running in new places is about adjustment and alignment. It’s about allowing ourselves the space to slow down and the grace to readjust and the time to realign. In the grand scheme of things being a runner is about learning to run in lots of new places as well as the comfortable old spaces.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  If the new land you are running (or walking) on is hard – slow down – because your pace is not  as important as His work.  He is laying a new foundation that your feet will eventually learn just as well as the old. Look up. Look around. Take in the new scenery. Smell the air. Breath deep.

PRAYER  Father, make me a celebrator of the new. Help me to have open hands concerning the way you’ve moved in the past, keep me holding loosely to the land around me. Empower me to walk forward into the unknown. Keep my head up so I don’t miss the beautiful scenery around me. Adjust my step to the new foundation underneath me. Thank you for the unknown. I celebrate what is coming! Amen.

Here and Not Yet

By KRISTAN DOOELY

I’ve been doing some corrective realignment with my back at the Chiropractor for the past year. In the midst of healing from damage caused over the years, I sense the Lord teaching me a powerful lesson. This in between place is rough; being in the middle comes with complications. I have a plan in place and a picture of what healthy looks and feels like, but I am not there yet. I am much closer today than I was six months ago, but inevitably, there’s still a lot of work to do.

The tension of healing is hard. My back is shifting and the muscles surrounding my spine are reacting. They don’t want to change. They have grown complacent in their dysfunctional existence. This is actually where they’ve learned to be comfortable. It doesn’t matter it’s not the best place for them to function. It’s just the place they know.

The lie I can’t believe in the middle of the shifting is that my healing is harder than my not healing. In the short, not healing means I don’t have to live with the tension of the middle, the unknown pain and triggers, while my muscles get stronger in a new posture. But in the long haul, not healing means, I’m robbed of life the way it was meant to be lived. I’m continually stuck icing unnecessary wounds and missing promised activites.

Here’s what I’ve noticed…

  1. It’s very easy to slip back into old postures. It actually happens naturally and without even noticing.
  2. It’s necessary to be consistent in my adjustment appointments becuase it it’s too far between adjustments, my muscles really struggle to stay aligned.
  3. This is something I cannot do on my own. I need the help of professionsals who have studied and practiced the process of realignment in deeper ways than I have.
  4. Home care is a must. I feel better on the days I do it than on the days I don’t.
  5. Other things have to take a back seat while I give time for this healing. It’s time I don’t have but time I must fight to find.

There are probably many more lessons I could point out. This is just some of the mess in the middle. For those of us following Jesus, we should recognize the middle all too well. We live daily in the here but not yet promises of His Kingdom.

There are things in our faith that need healing. Our hearts have slipped and we live un-centered. Misalignment when it comes to the love of the Father often leaves us living for love rather than living from love. It’s so subtle, you may not even recongize it at first, but over time it becomes more and more defined and your actions more and more noticible. If you recongize the need to recalibrate the muscles of your heart, it’s as simple as the five steps above.

Like the Israelites in the desert, you have a decision to make: will you embrace the tension of the middle and trust? He who brought you to it will also bring you through it.  Or will you refuse to find hope in the healing and spend your life back in the dysfunction of what you’ve grown to find comfortable?

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  Jesus has so much healing available to us. It doesn’t matter what has bought on your pain, your sickess, your brokenness. All that matters is who holds it. Are you allowing the Father to tend to your wounds? Have you made time to be with Him more in this season of healing? Are you setting aside other things so you can participate in the necessary things?  What might you do today to put yourself in a place of healing?

PRAYER  Thank you Father for your healing. Thank you for your presence. I am so aware of the way you’ve made yourself available to me in the mess of the middle. I am so in love with how you piece things back together. Continue to do your work in my life Father. Do whatever it takes to stand me up faithfully and securely in you. Amen.

@KRISTANDOOLEY

KRISTANDOOLEY.COM

https://www.facebook.com/kristandooleybigger/

https://www.instagram.com/kristandooley/

Genuine, Heart-felt Prayer

 

By BARBARA LOWNSBURY

I have this vivid memory of a prayer night I participated in back in my college days–so vivid that all these years later, I still remember it.  We were all down on our knees huddled together closely in a circle.  We were slowly making our way around, with each person praying about whatever was on their hearts.  It was a little intimidating hearing everyone’s prayers. I wondered if my prayer would be as good or as thoughtful, if I would be perceived as being “spiritual” enough or deep enough.

My turn came and I did my best to pray in earnest, to really lay my heart out there as I prayed for others and for God’s kingdom to grow.  I worked not to use filler words, or to insert too many “Father, God” phrases. I tried to pray long and meaningfully. When I was finished, I felt sorta proud, like I had done a good job and honored the Father.

And so it continued around the circle, with each of us striving in much the same way.  There were lots of words, lots of great prayers. But there was also a lot of comparing going on, as many of us weighed where we stacked up against each other.

Then, toward the end of the circle, we came to a new believer.  It was her turn to pray.  And while I can’t remember her exact words, what I clearly remember was her posture. Her prayer went something like this:

“Lord, um.  Hi.  I don’t really know what to say.  I’m, uh…like, really new at this (long pause).  I’m really humbled to be around all of these great women.  They, uh, they have these amazing prayers and this amazing faith in You, Father God.” There was another really long pause. Quiet tears began to splash silently onto her tightly folded hands.

She continued, “I’m just so grateful to You.  Like, I can’t believe You chose me to be yours (another longer pause). I, um, I just really want to honor You, God.  Please help me to grow.  I know my prayer isn’t, uh, very great, but I want You to know that I, well, I love You. Amen.”

Her heart was humble. Her gratitude was palpable.  Her words were simple and few.  There was no eloquence, no meaningful exegesis.  But her words cut me to the quick.  Their heartfelt simplicity highlighted how foolish my need to impress was.  Of all the other prayers around me, hers was the one that I was most impacted by.

Those of us who would count ourselves as “spiritually mature” gathered at the end to discuss the night, and we all landed back at this one woman’s simple, heart-felt prayer, challenged and set free by it all at once.  This young Christian changed my prayers forever moving forward.

I’m no longer afraid to be real with God.  I don’t worry about what others think about my prayers or if they measure up.  I simply talk to God like I would with anyone else that I trusted and loved.  I’ve learned that sometimes silence is more meaningful than words.  Okay, a lot of times.  And listening for God matters.

I still love to pray with other people.  The way they view and interact with God grows my perspective and helps me to stretch and keep smashing the tiny boxes I’m inclined to put God into for my own sense of comfort.  Mostly I’ve learned that laying out the honesty of my heart out before the Lord, whether alone or in front of others, is a profound and beautiful thing.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT There are two scriptures that really drive these lessons home for me.  The first is in Proverbs 10:19: “The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.” This reminds me to make space to listen to God, both in prayer and in Bible study.  It reminds me I don’t need to have the last word or the most “impacting” word—that’s a place best reserved for the Father.  My job is to be genuine.

The other scripture comes directly from Jesus:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 18:10-14).

What God is most interested in is my heart.  It’s my posture of humility that matters, and humility includes an unflinching honesty before Him.  He knows it all anyway, but there’s a power that comes from my honest confessions before Him that is transformative.

Take some time over the next few days to ask God about your prayer life with Him.  What might He want to hear more of from you, or perhaps less of?  How would He say you’re doing with being genuine with Him, or for making space to listen so He can speak life into you?  I’d love to hear how it goes so please post below!

PRAYER  Papa, thank You for continually teaching me what most matters.  I can be insecure or competitive sometimes, and that is so far from Your heart.  Yet You take me just as I am with all my wounds, scars and fears.  You cherish me and love me completely even in the midst of my worst moments.  I am humbled by that.  Help me to fight to grab a hold of that powerful love, to make space to not just hear You, but to listen and obey so You can move me forward toward greater growth and healing.  I am in awe of Your love, Papa.  Thank You for it.  Amen.

BARB LOWNSBURY is the Executive Director for The Dented Fender.  Follow Barb and The Dented Fender community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.