Posted by: donnatallman | March 7, 2014

An Undivided Heart

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Psalm 86:11

David asked the God who created the universe to be his teacher.

His teacher ~ such a humble designation for a king to use.

Did “the king” really need a tutor? Apparently David thought so. David realized there were missing pieces in his understanding, so he called out to God for assistance. His voluntary submission to God as teacher reveals that David clearly understood his own limitations. It also reveals that David was a man of profound humility.

“Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth…”

Inherent in David’s request for help is the surrender of his own will. David has yielded his “right of way” in pursuit of something greater: the truth. David has committed to cooperating with and obeying the Master Teacher. This makes him an eager and enthusiastic learner. Happy is the teacher who has a classroom full of “Davids” who are excited to learn new things and put them into practice.

Miserable is the teacher whose classroom is a daily battleground of antagonism and resistance.

What kind of learner am I?

Do I look forward to incorporating God’s instruction into my life, or do I seek ways to circumvent it? Am I eager with him or apathetic? Flexible or rigid? Do I follow the Lord’s voice or usurp control from him? Do I listen or antagonize? Cooperate or resist? Grow or stagnate?

As important as it is to have a teacher, David asks for one more thing; he asks God to unite his heart. David wants unity because he knows that a divided heart will make him unstable. In this Psalm, David, the man after God’s heart, care-takes his own heart by asking God for assistance. David guards his heart by uniting it to his Teacher’s for protection.

What separates your heart from God?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, teach me your truth. I want to be an eager learner like David, so help me lay aside my pride and enter into the joy of this journey with you. You are the God who made the heavens and the earth. You ordered the stars to march across the night sky giving each one a name. You created the seas to roar and the butterfly to float gently by in the breeze. Lord, unite my heart to fear your name so that I can walk with an undivided heart all the days of my life.

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Contact: sogreatajourney@yahoo.com

Posted by: donnatallman | February 24, 2014

Writing on the Wall

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Okay, so I know I’ve made a big deal out of defining “home” as wherever I happen to be and wherever God is, and I still believe that. However, today I decided to fill you in on the “if I could I would” part of my desire for home. When all is said and done, this is what I really want:

Home is where I can scribble ideas for new writing projects on the wall if I want.

Home is where my pictures hang on the wall long enough to become dusty.

Home is where I can paint a wall any color I want.

Home is where the issues of life are worked out because they have to be.

Home is where I can have a puppy.

Home is where I get to order return address labels.

Home is where I am cared for when I get sick.

Home is where I go after I get lost.

Home is where I know my neighbor’s last name.

Home is where the barista at my favorite coffee shop doesn’t have to ask for my name when he writes it on my cup.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Home is where I can plant tulip bulbs in the fall knowing I will be there to applaud them when they come up in the spring.

Home is the place that gives me more than I will ever be able to give it.

Home is where others know to find me.

Home is where life conquers any death I will ever experience.

Home is where failure becomes the first step toward success.

Home is where an image doesn’t exist.

Home is where others offer their strength for my weakness.

Home is where I celebrate Christmas all year long.

Home is where support is guaranteed although disagreement can be profound.

Home is where faith is free to express its doubts and becomes stronger for it.

Home is where the fire of scrutiny discerns the depth of integrity.

Home is the place where all those who enter find rest.

Home is where I talk with God in the cool of the day.

Home is where I worship with abandon.

Cookies and Photo by Donna Tallman :)

Cookies and Photo by Donna Tallman :)

Home is where my cookie jar never gets empty.

Home is where history is written on the heart.

Home is where God’s still small voice can be heard above the dishwasher.

Home is where love drives out all fear.

Home is where an old book and an old friend are one and the same.

Home is where grace abounds.

Home is where there are no secrets and no unopened boxes.

Home is where hope never wanes and love never fails.

And for all my Oregon buddies, home is:

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

What’s home to you?

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Contact: sogreatajourney@yahoo.com

Posted by: donnatallman | February 20, 2014

Jesus Was a Turtle

David Wagner publicdomainpictures.net

David Wagner
publicdomainpictures.net

After two years of traveling across the country with no place to call “home,” many of you have been imploring us to settle down and get a house so we wouldn’t be homeless anymore. In my last entry,  “Circuit Riders,” I made a statement that engaged many of you to the point of deluging me with e-mails. Good for you! Here’s what I said:

“We are houseless, but we are not homeless. Much like turtles, our ‘home’ travels with us in our relationships and in our backpacks!”

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about your reactions since then, and wondering if I have been missing something. There’s no doubt that I long to get off the road; I’m a terrible traveler. Just ask my teammates (and pray for them if you think of it!) I would LOVE to live in a place with an attic room where I could look out at the mountains and write. It doesn’t have to be much. Having a bedroom and kitchen would be a bonus, but an attic room to write ~ that would be heaven!

Andrea Schafthuizen publicdomainpictures.net

Andrea Schafthuizen
publicdomainpictures.net

No one would love to live in a house more than me, but would that really give me a home? To find out, I went to the place in Scripture where I’m promised a house to see what God said about it; I went to John, chapter 14.

“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2

The original King James Version of the Bible uses the word, “mansions,” for dwelling places. In my Father’s house are many mansions.

I read the verse over and over and over.

Okay, so God promised me a mansion. Where is it? Where’s my mansion?

Well, it didn’t take more than 2 minutes of meditation to realize I’d have to be dead in order to move into one of God’s houses. They’re in heaven; I’m on earth. The only way across that divide is…

Well, doesn’t that just beat all?

About the time I ramped up to pitch a full-blown hissy fit with the Lord because I’ll never have a house this side of eternity, I stopped myself and started reading the passage again – this time from the beginning. S-l-o-w-l-y like my pastor taught me.

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you…”

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

In order to come to earth, Jesus had to leave behind his home in heaven and take up temporary residence here. When Jesus spoke to his disciples in John 14, he was just hours away from his arrest and crucifixion. His time on earth had come to an end and he was preparing those he loved for his departure; Jesus was going home to his Father’s house. His reunion with his Father was imminent, and it was all he thought about. His Father was the focus of his heart, mind, soul, and spirit.

When Jesus was here, he lived like Bob, Steven and I are now; he was itinerant. He didn’t own a house, but moved from place to place, town to town, and city to city telling other people about the kingdom of God.

So, if Jesus lived like us…

And we’re turtles…

Ergo, Jesus was a turtle?

Pretty much.

Jesus carried everything he needed with him. Walking through the Galilean countryside exposed Jesus to the elements and made him vulnerable to the wind, rain, and oppressive summer heat. He had no place to lay his head at night and no place to call home. Instead, Jesus suffered constant physical challenge, demonic interference, religious persecution, and eventual crucifixion by those who hated him.

The exact same violent opposition awaited Jesus’ disciples after his death, so he wanted to reach out with some strategic encouragement to the men he had grown to love. He pointed the way through the pain that was coming:

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you…”

The focus of this passage is not on the mansion; it’s on believing in God. Jesus is telling his disciples that to get through the coming trauma, they need to believe in his Father. Look at how many times Jesus refers to his Father in verses 1-13 of John, chapter 14:

  1. You believe in God
  2. In My Father’s house
  3. No one comes to the Father but through Me
  4. You would have known My Father also
  5. You know Him (the Father)
  6. Because you have seen Him (the Father)
  7. Show us the Father
  8. He who has seen Me has seen the Father
  9. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father”?
  10. I am in the Father
  11. The Father is in me
  12. The Father abiding in me does His works
  13. I am in the Father
  14. The Father is in Me
  15. I go to the Father
  16. That the Father may be glorified in the Son.

There are sixteen references to his Father in just the opening verses of chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, sixteen. That doesn’t even include chapters 15, 16, and 17 that are all about the Father! Jesus’ life wasn’t about making a home on earth; it was all about his Father. Completely. Totally. 100% of Jesus’ heart was consumed with honoring his Father.

Don’t believe me? Look the bookends of Jesus’ life as he lived it.

Luke 2:49 records the very first words of Jesus when he was twelve years old:

“And He said to them (Mary and Joseph), ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?’”

After Jesus had been arrested, tried and convicted, he was crucified. Luke 23:46 records the very last words Jesus uttered before he breathed his last breath:

Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.”

From the very beginning to the very end, Jesus’ life was about his Father’s business. Our purpose is no different; it’s found in John 14:13:

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” God is supposed to be glorified in us.

Don’t think you’re a “son of God”?

Galatians 3:26 says otherwise: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Our purpose in walking through this world as sons and daughters of God is to glorify God in all that we do.

Photo by Donna tallman

My Mansion
by Donna Tallman

So what was Jesus’ purpose of bringing up the “mansion” in the first place? I believe the answer is found in John 14, verse 3:

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus was confirming his commitment to his disciples who he would be leaving shortly. “Where I am, there you may be also.” He was reassuring them that their relationship would continue on; it was eternal. He wanted them to know he still loved them and that his plan for them was not yet complete.

Beloved, it’s not about the mansion; it’s about the Father. It’s not about the possessions we acquire in this life; it’s about the relationships we develop.

I may not have a house, but I know my way home.

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Contact: sogreatajourney@yahoo.com

Posted by: donnatallman | February 4, 2014

Circuit Riders

Charles Rondeau publicdomainpictures.net

Photo by Charles Rondeau
publicdomainpictures.net

According to Google, an “itinerant” is a person who travels from place to place…also called a traveler, wanderer, roamer, rover, nomad, gypsy, migrant, transient, drifter, vagabond, hobo, vagrant, tramp…”

Stop! These are getting progressively more depressing!

They don’t have to.

We are “itinerants” and for the last two years we’ve been traveling across the country. We’ve spent time in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee. We’ve made the same loop twice now stopping to visit friends, encourage strangers, and help change the atmosphere for people held in the grips of disappointment.

We are houseless, but we are not homeless. Much like turtles, our “home” travels with us in our relationships and in our backpacks! All the rest of our belongings are in storage in Colorado so we have no official place to live and no identifiable address. We have only a Post Office box in Colorado we call our own, but even that’s rented.

We are itinerant. I preferred to think of myself as a “Circuit Rider” until I looked up a description of them…How does this sound to you?

“Circuit riders had to be young, in good health, and single…”

Houston…we have a problem…

“Life was not easy for a circuit rider, partly because living conditions on the frontier were harsh. Circuit riders rarely served longer than one year in a circuit. Each year, they were appointed to a new area. This kept them from growing too familiar with the local people and wanting to settle down.” (by N. Fred Jordan, Jr.)

I get that; I would love to settle down. Oh yeah, circuit riders were supposed to be single.

No wonder.

It’s outrageous to do what we’re doing! Some of you pray for a place to park when you go shopping; I pray for a place to sleep at night. Daily facing the adventure of the unknown stretches us way beyond ourselves. It forces us to depend on God for His strength, direction, and power in a minute-by-minute pursuit of God’s heartbeat.

But being itinerant also has upsides ~ a lot of them. Truly. We’ve met some amazing people along the way and seen the power of God obliterate despair and hopelessness right before our eyes. Any sacrifice we’ve had to make pales in comparison to the joy of journeying a few miles alongside people desperate to know God and experience His love for themselves. It’s been such a privilege.

So, where are we now? Well, at the moment, we’re in Ohio where we’ve spent the last three months celebrating the hundred-year-deep freeze with all the other Buckeyes this winter. 35 degrees below zero with the wind chill! I wonder what the circuit riders would have done with that? They were the original men of steel; they would have endured.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Here’s a picture of a “snow roller” we got to enjoy during the deep freeze. These rare weather wonders happen when the temperature, humidity, and other conditions are just perfect. The snow rolls up into spirals dotting the landscape with what looks like white cotton candy. They are amazing to look at, but if you touch them or try to preserve them, they instantly collapse to powder. Somehow the snow rollers of Ohio seem like a perfect metaphor for our adventures!

Having completed what we feel God wanted us to do for the moment in Ohio, we are preparing to hit the road again and make another loop across the country. This time, however, we hope to travel south through Savannah, Georgia, across the southern states where it should be warmer (!), up through Texas and Oklahoma, and then back to Colorado.

Ohio Sunset

Photo by Donna Tallman

Yes, the adventure is great. The people are wonderful and the experience of living by faith is tremendous out on the road, but there really is an awful side of circuit riding. Every time you pull up stakes and leave, bits and pieces of your heart stay behind. My heart is strewn across 3,000 miles of this country and that never gets any easier. Leaving Ohio will be heart-rending for sure!

My prayer for all of you that I’ve met in Ohio comes from Philippians 1:9-11: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

For now, we pack and clean and get ready to go in two weeks. I’m hoping between now and then that I’ll find a new road song to keep us company. Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” worked two years ago, but I need a new song for motivation.

Suggestions anyone?

For now, here’s a music video I’ve been watching from Sawyer Brown called, “The Dirt Road”  (you can skip the ad in about 3 seconds):

 

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Contact:  sogreatajourney@yahoo.com

Posted by: donnatallman | January 24, 2014

Doors of Dialogue

At 4 years old she hid under the covers when she heard angry words coming from her parents’ bedroom. At 5 she noticed empty beer bottles piled up in the den right before her father hit her across the face with an ashtray. By 6 she was strong enough to move her dresser against the bedroom door to keep her father from coming in during the night. That was also the same year she learned to sneak out of the house at night in search of safety from him. By 14 she had been physically abused so many times by her drunken father, she had lost count; by 16 she’d had enough.

University Archway

Photo by Donna Tallman

She sought shelter at a friend’s house, and that friend took her to a safe refuge; she took her to church. There she found protection from her pain and wide open doors to a new life of freedom. Eventually, she met a man at her church; a man with a great heart who said he loved her. A few months into their new marriage, however, she discovered he was a closet alcoholic. When she returned home from shopping one afternoon, she found him drunk in front of a football game in the den. He was angry because she hadn’t made dinner for him. When he began to hit her, she fled.

Again, the little six year-old girl now grown, ran for her life.

Desperate for support and comfort for the catastrophe that was her life, she returned to the people who had first drawn her close to God. She returned to her refuge. This time, however, she found no safe haven. Instead, she was greeted with angry stares, belligerent doctrinal exhortations, and hostile condemnation. A sinner condemned for leaving her marriage, she was no longer welcome. She was a pariah.

Photo by Kasey Lix

Photo by Kasey Lix

Alone in the center of the rabid accusations, she hung her head in shame. Her very life hung in the balance of the religious zealots around her. They brought charges. They appointed a judge, and then they positioned themselves to kill her when her sentence was pronounced.

She stood.

She waited. She listened.

Silence.

An exit.

“Did no one condemn you?”

Latitude. Space. Grace. Understanding.

She breathed.

A question; not an accusation. An opening; not a sermon, pronouncement, criticism, or condemnation.

Jesus simply asked a question, “Did no one condemn you?”

“No one, Lord.”

Jesus’ discerning question to the adulterous woman in John, chapter 8, breathed latitude into an extremely tense situation. She knew she was guilty of adultery, but Jesus also knew there was more to her story. Jesus knew she wanted a way out of the life she was living, so he offered her one. A well-placed question gives the “guilty” a way through and provides a point of entry into an entirely new way of living.

Listen to Abimelech, king of Gerar, question Abraham after Abraham deceived him and gave his wife to Abimelech saying she was simply his sister. Abimelech says to Abraham, “What have you encountered, that you have done this thing?” Genesis 20:10

“What have you encountered?”

Abimelech is blameless in this situation and certainly within his right to condemn Abraham’s behavior here, but he doesn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve condemned Abraham over the years for giving his wife away! It is one of those Bible stories that irks me no end, but before this week, I never noticed Abimelech’s response. It truly has convicted me. I realized that I am quick to jump to conclusions about other people’s behavior, and really slow about extending latitude to them.

Abraham’s deceit needs to be dealt with, and Abimelech confronts it; he never ignores it. Abimelech truthfully recounts what Abraham has done to him, but then he does the unexpected, the gracious. Instead of pronouncing judgment on Abraham, Abimelech provides a door for dialogue.

“What have you encountered?” he asked.

I don’t know your story, and you don’t know mine. When we encounter one another, all we know is what we present in the moment. We meet each other in snapshots. You may be 20, 40, or 80 years old, but unless you tell me, I won’t know your backstory. I don’t know why you do what you do, and you don’t know why I react the way I do either.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Yes, we sometimes make decisions we’d like to have back. I’ve made plenty in my lifetime that were just plain foolish. How I wish I hadn’t! Sometimes we entertain the tempting, and sometimes we even walk away from our faith altogether. Who will be there when we dash our lives on the rocks of disappointment? What will they say? Will they offer a 3-point sermon on our failure, or will they be there to open a door of dialogue?

“What have you encountered?”

Such a simple question Abimelech asked the man who had deceived him and jeopardized his entire family. Because Abimelech wisely offered Abraham a door of dialogue, everything was protected and restored. The two men became allies and supporters of each other in the years to come, and God’s plan for Abraham’s descendants was preserved.

What have you encountered in your life’s journey?

Do you need a door of dialogue?

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Posted by: donnatallman | January 15, 2014

All the Way to Half Way or Half Way to All the Way?

There are people who believe in conviction, and others who live by it.

Don’t believe me?

Watch the Olympics from Sochi, Russia, starting in February and see if you don’t change your mind. Nowhere is the determination to win more pronounced than watching elite athletes compete. Hearing the stories of hardship and sacrifice they endure just to reach the Olympics only adds to the sweetness of the victories that follow. Some athletes compete just inches away from the best of the best who threaten their life-long dreams and Olympic hopes. Others race against unseen opponents ~ against insecurity, doubt, failure, trauma, and loss. Any of those can melt gold medal dreams just as surely as another athlete can. Google “Dan Jansen’s Olympic story” for one of the most determined battles ever fought by an Olympian, and you’ll see a man who lived by the conviction that he was, indeed, worthy of a gold medal.

This year I’ve set out to live my life deliberately. It is my belief that living deliberately is possible, but will I? Will I actually live by the conviction I’ve said I hold? Will I walk that out in tangible steps? Will I go all the way to half way, or half way to all the way? Will I settle for something less than my everything?

Abraham did, and I’ve been thinking a lot about him over the past few days. Abraham stopped short of giving his all when he had the chance to soar to the “finish line.” He was called by God to join the journey of a lifetime and he sort of obeyed, but then he stopped. He stopped and settled for something less.

Ack! I hate the thought of settling for something. I never want to be “that person” who settles for less than God’s best, but I am…and I do…

All. The. Time.

How is that possible? By redefining God’s instructions so that I follow my own acceptable “interpretation” of them instead of obeying what He actually told me to do. It’s what Abram did. You know, Abram before he was Abraham in the Old Testament.

In Acts 7:2 Stephen recounts God’s call to Abram: “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’”

How hard was that? There were just three parts to God’s call to Abram: 1) leave your country, 2) leave your relatives, and 3) come into the land God will show you.

By the time it plays out in Genesis 11, it looks totally different than what God had intended. Genesis 11:31 says, “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there. The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.”

What the heck?

Terah’s leading the tribe to Canaan? Yes, Terah, Abram’s father, took control of God’s call to his son and led the family out of Ur. It’s never a good sign when someone usurps God’s call to another and claims it as his own. Terah was not called, nor was he equipped to follow God’s leading because God was not leading him; God was leading Abram!

Fail.

Because Abram abdicated his spiritual authority to his father, other family members joined the entourage even though Abram was told to go alone.

Double fail.

Finally, because Terah was leading the clan, they only went as far as Haran even though they all knew they were supposed to go all the way to Canaan. Not only did they stop in Haran, they settled there. They went all the way to halfway. God called, but Abram only partially obeyed.

Total Fail.

Partial obedience is an oxymoron; there is no such thing. 

KEY #4 TO LIVING DELIBERATELY ~ DODGE THE DITCH AND AVOID THE DETOUR

Photo by Maliz Ong publicdomainpictures.net

Photo by Maliz Ong
publicdomainpictures.net

Between God’s call and Abram’s obedience is a ditch of temptation and a detour of disobedience. Because Abram abdicated and became a spectator to God’s plan for his own life, he ended up in Haran – a place God had not called him to accompanied by people he was not supposed to be with. Haran was a totally unnecessary detour along Abram’s journey with the Lord.

Have you taken unnecessary detours in your walk with God? I know I have.

Giving into temptation can slide us off in a ditch and result in discouraging detours along the roadside of our journey with Jesus. Here are some options when temptation shows up:

  1. Resist it ~ James 4:7
  2. Flee from it ~ 1 Timothy 6:11
  3. Opt out of it ~ 1 Corinthians 10:13 (doors of escape)
  4. Overcome it by the power of the Word ~ Luke 4:4,8,12

Any of the four options will do it. As believers in Jesus Christ we are never, ever at the mercy of temptation. “We are overcomers!” as one of my new friends from Nigeria reminded me last week (1 John 2:14). He is right; we are overcomers. Jesus saved us to be overcomers, not victims of circumstance.

Remember the goal we are focusing on as we walk through the challenge of living deliberately in 2014: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

We walk after God’s purpose, not our own. To live deliberately, I cannot allow temptation to hijack my pursuit of God’s purpose for my life.

Fortunately for Abram, God is merciful and reconnects with him after his father dies and reboots the journey. Genesis 12:4 says, “So Abram went forth as the Lord had spoken to him…” When God gives us specific instructions, it is vital that we obey them exactly as they come. Even our intended kindness to others can become a hindrance if God is not calling us to it. By the time Abram finally obeyed God’s call, he was saddled with his nephew, Lot, who became an albatross around Abram’s neck, and a constant irritation to the descendants who came after them.

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about dodging a ditch of temptation, but here’s a picture I’ve been meditating on for the last week or so. It comes from our discussion on Key #1 to living deliberately: Remain Present in the Present. You might put other kinds of temptations in your ditch on the left or the right, but this is where my battleground is at the moment.

Dodge the Ditch 14.01.15

Remain in the Present

I’ve challenged myself to remain present in the present during 2014. Because of that, one ditch threatens to pull me back to my past when things were “easier,” “better,” and “more fulfilling.” It’s not true, but that’s the temptation. Philippians 3:13 counters that lie with the truth, “…one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Dwelling on the past will never get me to my finish line with Jesus.

Even if I avoid wallowing in the past, I can still be tempted by the ditch on the other side of the road, which is being riddled with anxiety about my future. Matthew 6:34 offers the comfort I need for that temptation: “So, do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

When I get to the end of my race on this earth, I want more than anything to be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

How do I do that? How do I keep the faith in a world hell-bent on my failure? I choose to live deliberately; I keep my eyes on the finish line. I focus my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. He is the reason I run and the reason I live. He is everything.

So, to help me avoid ditches and detours, I wrote some words on a 3 x 5 card and put them in my back pocket. Most of you use your phones for that ~ whatever ~ I have a 3 x 5 card addiction, so I use those. Whenever I feel drawn to one ditch or the other, I pull out my card to remind me that I am, indeed, an overcomer and worthy of the “gold medal” Jesus has for me at the end of my race.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

  • Intention
  • Conviction
  • Deliberate
  • Resolve
  • Determination
  • Steadfastness
  • Certainty
  • Passion

What helps you complete what God is asking of you and make it all the way to the finish line instead of stopping halfway?

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Posted by: donnatallman | January 8, 2014

Running to Win or Running Amok?

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

“Back in the day” I ran track. I wasn’t any good at it because I mostly ran track to stay in shape for basketball and tennis, which were my true loves. One day we were forced to train inside the school because a Colorado snowstorm was too much to compete with. Once inside, my coach could see that I needed more motivation besides running laps inside the school building. She put three hurdles in front of me and dared me to run the gauntlet. In the process, my coach inadvertently unleashed a monster.

The rhythm, strides, precision, takeoff, and landing all made me feel like I was flying. I loved it. Hurdling gave me a chance to compete against other racers, the clock, and against myself. It was a perfectionist’s dream come true, and birthed the competitive streak in me that still exists to this day.

I’m not much of an athlete anymore, but I am still very competitive. I hate to lose ~ at anything. I can be wrong, know that I’m wrong, and still try to win an argument. For years, I was convinced that being competitive was a good thing until the day I was given a “time out” at a women’s retreat for aggressive behavior. I was playing a game of double solitaire and trouncing an 80 year-old woman who was thrilled she could even be at the retreat.

“Just how badly are you going to beat her?” a friend whispered in my ear as she wrested the cards from my clutched hands. I was just about to unload everything on the table and go in for the kill, but my courageous friend gently pushed me from my seat and dismissed me from the game.

“But I’m winning!” I protested quietly, and then with one of her famous false front smiles she hissed at me through her clenched teeth, “But you’re the speak-er, Dear. Don’t you want to set a better example for the women than this?”

Oh, oops.

Knowing what we’re tying to accomplish in any given situation is vital to living deliberately, so the next key to being intentional in 2014 is:

KEY #3 RUN TO WIN

Competition, the right kind(!), is a good thing; in fact, it’s a great thing. A properly focused competitive streak can bring out the best in us, and in those around us. It can also propel us into doing unimaginable things we’ve never even dreamed of. I thrive on the benefits of healthy competition because I know it strengthens my weaknesses.

Paul did too. He has a lot to say about competition in his New Testament epistles, the most famous one being found in 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” 

In order to “run to win” according to Paul’s model, how we run is just as important as that we run.

Athletes are bound by a lot of “hows.” In order to compete in something they love, athletes willingly submit themselves to specific, outlined criteria. They contend with rules, equipment specifications, and drug testing to name just a few. An athlete could win, and win big, but if they violate the rules, they will be disqualified from victory. So all compete, some will cheat, but only one will win.

When Paul says, “Run to win,” in 1 Corinthians 9, he’s talking about fulfilling the purpose for which God called him. Paul is talking about living deliberately ~ intentionally choosing to participate in God’s plan for his life. The “how” of running, then, is every bit as important to the Believer as it is to the athlete. Just like athletes, Christians willingly submit themselves to the criteria outlined in Scripture that ensures our race will end with victory.

We do this because of our deep love for Jesus, not out of a sense of duty or religious obligation. Rules and regulations don’t motivate us; our love for Jesus does. True faith in Jesus is the result of His invitation to us, and of our eager response to enter into an intimate relationship with him. It doesn’t come through force, obligation, or external pressure; our journey with Jesus is a joy.

So, here’s an opportunity to apply one of Paul’s “hows” of running. Let’s just look at one character quality that is important to incorporate into our lives. 1 Corinthians 9:25 says, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.”

If I am running to win this “race” of life, I want to finish strong and finish well. To do that, I need to exercise self-control in all things according to 1 Corinthians 9:25. Bummer: I want to do what I want, when I want, for as long as I want. Physically, I’d like to run amok, but spiritually controlling my behavior, tongue, temper, attitude, service, competitive streak, etc., will ensure that I become more like Jesus and less like the world around me.

Here’s where I’m challenged ~ According to Galatians 5:22-23, the spiritual realm and the physical realm are connected. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” I’d rather they not be connected, but they are. I’d rather compartmentalize my life, but I can’t; not if I want to be like Jesus.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

So, if the spiritual and the physical are connected, isn’t it logical that my physical life will show evidence of my spiritual condition? Spiritually, I run to win. That metaphorical race should spill over into the physical arena at some point whether I like it or not. Let’s say I never exert self-control over the things I put in my body (ie. food, alcohol, medication, drugs, etc), and I neglect exercise so I am in poor health. If my lack of self-control over my diet and exercise prohibits me from accomplishing the purpose God has for me, then there’s absolutely no way I can live deliberately this year. My body will stage a mutiny and prevent it. That’s not okay. In this example the physical arena is controlling the spiritual, and that never ends well. Gaining spiritual control over the flesh and its desires is one of the most common reason people fast.

Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Everything we do impacts ourselves, those around us, and even impacts the gospel. If we are walking in the Spirit, we will exercise self-control; it’s one of the fruits of the Spirit. If we do not exercise self-control, we cannot possibly be walking in the Spirit. So, then, to live with intention as one who loves Jesus means that as we surrender to the Spirit, His power will increase in our lives, and the influence of our flesh will decline.

How do we do that exactly?

Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

To live deliberately this year, we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, for even Jesus had to master his humanity in order to finish well.

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Posted by: donnatallman | January 5, 2014

Change It Up!

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Henry David Thoreau dared me to change up my life and “live deliberately” in 2014, so that’s what I’ve been attempting to do for all of 4 days now. I was eager to take up his challenge, and many of you have jumped on board for the journey. If you need to catch up, just click the links for “Deliberately on Purpose” and “Present-ing Ourselves in the New Year.” It’s going to be an amazing year of adventure; I just know it!

So far, we’ve realized that living deliberately has to be connected to purpose. Otherwise, we’re just generating a list of activities and field trips for ourselves. As believers in Jesus, meaningful purpose comes from partnering with Jesus to fulfill God’s purpose in us and through us. We also realized, however, that positioning ourselves to fulfill God’s purpose may expose us to extreme difficulty that will tempt us to excuse ourselves from the present until the pain passes by.

Checking out of the present keeps us from growing, and it also keeps us from having a strategic impact on the people and events around us; it’s a ditch. The disciples checked out of the present when their pain became too intense, and they were completely useless to Jesus when he most needed them.

When was that?

In Gethsemane. Agonizing Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray on the night of his arrest. (see Luke 22:39-46)

Jesus’s spirit had been troubled all evening because his torture and crucifixion were just hours away. Clearly understanding the enormity of what was at stake, Jesus asked his Father to alter the plan. “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me, yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Well, God wasn’t willing. Now, there’s an intense revelation.

In his humanity, Jesus was deeply troubled and needed courage, but he also knew exactly what to do with his intense emotions. He needed to care-take them so he could live deliberately and remain present in the present. To do that, Jesus retreated. He went to a place of peace, to Gethsemane, into his Father’s presence to seek the strength he would need for the extreme trial ahead.

Jesus brought along his disciples for support. It was one of the rare times Jesus ever asked his disciples for anything, but he asked them to watch and pray with him through the night. His closest friends were a wash. Luke 22:45 says they slept through it all because their sorrow was too much to bear. That’s unfortunate because Jesus was providing them an example of how they should handle grief.

As Jesus began to express his emotions to his Father in prayer, he grew deeply troubled. Scripture says, “His sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground.” That’s extreme. During the entire ordeal, Jesus didn’t deny his emotions or suppressed them. He never checked out of the present. Instead, he provided an accurate model for us to follow when we are overcome by our own emotions; he prayed. Yes, Jesus was thinking about his “tomorrow,” but he avoided speculation about it. Instead, he moved to disclosure. Jesus remained present in the present by disclosing his heart to his Father.

So, the second key to living deliberately is:

KEY #2 DISCLOSE OUR HEARTS TO THE FATHER IN PRAYER

God can handle our emotions; truly, he can. God is more than able and more than willing to hear our heart-cry. He can even handle your most extreme emotions. David knew that when he cried out to God in Psalm 42:9-11: “I will say to God my rock, ‘Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?”

St. John of the Cross, a Spanish monk writing in the 1500’s, wrote a poem entitled, “Dark Night of the Soul” which has become a Christian classic. In the poem, St. John vividly describes the spiritual reunion he experiences with God after suffering through a soul-searing ordeal of his own. Many, many spiritual travelers since then have described their own “dark nights of the soul” when the bottom dropped out of their circumstances and they were faced with a severe crisis of faith in God.

Years ago Bob took a job on a congressman’s staff in Washington, D.C.; it was the opportunity of a lifetime for him…

…and the spiritual crisis of a lifetime for me. After uprooting and traveling 3,000 miles across the country to relocate to D.C., we realized that staying would not be possible. It was too expensive, too stressful, and too incompatible for our little family to remain in Washington, so Bob had to resign.

Panic set in the night we realized we had to leave. Seriously disillusioned with God, I bolted from the dinner table so the boys wouldn’t see my impending meltdown. I stumbled on the unfamiliar stairway looking for a bedroom, any bedroom, where I could be alone. I flung myself onto a bed, buried my head in a pillow, and sobbed until sweat dripped down my face and neck and the muscles in my sides ached.

Gethsemane’s gate. Wave after wave of inconsolable emotion crashed over me as I agonized over the realization that God had abandoned me in the midst of my obedience.

Only, it wasn’t true. It felt true, but it wasn’t. Emotionally I “felt” forsaken by God, but in reality, God did not, has not, and will not ever abandon me.

Not ever.

Staying present in the present that night was the most painful experience I’ve ever shared with the Lord, but mysteriously it has provided incredible strength during every hard time I’ve faced since.

If you ever have encountered a faith crisis in your life, or are in one at the moment, know that God can handle it. Don’t check out of the present and wait for the pain to pass by; it won’t. Instead, do what Jesus did; take your cares, concerns, and worries to the Father in prayer. Jesus gave his disciples the antidote for grief and worry: “Get up and pray…”

Disclosing our hearts to the Father invites him to enter our pain with all the resources of heaven…

Literally, all the resources of heaven. Why would anyone resist that?

So, change it up this year.

Instead of checking out of the present by reverting to the past, zooming ahead to a fantasized future, detouring off to a cyber-ditch, or sleeping through the pain, take your concerns to the Lord in prayer.

He can handle them.

He is able.

He is willing.

Change it up!

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

 

Posted by: donnatallman | January 1, 2014

Present-ing Ourselves In the New Year

 Welcome to 2014 everyone ~ Happy New Year!

DSCN4913

I made it!

Well, I did it; I started my year off with victory!

(Yes, I really am at the top of the hill right in the middle by the trees – arms raised in victory! My camera died, so this is the only shot I have.)

In the spirit of living deliberately, I determined to run to the top of a hill near our apartment that has been taunting me for the last six weeks. Really it’s just a hill, but seems so severely vertical to me that it probably stands out on one of those topographical maps we all studied in 8th grade geology class. You know, those maps with the squinchy brown lines indicating a terrain as steep as Pikes Peak.

pikes-peak-morning.jpg

Photo by Donna Tallman

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. In reality it’s probably no higher than a mere mole hole, but it may as well have been Pikes Peak to me. What on earth made me think I could race up that thing when I’ve been sitting on a couch eating Fritos for the last 25 years?

Thoreau. Thoreau made me do it. He dared me to live deliberately and I took him up on it.

But this year’s challenge isn’t going to be about Thoreau. He can’t truly be my only motivation. This year is going to be ~ no, it’s got to be about Jesus or I’m out. Thoreau was not speaking from a Christian perspective, so I want to be sure that my intention to live deliberately is something Jesus would support. It was one of the questions I asked in my last blog entry:

Is there a place in Scripture that confirms living deliberately?

I believe there is and I believe this verse is going to become the foundation of our journey together this year: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Usually, the first few words of Romans 8:28 sidetrack me. I often focus on the excitement that God is going to solve and resolve everything that’s going wrong in my life and turn it to good. We’ll leave that detour for the moment and come back to it another day. Instead, the Lord has been replaying the last few words of the verse over and over to my spirit and wants me to focus on them: “To those who are called according to His purpose.”

Those who believe in Jesus have a calling; we have a purpose, and God determines what that purpose is. If we get serious about living according to our purpose, we will automatically position ourselves to live deliberately as Thoreau encouraged, but it certainly won’t look like Thoreau’s life.

Problem. I have a problem.

What if I don’t like some of the things God has “purposed” for me? The Christian life isn’t always a day at the beach, you know.

Like 1 Peter 4:1 for example, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.”

Or this little nugget, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10

The fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings?

Being conformed to his death?

Really?

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Living purposefully (or meaningfully) requires that we live “all” of life. I can’t pick and choose to engage only with the fun and happy times; I have to live all of them, but that’s really hard. I learned something interesting about myself when I was working on the Considering Jesus material last year and I want to pursue it a bit more in the weeks to come:

When I bump into something I don’t want to do, feels too hard to do, or is just outright painful, I withdraw from the present; I retreat. I find a place or a way to hide from the difficult and disappear. So, if I check out of the present, I cannot possibly be intentional about living. That behavior pattern absolutely has to change.

Arg!

In order to unlock the barriers of living deliberately, I hope to give you some keys that will help.

Key #1  REMAIN PRESENT IN THE PRESENT

Jesus had to fight to remain in the present during his final prayer time in the Garden of Gethsemane as he poured out his feelings about his coming crucifixion to his Father. He said in Luke 22:42, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Jesus was talking about a future event in a present moment. Jesus remained connected to his own present condition of agony while he talked with his father about the reality of his torture and death that were only moments away.

Peter, James, and John (Jesus closest disciples) couldn’t handle any of it. They totally checked out. The emotional agony of losing Jesus was so searing that they opted out. Instead of remaining with Jesus through his most difficult hours, the disciples whom Jesus loved chose the route many of us choose when things get too sad or overwhelming; they fell asleep.

“When Jesus rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow.” Luke 22:45

Sleeping from sorrow; that’s one way to avoid the present. Many who suffer from depression describe days and days of oversleeping because the pain they experience in the present is just too much to bear. The inherent hope of sleeping through sorrow is that when they wake, the pain will have passed and they will never have to face it. The disciples understood that.

What are some ways we avoid being present in the present?

  • Retreating to the past ~ Remembering and daydreaming about better times
  • Zooming ahead to the future ~ Fantasizing about an easier, happier life
  • Disappearing into cyberspace ~ Idling in neutral until the pain passes
  • Falling asleep ~ Escaping today’s hardship altogether

Not surprisingly, Jesus provides a great example of how to remain present in the present when barraged by difficulty. Jesus knew exactly what to do. We’ll look at Jesus’ solution to facing pain in the present in the next blog entry, but for now, today’s challenge is to reconnect to the life we are living.

Let’s start and end 2014 in victory, so consider what you can do today to reconnect with life around you. Stay on the positive side of things as you look for things and patterns that provide forward momentum.

Make a list.

Make a plan.

Grab a buddy to help you.

Let’s live this year!

© Copyright, 2014 by Donna Tallman.

Posted by: donnatallman | December 30, 2013

Deliberately On Purpose

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”  Henry David Thoreau

As 2013 comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about Thoreau’s experiment to live deliberately. In fact, my mind, soul, and spirit have so exploded with the possibilities that I’ve decided to try his experiment for myself.

2014 will be the year that I live deliberately.

There. I said it. I’m going to do this year what I absolutely refused to do last year: I’m going to set a New Year’s resolution. For those of you who joined our journey last year, you’ll remember that I pitched a Texas-sized hissy fit refusing to set any New Year’s resolutions because they had become encumbrances of failure instead of testaments of success.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Considering Jesus by Donna Tallman

Last year the only thing I was willing to do was to consider Jesus and get to know him better. In the process of rejecting goal-setting last year, I accomplished the most elusive one of all: I wrote my own book and published it.* Not only that, but I was asked to speak at several women’s events where I was able to use the material to encourage others. 2013 turned out to be a truly amazing year.

Ridding myself of the obligation to write, freed me to write with abandon. What is that? It’s not surprising to people who know me well. Tell me I have to do something, and I’ll finesse a refusal. Obligate me, and I’ll disappear into a vapor. Order me around, and I’ll dig my heels in all the way to China. I do not like to be told what to do. I dislike it from others, and I especially dislike it from myself.

So, why would I let some dead guy tell me what to do a hundred and fifty years after he died? What am I thinking?

There’s something compelling about Thoreau’s invitation. His enticement to the unknown feels exciting to me somehow this year, and I’m anxious to join him. I keenly feel his call to adventure and believe the intrigue will be well worth any adversity along the way.

Huh?

Donna Tallman, you are neither adventurous nor are you a risk taker!

Yeah, I heard that, whichever one of you thought that to yourself. Well, apparently I’m getting a lot more adventurous since I’ve been living on the road for the last two years. I don’t have much else to lose anymore so why not gallop off into the woods after adventure…it can’t be anymore harrowing than what I’m already doing.

So, off we go!

My first order of business was to write down all the things I have wanted to do but never had the time, money, or gumption to. I stopped after the second entry.

Something had gone awry.

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

Is living deliberately simply creating a “bucket list” and checking the tasks off one by one? I don’t think so; it has to be more than that. After stopping myself, I could see that living deliberately has hidden implications. Living deliberately must also include “meaning” somehow.

Accomplishing tasks on a bucket list may not mesh with the larger purpose of my life, so it won’t contribute anything to deliberate living. Intentional living has to also include “purposeful” living. Since I am a believer in Jesus Christ, that meaning or purpose is automatically attached to his love for me.

So, I’ll try this again…

Living deliberately in 2014 will offer me the exciting adventure of intentionally pursuing the purpose for which God has called me.

So that’s my starting point. But as soon as I figured that out, my mind instantly flooded with a list of questions, reservations, and anxieties about the whole thing. I’m just going to list them here for you – unedited – so you can see where I might be going this year and what may bar the way to my own “success.”

  • Why did Thoreau go to the woods to live deliberately? Do I have to go into “nature” to live deliberately? What if I can’t do that?
  • If I haven’t lived deliberately, have I ever “lived” at all?
  • Do I believe I will begin to live again when all of my possessions are out of storage and I have a place of my own?
  • If so, what am I doing in the meantime? Am I waiting to live?
  • I have financial limitations. Can I still live deliberately when I don’t have a lot of money?
  • Is life simply a series of cosmic events that I react to, respond to, resolve, or run from?
  • Is there a place in Scripture that confirms living deliberately? Thoreau was a transcendentalist; I’d rather not delve into living deliberately without Biblical support for the concept.
  • What impact does technology have on my ability to live deliberately?
  • How can I preserve what I experience this year?
  • What is my purpose for being here and how can I align my life with that purpose?
  • What are the keys to living deliberately?

You probably have your own questions and anxieties. Don’t be afraid of them. Write them down and let’s learn together. I’m anxious to make 2014 even more amazing than 2013!

Here’s my first opportunity to live deliberately:

Photo by Donna Tallman

Photo by Donna Tallman

There’s a hill near where we are living that has been antagonizing me ever since we got here. It’s an old dumping ground for fill-dirt complete with intense altitude, incline, and moguls. Whenever I look at it I wonder how many times I could run up the face of it, but that’s insane.  #1) I don’t run, and #2) I hate exercise, but the hill won’t release me. Yesterday, I went over and took pictures of it hoping to stop its antagonism, but it’s only gotten worse. (BTW the picture has managed to conveniently conceal the hill’s most formidable qualities!)

I may have to run up there today to shut it up once and for all. I’ll let you know what happens…

What will you do today to live deliberately?

© Copyright, 2013 by Donna Tallman.

* Considering Jesus was published in October of 2013 to give to groups I speak to or people I meet along the highways and byways of life. Because I am not business-minded, it is unavailable for purchase online at the moment. I will let y’all know when I get that sorted out.

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