Following in a Fog

Following Jesus is hard.

And not just because He asks you to do things out of your comfort zone or because you have to give up going your way to go His.

It’s hard because you are seeking to follow someone you can’t see and frequently that can leave you wondering what in the world you’re supposed to be doing!

You see, when you call the shots it’s easy to come up with a ten year plan.  But once you say, “Not my will, but yours be done” all of a sudden you’ve handed the reigns to someone else.  You’re not in control, and He often doesn’t let you know what the next step is until right as you take it.

That can seem hard.  “I’ve given up everything to follow you!  Why don’t you make it easy?!”

Especially when there’s a decision that needs to be made.  Especially when others are chomping at the bit to know.  And let’s face it, we like to know what lies ahead!

Sometimes even as I’m doing something I’m not even certain if it’s the right thing.  But Jesus says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Did you catch that?  Sometimes it’s not until after you’re moving forward that you hear Him directing you!!!

Can that ever be scary!  Especially if we want to “get it right!”

But following Jesus is less about getting it right, than it is about being with Him.  His ways aren’t our ways!  His thoughts aren’t our thoughts.  While we’re obsessing about what we should be doing, He’s often doing something not even on our radar screen.  He often uses such times of confusion as incredible faith builders.  Will we trust Him to lead us even when it’s foggy?  Even when things are far from clear?

You see, once we realize how much better Jesus’ ways are than ours, it’s easy to slip into following Him with the motive, “I want to follow Jesus so I”ll make the right choice and life will be easier!”   I believe He sometimes allows these times of confusion to refine our motives – “Will you follow me, even when it’s hard?  Even when it means not knowing?  Even when things aren’t clear?”  Welcome to advanced faith building!

Sometimes God leads us by making the next step clear, but sometimes He leads us in the haze, guiding our steps even when we don’t realize it.  Can we follow Him during such times with a thankful heart?  Trusting Him that He really does care, that we haven’t fallen through the cracks, that even His silence can be an act of love?

Trusting Him that even if we choose wrong, He is so able to get us right where we need to be, right when we need to be there?

Or in our frenzy of trying to figure out His will (and He makes clear in Isaiah 55:8-9 the futility of trying to do this apart from Him), do we get mad at Him, frustrated because He isn’t guiding us the way we want Him to?  Or can we continue to rest in the truth of who He is, in everything giving thanks?

During times like this I so appreciate Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

What if my focus should be, “Am I loving God?” rather than “Which decision is right?”

When I am faced with an impending decision and I’m not sure what to do, well, the temptation is always there to treat God like a dog, demanding, “Speak!”  I know I need help to not fall into this trap of disrespect.  I need to pray, but that’s when I feel especially vulnerable.  It’s so easy to obsess about the situation even as I’m praying about it!

That’s when I grab this resource:  What a gift this has been!!!  I fold it into fourths and take it with me as I walk and pray, focusing on who God is.  In the midst of a fog, this is what I need the most – to remember what is true about God’s character.  I can’t even begin to tell you how this helps set my heart at rest… to be reminded He is here, He really does care, He is on the throne, He is wise and good, there is purpose in all He does…

God has promised to guide us.  But He doesn’t always do it the way we’d like or the easiest way.  Can we trust Him to be faithful to His promises even in a fog?

When we do, we don’t just get where we need to be, we also get a major opportunity to grow ~ and bring Him pleasure!  (Hebrews 11:6)

The Joy of Active Learning

What’s the best learning experience you ever had?  What made it so helpful?  Most likely it wasn’t a time where you simply sat and listened to someone.

I am currently taking an art journaling class and it is wonderful!  Every week I learn so much!  But there’s barely any time spent sitting still listening or scribbling notes.  The instructor gives us step by step, direct guidance helping us create a picture similar to one she already fashioned.  As she’s teaching it, we are doing it!  But she also gives us freedom to be creative as we make our own pages.  In the process, are we ever learning new art techniques!  This really is a wonderful way to learn!  And that’s not only true for art journaling classes…

People really do learn best when actively engaged!

Recognizing this, adult learning specialists identify four types of learning tasks:  Inductive task, Input task, Implementation task, and Integration task.  Now that may sound a bit heady, but I have to tell you as I attended a workshop on this today I was amazed to discover my best “one on ones” really do employ all four types of tasks.  Can this ever help to de-mystify why some “one on ones” are so impactful whereas others aren’t.

For example, when I share with someone for the first time how to have a quiet time, there are four key things I do:

1.  First, I ask her to share with me what, if anything she’s done before for a quiet time.  As she describes the different things she’s tried in the past or even what she’s doing currently I always ask, “How is that working for you?” Nearly every one admits to struggling so there is an eagerness to want to learn something that will truly help.

This is one example of an inductive task.  “An inductive task begins with the life and experience of learners and describes their present conception of the topic.  An inductive task sets the stage for learning by showing what the person already knows.  In a well designed inductive task learners are connecting their life-long experience to new content.”**

2.   Then I ask if she’d like to see what’s benefitted me for the past thirty years.  I show her my current quiet time notebook and explain what I do, then give her a notebook so she can write the outline down in a format ready for her to use.   (eg., “Look, Listen, Live It out”)

This is an example of an input task.  “Input tasks invite the learner to grapple with new knowledge, skill or attitudes.  The learner is challenged to do something with this in order to learn it.”**

3.  Next we do a shared quiet time together – this truly is my favorite part!  (For more specifics on this see the article “How to have a Shared Quiet Time” in the Helps section)

This is an example of an implementation task.  “Implementation tasks invite the learner to use the new knowledge, skill or attitude in the learning environment immediately.”**

4.  Finally, I give her a bookmark listing suggested Psalms she can go to for quiet times in the coming week and encourage her to do so on her own.  Sometimes I even encourage her to do with someone else what we’ve done together, helping a friend learn how to have a shared quiet time!

These are both examples of integration tasks. “An integration task invites learners to apply what they have learned to their life and work.  Typically the participant would select a time after the program and agree to send a report to the facilitators when this has been accomplished.”**

As much as possible seek to utilize all four types of tasks each time you meet.  One of the worst things you can do is get together and spend the whole time telling her things!  And while the names may sound daunting, it’s actually very basic – find out what she already knows, share with her something new that can help her and spur her on, do it with her, then encourage her to do it on her own.

And note – there is a best order for these tasks occurring – you don’t want to wait till the end to ask, “By the way, what have you done in the past?!”

Once again I am in awe of the Lord and the way He so faithfully guides when I take Him up on His offer in James 1:5, asking Him for wisdom while preparing to meet with women!  Does it ever bring joy discovering reasons why His ideas work!


**All quotes are copied from a handout by David Dougherty distributed at his “Using Learning Tasks”  workshop given at Navigator Headquarters, October 16, 2013.  More information on these learning tasks can be found in Jane Vella’s book Taking Learning to Task.

What’s Your Concept of God?

In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus tells a fascinating parable.  In this story, the master calls ten of his servants and gives each of them ten minas – a mina was about three months wages – and the master tells them, “Engage in business until I come!”  After the master becomes King he returns to find the first servant doubled what he gave him, ending up with 20 minas, the next servant earned five minas more, but the third servant did nothing.

Why didn’t this guy do anything with what he was given?  What reason did he give?

“I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man…”  Do you see how his concept of his master influenced what he did (and didn’t!) do?!

A.W. Tozer stated, “What comes to our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

Why?  Because it’s not just a matter of thinking!  What we think about God greatly impacts what we do and don’t do!

What is your concept of God?

That can be a fascinating question to ask others.  Once when my husband asked a group of college students, one replied, “He’s like a proctor.  Always looking to see if you’re behaving right and every once in a while coming along, giving you hints to help you not make mistakes.”

Who wants to spend time with a proctor?!  Do you see how key it is to find out what people’s concept of God is? Especially if we are inviting them into a personal relationship with Him.

But this is also true for believers – though we may have more difficulty articulating it.  Thoughts of what our concept should be can often muddy us  recognizing what it is – but much can be discerned from how we live and the choices we do or don’t make.

Whenever  I start meeting one on one with someone this is always a key thing I’m seeking to determine – not necessarily by asking outright, but through observation.  Can this ever give great insight into how to make the best use of our time.

Is she struggling with anger?  bitterness?  or anxiety?  Struggling with wanting to control her life?  Struggling feeling like she needs to be protective of her time, her energy, her resources, herself?

To just say, “stop it!”  doesn’t help!  There is far more going on than the behavior.  In fact, if you focus on the behavior you may very well miss truly being of help discipling her.  Remember the goal in discipling is to help someone learn how to do what she’s said “yes” to!  To help someone learn how to follow Jesus and keep learning from Him in a life-changing, transformational way.

Now it may not always be possible to identify exactly where her concept of God is off – in truth, I’m not sure if this side of heaven anyone ever has a totally accurate concept of God.  But just realizing there’s something amiss that’s hindering her from running in the path of His commands can really help get you going in the right direction – focusing on who the Lord truly is.

One of my favorite ways to do this (because it doesn’t just benefit those I’m meeting with but so fortifies my soul each time I do it!) is to take her to the first chapter of Genesis with colored pencils in hand.  So many times when people think about this chapter either the creation-evolution debate comes to mind or the focus is on what was created.

But if you read through Genesis 1 together highlighting with a colored pencil each time God’s name is mentioned (or a pronoun referring to Him) does it ever become evident this chapter is primarily about Him!  As one friend exclaimed, “He’s mentioned in nearly every verse!”

And I share how God is the main character  in the Bible.  Take any Bible story, for example, David and Goliath – that story isn’t primarily about David or Goliath but about the Lord.  If it wasn’t for Him there would’ve been no story!  Same thing regarding Jonah and the Big Fish!  Without God, Jonah would’ve ended up a tasty meal!

So Genesis really is the Lord introducing Himself.  If you never knew anything about Him but just had Genesis 1 and 2, it’s amazing what you can learn!  Rather than giving a list of attributes, in these opening chapters God lets us see Him in action!  First in all His power and majesty and wisdom creating everything, then through a smaller snapshot revealing how personal and relational He truly is.

So next we read back through Genesis 1 with a different colored pencil in hand, underlining all the verbs that tells us what God does.  Afterwards we take a sheet of paper and make three columns on it.  As we start sharing what we learn about God from Genesis 1, we write each observation down in the first column.  Then we consider what are the implications for our life that He is this way?

Oh how I love doing this with people!!!  It is so beautiful to camp out considering who the Lord has revealed Himself to be and why He’s chosen to reveal this!

Once we’re done I encourage my friend to take time on her own to go back through the list and consider how she has personally experienced the Lord being each of these things and to write out the stories, her stories that come to mind!  What a powerful way to spend extended time alone with the Lord!

Then we close our time praying back and forth through our list of observations,  praising God for who we’ve seen Him to be in Genesis 1 and in that context sharing whatever is on our hearts with Him.

It’s like the old story about counterfeit money – the best way to learn how to identify it is to become familiar with the real thing!  The best way to identify counterfeit ways we think about God isn’t to focus on where we’re off, but to focus, meditate and reflect on who He has revealed Himself to be – both in His Word as well as personally to us through our experiences of Him.

Grace and Truth!

Jesus came from the Father full of grace and truth!  (John 1:14)  Grace and truth are intricately intertwined like strands of DNA.  If you separate one from the other you can really get off base!

For example, the first time I ever did an evangelistic Bible discussion I invited three friends over and we read through the first chapter of Romans.  I thought, “Hey, I’ve heard of people using ‘Romans Road’ to share the gospel – why not start with this book!”  My friends gathered in my dorm room, I gave a Bible to each, and we started reading.  As soon as we reached Romans 1:24…

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. “

My one friend who occasionally went to church and was living with her boyfriend slammed her Bible shut, saying, “I don’t believe this!  You don’t have to believe this to be a Christian!”  Then my other friend said, “I think I like her version of Christianity better than yours!”  And all three of them stood up and walked out!

I was in shock!  I hadn’t even said a word!

Since then I’ve learned this is why it’s so much better to start with the gospel of John – it gives people the opportunity to see grace as well as truth lived out by Jesus.  That is such a powerful combination!

And not just for unbelievers!

This is one of the problems we face when we take isolated verses to focus on.  Even in the “What is a Disciple” study, found in the “Helps” section, if you just read Luke 14:26-33 where Jesus shares requirements for being His disciple they can sound pretty severe, especially if someone has been deeply wounded in her past and struggles to trust.

When Jesus says, “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples” it’s so vital we read that against the backdrop of Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd.  I lack nothing” and Psalm 35:27 “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” or from the New Testament, John 1:16 “From the fulness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” and Philippians 4:19 “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory.”

In Luke 14, Jesus isn’t coldly demanding harsh sacrifices that leave us in the dust!  He’s saying stop trying to take care of yourself, stop relying on yourself.  He’s asking us to do this in the context of trusting Him that He loves us, that He can take better care of us than we can ourselves and will steadfastly, always, not just when we deserve it!

This is why it is so vital young believers get to know who Jesus is!  And that all throughout our lives we keep reminding ourselves who He is!

I love to take people through the study “24 hours with John” or Helene Ashker’s “Jesus Cares for Women.”  It is so critical to learn these truths (and remember them!) about who He is, in the context of seeing Him live out grace as He relates to those around Him. God could’ve just given us a list of truths but instead He blesses us with four accounts where we can see Jesus in action full of grace and truth.

If you’re struggling or those you are meeting with are struggling to give up controlling their lives, by all means go to the Gospels to see Jesus in action.  When you take time to do this, can it ever help build trust in Him!


NOTE;  You can find a pdf of the study “24 Hours With John”  here:

I always like to go through the questions on my own first before meeting with someone.  Depending on where they are coming from  – if I feel a need to keep it more informal, I’ll write the questions in the margin of my Bible.  But if they are more serious in their seeking I will type out the questions to give to them so they can reflect on them after we’ve parted (do not include the answers when you do this!!!  Provided answers kill discussion!).  As time goes on, I will often offer to give them the questions for next week in advance so they can have more time to think about their answers.  One other benefit of giving them the questions – it’s much easier for them to pass this on to others – either to share with friends during the week or later on to know what to do when they meet someone else seeking!  I have done this study countless times and every single time I do I learn more about Jesus!  And does that ever help me keep giving the reign in my life over to Jesus!  This is an ongoing process!  And ongoing input sure can be a HUGE help!

NOTE:  You can purchase a copy of Helene Ashker’s book Jesus Cares for Women here:

You only need one copy of this book for yourself as the study is reproducible – or you can also write the questions in the margin of your Bible.  This is a much shorter study – it only takes 5 weeks to complete – but is it ever a potent one!


Discipling Like Jesus… part 2

So… this is the first time I’ve tried doing a blog in two parts – but I’m thinking there might be some of you who’d enjoy getting to experience first hand a taste of what I do when I’m meeting with someone one on one helping her learn how to disciple others.  I only wish I could be sitting on the couch with you doing this in person!  :0)

To get the full benefit of this, if you haven’t yet read and done part one, go check it out and after reading through Luke 11:1-13 create a chart and answer the three questions:

  1. What can you learn about discipling from this interaction between Jesus and His disciples?
  2. For each observation, consider:  Why do you think Jesus did this?
  3. How could you apply this when you are discipling the women you meet with?

There really is a ton to be learned from this passage!   Here are a few things that stood out to me!


Note this entire discourse begins with Jesus praying.  I cannot stress how vital modeling is in discipleship – it’s not just what you say!  What you do has a much greater impact!  Now Jesus wasn’t doing this just to model for the disciples, but as he prayed, did it ever capture their attention!  As we look at the Scriptures we see it was a way of life for him. Don’t just meet one on one with someone, give them opportunity to see you live out your relationship with the Lord in your daily life.


And note this discussion was prompted by the disciples.  They observed Jesus doing this as well as John teaching his disciples and they were curious.  People learn things much better when it’s something they are interested in and want to learn.  That’s not to say there aren’t times when it’s important to cover things they may not have thought about before.  But when possible, taking time to discover what someone is curious about and focusing there can really increase the impact of the lesson.


Note how Jesus begins giving them something simple and organized, a model they can easily remember. This is so impactful.  This doesn’t include everything Jesus ever taught on prayer.  He didn’t feel like he had to cram all that could be learned into one lesson!  But is it ever a great way to start!

This is why I love to use the Look, Listen, Live it out model for teaching someone how to have a quiet time.  Not only is it easy for them to remember the next day, but it’s also easy for them to remember so they can pass it on to someone else!

There’s a fascinating book called Making Things Stick that explores how to present information in ways people will remember.  This book stresses, keeping things simple and organized can really help!  As my friend Dave Hawes says, “The more organized something is, the more passonable it is.”  and not just from you to her, but also for her to pass onto others!!!

For example I was doing a sexual purity video and had nine practical suggestions for how people who are struggling can experience victory in this area of life.  Who can remember nine suggestions?!  So I asked the Lord if He’d give me an idea for how to communicate this in a way that would stick and He brought to mind the three parts of the briar:  roots, stem, and flower.  So using a large picture of a briar, I shared three suggestions for each of the three parts!  Did that ever stick!  (no pun intended! :0)


Note Luke 11 wasn’t the only time the Lord taught the disciples about prayer.  In Matthew 6:5-14 we see the Lord teaching the disciples to pray using this model again.  Repetition is so valuable!  Don’t just teach something once and then move on, assuming she got it.  Periodically coming back to go over something, teaching it in a bit of a different way can be so helpful!

Note in Luke 11 Jesus only teaches part of this model for prayer – in Matthew 6 we see an expanded version.  But in Luke 11 Jesus spends more time talking about the parts He does present.


So first he teaches them part of a simple model, then he takes time to help them understand.  He starts with the whole, then breaks it down focusing on one key part at a time.

And He seeks to help the disciples understand the character of who they are praying too as He does this.  Just as in the Bible the main character is always God, so in your one on ones let Him be the focus.

And it’s important the one you’re meeting with understands what’s not being said, as well as what’s said.  You want to try and anticipate ways the enemy might try to twist what you’re teaching and get her off track.  For example, after Jesus instructs the disciples, “ask and it will be given to you,” He goes on to explain God only gives good gifts.  So when you ask you will receive something, and it will be good!  But you may not get exactly what you’re asking for!

Do you see how the enemy can have a heyday with this if someone is expecting to always get exactly what she asks for?


And then Jesus ends highlighting the best thing they can ever ask for and be given!  Be sure to end your explanation highlighting what is most important and giving her ideas for how she can practically apply what you’ve just taught her in her daily life.

Note Jesus doesn’t exhaust them with a long dissertation on this subject.  He briefly teaches them a simple model.  Then explains what they need to know to get started and be motivated to start.

Now we don’t know what happened next.  Scripture just gives us brief snapshots, so I’m going to take the liberty to add on two more things that I’ve observed from other passages of Scripture that help me finish well when I’m meeting with someone.

7.   DO IT WITH THEM!   (Luke 9:13-17)

I have found it so helpful to not just tell people how to do something, but when I take time during our time together to do it with them – that’s when it really sticks!  This provides a great launch for getting them started!

For example, when sharing the Lord’s prayer with someone, I don’t just tell them about it, I pray through it with them!  And not rotely – remember it’s a model, not just a verbatim prayer to pray!   And as we pray through it, we take turns, with me going first, praying one phrase at a time, expanding it a bit to share what’s on our hearts that relates to each phrase.

8.  GIVE AN ASSIGNMENT  (Mark 6:7)

And then I end with an assignment such as, try praying through this model once a day for the next week (which is something I seek to do at the start of every day in my own life, right after I wake up each morning before I get out of bed and truly have found to be life changing!).

This is where the rubber meets the road – why you’re sharing this with them in the first place… so they’ll do it!

Incorporating anything new into one’s life rarely just happens!  That’s why discipleship is so helpful in the first place!  Be sure you consider not just what you’re going to tell them, but how to intentionally spur them on towards love and good deeds!

And as you do, can following Jesus’ example ever help!

Discipling Like Jesus… part 1

One of the best ways to learn what to do with someone when you are discipling them is to look at Jesus’ life and note what he taught his disciples.  There is so much to learn from His example – not only about content but also how to pass treasure on.

For example, consider Luke 11:1-13…

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

             “Father, hallowed be your name.

             Your kingdom come.

3              Give us each day our daily bread,

4              and forgive us our sins,

                        for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

             And lead us not into temptation.”

 5   And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

In a recent one on one I read this passage with a friend, then asked her to take a few moments and answer the following questions (it’s helpful if you create a chart with three columns, with one question from below heading each column):

  1. What can you learn about discipling from this interaction between Jesus and His disciples?
  2. For each observation, consider:  Why do you think Jesus did this?
  3. How could you apply this when you are discipling the women you meet with?

It’s pretty fascinating if you take the time to do this!  Why not take a few moments right now and dive in?!  ;0)