Thursday, April 17, 2014

If I Were Praying the Greatest Prayer in the World

excerpts taken from this Desiring God Holy Week post...

It is Thursday, the night before Jesus’s crucifixion. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prays the greatest prayer in the world. What hung in the balance was the glory of God’s grace and the salvation of the world. The success of Jesus’s mission to earth depended on Jesus’s prayer and the answer given. He prayed with reverence and his request was given. 

I'm trying to put myself in his place and imagine my response if I asked God to take that cup and the angel showed me it was necessary for me to drink of it. I've asked for much less to be taken away and wanted to have a temper tantrum when it didn't. But Jesus in fact chooses to pray two more times and asks for strength to drink the cup. Jesus did not go on praying for the cup to pass. He went on praying for success in drinking it.

"This was the greatest act of obedience that Christ was to perform. He prays for strength and help, that his poor feeble human nature might be supported, that he might not fail in this great trial, that he might not sink and be swallowed up, and his strength so overcome that he should not hold out, and finish the appointed obedience.

He was afraid lest his poor feeble strength should be overcome, and that he should fail in so great a trial, that he should be swallowed up by that death that he was to die, and so should not be saved from death; and therefore he offered up strong crying and tears unto him that was able to strengthen him, and support, and save him from death, that the death he was to suffer might not overcome his love and obedience, but that he might overcome death, and so be saved from it." {Jonathan Edwards}

Evidently, by the time Jesus was done praying in Gethsemane, the Father had not only made clear that there is no other way than the cross, but also that this way would succeed. The Lamb would have the reward of his suffering. When Paul says, of Jesus’s resurrection, “Therefore, God has highly exalted him” (Philippians 2:9), the “therefore” refers to Jesus’s unwavering obedience unto death. God saved Jesus from death because he was obedient. His prayers were answered.

If Jesus had not been obedient unto death, he would have been swallowed up by death forever and there would be no resurrection, no salvation, and no future world filled with the glory of God’s grace and God’s children.

Obedience is the word I take from this. I may not be praying a hard, life changing, it-feels-like-I'll-be-swallowed-up prayer today, but I know it's around the corner. Whether we feel prepared for what God brings us to or not, we are called to obedience. May I be increasingly growing my love for Jesus now, in the not-so-hard days, so that my response is obedience, because of this great love, when He needs me to drink of the cup to fulfill His plan. Yes, Lord. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Part Five of my Journey to my Calling: How Crippling Fear Confirmed my Calling

It was the first Monday of January, and only 4 days after I had passed the pre-license real estate course test. I had no idea what to expect but I woke up excited and ready to begin this new season of life as a real estate agent with the number one real estate company in the United States. There was a threat of snow fall and I was concerned that they would cancel the start of my training class at Keller Williams. I’m always in favor of a snow day, except for this day. Thankfully, they did not cancel and I arrived to a class of about 20 other new agents and a lively instructor, John, who is also the assistant team leader of our office. 4 hours later and I couldn’t have been more convinced that this was exactly where I was supposed to be and exactly what I was called to do. That feeling was priceless, and honestly, something I experienced after every single day of training. I was the only person in my training class who had not taken the state license test yet, and everyone was so kind to give me lots of advice after class on how to pass it. Two new friends, one of which failed the test the first four times he took it and the other who failed it three times before passing, offered to bring in all the materials they used to study that helped them finally pass. They had paid hundreds of dollars after all was said and done to take a few crash courses to prepare to pass, and received many different study guides. I was also able to borrow the main book that prepares you for the state test. This was a book I was told I needed to pass the test up front. After receiving a 94 on the course test I was weighing whether it was worth the cost to purchase and was told I probably didn’t need to spend $100 on the book. Without this book and the extra study guides I was able to borrow, I am convinced I probably wouldn’t have passed the test on the first round. I love all the many ways God gives his perfect provision to carry out his plans.

Exactly one week after beginning training, I was scheduled to take my state test. I had  a deep confidence that this was where I was supposed to be, but was still a bit nervous that my recall wouldn’t be strong enough. I’ve had issues with my memory because of my thyroid disease. The information is still in there, but the ability to recall the right information has been a huge issue in the last two or three years. Thankfully, I had my great group of community covering me in prayer, and one of my greatest friends reminded me that God’s memory and recall in perfect! Amen. The test was very difficult. They’ve changed the questions to be very situational and subjective. Out of the four answers they provide, generally two or three of them are correct, but you have to determine which is the most correct. I was told to use ear plugs to quiet all distractions around me, and I got in a zone. I skipped every question I didn’t know the answer for sure the first time and wrote those down in one column on my scrap sheet of paper. I also skipped all the math questions and wrote those in a second column to come back to. Math questions make your brain change the way it thinks, so I was told it’s good to separate them and do them all together at once, so you don’t force your brain to think in different ways back and forth. After three and a half hours, I felt unsure of about 15 questions and I knew if that was true that I probably passed. I submitted my test, took a selfie with the computer camera to verify who I was, and cautiously walked out to the main desk. A lady was waiting by the printer and handed me a certificate with a big grin on her face and a happy “Congratulations!” followed. I was almost brought to tears. It was official. What God called me to, he equipped me for. Soli deo Gloria! I got in my car and immediately called my family and a few friends to share in my excitement, and of course the floodgate of tears ensued.

There were many days during our training when I felt overwhelmed by all of the things I needed to do to start my business. I felt a deep assurance that this was going to allow me to love on people, bring counsel and comfort to a process that is normally stressful and unpredictable, and still explore all of the things I love about business. I was thrilled to get started, but as with any one in a new sales position, I felt ill equipped to begin. John had been leading us through all of the models of how to build a business, how to consult with a buyer and a seller, how to gain listings, etc. We were expected to make at least 10 connections per day (10 actual conversations about our new career, not just 10 phone calls), follow those conversations up with 10 hand written note cards, add 10 new people to our database each day, and preview at least 10 houses on the market each week. I was on board at first, though apprehensive. After several days of calls, I pulled back and told myself I needed to pump the brakes a little. Thankfully, John and Robben hijacked one of our classes to hammer in the importance of these things and accountability for completing them. Later that day I sat down with Robben and she asked me what was causing me not to make my calls, what I was afraid of. After all, fear is normally what cripples one from moving forward. I thought on it for a moment and answered honestly that I was afraid of someone on the other end of the phone giving me a name when I asked who they knew that may need my help buying or selling a house this year. I didn’t feel prepared enough to have a consultation with anyone yet. I can BS with the best of you, but buying or selling a house is one of the biggest financial decisions anyone can make, and I refused to BS my way through the process with anyone. I am just not comfortable doing that. What was Robben’s response? I’m never going to know everything, I’m never going to have all the answers, it’s ok to let my clients know that and to ask for help. She shared a great example with me. When you go to the doctor, typically the nurse comes into the room first. She pulls out your chart and a checklist, if you will. She probes you for details on your current situation. If you’re on top of it and being an advocate for yourself, as you’re discussing these things you have questions that arise. In my particular situation, I may ask about medication for a symptom I’m having and ask the nurse if taking that would have any effects on my thyroid medication. Would I rather her BS her way through it and make up an answer, just so she doesn’t look unprofessional, or would I rather her say, “let me ask the doctor, find the right answer and get back to you?” Definitely the latter. And point taken. Robben also kindly reminded me there was almost nothing I could do wrong that she couldn’t fix. Lastly, she gently said to me, in her soft, motherly-love tone of voice, “Karen, I think you’re just going to have to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Woosh! Yes. I’m so thankful for the leadership I have around me. They have been so instrumental in reshaping my mindset. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through this process, and there have been many, it’s how important having a positive, encouraging mindset is to being successful. Henry Ford said it well, “Whether you think you, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out. Robben shared this with our class that morning: It is better to be told to wait than to wait to be told. Action takes courage. Inaction comes from fear. Action builds courage; inaction builds nothing. It was time to stop allowing myself to operate out of fear. I heard Jonathan Helser say, “the exact place where you’re hit with crippling fear is the place where you’ve been created to do great things. Insecurity comes against you because when you walk out who God made you to be you make the enemy insecure and vulnerable.” I could not have heard this at a more perfect time. I spent eight months in a waiting season (for this very season) where God spent a great deal of time teaching me about courage. It was time to put feet to all that he had deposited in my heart over that time.

A couple of weeks flew by and I hit another wall mentally. I was having a hard time sticking to a morning routine, and one particular day where my body wouldn’t allow me to get out of bed in time for a continuing education class I wanted to attend, I was beating myself up. In God’s perfect timing, I happened to have a meeting with my coach and mentor that afternoon. I thought about hiding this issue from her, as I’ve faced so much judgement and a lack of understanding from so many people for this in the past. I felt nudged to bring it up, though, and I did. She noticed how down I was, and said I was being too hard on myself. She told me that Gary Keller, the founder of our company, was a low energy person and he has discussed several times how important it is for him to find the right balance in his personal life and career. He starts out his morning with a designated quiet time of meditation, then cooks breakfast for he and his wife each day, and then begins his work day. Without this schedule, his day turns out differently. So Nan asks me, “what is it for you that helps you keep your head on straight and keeps you balanced?” I answered, “time with Jesus. When I start my day focusing on Him, who He is, and who I am in Him, I feel invincible.” So responds, “and did you do that today?” I hadn’t. “Do you think that has something to do with how you’re feeling right now?” Um, yes. For sure. She called me out, y’all. And I’m so grateful.

I know that starting my day with Jesus changes everything. But actually making space for that each day is a different story. After having no consistent schedule for almost a year, I needed help to be disciplined to create that space. Nan then showed me a video on youtube where Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist, discusses the importance of a positive mindset for success. During the video, God showed me that I’ve always been allowed to be average. In all of my jobs, I never had any leaders who really truly cared about my development, personally or professionally. I’m the kind of person who, if given an inch, will take a mile. I’m not particularly fond of this trait, but it’s true. If you give me an inch towards average, I’ll take a mile. Inversely, if you give me an inch to be great, I’ll take a mile towards greatness. No one had ever called greatness or excellence out of me, so I hadn’t given it. Again, it was time to pick up courage and move forward. What you allow to occupy your thinking has a powerful impact on who you are and what you become. If you want your life to flourish and prosper, start by looking at what’s going on in your thought-life. Left unchecked, negative thoughts will take root in your heart and will sabotage your future. In Shawn Achor’s book he says: Because our brains' resources are limited, we are left with a choice: to use those finite resources to see only pain, negativity, stress, and uncertainty, or to use those resources to look at things through a lens of gratitude, hope, resilience, optimism, and meaning. In other words, while we of course can't change reality through sheer force of will alone, we can use our brain to change how we process the world, and that in turn changes how we react to it. Happiness is not about lying to ourselves, or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances. The happiness advantage is about learning how to cultivate the mindset and behaviors that have been proven to fuel greater success & fulfillment. The most successful people are the ones who capitalize on the positive and reap the rewards at every turn. Our interpretation of reality changes our experience of that reality.

On that note, it’s important to remember, most importantly, our identity precedes our behavior. Ephesians 5:1-2 says “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If we live out of a place of knowing we are dearly loved children of God, we will have the ability to mimic, to seek to follow the actions of, God. And the way to truly know yourself as God’s beloved is to spend time with him. Psalms 84:5 “What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, in whose heart are the highways to Zion!” There is a link between our uncompromising relationship with God and the road to a full, stable, flourishing, and overcoming life.

Gosh, I love my coach, Nan. God uses her to get me back on the straight and narrow, and at all the right times. I could write a blog double the length of this one about how grateful I am for the investment she’s already made in me (and that’s saying something)!

The purpose of writing all of this out is so that I can come back at a later date and recount all that God has done in my life and all the details He used to show me His love. I could probably write a story per day of His faithfulness or His loving kindness. From the way He orchestrated my first buyer’s consultation with a couple at my church who couldn’t have been easier to begin with- they knew what they wanted, they didn’t grill me on anything, and they showed me grace even though I was brand new- to my first seller’s consultation with neighbors who allowed me to truly educate them about the market and counsel them through the selling process. Even though neither of those appointments have led to a closing yet, and may end up not moving forward, I see His love and care through the details of each of those situations. The same is true for my first contract I just came under with an investor buyer buying a foreclosure. And how he allowed me to create my LLC at no administrative cost. And how he’s given me some business through being “agent on duty” at my office to take all the random calls or walk ins that day, even though many of the newer agents who’ve taken that duty on other days complain that it was a waste of time. And how he allowed me to receive 1 of maybe 30 or 40 awards out of 250 agents in my office’s 2013 awards ceremony with the “most likely to do the job with little guidance” award. I wasn’t even a part of our office in 2013! And how he allowed me to win a $250 gift card at a broker’s open house that will pay for a training class I wanted to pay for that day before the price went up. The stories go on and on. Jesus is my Father. He’s my provider. He’s kind. He’s faithful. He’s my advocate. He’s my gentle counselor. He fights for me. He’s working on my behalf. He will bring glory to Himself through me because I choose to commune with Him. My heart and vision for my business is to be kingdom minded, to serve every person God connects me to. But out of my time with Jesus over the last month, He continually speaks to my heart that my priority is not building a business. It’s not a certain number of transactions I have on my goal list. It’s not even serving people. My sole priority to spend time communing with Him and the Holy Spirit, and out of that, He will give me the eyes to see the opportunities He has for me to walk in that will afford provision and allow me to serve. Yesterday, the great John Piper reminded me: glorifying God is not something we do after communing with him, but by communing with him. Many deeds magnify the glory of God's goodness, but only if they flow from our contentment in communion with him. As I walk forward into this calling, may I always start from a place of communion with Jesus, and may any deeds He affords me bring glory to His goodness.