Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Holdin' and Foldin'

Some of you asked me about the rest of the "Texas Hold'em" 'Treat, so I thought I'd take a couple more posts to give you the Reader's Digest version . . . Here are some highlights from the "Knowing When to Hold'em and Fold'em" session (and my apologies up front for the fonts and spacing being all goofy!):

Remember how I told you that in my misspent youth with the Fighting Blue Hens, playing poker, for me, had nothing to do with winning? Obviously, I never really did catch on to the whole knowing when to “hold’em” aand “fold’em” thing back then.

Let’s look for a minute at the traditional poker player's definition of holdin' and foldin':

holdin’ ‘em v. what you do with your cards when you have a winning hand -- or when you think you can convince the other players you have a winning hand -- while you continue to invest into the pot in order to see the game through to the end and to claim your winnings.

foldin’ ‘em v. what you do with your cards when you’re holding a hand with which you believe you cannot win; when you fold, you stop investing in the pot, and you “walk away” – you quit playing in order to limit your losses.

Before we redefine what it means to "hold" or "fold" our cards, let's agree on what our cards are, exactly.

Our "cards" are actually a variety of things, some of which are not things at all. Our cards represent those situations and circumstances that Papa brings into our lives (or sometimes allows into our lives). They represent our gifts and talents, our faults and foibles, our strengths, our weaknesses, the seasons of our lives, the relationships we’ve inherited or sought out and cultivated with family and friends (as well as the other relationships that we seem to fall into or “get stuck with”).

Now before you start your list of what you want to "hold" and what you're eager to "fold," let's look at what those terms mean to us in this humble little study:

to hold’em v. to partner up with Papa God in a way that requires us to take an obviously, intentionally pro-active (hands-on, no pun intended) approach to dealing with (again, no pun intended) a situation, season, or relationship. This can be an exhilarating experience . . . or it can be exhausting or terrifying or joyful or heartbreaking or even a combination of all of those things. But the bottom line is that no hand we’re dealt is a surprise to Papa, and there is no hand that He cannot or will not use for His honor and glory – and our good – when we play out the hand as His Spirit leads. (Our problem is that we don’t always define “good” or see “good” the way Papa does.)

I can hear some of us groaning right now: Gosh, I guess that means I'll never get to fold! Even when I’m holding the losing-est hand anyone could possibly have!

Not necessarily! Read on:

to fold’em v. to partner up with Papa God in a way that requires us to take an intentionally quiet, discreet approach that most often will involve the act of prayer alone. To every other action on your part, God will say, No. Sometimes, Not now. But usually, No. This is rarely an exhilarating experience or a joyful one. It is most often a combination of the other adjectives – exhausting, terrifying, heartbreaking, and all combinations thereof. (Oh, and let’s not forget, at best, frustrating.) Still, the bottom line is that no hand we’re dealt is a surprise to Papa, and there is no hand that He cannot or will not use for His honor and glory – and our good – when we play out the hand as His Spirit leads. (Our problem is that we don’t always define "good” or see “good” the way Papa does.)

How in the world do we know

when to hold’em and when to fold’em?

If I had the perfect answer for that question, then I'd be preaching at First Baptist Houston on Tuesday evenings instead of Beth Moore.

The truth is that sometimes we don’t know. And other times, we are so sure that not even a 9.5 earthquake could shake us from what we’re positive is the right move.

As I’ve heard Beth Moore, herself, say about such matters (and as I’m sure you can attest from your own personal experiences) it takes practice. Practice at listening to the Spirit, at virtually resonating with the Spirit. And even then, there are times when you won’t know for sure how to play your hand until you take a step, in faith, toward holdin’ or, perhaps foldin’, and you then sense the Spirit’s undeniable approval or a nudging in a different direction. And sometimes it’s not even having a “peace” about your choice as much as it is about feeling a distinct “unrest” about the opposite choice.

Oddly enough, this is often when you can rely on the some of same strategy that you chose when you didn’t want to even ante up in the first place:

1. Read and Pray – Choose to communicate with Papa by reading His words and by pouring out your heart to Him and listening for His response.

2. Obey and PlayChoose to stay invested in the mission, playing out your hand as Papa leads, even when you’re tempted to “hold” because you want to “DO SOMETHIN’ EVEN IF IT’S WRONG!” or when you’re tempted to “fold” just because it feels “safer” and easier.

3. Let Papa Purvey – And then, again, rely on Papa to provide what you need to finish the game, whether it’s emotional resources, spiritual or physical resources. (And NOTE: Sometimes Papa’s resources are those godly brothas and sistas with whom you already rub hearts. Ask my brothas and sistas, and they'll tell you that my own motto is “What good is your family if ya can’t use ‘em!”)

Closing Thoughts

On Holdin’ and Foldin

1. Neither holdin’ nor foldin’ is a “better” option. I’ve learned the hard way that holdin’ when you should fold is just as disastrous as the reverse. After all, praying is NOT “sittin’ back and doin’ nothin’.” It’s hard work. (And I’ve learned up-close and personal that when all you can do is pray, that’s enough!)

2. Be ready to “shift” your game plan, if the Holy Spirit leads you to. Just because Papa starts you off in “fold” mode doesn’t mean He will keep you there. Prayer may change things to the point where you are later called into action. And the opposite is true, as well. You may be going gang-busters, and suddenly hear Papa say, That’s enough for now. Step back. Fold. Pray.

3. And don’t let the fear of making a mistake or “losing” keep you from getting in the game. In the words of Sandi Patty,

In heaven’s eyes, there are no losers.

In Heaven’s eyes, no hopeless cause.

Only people like you, with feelings like me,

Amazed by the grace we can find in Heaven’s eyes.”

Grinnin' and playing,


PS Tomorrow I'll finish this up and then get back to my "usual" preachin’ bloggin’ . . .


  1. OK, I've anted up and now I'm "holdin and foldin".

    My question, to you is, how do I hold ALL my cards?

  2. Wow...what great posts I have missed! I had to go all the way back to read from the beginning. I think sometimes we just get stuck...because neither holdin or foldin seems the right thing to do.
    Fear of failing...ourselves, others but mostly fear of failing God.
    Can't wait to hear the rest!
    Love it!

  3. Hi Cute Pam!

    Kenny Rogers had absolutely the breadth and spirituality of what he sang about--Right?:):):)

    Fun and insightful post! Great metaphor Pam!



  4. I want to hold all my cards right now. I want to go silent. I know that when we are suppose to be brave because it is all gonna be ok...we should but I just am frozen. I have NO poker face. I feel defeated and I know I'm suppose to play the game until the end. I fold...

    there is always another hand.

  5. http://heatherbullard.typepad.com/heather_bullard_collectio/2010/04/rachel-ashwell-visit-big-giveaway.html#comment-6a00d83451be3369e201347fe61b6e970c

    love the keep calm and carry on tie back that has been stamped onto muslin!!

    So glad to have see ya!!