Monday, May 8, 2017

Learning to Rest {Part 1}

Consumer Relationship
Give = Get

Convenant Relationshp
Give = Nothing in return

Can  I do relationship this way?  Jesus does!


As I've thought about my relationships in the past, the way I related to the people I called my friends, I have been disappointed in what I found.  I have always desired a TRUE friend, I didn't have many of those.  I can remember calling my mom from my "christian" college and complaining that I didn't have a best friend, desiring to have someone to call BFF.

If I'm going to be honest, I didn't know how to be a friend.  I was always looking for something in return.  Seldom did I just enjoy the company of another person.  There was usually some type of transaction taking place.  Of course, at those times I didn't see how American consumerism had crept into my relationships.  I wanted affirmation, understanding, help, sometimes a listening ear.  I didn't really care about what the other person needed as long as I got what I needed.

I often wondered why other women seemed to have all these friends from high school and college but I didn't.  After all, I was a Christian and if anyone knew about being a good friend it was Jesus.  Of course, the brand of Christ follower I was didn't give much credence to the Jesus is Love message.  It was more about Jesus "saving" you.  I was supposed to be "an example".  Of what, I'm not even sure now.  But being a good example to other people puts a lot of pressure on a person.  As a result of what I believe was a misconstrued message I became whatever anyone needed me to be.  I helped people a lot and I helped a lot of people.  When the PTO needed a president, I was the first to volunteer.  Cheer Leader coach, pick me and then there was midget football treasurer and concession stand worker and you get the picture.  You let me help you with your thing and I get to be needed!  It was a win win in my estimation.  Except I was blind to how I was living.

At that time of my life I had no idea I was looking for love in all the wrong places.  I understood that concept as a wandering college drop out.  But as a married Mom of two school aged girls? I wasn't looking for love any longer.  I had a husband and a beautiful home and two great kids and a top of the line mini-van for crying out loud.  I also had lots and lots of activities to keep me busy.  I went so fast during those years that I can hardly remember the details.  I wasn't fully present in my own life, I was just passing through to the next appointed practice or performance or church activity.  None of those things are bad in and of themselves, it was just a way I became distracted and addicted.

Slowing down has been a difficult concept and a very gradual process.  Those fast paced patterns of living became so entrenched in my every day that going from school to practice to lesson to appointed weekly church service became a steady rhythm in my life.

Learning how to rest in God's love for me has been no small feat.  It's not something I could have ever accomplished in all my striving and performing and perfectionism.  God approves of me even in this season when I'm doing absolutely nothing very little.  I still go to my job every day but I've pulled away from almost every other commitment and activity for the most part.  I'm not even a member of a church (gasp) and I don't feel the need to go to a service unless God directs me to do so.  I'm learning REST.  It's going to take more than just a blog post to conquer this sitting with myself, sitting with the desires I have for community and waiting for God to give me what HE desires me to have.

What I've learned so far is that God is good, He loves my questions, He isn't afraid of my doubt, He is faithful to provide and He will never be disappointed in me no matter what decision I make.  People who see me pulling away may not understand and may, as I often have, make judgments based on their limited understanding of my current situation.  I'm okay with that.  What I'm not okay with is continuing to live the remainder of the time I have here on this earth, running at break neck pace to do the next thing that I'm hoping will earn me the love I already have simply by being me.  I'm learning to a new rhythm, rest!

If you happen to stumble upon this spilling of words and something here resonates within your heart, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  By no means do I have anything figured out in this area, it's all trial and error here and I'd love some company if you're so inclined.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Catching Little Foxes {God just puts up with me}

For years I have struggled to believe God loves me.  Some of my struggles come from my family of origin, how we related to one another out of our broken hearts.  Some come from my own doubting, fearful heart that desires perfection and rightly so but only for the purpose of pointing me to Jesus, the only perfect.  But some of my difficulty to believe that God is loving and loves me has been compounded by things I've read or have been preached in my hearing regarding what God is like.

As I was reading this week in Acts, I came upon something that struck me in Chapter 13.  Paul is in the Synagogue giving a word of encouragement to the people.  Here's what the Bible version I was reading reiterated in verses 16- 18

"Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen, The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.  And for about forty years HE PUT UP WITH THEM in the wilderness."  (emphasis mine)

When I read that phrase, "he put up with them", it poked my heart.  Mainly because at times in my relationships I have felt like I was "putting up with" or someone in my life was "putting up with" me.   I knew what those words were communicating; frustration, exasperation, disappointment and other adjectives that carry with them a negative connotation.

As my heart tightened at those words I noticed a footnote number so I glanced down to learn more.
The footnote read:
"Some manuscripts he carried (compare to Deuteronomy 1:31)".  

As per my usual needing to have all the information mind, I looked up Deuteronomy 1:31 which read:

and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, 
as a man carries his son
all the way that you went until you came to this place.

This phrase, as a man carries his son, gives an entirely different perspective to what Paul was trying to describe. Think of the picture being painted.  Imagine in your mind's eye what it looks like for a man to carry his son.  Feel your heart, mind, soul shift as you picture what is happening here?

Paul was reminding the people that day of God's love for them, how he tenderly and gently and lovingly took care of them in the place of their wandering.  And the verses prior to v. 31 in Deuteronomy, Moses says,

"The LORD your God who goes before you, will himself fight for you, 
just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes"
Deut. 1:30

Not only does God carry us in our times of wandering, He fights for us.  Why would I fear to run to him?

For so many years I've believed things about God that just aren't true.  While reading this week through Acts, at first glance, without any further digging on my part, I would have been convinced that God just puts up with me when I fail, when I'm struggling, when I sin against him.  And if I can't trust God will love me when I see my sin, I won't go to Him.  I will distrust God's heart of love and do just like Adam and Eve did in the garden, I'll hide.  I'll stay away fearing punishment and retribution.  

In Psalm 103 David describes God in this way: 

The LORD is merciful and gracious, 
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, 
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
Psalm 103: 8-9

Allow those words to wash over your weary self today. Hear David, the man God describes as "a man after my own heart" speak life into the deepest parts of your heart.  God doesn't just "put up with" us.  God loves us and is gentle, tender, kind and generous.  Believe that truth and it will set you free to not only take all your struggles and the shadowy parts of your heart to God, it will give you courage to make James 5:16 a regular part of how you live in community with your people.  

"Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."




Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sing Your Song

A couple of years ago for Christmas I received this beautiful, soft green leather journal with a bird on it embossed with shiny, gold words that read, "Sing Your Song".  I've picked up that journal a number of times and written in it but for the most part it only contains a few special things, unlike my every day journal.

The phrase on the front, "Sing Your Song" has been a source of angst to some degree.  As a young girl I didn't have anything that I did really well.  I could do lots of things but I didn't seem to excel in one area to the degree of excellence that brought accolades or applause.  My mom would occasionally say, "you just haven't found your niche' yet".  As I grew up I wondered what my "niche" was.

When I picked up that journal a few months ago and read those gold words strewn across the front, my heart knew I had a song, and I would gladly sing it, but I wasn't sure I knew the words.  I want my song to be special, something beautiful and excellent, honestly something that would give my life legitimate purpose.  We all want to be thought of as special and in my mind and heart at times I believe if I can find that one thing, THEN I'll be important or have something special to offer.   The lie I am tempted to believe? That being valuable to God and others revolves around what I do, something I can accomplish, something with a legitimate outcome to be measured.  For years I've believed this lie.

Listen to what Sally Lloyd Jones writes in The Jesus Storybook Bible:


Jesus knew that God would always love and watch over the world he had made ---everything in it---birds, flowers, trees, animals, everything!  And, most of all, his children.

Even though people had forgotten, the birds and the flowers hadn't forgotten -- they still knew their song.  It was the song all of God's creation had sung to him from the very beginning.  It was the song people's hearts were made to sing: 
 "God made us.  He loves us.  He is very pleased with us."

As I held that green journal and read the words Sing Your Song, I wondered what MY song was. Today, as I read these words, my heart melts into tears that run down my cheeks.  I was made to sing the same song as the birds, flowers, trees, animals and every other good thing God created. My life is a song of God's love for me and the pleasure he finds in me.  As I am filled up with this truth, that I'm loved no matter what, there is a shift happening in my heart.  I'm remembering that God created me as a human BEING not a human doing.  My value is safe and secure simply because I am created in the image of God.  Nothing I do can give my heart the legitimacy it craves.  I don't need a niche', I just need to stay tethered to Jesus, my brother, savior, friend and live in the reality that I am enough, because Jesus is Enough.

As God continues to heal my broken heart so I can receive His love, He will continue as well to point me to the truth about my identity.  I don't have to fret about what I do.  I can "do" whatever He leads me to do, because doing from that perspective changes everything. Instead of the doing telling me who I am, I can BE who I am and everything will flow from a place of  rest.  Until we take a good look into our hearts and become aware of where we are striving, as long as we are living for approval, no one will see Jesus, they'll only see our performance.  

If you're wondering about what your life is supposed to be singing to this world, you're welcome to join me and simply sing Jesus Loves Me.  As we believe the words of that song, like little children who trust their Papa, we will begin to be filled up with love so that it spills out all over the people God brings into our lives.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Celebrate LOVE!

February 14th, Valentine's Day.

Will I receive a card or flowers or candy this year?
Possibly from my children or grand children or my mother.

I delight in receiving those gifts but let's be honest, they just don't hold the same type of  sentiment as a gift or special dinner date with the "love of your life".

Three years ago, as I contemplated the stage of life I found myself, I was prompted to write a love note.  As I sat at the computer, the words bubbled up into my heart and spilled out with little thought on my part.  It was as if God whispered how much he adored spending time with me, asserting that no other human's affection would ever come close to the way he loved me.

Our journey to understand and feel the love of God is sometimes lived out faithfully to us by human beings.  
And there are also times when it is not.

 For years the love I sought was a self-serving, consumer love that never satisfied the deep longings in my heart.

As I have allowed access to my heart by the only One who truly knows me, 
He has tenderly cut away the foreskin of my heart
promulgating a healing I wasn't even aware was keeping me from receiving his pure love for me.

I'm wondering if there aren't more women who might need to be reminded of how they are loved.  Here's a letter from God's heart to yours.




My dearest~
You may not receive candy or flowers or be invited out to a fancy dinner by a handsome human this year on Valentine’s Day, and then again you might. Either way, this little note is a reminder that you are infinitely and eternally LOVED and VALUED by the BEST HUSBAND EVER, Jesus Christ your redeemer and the lover of your soul!!
I passionately pursue relationship with you in various unseen ways, wooing you and loving you well, giving you gifts of my love that are perfectly fitted to your unique personality.  

I invite you to spend time with me, 
to enjoy passionate conversation and genuine care in my presence.
 
I promise to give you infinitely more satisfaction and pleasure 
than the most handsome gentleman you have ever known or could ever imagine.  

I love you with a love that is faithful and true, 
unconditional and everlasting, 
WHO could love you better?  

You are a priceless treasure! 

I created you for myself and you are perfected in me!! 

Come out with me tonight, spend time with me, 
allow me tell you how I love you.

Happy Valentine’s Day my love!
Jesus

My prayer is you revel in the deep deep love of Jesus knowing that his never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love is enough!


Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  
Psalm 36:5


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Five Minute Friday {SAFE}


Linking up with Kate Motaung at Five Minute Friday where a group of writers free write for five minutes with no revisions, no corrections, no edits. This week's word, SAFE

Setting the timer, Go:

When I think of the word safe, it describes the way I’ve lived my entire Christian life.  I haven’t taken a risk, not really.  I go to the prescribed place to sit in the pew and listen to the Word preached, talk with some people who look just like me for the most part and go home.  I live in a neighborhood that is diverse but I come and go back and forth from my car to my house in the safest way possible.  I lock doors and keep to myself in order to be “safe”.

This has been a conviction to my heart recently.  I don’t want to live “safe”.  I want to be dangerous for the kingdom of Jesus.  But what does that look like.  How do I move forward into places that don’t feel “safe”.  How do I befriend and connect with the people in my neighborhood that others would consider to be UNsafe.

I say I want to live the way Jesus lived but I don’t actually do it most of the time.  My every day looks pretty much the same as all the people I rub shoulders with on a regular basis.

What would it look like to really trust God with myself, with my time, with my money.  What would it look like if I actually took a risk and walked into the life of someone who wasn’t just like me.  

I know in my head Holy Spirit would meet me there, would enter into that place and time.  Oh that I would begin to live in a way that resembled Jesus more and more.


Oh that I would move from desiring safety to desiring more of Jesus, more of the way he lived and moved while he walked the same earth I’m walking today.  

That I would live reckless abandoned to his love, knowing I am loved and giving that love away to the people who would never walk into my local church.

STOP.

The picture above is part of a journal entry from March 2016. God has moved in my heart over and over this past year to leave the comfort and safety of religious practices and move into relationship with people who look and live differently. I don't do this perfectly or completely but the small changes I'm making as Holy Spirit prompts my heart will add up to something different in a year or two or ten. God works in the small everyday steps to take us from one place to another. He is ordering my steps and I will continue to follow Him.

Are you taking risks or living a safe and comfortable American Dream Gospel life? I'd love to hear how God is moving your heart from safety and comfort into the world around you that might seem unsafe.







Thursday, February 2, 2017

Five Minute Friday {Control}

This is my first time posting to Five Minute Friday.  And I'm almost too late due to untimely circumstances in my family but I made it, just under the wire, I think.

The premise, use the word prompt for the week and write for five minutes without edits or revamping.  This is what I wrote in five minutes about the word Control~

There is no formula with God.  We cannot control how things will go, whether he shows up or speaks to us.  I find myself at times trying to do "just the right thing" to get God to meet me, to earn his favor, to garner a place at his table, to be included in his special chosen few.  When my desire for control shows up here, I cringe every time.  Me Control God?  How ridiculous!

But when my desire to control my adult children comes, I brush that right under the rug of Mother knows best and proceed to take my place on the throne.  All of our efforts to grasp control are feeble attempts to be God.  When I can see with the eyes of my heart in this way, it is easier to open up my hands and receive what the one true God intends for my day, my week, my life and for the lives of those around me.  

Control is an issue for all of us.  It's our attempt to be God. We just aren't always aware of how that desire to be God over ourselves and others manifests itself.

My prayer for me and for you is that we see how, when and where we are clinching our fists in an attempt to control and loosen our grip, ushering in freedom and life.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Perfect? Not Even Close

Piano lessons - I had years of them.  I remember walking the six blocks after school to Mrs. Bennett's little brown house across the way from the little league field for my weekly piano lesson.  I tried to hide my plain brown zippered pouch as I waited for the girl who carried the beautiful blue and green clear plastic tote with the mod flowers to finish her lesson.  The piano seemed to play itself as she laid her fingers on the keys.

As I sat nervously waiting for my lesson to commence, the angst in my heart grew.  I knew I wasn't prepared for my lesson, I hadn't practiced very much the week before. For a little girl who desired to be perfect I didn't seem to grasp the "practice makes perfect" mantra preached by mother each week, at least not when it came to piano lessons.  The Dozen A Day book didn't get more than a dozen a week and Mrs. Bennett's scowl and red pencil dates strewn across the top of the page indicated the unpleasant task of repeating the previous weeks' assignments and my little heart registered "still not good enough".  Oh, how I desired to play beautiful music on the piano.  I just made too many mistakes.  I couldn't play perfectly the first time, it felt impossible to my 4th grade self and so I gave up trying.  I gave up piano.  It never seemed good enough and it was definitely never going to be perfect.

As I read The Nesting Place 40 years later, along with the author's tag line "it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful", something began a shift in my thinking.  For the very first time, it seemed another woman was pulling for me.  She was suggesting a new way.  I didn't immediately love it, although I wanted to.  It wasn't familiar to me, it was a strange and different concept, other worldly even.  No other women that I knew had ever lived out to me that something less than perfect could be good and acceptable, let alone beautiful.  But that truth dumped buckets of refreshing cool water on every dry and thirsty place in my middle-aged, weary soul.

And so I pick up my writing practice again after long months of procrastination and attempt what I wrongly perceive others can accomplish effortlessly.  The good work of practice, continuing on, making mistakes, learning as I go.  What a lovely thing.  My heart still desires perfect, as it was made to by my Father, but the permission I give myself to try, knowing Jesus was perfect so I don't have to be, is a beautiful way to live.


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