Archive | July 2014

Showing me

I must have been around nine or ten years old when from the backseat of the car my eyes were captivated by the synchronized waves that rolled through a field of tall grass as the wind blew.  It was magnificently beautiful to me and I soaked in as much of this display as I could before it disappeared, our car moving on to whatever destination was ahead.  I kept my face turned to the window long after we had passed that field as my eyes had filled with tears that I could not explain.  I dared not let anyone see, lest the question be posed “Why are you crying?”  “I don’t know” was not an acceptable answer for my father, and if these words were to escape my lips I knew what he would say.   “Well, dry it up!”

I experienced this intense, undefined emotion throughout my childhood and on into adulthood whenever I was exposed to what were to me spectacular visions of our world – a night black as coal except for the millions of stars glimmering above, the beams of light that would burst forth from behind a cloud, the quiet of a deer grazing in the stillness of an early morning fog.  These images struck a chord so deep within me that I found it unsettling.  I did not know what to do.

You see, for me, emotions were promptings to action.  Happy = smile and/or laugh.  Sad = pout (without any visible signs that you were doing so, if possible) and/or cry (if you dare).  Angry = find someplace alone where you could blow off a little steam with a scream or a stomping fit and/or sneak in a punch on an unsuspecting sibling (again, only if you dared because you were reeeallllyyy mad).  But this emotion that would flood me in those moments had no description and I was at a loss as to how to appropriately respond.  What was this and what was I to do with it??  With no answer, I simply tried to do with it the same thing I did with all other emotions not listed above – I stuffed it down so that I neither fully experienced it nor understood it.

The foothills of the Ouachita Mountains where I moved as a young adult seemed only to fuel this fire within.  While not a large mountain range like the Rockies, this topography overloaded my senses with its snow-capped peaks in the winter and brilliant foliage in the fall.  Every road seemed to offer a winding roller coaster ride through scene after scene.

Atop the highest peak in this area was a state park with a cozy lodge.  The drive to the lodge was an experience in itself with the numerous vistas upon which you could park the car and catch the amazing views that spanned for miles.  The park had a hiking trail around the top of the mountain and along this trail was a lookout named Lovers Leap.  This particular point did not appeal to me because of the legends of romantic tragedy normally associated with this toponym, but because it had the perfect layout of very large rocks forming a spacious, level place to sit.  Perched on this ledge at over 2600 feet the view was breathtakingly beautiful as you could see the mountain range extend seemingly without end, look down upon the valley below, and watch the eagles fly effortlessly in the midst of it all.  Oh, how I loved this place.

I sought refuge in this beauty often as, at that time, life below had become very messy.  When I felt I was sinking in my troubles as if they were quicksand, I would run to the safety of this mountain and I would sit with God.  It was there, once again overwhelmed by emotion, that I asked Him what it was.  Very simply he answered “Your yearning to praise Me.”

The whole earth is full of His glory.  Isaiah 6:3

He had been showing me Himself all my life.

Learning to praise Him in my quiet time was easy.  Learning to praise Him in corporate worship was an evolving process as I learned how to freely express myself in concert with other believers.  But praise at this level was different.  It required nothing more from me than the acknowledgement that He is.  There were no words sufficient to describe the depth at which my spirit connected with Him in that moment with the purest sense of worship I had ever known.

The scriptures are replete with expressions of praise to God and I wholeheartedly believe that we are to give voice to those scriptures often, for there is great power in praising our God with our lips.  But when His Spirit takes you into the depths of worship prompted by whatever He chooses to use, go with it.  Don’t suppress it because you don’t understand or don’t have a response.  There is a place of praise and worship that He wants us to simply experience, because it’s not about us.

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Love wins!

In a brief exchange with a friend this morning, we quickly identified a common struggle.  Even with years of experience behind us, we still find ourselves lacking when it comes to certain relationships.  We long to relax and enjoy the fellowship with those dear to us, but often these exchanges leave us feeling as if something was left undone and unsettled in a vague, not-so-sure-what-it-is kind of way.  If we are not careful, we beat ourselves up over our perceived deficiencies, and promise ourselves we will do better next time.  I shouldn’t have said this.  I should have said that.  Why did I do THAT?  

We’ve spent the better part of our lives as followers of Christ and have seen amazing changes in ourselves.  We are leaps and bounds from where we began, so how is it that we still struggle here?  Both the time spent with our loved ones and the parting are bittersweet, as we wish things were just a little different.  If only they could hear our hearts.

We weigh our success in these relationships on the scales of our personalities and judge them by our abilities, or lack thereof, to adequately express ourselves on one side of the scale, and their responses to us on the other.  We imagine this scale rocking up and down, hoping to find it stop perfectly balanced leaving us eye-to-eye, understanding finally achieved.   Someday.  When we get it right.

God quickly reminded me that we are weighing our lives on the wrong scales so often.  Some are weighing the success of their lives based on their work or their outward appearance.  Others are weighed by their bank accounts or their good deeds. Still others are looking at the scales of religion or titles achieved to measure success or failure on any given day.  But these are all faulty scales.

A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights of the bag are His work – established on His eternal principles.  Proverbs 16:11

With all the wonderful things we may be able to accomplish in this lifetime, especially the things we do for Him, they will all be measured on one scale:  Love.

If I can speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have prophetic powers and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  Even if I dole out all that I have to the poor in providing food, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

When the weight of God’s love is put on the scale of all our relationships, He assures a right balance.  Our relationships still require our efforts to develop and grow into what He wants them to be.  But none of the efforts we employ will remain on the scale if they are not saturated in and motivated by His love.

So this morning I encouraged my friend and myself.  I reminded us both that while the personalities in all our relationships may still be a little out of sync , those dear to us know that we love them and in the end love wins.

 

 

The best teachers

“Are you excited about going to the 3rd grade?” I asked.

“Yes!” answered my granddaughter.

“I wonder who your teacher will be…”

Her mom speaks up “Just be glad you won’t have Mrs. So-and-so!”

Oh yes… Mrs. So-and-so….       😦

Growing up with the nature of a “rule follower”, a strong respect/fear for authority, and a deep dislike for any kind of confrontation, I didn’t buck the system when my child was placed with the less than stellar teachers.  I knew that she was smart and would be able to complete the work assigned to her, so when she got the difficult teachers I tried to encourage her as much as possible and remind her that school was not about fun, it was about learning (I sounded like my father…).  I gave the teachers the benefit of the doubt that they held the positions based on their merits even if they were not well liked. But I watched her interests wane as year after year she was assigned to classes with teachers that were not the best.  She envied her friends that were enjoying their classes.  She effortlessly earned decent grades, enjoyed the social aspects of the school environment, and highly celebrated the day it was all over.   It could have been so different….

My favorite teachers were the ones that I felt truly cared about me.  Other teachers were tolerated as I completed the assignments and stored the facts away in the recesses of my brain, but I didn’t learn all that I could have under their tutelage.  Then of course there were the bad teachers.  Like the one who would lay her head on the desk and sleep during our time with her.  She was unpleasant and difficult to understand as she seemed to mumble when she spoke.  (I now strongly suspect she had a drinking problem.)  We enjoyed her class only because we were happy with the opportunity to quietly play as she slept, being careful not to wake the angry beast.

The best teachers first build confidence in the student’s ability to learn.  They are encouraging and patient, trustworthy with the facts, and strategic in laying a strong foundation that can be built upon year after year. They are not afraid of the hard questions and will endeavor to lead the student to understanding.  They will correct mistakes made, both in the assignments given and behaviors observed, but will do so with kindness.  The hunger of a student eager to learn is the pinnacle of satisfaction for them and they will move mountains to not only satisfy that hunger, but to also make them hungry for more.  The best teachers love to teach and they love their students.

I have told you these things while I am still with you.  But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things.  He will bring to your remembrance everything I have told you.   John 14:25-26

The early church dealt with the same problems we have – teachers that disagreed, false prophets, and leaders who denied Jesus as the Son of God.  They may not have had the internet where they could post their beliefs for the world to see, but the synagogues and temples were central attractions of that day.  Their voices were loud and their messages spread rapidly throughout the cities.  Jesus knew His followers would be bombarded with misinformation and the temptations to depart from His truth.  Yet He was leaving.  He wouldn’t be walking with them much longer and would not be there to sort the truth from the lies for them.

If you abide in My word – hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them – you are truly My disciples. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.  John 8:31-32

A familiar scripture, even to unbelievers.  Erase from your mind how the world has used those words and read them again.  Jesus said if we will abide in His word, His teachings, and direct our lives accordingly, we WILL know the Truth.  We do not have to fear wrong teaching, but in order to identify the Truth, we must be devoted to studying and listening.  He never intended that we only rely on other people to hear what He has to say.  He wants to speak to each of us individually and lead us in His ways.  John wrote to the church:  …His anointing teaches you concerning everything and is true and is no falsehood….  1 John 2:27

He also knew how much we would need each other to develop and grow.  We are instructed to “not neglect the assembling together”  (Hebrews 10:25).   We need to talk about what we are reading and what we are learning.  We have to be willing to disagree at times, but continue to come together to “…watch over one another, studying how we may stir up to love and helpful deeds and noble activities… (Hebrews 10:24)

We have been assigned to the best Teacher.  He has clearly told us we CAN learn.  He is not afraid of our hard questions and will lead us to understanding.  He corrects us when needed, always with kindness.  He delights in our desire to know more and will take us as far as we want to go in discovering the treasures of knowing God, moving mountains if need be.  He is never boring, and while satisfying our hunger with the truth of His word, He stirs up hunger for more.  He loves to teach and He loves His students.

With all that He will teach us, He will never stray from the foundation He laid upon which every command He has given is based:

Love Him with all our hearts, and love others like He does.

 

 

A life poured out

Driving through the traffic on what felt like the 100th errand I had run that day, I could feel it.  The tentacles of resentment winding tightly around me threatening to suffocate.  Fighting back the tears, I replayed in my mind all that I needed to be doing, all that I had planned to do, all that I wanted to be doing.  If anyone asks me to do one more thing it will push me over the edge!  Fatigue had been my companion for several days, which only added to my frustration, and when the enemy’s invitation to the pity party arrived, I responded by accepting.  I didn’t stay at the party long, but we all know that any time spent there is too long.

Quiet times filled with prayers of surrender typically have me envisioning my life spent in noble endeavors that are worthy of the martyrdom I sometimes feel.  Sacrificing my time and efforts to teach others about God, working to relieve the suffering of the poor and the homeless, blogging exhortations and encouragements to build up the body of Christ – these are the things I am called to do!!  Help me, Lord!  If everyone would just leave me alone, I could do what I’m supposed to do!!

Kay.

Yes, Lord.

Do you love me?

Yes, Lord.

Do you trust me?

Yes, Lord.

Will you do whatever I ask?

I want to, Lord.

Will you pour your life out for Me?

Yes, it is my deepest desire to live my life for You, Lord.

Will you pour your life out in the mundane if I ask you to?

I am not quick to respond to this question He asks.  I hesitate.  I know my heart is not hidden from Him and I cannot lie.  I do not want to spend my life only doing the mundane, every day activities.

When I’m finally back at home, I have just enough time to prepare for bible study.  When I arrive at the church, I realize that we’ve had interruptions in our schedule for a couple of weeks and I’d neglected to send a reminder email that class would be resuming.  I’m early and once I’ve settled in I have time to myself while waiting to see if anyone will remember to come.  I’m thinking about my day and this phrase plays over and over in my mind:  a life poured out.

Kay.

Yes, Lord.

Remember Who I am.  Remember that I knew the events of this day long before they touched your life. Remember that My Son came to give you life, a good life that you would enjoy.  If you will do whatever I ask you to do and keep your focus on Me, I can do amazing things with even the everyday, mundane activities of your life.  I can cause you to enjoy every moment spent with Me.  I will use you to bless others and accomplish My purposes every day, and you’ll be satisfied if you keep your eyes on Me.

I repent.  I change my mind and remember a verse I memorized years ago, but have strayed from:

Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

 

 

 

 

Heavenly places (the complete post….)

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Lounging on a white sand beach watching the sun set in all its beauty over the expanse of the ocean.  That’s my heaven on earth.  I love the sound of the ocean waves, the quiet of the morning sunrise, and the array of colors displayed as that fire slowly sinks into the waters of the evening.  I’ve been blessed to relax on more spectacular beaches than I had ever dreamed possible in my youth.  Of all the many wonderful places to see on this earth, nothing compares to this experience thus far.  The magnificence of what God has created stirs a praise so deep there are no words to express it.  Yet as I sit in His presence admiring His handiwork, His presence is so tangible no words are needed. He knows.  He delights in these moments with me and fills the experience with peace that truly passes all understanding.

Once we traveled with friends to a wonderful resort in Mexico.  As we walked back to our rooms one afternoon we saw a family at the outdoor concierge desk as they were checking out.  A young boy was dejectedly waiting for the process to be completed, his head hung low with the disappointment of having to leave and return home. We paused to speak with him and asked him if he had enjoyed his stay.

“Oh yes!  But now we have to go home.”

“Where do you live?” we asked.

With the saddest tone he replied

“The Bahamas.”

Seriously?  Oh, how sad to have to return home to the Bahamas!!!  We walked away laughing at a child’s perspective of what had become boring and common to him.

Sometimes as Christians we aren’t that different that this little boy.  Sometimes we get bored with following Jesus.  We go to church and sing the songs and return home leaving the worship experience behind.

Jesus took time to get away.  He had crowds clamoring for His attention everywhere He went.  He sometimes retreated to the mountains, other times to the sea.  He knew He needed time to be refreshed.  Perhaps while He was busy with the mission God had for Him, He was also thinking about the next time He would be able to get away with God.  Yet He enjoyed every day of His life, no matter what He had to do because He knew that God was with Him.

…He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Ephesians 2:6

I don’t pretend to understand all that it means to be seated with Christ in the heavenly places.  But if by my confession of faith in Him He has saved me from all sin and made me alive together in fellowship and union with Christ, I want to take my seat!!  I don’t want to forget the wonder of being born again, the magnitude of the grace He has showered over me, or the promises He gave to me that my life would be more than I could have ever imagined – in Him.  Taking my place seated with Him will most surely give me a new perspective on every aspect of my life, every day.

Need a new outlook on your life?  Take a seat!

I made my sister cry

On purpose.  I knew this day was coming.  I planned what I would do and what I would say, knowing full well it would make her cry.  And I did it anyway.

This is not the first time I’ve made her cry.  Much of our childhood was spent sharing a bedroom.  We were oil and water, morning bird and night owl, neat freak and messy bessie, forced to endure the limitations of homes with fewer bedrooms than the number of inhabitants.  She has always been the more emotional between the two of us, and since sensitivity to the feelings of others wasn’t something I was born with, you can imagine the outcome of many of our sisterly interactions in our shared space.   Tears flowing and me wondering…what?…why is she crying?…

One particular day playing outside, we began squabbling.  Hands on her hips and knowing that our parents forbid physical fighting, she cockily dared me to hit her.  This opportunity simply could not be passed without action.  Normally fearful of getting into any trouble, I think the fact that I socked her in the eye surprised us both!  She ran in the house crying, of course.  A few short moments later I was summoned in as well.  I received a stern rebuke for my actions with no consideration of the logic in my explanation that I had only done what she had told me to….

Other times I inflicted pain without invitation.  I remember biting her once (I was definitely old enough to know better) and another time practicing my skills in popping a wet towel.  I really didn’t mean to pop her that hard….  Longer lasting were the words spoken that pierced the heart and made her cry.

It took me many years to understand her tears, to understand why we were so very different, and to accept us both as we are.  Occasionally her tears still surprise me.  But today I was ready.  She kept her face turned away, not wanting me to see, but I knew.  Yet unlike the tears through the years that were provoked by childish unkindness or grown-up misunderstandings, today’s tears were different.  They were provoked by love.

I may not be that great with overt displays of affection or flowery words that convey the depths of the love I feel, but I know my sister.  I know what will touch her heart and what she treasures.  So today I gave her love the best way I know how.  I made my sister cry.

 

 

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