Being Intentional with the Essential

The busyness of life so often keeps us focused on the world, our possessions, and our to-do lists. We get thoroughly bogged down and we frequently are blinded to what is essential. I must admit I have been hi-jacked by my to-do list, by the overwhelm of life, or by the want of more material items, etc. This has been the case more than I care to admit.

As I continue to look toward Recalibrating Life in 2019, I want to refocus my lens in order to make it all about what the Lord tells me is essential in living for Him. Too often it is and has been all about me, what I need and want, what will fit into my schedule, what will make me happy. Well, quite honestly, I have found that in the end self-focus is not very satisfying.

A few years back I went to a conference. My mom had given me a sweatshirt that said, “It’s All About Him” with a couple Bible verses on it. The gift was one I had requested. Anyway, I decided to wear it to the conference. The Lord had a lesson to teach me there. That day we broke into small groups to discuss something the speaker had spoken on and I felt very excited to share my opinion, except everyone took a turn, I seemed to be invisible and suddenly time was up. I never got a turn. My shirt said that it is all about Him, but in my mind and body that certainly was not true. It was all about me and what I wanted to say, and how upset I felt that I did not get a turn to share. Self-focus at its worst. I couldn’t even concentrate on what the others had to say, and I left when the speaker called us to go back to our seats. I have not worn that sweatshirt since. I want it to be all about Him, but my flesh says it’s all about me in all too many incidents.

Living to control everything or manipulate it all, to get my way or to be heard or to protect myself or check off more things on my to-do list, all of these end up leaving me empty. I realized, that day, to a greater degree my selfishness and my need to be seen and heard. It is a lesson I will never forget. It is these kind of lessons, when the Lord helps us to see self clearly through His eyes, that make me want to make some changes.

So, as I think about Recalibrating Life and recognize all that the Lord has taught me so far in 2018. I decided the place to start is in regard to what is essential according to God’s Word. There are some key verses that are essential to the way of intent that I want to live by. Here are the verses:

Psalm 62:8 NIV  “Trust in him at all times you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

Luke 10:41-42 “Martha, Martha” the Lord answered,”you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed– or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.”

Psalm 62:5-7 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Proverbs 4:26 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”

Proverbs 19:20-21 “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails.”

I want to learn to live intentionally out of each of these essentials. But how? My times the overwhelm paralyzes me, rather than leading me to, as Elisabeth Elliot says,”just [doing] the next thing,” I get stuck. I forget that it doesn’t need to be big and epic. The Lord isn’t taking my performance into consideration in order to decide how much love He will pour into my heart and life. His love is unconditional.

Each one of the essentials can stop us in our tracks if we think that we must do them in a perfect way. Just think about it with me for a moment. Have you ever sidestepped praying or seeking direction because you were fearful that you could not do it well enough? What if you prayed the wrong thing? What if you misunderstood what God was directing you to do? Or what if you sought counsel but like Rehoboam took the wrong advice?

When my intention becomes about proving myself or about controlling things to turn out for my benefit I am in error. The Lord looks at our hearts and He searches our motives. He knows we are dust, He knows we are sinful. Yet, He also knows whether our error is born out of selfishness, hatred, or if it is because of honest misunderstanding. God is a loving God. He knows the depths of our heart better that we do.

Fear can be a guard rail of protection or a prison cell. I want my intentionality to be coming out of a heart that just wants to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Intimacy with Jesus is the bottom line of all the essentials I have listed. Each one is either a pathway to intimacy or a pathway out of learned intimacy.

So, seeking to grow in intimacy with Jesus changes how I approach each essential. You see, many times we confront our intentions like a checklist of things to be done, with the goal just to get it done. But this is about being relational, not about an accomplishment.

As I look back over my walk with the Lord, I see Him being the One drawing me into deeper intimacy through life lessons, through meeting me in His Word, through speaking to my heart as I pray. But none of it was anything I could control or make happen. The soil of my heart is what matters here. It is about my readiness and willingness and the Lord’s perfect timing.

So, my intention her must not be about accomplishing things on a list but instead about using these essentials as pathways to drawing nearer to God’s heart.

As I contemplated this, I came up with a list of intents to focus on, they are as follows:

  • to pray out of a heart of desperation and vulnerability.
  • to set aside the busyness and enjoy times of quiet before  the Lord, developing and practicing out of desire, not another thing to do.
  • to look for His love in His Word and moment-by-moment in my life so I grow in knowing Him more.
  • to choose to abandon control in life, resting His control, acknowledging that He is God, and letting Him work.
  • to rest as I wait for His deliverance in whatever the situation may be, rather than fretting and manipulating.
  • to learn His “unforced rhythms of grace” and rest, rather that seeking to prove.
  • to seek His direction and listen to the counsel He provides rather than trying to figure it all out on my own.

These are the intents of my heart that I recognized as I realized the error of my ways in the past. No, I am not beating myself up, the Lord has worked in me and through me despite my bulldozer style, despite my need to control, and despite my checklist and pencil. He is slowly teaching me and growing me up, growing my trust, helping me to know His love in a very personal way. And as I look back over this past year I see clearly how I want to grow in intimacy with Him in a new way. Not methodical and calculated, but in trusting Him in a love relationship as He refines my heart.

I must say once again, what an amazing God we have! How patient and gracious He has been with me through the many years I have walked with Him. He loves me and works with me where I am at. He is gentle and kind. His yoke truly is easy.

I am slowly learning to trust and learning to rest. I praise Him for showing me His loving presence and perfect understanding.

Journeying with Jesus truly brings joy even when we are on the rough, rocky roads with sharp rocks cutting our soles, or our souls. He never leaves us and He is always loving.

How is your journey going? What is He teaching you? Is He taking you on a new path? I pray that His lessons bless you as He has blessed me.

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The Lord’s Perfect Way; Not Always What We Expect

There is less than two months until Christmas, and then only one week beyond that 2019 begins.

I recently was rereading snippets from my journal and repeatedly read about the stress and exhaustion I was feeling. How very overwhelmed I was, and how much my neck and shoulder muscles were throbbing. Over and over and over these complaints were voiced in nearly every journal entry.

This made me want to cry. You see, my word for the year 2018 was “Cultivate.” I wanted to cultivate presence, passion for life, gratitude, and joy. Sadly, I saw very little written about those things in the fabric of my life.

So, I am on a quest towards rest for my soul. I am reading books on rest, Sabbath, and leisurely time with the Lord knowing His presence. I have a special journal I am using to put my notes in about these topics. As I read I record words and thoughts that resonate with me.

The Lord has been consistently working on my behalf in so many areas of my life that I have allowed to stress me out. And I see Him healing some very deep and painful wounds within. It is not an overnight process. It is slow but He is gently with me teaching me truths to help me heal.

This morning I meditated on Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV).

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I have been too busy, and too stressed, and just am feeling exhausted. The Lord’s invitation for me to “come” touched a tender place within and made tears sting my eyes. I felt so like a little child, needy and fragile, and I crawled into Daddy’s lap as he stretched his arms out to me and called me to ‘come.’ I ran to the Lord, and snuggled in heart to heart. I told Him once again about how I feel and all that is weighing me down. I cast all of my cares on Him, trusting in His care for me, as 1 Peter 5:7 tells me.

My neck and shoulders relaxed.

My jaw unclenched.

I breathed in deeply.

All too often I do this but then run head on into my day and lift the boulders of worry, the heaviness of expectations, and the overload of obligations up again. I carry it all back into my life with me.

But then I heard, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). The rest doesn’t need to end when I get up and begin my day. Unfortunately, it often does.

Yesterday, my husband and I had to make a long drive and as we were traveling I started to think about 2019. It felt refreshing to think of starting over. And I began to remember all that I have been taught this year during my time with the Lord as well as during those unexpected opportunities in the midst of life when He finds a teachable moment. As I recalled those things, I realized how much I want and need to make some very important changes in my life. Changes He has been pointing me towards that I have been reluctant to follow down the path of.

I felt frustrated with myself in not having cultivated joy, presence, gratitude, or passion for life consistently through 2018. My frustration made me feel earnest and deliberate about seeking change. So much so that I have already chose my phrase for 2019’s focus in my life.

My two-word phrase is “Recalibrate Life.” In 2019 I want to focus on the essential and be intentional. I want to choose to live passionately. I want to practice walking with slow feet, abandoning outcomes to my Lord, living present before Him, practicing reflection and listening, and setting aside time for play. All of these, so I may learn to know more joy in life, more joy in my heart. I will only truly know that joy as all of life is centered around Christ.

So as I prepare, as I read books on Sabbath, soul rest, and leisurely time with the Lord, I will be praying for more of His leading regarding how He desires me to live out these changes.

I know holding tightly to control, worrying, allowing anxiety to take over, pushing through, manipulating, trying to get my way; none of these work. Relying on Him and resting fully in His love is the way I want to live.

I have found that reading through past journal entries, reflecting on the paths I have been traveling, reviewing how the Lord has worked in my life, and considering what He is teaching me, help me see the road I have been walking on during the previous year. And I have opened my heart to the Lord to help me clearly understand what He was doing. Taking this time for reflection with an open heart and mind are so important.

What about you? Where have you travelled this year? Are you taking time to reread, reflect, review, and really look at where you have been as well as consider where you are being led?

I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has taught me so far in 2018. Not easy lessons, but good lessons, ones that have helped me to know Him more and have helped my trust to deepen.

Now in the frustration I was feeling, I just realized that I had totally misunderstood my word for 2018. Cultivate. Wasn’t I suppose to make something happen? I was looking or good things to be planted in my life and bear good fruit.

But instead I realize that the Lord truly wanted to cultivate, He wanted to begin to weed out roots of sin, to make me see my lack of trust, to loosen my tight grip on control, and so much more. It was not the journey I expected or even wanted, but I am realizing it was a very necessary journey.

He had to start the weeding-out process before He could make the soil of my heart ready for what He wants to grow there. He has specific desires for changes He wants to make. My Creator God is at work recreating my life, heart and soul, to work out His purposes rather than my own. He had to help me learn to release my grip of control in order for me to be open to the new thing He is doing.

Isaiah 43:19 “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

What an amazing God. You see, I thought I knew what cultivating meant, but the Lord had a different plan. A better plan.

Remember to take time to look for His work in your life, He will always surprise you with His wisdom and His love!

Interruptions: Invitations to Rest

Have you ever pondered how the Lord gets your attention?

When He does get your attention what has your response been? Did you stop? Did it lead you to change?

It seem there are many circumstances and situations that come into our lives and seem to interrupt our days. Oftentimes we get irritated, we muddle through, and go on without giving the incident a second thought. But the Lord is intentional.

I am finding that when I take time to stop and pay attention to the interruption, I then see how the Lord wants to use that moment to teach me something. The interruptions are often invitations to rest. They are His way of calling us aside from our busyness, our hyper-focus on our lives and what we are trying to make happen.

The Lord uses these interruptions for many different reasons. Some that I have come to notice are these:

  1. To call me to Him
  2. To lead me to listen to Him
  3. To look at what He wants us to see
  4. To help me find a new way to perceive a situation
  5. To give me new understanding
  6. To help me find the road to deepening trust in Him.

When we answer the call, when we draw near to Him, when we put down our busyness, when we look into His Word, then we are able to really learn what He has for us. It is there we find rest. We see our smallness, our lack of control, and power, and we see His ability to move mountains.

I am constantly struggling with my own striving, my drivenness, my way of control, my busyness, and I am realizing that it is through God’s interruptions I’m given an invitation to rest. The invitation tells me to stop what I am doing, to pay attention to what is happening, to be present, and aware of what God is saying and doing. I am called aside to consider it all.

When interruptions come into my day, rather than trying to push through or rush through to accomplish what I want done, I must stop. It seems that these interruptions happen most often when I am stressed and frantic, frustrated and overwhelmed. It is in those moments that something will consistently not go right, or someone will request something of me, or a truth will shoot through my mind like a bullet. It will be something that I cannot ignore.

And then when I finally decide that there is no getting past it, I stop and the Lord teaches me. He may teach me to seek and find:

  • Rest from trying to do too much
  • Rest from attempting to control outcomes
  • Rest from worrying about something
  • Rest from trying to earn love

He’s shown me that as I am intentional about setting time aside for Him, He will help me move through the remainder of my day in a better way. He’s shown me that when I choose to abandon the outcome of a situation to Him, He will open the door to an answer that I hadn’t thought of and never would have been able to make happen. He’s shown me that my worry accomplishes nothing except for making me sick inside and that He truly is trustworthy to work on my behalf.

The interruptions seem to tell me to, “Be still and know that (I am) He is God.”

Cease.
Cease striving.
Cease trying to control outcomes.
Cease worrying.
Be at rest.
Be at peace.

We must pay attention to the interruptions that come into our days.  They very well may be calls from God to stop and take notice. When your plans get interrupted, talk with the Lord about it, find out if He wants to use that moment to change how you are perceiving the situation or how you’re thinking in general. Ask Him if He is trying to show you a new direction He wants you to take.

I have learned that the lessons He has for me are very helpful and important. So I am learning to stop when interruptions come, I am learning to slow down and pay more attention. He has given me valuable insight and granted me wisdom as I have heeded His call. Don’t miss the special invitations He may have for you!

Standing Strong in Fearful Times

Living fearlessly means living with your eyes glued on the Lord, not on your circumstances. Focusing on who God is and what He is able to do changes everything.

In the book of Daniel, we read about the men who were thrown into the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image and commanded that all should bow down and worship it and that whoever refused would be cast into a “burning fiery furnace.” The command was given by the King and three Jewish men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. This sent the king into a rage, he asked that these men be brought to him. When they came before him he asked if what he had been told about them was true and they told him that it was. The king asked them who could deliver them from the punishment of the fiery furnace. The men answered him with these words, “If our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” This response caused the King to become more furious and he commanded that the temperature of the furnace be raised to seven times hotter than normal. And when this had been done the three men were cast into the midst of the fiery furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose only to worship God no matter what. They did not compromise even in the face of such drastic punishment. (You can read this story in Daniel chapter 3.)

More and more in this world we see anger and rage threatening people’s safety. Persecution is real and threatens many who stand up for Christ. Many die for their faith. As I read and hear about these stories it always makes me question, what I would do?

I look at the threats and beatings endured by many of the disciples, apostles, and early believers with amazement. Paul and Silas sang as they sat in prison in stocks. And when given an opportunity to escape they stayed and influenced the other prisoners to stay as well. (Acts 16:16-40)

Peter and John held firm to their convictions when warned not to speak or teach in Jesus’ name. They responded to those opposing them with these words,  “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge, for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard. ” (Acts 4:19-20)

Peter and John were firm and immovable in their beliefs. They were confident in the truth of God’s Word and in His faithfulness. Their convictions made them stand firm even when faced with great consequences.

When our fear of man overrides our trust in who God is and what He can do we often choose the path of compromise. Too often it seems easier to ride the fence and not make a stand for Christ at all. We may not say anything in rebuke, or say as little as possible in order to not stir up trouble.

The truth is hard to take and generally many do not want to hear it. When choosing to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition to stand up for the Lord we often will meet with opposition. Holding firm to our convictions may mean losing the popularity vote because we make a choice that others disagree with or do not understand.

We have to choose whether to walk in obedience to God or not. And we will face consequences for our choices. Often fear gets in the way! Fear may keep us from sharing the Gospel or from showing love to one others think isn’t worth the time of day. Or maybe fear keeps us from saying we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is when we worship. Our fear can also stop us from speaking the truth about holiness in many areas of life.

So how can we stand up to our fears and stand firm in our convictions?

Here are a few things we can do:

1. Know God’s Word.  When it comes to making a choice find out what the Bible says about the choice. If we are unable to find the answer on our own, we can ask a trusted pastor who has studied God’s Word.

2. Be in prayer. I am doing my third study by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, each one of the titles of the studies have worked on begins with the words The Praying Life. Dean says that the praying life is turning every fear, concern, or worry into conversation with God. We need to seek God for wisdom and direction. We need to learn to “be still and know” that He is God.

3. Be committed to living for the Lord. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). His Word is our plumb-line.

4. Follow Paul’s advice to the Ephesians in the book of Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10-13. Put on the full armour of God. We can be empowered through our union with Him. We can draw our strength from Him. He will help us to stand firm in crisis situations.

We cannot allow our fears to open the door to compromise. We have the Lord and His Word to help us. Here a few verses that are helpful to me:

Psalm 50:15Call on Me in the day of trouble and I will deliver you and you shall honor and glorify me

Psalm 56:3-4What time I am afraid, I will have confidence in and put my trust and reliance in You. By [the help of] God I will praise His Word, on God I will lean,  rely, and confidently put my trust. I will not fear, what can man who is flesh do to me? “

Psalm 18:3I will call upon the Lord, who is to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies.”

Psalm 119:105 “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Those are only a few there are so many more that can encourage our hearts in times of fear. God’s Word really can help us to stand firm. We all need help to keep our confidence in the Lord and not allow our fears to cause us to compromise. Let’s pray for strength to stand strong in our convictions so we can bring God glory no matter what comes our way.

When Fear Blinds You

Numbers 13:27-28 “They reported to Moses and said,”We went in to the land where you sent us and it certainly does flow with milk and honey and this is its fruit. But the people who live in the land are strong and the cities are fortified (walled) and very large; moreover, we saw there the descendants of Anak [people of great stature and courage]… “

The Israelites were ready to enter the Promised Land that the Lord had told them He would give them. We learn in Deuteronomy 1:22-27 that the Israelites, in their lack of trust, decided that they should check it out themselves. They did not take God at His Word believing His promise to be true, but wanted to see it with their own eyes and decide for themselves what would be best. So the verses you read above from the book of Numbers records what the spies saw when they scoped out the land.

They saw fortified cities and giants, and fear blinded them to the truth of God and His faithfulness. Have you been there? Have you been blinded to what God is able to do in your trials and difficult times? Have you lost sight of His faithfulness because of the impossibility of the situation? Has the reality of His strength and willingness to fight your battles, His ability to work on your behalf, has it all been lost to you in your trembling fear?

Caleb and Joshua were two of the men that had accompanied the spies and they came back to the Israelites with a different report. The spies saw defeat and felt that they did not have a chance. Caleb and Joshua said, “Let us go up at once and take possession of it for we will conquer it” (Numbers 15:30). But the spies replied that they could not do it because the people of Canaan were too strong for them.

What giants are you facing in your life?

What is causing fear to engulf your heart?

The truth here is that God made the Israelites a promise. He promised to give them this land. They only had to step forward in faith. The spies focused on the impossibility of the situation, Caleb and Joshua saw what God could do. The spies were looking at the problem and it blinded them to God, while Joshua and Caleb looked at God and found hope.

Life can lead us into place where we may face looming giants.  Our hearts tremble in fear. Yet the Lord calls us to trust when we are faced with insurmountable giants.

Psalm 28 is a psalm of David, it is a plea of his for help. David calls on the Lord because enemies of God that he is facing cause him to feel fear and hopelessness. David is earnest in his prayer, he calls the Lord his “rock.” David is believing and trusting in God’s power. He is choosing to depend on God. He feels as if death is at his door and focuses on God, crying out and pleading with Him to answer his prayers, to not be silent. David prays for deliverance, he recognizes apart from God’s deliverance there is no hope.

Later in the Psalm, David goes on to speak of how the LORD heard the voice of his supplication. David prayed in faith and rejoices as he finds hope in God. David encourages himself to live in that hope,  trusting that God will perfect everything concerning him.

We see his dependence on God in verse 7, “The Lord is my strength and my [imperishable] shield, my heart trust [with unwavering confidence] in Him and I am helped. Therefore my heart greatly rejoices. And with my son, I shall thank Him and praise Him”

David is trusting God to be his strength, to support him, and to carry him through the difficult times. He is trusting God as a shield to protect him from all that his enemies can throw at him. And in trusting, David finds God to be faithful. David trusted in God’s power and His promise and was not disappointed. David finishes this psalm by telling us he is standing firm in the Lord.

Fear is at the bottom of so many reactions and emotional responses. My desperate need to control has been fueled by fear. At the base of my anger and frustration I find fear. At the bottom of my people-pleasing behaviors I find fear. Where do you find fear in your heart today? Satan uses fear to cripple us. He uses fear to blind us to the truth of who God is and what He can do.

In Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s study,  Live a Praying Life Without Fear:Let Faith Tame Your Worries, the author states: “The situation causing you fear or anxiety right now is an opening for God to show Himself strong on your behalf and He delights to do so. ” She goes on to quote one of my favorite verses (written here from the Amplified version).

For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth so that He may support those whose heart is completely His. ” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

God wants to support, help, and strengthen those who are fully committed to Him.

Dean goes on to say,  “He is not aloof from your struggle or inured to your pain. He is eagerly waiting for you to turn to Him so He can do for you what you cannot do for yourself. ”

The part that is most difficult is recognizing that I cannot do it myself and then for me to be willing to let Him do it His way. When we choose to acknowledge our need and relinquish our grasp on the outcome, then we allow Him to have His way with us. That is the surrender He calls us to.

We, then, are able to praise God with David, Joshua, and Caleb, with all those who have trusted in His way and found Him faithful. He is the One who gives us victory!

So today in the midst of your fear, seek Truth.

1 John 4:4b AMP “… He who is in you is greater than he (Satan) who is in the world [of sinful mankind] .”

Isaiah 41:10 AMP “Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with my righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].”

Philippians 4:6-7 AMP “Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which assures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours]. 

Allow His Truths to encourage your heart, and in your fear step out in faith. Rely on Him who is our loving, sovereign God!

Self-Reliance or God-Reliance?

Which one is true of you? Are you self-reliant or God-reliant? Or maybe, as with me, it varies depending on what is happening in your life.

When we act in self-reliance we, in reality, are telling the Lord that we don’t need Him. We forget to pray and don’t spend time with Him or even read His Word. Maybe it is because life is going smooth. Or maybe it is because our crammed calendars tell us that there are too many things going on and there isn’t time to fit it in. And then as decisions need to be made we choose to go by our own wisdom rather than seeking His because it feels safer and we feel more in control. We figure we have as good as plan as any. We forget how fragile and needy we are. Sound familiar? We run in independence, relying on self so easily through life.

We forget God, we diminish our need for Him. We aren’t the first to do this. The Israelites did the same thing. In Deuteronomy 8:11-14 Moses warns them “Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by failing to keep His commandments and His judgments (precepts) and His statutes which I am giving you today, otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply and all you have increases, then your heart will become lifted up [by self-conceit and arrogance] and you will forget the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” 

We forget all He has done for us and the greatness of our need for Him. We forget when life is going well and we feel satisfied and nothing is pressing hard on us.

As I thought about the way the Lord worked in the recent circumstances of my life, I realized that He showed me His presence and power when I chose to abandon outcomes to Him. I mean when I admitted I needed Him and His help and His wisdom.

The Lord doesn’t grab the reins of our lives from our hands and tells us to do it this way. But when we stop and let go of our control and ask Him to take over, He is able to do so much more than we can ask or imagine.

When my hands, heart, and mind are busy controlling outcomes I miss looking for, praying to, and trusting in the Lord. It is only when I recognize my need for Him, and let go of self-sufficiency that I then seek Him in the desperate, fragile, needy way of reliance. It is then that my eyes are searching for Him, His power and His presence, and it is then that my hands, heart, and mind are free to focus on Him and His faithfulness. Empty hands can be lifted up in praise and thanksgiving.

What are your hands filled with?

Is it the many material blessings He has given? Is it the overwhelming problems you feel weighing you down that you are trying to carry in your own strength? Is it all of the things on your endless to-do list?

There has to be something that keeps us from Him, that allows us to forget Him. There has to be something that keeps us moving forward at break-neck speed relying on self.

When our hands are filled and our houses are stuffed to overflowing and are calendars are bulging with too much to do and too many people to see, it is then that we forget God. We forget prayer, we forget praise, we forget to seek Him in His Word. It is in those times that it is too hard to lift our hands and our hearts. In fact, it is on those times that I find myself much more likely to grumble and complain.

I am not sure that I had realized that before, but I recognize that as being true now. My grumbling and complaining come because the weight of it all is way too heavy. Self-reliance weighs us down after a while. We weren’t created to rely on ourselves.

Self-reliance say: “I can do it!” “I’ve got this.” “I don’t need help.” “It is best that I… ”

God-reliance says: “Lord, I must depend on you, I don’t know what to do.” “Oh, help me Lord! ” “Lead me Lord, give me direction. Where do I go from here?” “Grant me wisdom, Lord! ”

What do you hear yourself saying most often?

I know it seems like I think that I can control and manipulate things so I work hard to figure it all out. But the truth is, it usually does not work out well when I do this. I need His wisdom and knowledge to lead me.

In Psalm 103, the psalmist tells his soul to bless the Lord. It is thought that this Psalm was written by David at the time he was pardoned of his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:15). David wrote this after the child, conceived with Bathsheba, became very ill and was near death.

Can you imagine how he felt? It was from that place he pleaded with his soul to bless the Lord and to not forget all the benefits from the Lord.

When things are out of control, which is true often in our lives, we get to choose how we will respond. Will we try to manipulate circumstances? Or will we remember Who God is and remember His faithfulness in our lives and then choose to bless His name? Remembering how He has been at work in our lives builds our level of trust.

It would be difficult to choose to step onto a single-strand ladder and feel even a tiny bit safe. But when the ladder rungs are made of rope with several strands braided together we feel more secure.

So it is with trusting in God and learning to rely on Him to lead and guide us. The more we see Him at work in our lives,  taking care of situations, and resolving problems that frustrate us, answering our prayers in amazing ways, the more strands of faith we have getting braided together building our trust.

David knew that his heart needed lifting, he needed hope. David knew that in gratefully praising God for all that He had done for him and the Israelites, new hope would be found. He would remember God’s faithfulness and find reason to rely on Him again.

David was quite aware of the mess he had made by following his own desires and lusts. We too find ourselves in the middle of messes unsure of what to do. Maybe you are there right now. Maybe you have made a string of decisions based on your own wisdom and knowledge, pure self-reliance, and now you realize you are in too deep. The Lord waits for us to let go of control and turn it over to Him. There may be consequences, but the Lord is faithful to give us the help we need and He will work in the middle of the mess. We, like David, can choose to bless His name in the middle of the mess. We just need to remember Who God is and all He has done, pray for help, and watch Him work!

Psalm 103:2 KJV “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all His benefits.

This is the path to seeking to choose God-reliance over self-reliance because our trust in Him grows through it. This is the path I want to take, how about you?

 

 

Relinquishing Control and Finding Peace

The correlation between my fears and my need to be in control recently became apparent to me. But, I am happy to say that I am finding peace as I am learning to relinquish control. Actually, it comes down to learning to live out the truths of Proverbs 3:5-6.

This is what that Proverbs says in the Amplified version of the Bible. “Trust in and rely confidently in the Lord with all your heart. And do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him and He will make your paths straight and smooth (removing obstacles that block your way.)”

Wow, what a beautiful promise! And, what a familiar promise. It is one we read often, and read over without thinking about because of its familiarity. I wonder how many truths of God’s Word I totally miss as I read my Bible. And in missing them I miss out on the amazing blessing He promises. But God is faithful and true to His Word!  He is showing me the magnitude of His love for me as He works in my life and shows me His personal presence as well as His omniscience regarding what I need. I stand in awe, thoroughly amazed at what He is doing!

Trust! Trust is very hard for many of us because of previous hurts, betrayals, or whatever is at the bottom of our fears. Yet, God is trustworthy and I am finding that as I reach for Him in trust He meets me with His faithfulness.

I knew something had to change because the stress in my life was too much. I needed to give it to God to take care of. I needed to let Him be in control. Oh, it’s not like I hadn’t prayed about it before, because I had given Him my frustration and overwhelm often, and I had told Him how to best work out the whole situation. But that is not what real prayer is, He wants me to rely on Him and let Him take control. So this time, out of complete desperation, I gave it to Him. I stopped meddling and trying to control the outcome. I told Him that I can’t deal with it anymore, You have to take care of it, and as I did I felt deep release within.

I shut my mouth, bit my tongue, stopped complaining,  arguing, ranting and raving. I completely stopped discussing the issue because the more I would think about it and share my frustration the more worked up I would become. Each time an opportunity arose that made me want to make a comment, I chose to abandon the outcome to God. I decided to let God do it His way. I know that is the way it is supposed to work, but I will be honest that is not what I had been doing.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us not to rely on own understanding or insight. That means I am not supposed to try to figure it all out and try to make it work my way. But my understanding of this particular situation said that there is a time limit and it needs to be done now. My insight says you can do it if you plan it all out. Just keep pushing and working at it. The problem was, it isn’t my stuff to control. I cannot physically make the other person act on it and forcing the issue has not worked. So the next best option, which is really the best option always, was to fully give it to the Lord to work out.

This verse is very clear, I am not only to “rely,” I am also to “acknowledge” His Lordship, and “recognize” His presence and power over the situation. He needs to be on the throne, not me. So, when I felt the urge to control, I had to tell my anxious heart that the Lord God of this universe had it in His control, He is present with me and has the power to bring the solution to pass. It all became a moment-by-moment prayer that I said. I needed to remind myself Who God is. I needed to develop greater trust in Him.

So, I lived out the trust part, even though it was a struggle for me, and then the blessing came. The blessing came and I have to admit that I did not even recognize it at first. Amazingly, I saw a heart-change in the other person. When I stopped pushing and controlling suddenly she moved into action. She recognized the things that needed to be done and responded positively when help was offered.

My path truly became straight and smooth. God removed the obstacles blocking the way, namely her refusal and constant disagreement. And my constant griping had stopped also. Now my path is one of loving support as I am given opportunity to do so, not stress-producing control.

The stress in the relationship has lessened a great deal.  I don’t have to take care of it all. And I am not trying to “people-please” or earn love. I am accepting the relationship for what it is and seeking to know God’s love for me in deeper ways.

Okay, so it is a start, and I know it is only one area that I have tried to control, there are others. But this one was one of the greater stress-producers in my life! So I am finding peace in my heart. It is in the relinquishing, in loosening my tight grip, in giving God space to work, this is where I see Him making changes. This is where I see Him giving me the answers necessary and in those answers I am growing in trusting Him and finding great peace.

Just now, as I was writing this post, the phone rang and I learned of another open door to the necessary solution. God is at work in this stressful situation. He is securing an outcome in a way that will be perfect no matter the timing, it will be available whenever we are ready. Wow, what an amazing God we serve! And how beautiful it is to see the truths of His promises at work in my life!

We can trust Him and believe Him at His Word!  His love is real. I know I knew these things intellectually, but now once again I know them experientially. He is drawing me back from my path of independence to full dependence on Him and this is where I want to live.  I hope you will join me here, there is such great peace.

Thank you Lord that You know the way and are patiently gracious with control-freaks like me. Thank you Lord for teaching me more of how to trust You and for showing me Your amazing faithfulness! You are an amazing God and I give You all of the praise! Amen!

 

 

Letting Go: Trusting God and His Love

Letting go is difficult, we clutch on with fear in our hearts. Last week I shared biblical truths that are helping me toward abandoning outcomes to God.  I am focusing on repeating one of the truths as I find my neck and shoulder muscles tightening as I strive to gain control or get it done my way. Sometimes I just tell myself two words, “abandon outcomes.”

It seems so easy to recognize our need toreally know God and to acknowledge our need to be growing in trusting Him. But, I am finding what I think I know and how much I trust is different from the way I live it out in reality.  I am realizing I do not know Him the way I need to, I already knew that, but I did not realize to what degree. I guess we can deceive ourselves into thinking our faith is stronger, and our trust is deeper than what it really is.

The Lord wants us in a deep trusting relationship with Him and as Christians we all have trusted Him for our salvation and we trust Him to varying degrees beyond that. He is at work within each one of our lives to draw us nearer to Him, to lead us to know and trust Him more and more, day-by-day, moment-by-moment. Yet, humankind has been striving for independence ever since the fall of man. Unfortunately, independence never gets us to where God wants us. Stillness not striving is what God wants of us.

I am studying “Living a Praying Life Without Fear: Let Faith Tame Your Worries” by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. It is a study that was given to me, and initially I considered passing it on, it didn’t seem relevant to where I was at. But now, months later, I am learning some very important things about fear. I am realizing how very blind I have been and am to how my own emotions are related to my fears. And I am realizing how my fears are really about my lack of understanding of God’s love for me and my trust in Him.

One of the questions Dean asks her readers is to consider about how we would complete this thought,  “if only…  than I’d be happy and secure.  She asks us to fill in the blank with whatever it is we think would bring happiness and security. At first I didn’t know what to write, but as I thought about my fears, especially the ones that keep me striving. to have control, I wrote, “If only my heart weren’t a sieve, then love would stay and I would feel happy and secure.” If that were true I wouldn’t need to strive to people-please to earn love and satisfaction.

Writing that made me wonder what my heart does with God’s love.  I don’t know the answer to that question but in my prayer journal I paraphrased part of Paul’s prayer from Ephesian’s 3:17-19 AMP. I wrote this:

Lord, help me to be deeply rooted and securely grounded in Your love. Help me to be capable of comprehending the width and length and height and depth of Your love, fully experiencing your amazing, endless love. Help me to come to know, practically through personal experience, Your love, and help me to be filled up with all of Your fullness so that I may have the richest experience of Your presence in my life. I want to be completely filled and flooded with You, Lord. ”

God is love. The Amplified Bible explains that He is the originator of love, and it is an enduring attribute of His nature (1 John 4:8 AMP).

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am love.

When we really know His love with every fiber of our being we can be still, we can stop striving. We can stop striving because we will be fully satisfied in Him.

It always amazes me how the Lord keeps bringing me back to this place, repeatedly, as if to ask me: Do you know My love for you? Do you trust me? Why do you keep striving and trying to control outcomes?

So here I am AGAIN, holding my heart up to Him, like a dripping sieve, my heart needs to have all of the holes filled with His love, so no love can seep out. And I ask Him to hold me in His love and help me feel secure in Him, I realize that it is the only place where I will learn to grow to trust Him. It is the only place that I can be still knowing that He is God; knowing that He is love makes all the difference.

I need to bask in His love in order to stop the fear and stop the striving. I need to bask in His love in order to feel safe enough to abandon outcomes to Him.

After all that the Lord has done for us, how can we question His love? It doesn’t make sense. Yet, He continually has to help me see my need for Him, my desperate state. He continually has to help me know His love for me. He has to continually help me be willing to release my clenched fists and stop holding onto control. It is not a one-time-and-done lesson, at least not for me.

When I am striving I miss out on His presence and His love because my focus is not on Him. I miss knowing all the blessing He has for me because I am holding tightly to getting what I want.

What about you, do you need to know His love more?

How will learning more about His love help you to stop fearing and stop striving?

What He asking you to release to Him?

Oh Lord help us! We are a desperate people and so blind to our desperation.  Help us to stop striving and learn to abandon outcomes to You. Help us to trust You, for Your love is all we need. Amen!

Letting Go; Knowing Truth Can Help

 

Living with stress sure causes problems! But how do we let go?

My thoughts pressure me to try to stay in control, to get it all done, to please everyone and gain approval. Yet, when I work hard to make it happen and the outcome isn’t what I hoped for I get frustrated and angry. It seems that it is a vicious cycle, and I am stuck in it like a revolving door.

My recent realization of how my stress is directly related to my need for control has led me to choose to make changes. These changes will not happen overnight, they will take time and practice.

I have been thinking a lot about my control issues, and realize how I am tied up in the temporal, looking for approval of man. Colossians 3:2 AMP says, “Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things] not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value].” The Truths of God’s Word are things from above, and my need for human approval is definitely temporal. I need to fill my mind with His Truth, especially the truths regarding all He gives me. These are things that I miss out on when I am wrongly focused.

The changes I am going to make involve taking the following truths into my heart, and focusing on them throughout my days.

1. First of all, I need to focus on God’s great love. Jeremiah 31:3a AMP, tells us: “The LORD appeared to me (Israel) from ages past, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you… “ When I am feeling like I need to try harder and do more in order to earn love I will think on His everlasting love that does not change or diminish.

2. God also promises us peace of mind and heart in John 14:27 AMP, “Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid.” Yet, even so, I strive and worry and sit here with aching shoulder and neck muscles. When I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed I need to think on the peace He gives. Do you need His peace today for whatever you are struggling with?

Isaiah 26:3 AMP promises us peace as well. Isaiah tells us this about God, “You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation]”. When we keep our minds stayed on Him, we will have His peace!

3. I know that I end up in bondage to others as well as to my to-do list and, as their slave, I grow more and more tense and worried, continually striving. Bound to these, I am weighed down and overwhelmed. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us that because so many have witnessed the truth God’s absolute faithfulness, we can strip ”off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily entangles us” and stripped of these, we can “run with endurance and active persistence the race set before us [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus who is the Author and Perfecter of faith, … who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]”. The Lord has given help to us to run this race of life. We have freedom in Him, the pressure is off. We only have to throw off the weights and run this race free of all that keeps us tethered.

4. The Lord also has given us access to Him in prayer. Hebrews 4:16 AMP tells us: “Therefore, let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without, so that we may receive mercy [ for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment.” I can come to Him, we can come to Him, freely anytime and tell Him about our struggles and trust Him to supply mercy and grace to help us. What do you need to talk with Him about today?

5. The Lord also wants to gift us with joy, peace, and hope; gifts that, like the sun behind dark clouds, are missed or seemingly lost as I focus on the wrong things. Paul tells us about it in a prayer-like verse in Romans 15:13 AMP. This is a favorite verse of mine. It says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you will abound in hope and overflow with confidence in His promises. “ In the midst of our overwhelming lives these are offered to you and me! I want to say,“Yes Lord, bring it on!”

6. And one last verse I want to focus on is James 1:5 AMP. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” When we are at a loss as to what to do or how to do it we only need to ask the Lord and He will lead us in His wisdom. What a wondrous gift this is! So often, in times of stress we come to a place that we don’t know what to do next, and knowing we have help can really bring relief in times of worry.

Wow, what a list! Looking at these truths I wonder why I get into such bondage and overwhelm. I only need to remember all I have in my Lord. Each one of these verses gives us a way to set our minds on Him to help us take our focus off of the outcome that has us bound in knots.

I realize that what we each need to let go of probably is different, but when we transfer our focus to Him and seek Him for help, we are given exactly what we need to make it through. He helps us let go by leading us to focus on Him and on what we have in Him. He helps us focus on Who He is and what He can do for us and that is what we will be looking at next week.

The tighter I hold on to getting my way or to finding ways to fill my empty, the more frustrated, angry and short-tempered I become. My neck and shoulder muscles continue to tighten as I stress about how I can do everything so I get the response I need. I must turn my focus to Him!

What are you in need letting go of? Maybe you do not realize what is at the bottom of your clutching on so tightly, ask the Lord to show you what it is. He knows why you are feeling (emotionally and physically) the way you do. He knows what you are in bondage to and He wants to deliver you! He wants to deliver me. Ask Him to show you the Truths of His Word that counteract the lies that keep you bound. When you know the truth you shall be free indeed (See John 8:31-32)!

I pray that some of these verses have helped you and that you will join me next week as I share more about letting go!

Letting Go

Are you carrying too much?
What do you need to let go of?
I ask you this because I have been carrying too much. I temporarily took a break from posting because my life felt overwhelming. And now I come back to writing still feeling overwhelmed and stressed but I have learned something. This thing I learned is not earth-shatteringly new, in fact it is probably something very evident to you that you may have recognized in yourself in your own life. I should have known, but instead when it became apparent to me I actually was shocked. Shocked that I knew the connection intellectually but had not applied it in my actual life. Let me explain.
You see, it became apparent that I am very controlling. My thoughts tell me that if I don’t do it, it won’t get done. Nor will it get done according to my timeline unless I keep pressuring myself to push through. You see, I realized that I must think it is all about me, I am responsible for it all. And then the really tough thing I realized is that it is not everyone else “stressing me out” as I thought, but rather it is my need to control it all that is at the bottom of all my stress. And all of this stress is causing problems. Anger, frustration, hurt, and guilt are frequently at the forefront of the way I feel and respond. I have been complaining to others that they are the cause of my stress when in reality it is me and my attitude about life.
I recently read a beautiful prayer that spoke of abandoning outcomes to the Lord. It was that prayer that gave me a clue about what was going on. I decided that I need to be praying for help to abandon outcomes; to let go, and really put it in the Lord’s hand. What happened to trusting Him? You know the little verse, “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalm 46:10. That is what this is about. But instead of trusting in His will, I clutch on to my own will to make sure everything turns out the way I think I should. Choosing to abandon an outcome to Him would demonstrate trust in His sovereignty. I trust Him with some things,  but I guess I pick and choose which are safe to trust Him with and which ones I need to control. It is quite obvious to me there are way too many situations where I feel the need to be responsible for things. I can tell by the tightness in my neck and shoulder muscles. My need for control keeps me striving instead of surrendering.

The “what if” questions bombard me, and I tighten my grip on control rather than giving the outcome to Him. But the pressure is off, isn’t that the promise of Matthew 11:28-30? Aren’t we asked to learn “the unforced rhythm of grace” (The Message)? Reading those words brings tears to my eyes. There is nothing unforced in trying to control. The Lord is here to carry the burden and lead me through it all, so why do I hold on so tight?
Letting go is hard. I know I am carrying too much. I know I am feeling so overburdened. And it is all because I am trying to control so many outcomes. Yet, as I said, it all surprised me, it kind of slapped me in the face with a realization I have been oblivious to. I mean, I know the Lord’s love for me, why does my trust waiver?
I know that there are pressures and expectations constantly coming my way from others. And my stress starts when I first hear about another to-do, another obligation. But my need to fill the hole inside leads me to press on, work hard, and take control. I try to make the outcome feed the need within rather than find my satisfaction in what the Lord has to give me apart from my striving. And all of this leaves me exhausted from racing on the treadmills of performance and people-pleasing.
Are you exhausted and feeling overburdened?
This month’s posts will center on the theme of letting go of negative attitudes and emotions that keep us from peace within. I hope you will join me in this exploration.