Cultivating Presence in Life

Test me Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.”          Psalm 26:2-3

 

Where do you live in your mind? Is it in the past ruminating on the could-of-beens and should-have-beens? Or is it in the future, thinking about what you will do or where you will go?

I think it is rare that we live in the present, being mindful of the here and now especially of the here and now as we focus on the Lord.

Matthew 6:33 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” The Lord doesn’t want us worrying and stressing about life, He will provide all that we need. He knows what we need before we even ask.

Robert Robinson wrote the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Public Domain). In this hymn he speaks of how his heart wanders, asking the Lord to bind it to Himself. The second verse states:”O to grace how great a debtor, Daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart O take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.”

The functions of the mind are connected to the heart in the language of the Bible (Studylight.org) And it seems true that our minds and hearts are easily distracted and truly prone to wander.

I want to cultivate presence in 2018. First of all presence with the Lord. I want to keep Him at the forefront of my mind. I want to be aware of Him:

  • aware of Him being with me
  • aware of His acting on my behalf
  • aware of His speaking to my heart
  • aware of His impressing His will on me.

I want to keep in mind these things as well as have an eternal perspective. When my mind is focused on the temporal I can get pulled in all too many directions. Worry, fretting, and anxiety start whirling and soon tie me in knots. But when I keep my focus on the Lord, remembering His faithfulness, trusting in His sovereignty, I can rest, I can live in the here and now, in the present moment because I know He has it all under His control. Trusting gives me newfound freedom to live today and really be in the moment.

Paul tell us in Romans that we need to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (12:2)” so that we don’t live lives conformed to the world.

When you look at the world today, you see a lot of stressed out people. Anti-anxiety and high blood pressure medications are given out at an all time high. Unfortunately many Christians live in this group as well. And I have been there, living in an overwhelmed, stressed-out state. I have been on medication in the past and I know all of the struggles that go with it. I think that realizing this is what pushes me to want to make the changes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with needing medication, but what I observe is people taking medication to keep their heads above water rather than making the lifestyle changes that are necessary. I think that choosing transformation of heart and mind may help with the problem in some cases, possibly many cases.

I want to know more of the peace that comes in knowing God’s presence. I want to stop the rat-race and pressure of achieving and performing. And what I realize that I must consider is what really matters in the end. Living in a pressure cooker to get more stuff and knock off every item on a bucket list or a to-do list is not really going to matter on my death-bed. Some of it may give temporary pleasure, but the push, push, push of it all will inevitably tarnish the shine.

I want to be living in a way that I can really be aware of and take notice of the Lord’s gifts in day-to-day life– the song of the cardinal, the sweet taste of honey in my chai green tea, the aroma of coffee brewing in the pot, the beauty of an evening snowfall, the feel of the garden soil in my hands, the warmth of the oven baking sweet treats, or the delicious smell coming from the pot of taco chili. I want to be aware of what’s behind the sad words coming from my friend and I want to hear my husband’s excitement about the difficult job that he has been working so hard to nail and how he finally met his goal. I want to be present for all of it.

Too often it is easier to be overly self-focused about a personal problem, a future worry, or an irritating frustration and miss the moment, miss the gift and worse yet miss the Giver.

Look back to the beginning of this post and read Psalm 26:2-3. Are you always mindful of the Lord’s unfailing love and reliant on His faithfulness? I know I am not, at least not very consistently. I want to grow in these so I can say that verse knowing it’s truth.

So, now here in 2018, I am working to cultivate time in everything and really being present. Let me share some of the things I am doing.

  • I am using the ABIDE app and the Mindful Worship site on my phone to help me take time for short Scripture meditations before bed. My heart grows peaceful and I breathe deeply and fall asleep thinking on the Lord being with me.
  • I am journaling about beautiful moments throughout my days. Remembering God is good.
  • I am choosing to shovel the snow slowly and enjoy the crisp air and the beauty that surrounds me. My senses give me reason to give God glory.
  • I am seeing the Lord show me my self-sufficiency as He works with me to draw me into deeper reliance on Him. And feeling the precious intimacy is incredible.
  • I am trying to find places in my day to pause and breathe deeply. And in those times I purposefully think about and look for ways the Lord is showing His presence in my day.

All of this brings me to the same place. Do you see where it leads? The natural response to a being present in life is thanksgiving, a thankful heart, and that is what I will be sharing about in my next post. Because another area I want to cultivate in life this year is a heart of gratitude.

Do you have any special key thing you do to help you remain present, aware of the here and now? I would love for you to share them. I think it is great anytime we can help or encourage one another in growing in our walks with the Lord and throughout our daily lives. May you know more of the Lord’s presence in your life in 2018.

 

Advertisements

Cultivating Passion in Life

Life can grow mundane in the ho-hum of the daily obligations. The same things fill each day and suddenly years pass by and you wonder where the time has gone.

It is for this reason that in 2018 I want to cultivate passion in my life. I want to really work at putting my whole heart and soul into those things that are important to me and more than that I want to have passion for all of life.

First of all that means making some wise choices. Shauna Niequist in her book Present Over Perfect quotes Mizuta Masahide who says, “Barns burned down now I can see the moon.”

Cultivating passion in 2018 will mean a number of different things for me, but first I will need to burn down some barns. Burning barns and choosing what is important is just where it starts.

I have already begun to do that. I am choosing things to focus on that are life-giving to me, and leaving behind things that just eat time. It seems all too often when I finally fall into bed it has been with a sigh of realization  that I never got to do any of what I really wanted to do.  I did cleaning, laundry, cooking, responding to others, and their needs, but I set aside what I yearned to do.

Oftentimes that ends up meaning I set aside writing and being creative. These are things I love, things that are really important to me, yet they get trampled out of my life by other things.

Beyond burning barns, I need to plan to do what I love and make it a priority. I actually have to sadly admit that I have planned what I wanted to do but just never made it a priority or found the time to get it done. I am realizing that it is not so much about bad planning, rather it is more about getting distracted by time-wasting activities that pull at me. So, I went through my typical to-do-list for a day and timed it out so I would know how much time it should take to accomplish the things I need to do. As it turns out, it really shouldn’t take that much time. This made me realize how many hours I was really wasting. Wasting time by surfing the net, reading articles/blogs and getting pulled from one topic to another, and on and on. I also was getting sidetracked by other things that I saw which needed to be done. Things that were not on my list but instead things that took away from the time I should have been giving to my priorities.

So I realized that I really need to stick to a specific list of what needs to be done for that day. Also, as I go through my day, I need to be aware of anything that the Lord may call me to do.  I can’t just go the way of distraction and waste time, because that only leaves me very frustrated.

Now that I realize, in reality, there is time enough for doing the things I love, my passions are being placed as a priority.

But this is not just about “my passions.”  I want to cultivate more passion for life in general this year rather than just going through the motions. Thinking about this brings me back to Ann Voskamp’s idea of a “to love list” rather than a to-do list. Somehow doing things out of a heart of love brings on passion and gives new life to the activity. It fills your heart.

I need to get back to focusing on living out of love. For me this means living out love by working harder at consistently cooking healthy meals, continuing my never-ending task of decluttering, and especially, finding other special ways to show love to my husband. Most recently, showing love to my husband has been accomplished by baking stollen. His eyes light up and a big smile comes to his face when he sees fresh-baked stollen on the cutting board on the table.

I also want to become more present and available, first to the Lord, and then to my husband, but we will get to that in next week’s post.

I believe the Lord desires for us to live passionately. He told us to  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. There is no greater commandment than these.” in Matthew 22:37-39. He wants us to put our hearts and souls into living for Him.

This truth is also made obvious by the way the Lord rebuked the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. The Lord was revealing to each ancient church what pleased Him and what displeased Him. The church of Laodicea displeased Him in that they were “neither hot nor cold” but rather just “lukewarm” in their faith.

We live out the faith we hold in our hearts in our daily walks, so it seems that just going through motions in life is like being lukewarm, very little passion attached to life. The Lord wants us to live passionately for Him in touching others with His love, by walking in the Spirit, and in growing the fruit of the Spirit through His work in us as we abide.

I believe I can cultivate passion for life this year as I look to the Lord to live through me, abiding more in Him. Living half-hearted has to be giving a poor testimony about what life in Christ is like. I want to live a full life, a life-giving and love-giving life because I am abiding in Him more. I want to use my God-given gifts for His glory.  In order to do this I will need to continually seek  His wisdom in life for direction and guidance, because I am truly satisfied when I am walking in His will. He is my Life-giver and Love-giver in all of life.

Are you living with passion for life? Ask Him to help you live life with all of your heart and soul! We can be truly satisfied living in and for Him.

 

Cultivating Joy in Life

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new focus!

My new word for 2018 is cultivate. I chose that word because it describes what I need to do in my life.

When a farmer cultivates, he prepares the land to grow crops, breaking up soil to grow his plants. His purpose in cultivating is to get rid of the weeds and to loosen the soil in order to have the optimal retention and penetration of water, nutrients and air.

I want similar things to happen in my life in 2018. I want to get the weeds of busyness and clutter out of my life. And I want to grow joy, develop greater passion for life, have a heart filled with more and more gratitude, and live a life of presence, mindful of what the Lord wants for me.

My first four posts of 2018 will focus on how I will cultivate these in my life. So let’s get right to cultivating joy.

I have been realizing more and more that I allow too many things to steal my joy. And, you know, that is exactly what Satan desires. He wants us to feel discouraged and despairing. And with all that is going on in this world, one can easily have their joy stolen. But even in daily life it can only take a word, a frustration, or a disappointment to steal joy, especially in me, when I allow myself to repeatedly mull over these things in my mind.

I want this year to be different I want to celebrate and find joy in the ordinary. I began to share about this when I read the book Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue. She talks about celebrating how Jesus shows Himself real in life. And also how we can draw near to Him in all things. He is the one Who gives us joy.

One of the things I am choosing to do this year is to find verses in the Bible that speak of joy, gladness, and rejoicing and then highlight them in my Bible. I am doing one verse each day. I want to see what God’s Word says it takes to bring me joy. There are many verses in Psalms that speak of joy, let alone the entire Bible. A few that have given me insight are these:

Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in him, and he helps me, my heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Psalm 90:14 “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 119:111 “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.”

These five verses alone give me much insight into finding joy. They tell me that joy is found:

  • in the Lord’s presence
  • in knowing who the Lord is as my strength, my shield, and my help
  • in the Lord’s unfailing love
  • in the Lord’s consolation
  • in His Word/Statutes that are eternal.

Isn’t it funny (or actually sad), how we so often look for joy in this world; in things, in other people, in having our desires met?

I am not saying that the Lord doesn’t give us reasons for joy in all He has given us in creation, blessings, and relationships with others. I know for a fact that He does allow us to know joy in those things. But I also know that when my focus is in solely seeking joy in these areas I can become disillusioned.

So, in 2018, I want to begin to seek to cultivate joy in my heart:

  • by knowing His presence more, slowing down and being with Him more intentionally
  • by learning to know more of Who He is personally to me in my daily life. The Lord is a very personal God.  He leads us to know Him in amazing ways as we seek Him diligently.  He has shown me this in the past.  I must continue seeking.
  • by really looking for His love in my life and recognizing it, being cognizant of how it touches me in my moment-by-moment life.
  • by taking my pain, anxiety, hurt, fear, grief, worry, and sadness to Him so that He can comfort and console me. And then I, like the Psalmist, can also find joy in His consolation.

I want to celebrate joy and find joy in the ordinary because of my constant unwavering knowledge of the Lord. So, I must continually grow and rest in my knowledge of Him.

This definitely will take focus and time, but I am very much looking forward to knowing joy in my heart more and more as I go through 2018.

I would love to hear from you. Do you have word chosen for 2018? What is it and why did you choose that particular word?

Do you have any favorite Bible verses about joy that you can share with me?

Next week, I will be sharing about how I want to cultivate passion for life in 2018.

May your new year be filled with lessons and blessings from the Lord.

Wishing You Blessings at Christmas!

It is a very cold day here.  I am very happy to be sipping coffee inside. I still have shopping to do, but I have decided to procrastinate for a bit so I can write this. The weeks seem to just fly by, and I want to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

I have been struggling to get one post out each week.  But I am trying to do some planning ahead and trying to have a better system, so I get it done. I feel more direction from the Lord with what He desires me to share, so I will be prayerfully seeking Him for further leading.

I do know that I will begin the new year by sharing with you about the word I have chosen to focus on for 2018. There are four areas that I will be seeking growth in with my focus. I will be telling you about all of these in January.

My prayer is that each of you will have a Christmas filled with blessings of knowing more of Christ’s love, peace,  and presence. There is absolutely nothing more important than having those. He is our greatest gift ever. Matchless in worth.

Merry Christmas!

Cheryl

Preparing for Christmas: Cleaning

The holidays are upon us, our Thanksgiving celebrations are over and now we are into the season of Advent, in no time Christmas will be here.

The busyness of the holidays always seems to take over an I get lost in the hustle. So, this year I am trying to be intentional about making that different. When my eyes are on my calendar and my to-do list, I get overwhelmed. My intention is to prepare my heart and soul for Jesus this year.

One of the main tasks we do at the hoidays is getting our homes clean before company arrives. Sometimes this means a deep cleaning, but if time doesn’t allow for that maybe it is a quick once over.

I believe that we should do the same thing with our hearts as we prepare for the Lord’s coming. Does your heart need cleaning?

David tells the Lord in Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.”

Cleaning the house begins with getting rid of the clutter that is lying around, I don’t know about you, but my heart is often cluttered also. Cluttered with frustration, hurt, resentment, worry, fear… you name it, it may be found there.

I know as David knew that I desperately need God’s grace. Just as I need to pick up each piece of clutter in my house and take care of it, I also need to take care of the clutter in my heart. Each frustration, want or sadness needs to be taken to the Lord.

Do you wonder what this might look like? Let me share a few examples.

You might say, ‘Lord, I am still grieving the loss in my heart. It is so difficult to celebrate or plan a celebration with all of this pain. I need You help to see the hope that Jesus brings to the world. I do not have to be pushed or pulled by the pressures of the world’s view of the holidays. My joy needs to be in Jesus opening heavens door for me and my loved one who has now passed on. My tears will still flow, my heart will still ache, but I will celebrate the hope I know in Jesus by just putting up my manger scene.’

We just lay out our hearts clutter before the Lord and tell Him our needs and He will help us to see ho we can go on, what we can do.

Most of us need some rest, we need to take time to be with Jesus, to read an Advent devotional or to sing a hymn that reiterates the Christmas story and brings hope to our weary hearts.

Let me share another scenario. Maybe your heart is feeling jealous or envious because you know you won’t have this Christmas be as you want it to be. Maybe you can’t be with the people you want. Maybe you know you can’t afford the gifts you would like to buy, yet you see others planning trips and shopping sprees leaving you feeling jealous and resentful. What might you tell the Lord about your heart then? ‘Lord, I want so much more than what is possible, I feel so disappointed, I am jealous of ____’s ability to fly to visit her family and ___”s financial status making him able to buy extravagant gifts. I want to scream in discontent. But Lord, I know Christmas is really about the tiny baby who came to earth to bring salvation. He is the one whose Word teaches me to surrender, to let go, and to forgive. Lord, help me rejoice in what seems to be a great trial and a big frustration. Help me celebrate Jesus’ birth with what I have this Christmas..’

Whatever it is that is cluttering up your heart this holiday season, take it to the Lord. He wants us to come just as we are and bring what is on our hearts and minds. He will lead us to see jesus, to see hope, and to find peace. He can lead us to know rest. We only need to come in jumble honesty and share our struggles.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, there is no sin too great, no clutter too big, the Lord can give aid. We need only come to Him.

He wants our hearts to be clean, He wants us to welcome Jesus, and know the wondrous love that sent Him to earth. The Lord will renew a right spirit within us as He did David.

More important than a clean home at Christmas is a clean heart ready for Jesus. Do you need a right spirit within? Different versions word this verse differently, some say “loyal” spirit, another says “steadfast” spirit, another says a “faithful” spirit and still another says “a right attitude.”  I want my spirit to be loyal to the Lord, I want to live out faithfulness, and not be divided because of the clutter within. I want my attitude to be right. What about you?

Wherever your heart and spirit are at, take it all to the Lord. Ask Him to be at work in you to help you find your all-in-all in Jesus this Christmas!

Authenticity in the Adventure

Being transparent and authentic is difficult, actually it can be downright scary. But apart from choosing transparency in a friendship or relationship, there is emptiness. Sharing, holding heart secrets, being real about life, all build trust. Such friendships are great blessings. They feel safe, you feel understood, and you feel known. These kind of relationships do not come about in an instant. You don’t just sit down and begin sharing from the depths of your heart. These relationships take varying degrees of time to develop.

I have learned that it is very important to be intentional about keeping the Lord first in my life in the quest of building deep friendships. God truly is a jealous God. He wants our hearts to be satisfied in Him alone. I feel that at times the Lord has withheld deep friendships from me because He wanted me to be faithful in honoring Him first. I know in the past I have made idols out of friends, I mean, I chose a person over the Lord without realizing it or intending for it to be that way. I would seek their advice, their help, and/or their understanding, and bypass the Lord.

I have seen that as I am diligent about keeping the Lord first, He has blessed me with gifts of new and deep friendships. This may or may not be true of you and your life. The Lord deals with each one of us individually. He knows how to work with us, how to get our attention, and how to draw us back to Him when we seem to stray. He knows what needs to be taken away or regulated just as a parent knows what is not helpful or healthy for a child.

The Lord also knows exactly what our hearts need. He brings people into our lives, people who we can minster to or help in specific ways as He has gifted us, as well as, people who can bless us with their giftedness.

He knows what is in and on our hearts that needs comfort or holding. He knows our experiences, and how by sharing about those experiences we can find encouragement. He knows how in His wisdom a person truly may lead us to new understanding, maybe understanding that will push us forward in growing in Him.

He hears our prayers of emptiness, loneliness, and neediness. He meets us in the pain of those with community, sisters in Christ or brothers in Christ. The Lord is faithful to meet each of our needs in ways so amazing, in ways that bring our hearts so much satisfaction. But the glory in this all goes to Him because these friends are blessing of His love. Such authenticity deepens our relationships and brings us belonging, they bring us sisterhood or brotherhood.

If you are struggling with not having a close friend or a tribe of trusted ones, ask the Lord to show you His amazing knowledge of the neediness of your heart, ask Him to bring you the blessing of a friend or put you in a group of friends..
The Lord wants us to be in relationship, of course with Him first, and then with the people He puts around us and those He brings into our lives. He cares deeply about the needs of our hearts and He will give you the gift of deep authentic relationship in this adventure we call life.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

 

Love in the Loneliness

Until I find community enough in being with Jesus first, the entire restaurant wouldn’t suffice the aching that loneliness hungers to fill.”
Choosing Real Bekah Jane Pogue

Loneliness is very common. Loneliness is a neediness within that eats away at your heart like a cancer.

Loneliness is defined as a “sadness because one has no friends or company.” I think that at first glance this definition may seem true, but when you really think about it, loneliness can be present even in a crowd. It is the depth of connection with a spouse or a friend that bridges the gap. You don’t feel lonely when you feel understood, known, loved, and you’re your heart is safe.

I learned through my depression that the pain and neediness of my heart cried out for understanding and love. My depression left me feeling as if I was drowning, suffocating, and overwhelmed with so much pain. I mostly pushed people away, but when I found that my neediness wouldn’t annihilate another, then I would cling. It was through this that I learned how needy I really was, I became aware of the emptiness and loneliness of my heart. I recognized how much I had been hiding, how deeply my real self was really buried.

It was in the midst of learning these things, in the midst of my clinging to another in hopes for healing, that the Lord made me to know that He wanted me to give Him my neediness.
It is so easy for us to run to others with our needs even when we know that the Lord is the One with the power to heal, to comfort with His love, to give understanding, and to lead in His perfect wisdom.

The Lord wants us to run to Him with our neediness and loneliness. It was when I began to pour out my heart to the Lord, and really give Him my neediness that my healing began. He desired me to see Him as my greatest need, the All-Sufficient One, my Healer.

Life can just be lonely because of the mundane of everyday. We get so busy with all we try to do that our lives may be spent in living solitary lives. If that is where you are at, Pogue suggests that “maybe solitary isn’t something we need to run away from” instead she suggest it may be our cue of to run to the Lord.

Loneliness can flood your heart throughout many moments of life for many very different reasons, the loss of friendship, the death of a loved one, moving away, isolation, or divorce. It is in these times we need to cry out to the Lord. Maybe it’s just the day and the way it’s going down, or maybe it’s the place you are in life right now, that the string of days, weeks, or even months leave you feeling lonely. Cry out to God. He hears and He answers our prayers. He deeply cares about the neediness in our hearts.

Remember, after you give the Lord the neediness of your heart to look for His answer. It is easy to miss His answers when one’s mind is set on wanting the prayer answered in our own specific way. I share this thought out of my own experience, because it was what happened with me in my depression. I knew what I felt my heart needed and I prayed for the Lord to do it my way. Instead, He showed me His way repeatedly, He wanted me to trust Him with my neediness. He wants to be the One we run to, He wants to be the One to meet our needs in the perfect ways that come out of His wisdom and love.

So, from our knees in prayer, we must get up and look to see what He is doing, where He is leading, who He is bringing or in some cases, whom He has already brought that we have missed. He knows who He has put in your life, or wants to put in your life. He knows the purpose for which He brings them.

I believe that as He sees and hears us bringing the neediness of our hearts, He will lead us to the quenching of the thirst in our loneliness through relationship with Himself, as well as with specific people He puts in community around us. He has a beautiful way of touching our neediness with His love so specific to our personal desires. He truly satisfies our hearts when we give Him the need and trust Him for the answer.

Are you lonely today? Call out to the Lord with your need.

Do you know someone who is lonely? Ask the Lord if there is a way to meet that person with His love.

The Lord is always near and never will abandon or forsake us. In moments of loneliness cling to Him and watch Him work! He is at work because He loves you!