Roadblocks and Forced Stops

Have you ever taken a road only to find it’s a dead-end or there’s a roadblock keeping you from traveling on? It can be extremely frustrating, especially if you are running late or just in a hurry! Or if you are dead-set on having your way!

I was all ready to go, and so looking forward to the women’s Christmas event, then I went to the garage only to find my left front tire extremely low on air. I immediately knew I couldn’t drive my car like that without ruining the tire. So I went back in tbe house in tears, I had so been looking forward to attending this and now I was stuck. I felt sad and frustrated, and rather than seeing my being stuck home as a gift, I saw it as me not getting what I wanted. I pouted like a little child after being told a final “no.” I cancelled the other plans I had for the day and pushed through working at Saturday housework.

Now this past weekend came with our church’s Christmas sing-along, and early on in the weekend I found myself coming down with a cold, my sinuses plugged and a throbbing headache. I went to sing-along sick, but only sang a few songs. It felt disappointing.

I have been pushing hard through life being all-responsible in making sure my mom has gotten the care she needs and taking care of everything involved in that. I didn’t stop doing anything else in my normal schedule, my “plate” overflowed with too much. I refused to say “no”, I refused to give in to my exhaustion, I pressed on.

I had breakfast with my brother last week. Sometimes the Lord speaks through the unexpected. My brother and I have been arguing about how I am handling things. I felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and angry. He finally told me, “You have to stop, you can’t do it all, either you choose to stop or you will be stopped,” He went on to list ways I could be stopped, telling me it could be a heart-attack, or cancer, or a car accident…and the list of horrors went on. I heard his words and set them aside, I didn’t have time for any of that! Well, when you refuse to listen the first time the Lord will repeat His words.

I am reading Shelly Miller’s book “Rhythm’s of Rest” and a few days ago I read about forced stops. She says,”We can interpret interruptions as roadblocks to peace or as moments for deepening relationship, trusting in the path God dictates.” Reading it made me stop and think about what my brother had said as well as the things that have been happening. I interpreted both “interruptions” as roadblocks to peace, because I only wanted my way. Later in the chapter Miller goes on to say, “God wants our attention no matter the circumstance, we must be willing to surrender.”

The tire with low air, and the sinus gunk were opportunities to say no to good things because the Lord knew my body desperately needed rest. I didn’t get it. Like a stubborn child, I wanted what I wanted!

The Lord loves us so much and wants the best for us. He knows the fragility of our human bodies. He knows we just cannot keep going and going pushing on overwhelmed with stress.

He lovingly gave me two opportunities to take time to rest and I chose my own way. The first time I set to work out of anger and frustration. The second time I chose to go to an event even though I was sick.

Sometimes the good things we plan are not really the best things for us. I see now that I need to be more aware, and look and listen for the Lord to really show me what He wants for me. When my schedule is already overflowing and I am already beyond exhaustion, I do not need to add more to my to-do list even if it seems like they are fun and relaxing activities.

My eyes need to be on the Lord rather than on all I have to do or want to do. He wants relationship with me, He wants to show me His loving-presence. He wants the best for me. He wants to take care of me even when I forget or lose sight of caring for myself.

How are you doing this busy Christmas season? Are you taking time to listen to the Lord? Are you finding time to rest?

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Where is Your Treasure?

A big part of recalibrating my life is simplifying. It seems that we are very good at accumulating. Year-after year we purchase or acquire more things, and we add more activities to our calendars, saying yes to people along the way.

Moving Mom has been a huge amount of work. Through the years she collected a menagerie of things, and has put her treasures in a box to save for someday-maybe. You know, “I may need this…” or “I would like to read this but there isn’t time now.” So now, there are stacks of boxes with items from years ago, and it seems there may be unknown treasure in each one.

Do you have those kind of boxes too? The ones with things that seemed too-precious to get rid of at the time, so it ended up on a stack with other boxes.

Christmas is nearing, and many are bustling about buying gifts, more jewelry, more appliances, more technology, more toys, and the list goes on. I have to confess, with all the chaos of moving Mom, any shopping for Christmas has been left for another day.

I come home from hunting for another “treasure” Mom knows is somewhere in a box that she definitely wants to keep and begin looking around my house only wanting to get rid of things. I don’t have much desire to go out and buy more stuff. Our stuff may initially seem like a treasure but in time becomes a burden. The cleaning, sorting, reorganizing; it all takes time. So, I ask, where is your treasure?

I want my house, my calendar, and life itself all to be lighter. I am realizing how easily I can be pulled off track, distracted by this want, or that desire. Oh, it may just be a passing whim, but somehow I accumulate stuff to satisfy it, and then as time passes the desire is replaced with a new desire and it starts all over again. It becomes a vicious circle of greed.

The Bible says, “For where your treasure is, there  will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Jesus wants our hearts. He is God’s Christmas gift to us, and He truly is to be treasured above all. All of life needs to flow out of life with Him. And life with Him is about the “easy yoke” and “the unforced rhythms of grace”(Matthew 11:28-30).

This month I am gleaning from the book of Luke, a chapter a day. Jesus’ life was about what came out of His time with His Heavenly Father and that abiding. It was not rushed or hurried. He focused on loving others, spending time with others, enjoying meals together, talking with, teaching, and healing. He developed relationships, and touched lives.

Simplifying life means narrowing my focus and intention to the essential. The track of recalibrating life by simplifying means getting rid of the unnecessary and focusing on the important and for me I want to focus on treasuring Christ and what is important to Him. Holding less tightly to things and all that makes you crazy-busy.

This month, as Christmas fast approaches, I have not had time to shop feverishly for lists of gifts. But I have been trying to set aside a few hours, here and there, to spend with those I care about. All too often in the past I have gotten caught up in the shopping and decorating craziness. This year I have not had time nor energy. But I am going to bake 20 big fat gingerbread men for putting together plates of Christmas cookies for gifts at church. I will attend a women’s Christmas gathering at the church a part of my extended family attends in order to spend a few hours with them. I plan to go to a Christmas sing-along at my church. I am going to take time to make some cinnamon dough ornaments to enjoy the relaxation and the smells. And I also will make a simple dinner for a few guests we want to have over through the holiday season. My husband and I already have had special  moments of time together, grabbing lunch, sitting in a favorite coffee shop, helping a neighbor, and watching a movie. We are continue to make choices for quiet. Choices, focus, intention. I can’t do it all, but I can do some things. I still will need to buy a few gifts to wrap, but it will be much different then in the past. As I said the treasures we pack away, soon become burdens, but the memories we pack in our hearts can be treasured forever. We can help boost our memories by taking a photo, or making a journal entry about the special time. These are always fu. to look back on.

I started a small “recalibrate life” journal where I am just recording those special quiet, precious moments where it isn’t all about the hustling and bustling, but instead about the breathing deeply and enjoying.

And as I walk around the house, looking in a closet, glancing at a bookshelf, I am constantly evaluating each items necessity. The boxes that are accumulating in my garage are boxes for Salvation Army, not storage.

I don’t want my “treasures” accumulated in boxes on shelves in my basement and garage. I want what I treasure to be about loving, creating, playing, finding joy, celebrating, breathing; and I want it all to be slow. Not frantic and rushed, not overwhelming and exhausting. I want quiet moments where I share time with others in focusing on mutual interests. I want it all to center around and flow out of my love for Jesus and His great love for me.

He has blessed us with the love of family and friends, with talents for creating, with reasons for celebrating, and with time to play, maybe that means building a snowman with a child, making dough ornaments with a friend, just for fun, or playing cribbage with a neighbor. Time spent together is a wonderful gift to give and it is a beautiful demonstration of love. I want my heart to be filled with Christ’s love and then I want to share that love moment-by-moment.

So, once again, I ask you where is your treasure? Is it in a box somewhere? Or in a relationship in which you celebrate special moments? Is it about love or greed? Our motives are hard to determine at times, but being intentional in how you think about “treasures” may help. I know it has helped me.

Cultivating a Peaceful Heart

My life has been anything but peaceful the past few weeks. It has been crazy busy as I am helping my mom get moved into a safer environment.

I had forgotten how much there is involved in a move. Especially when it is a move requiring downsizing and there is so much left in the house, so much that still needs attention.

Even so, I do not want to lose sight of recalibrating life. I need to constantly cultivate peace in my heart despite the chaos in my life. Have you been there?

Peace is such a beautiful word and such a tranquil feeling. But where can you find it? How can you live in a state of tranquility?

Colossians 3:15 says: “Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.”

When life gets overwhelming, and your heart grows anxious, and fretful words stream from your lips, you soon recognize need for peace within.

Anxiety, worry, and overwhelm scream fretful words in our heads. “You’ll never get done.” “There is too much to do.” This is impossible.”

God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything. Instead, pray. Offer up your requests. Give thanks. And then God’s peace comes. “The peace that passes all understanding.” It makes absolutely no sense to our human minds. But this peace fills our hearts and minds, it stands guard. These are the truths of Philippians 4:6-7.

Peace also is given as we keep our minds “stayed” on the Lord (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect peace is promised. My mind is often like a bouncing ball, rambling about from one place to another. My mind needs to instead be like a tether ball, attached to the Lord, like the rope that holds the ball to the pole. When I focus my mind on Him, Who He is, and what He is able to do, as well as all He has done, new peace fills me. Feeding on His faithfulness, remembering His goodness, these can bring great peace to our hearts. My heart and mind need His perfect peace to help me find rest.

Psalm 29:11 tells us that “The Lord gives strength to His people, He blesses them with perfect peace.” What encouraging words when you are feeling weak and overwhelmed. When your body feels weak and exhausted from too much work, and your mind cannot fathom how it will all get done, the Lord promises strength and peace. He meets us in those impossible places, renewing our strength, somehow replenishing our depleted energy, and filling us with peace to calm, which in turn renews our hope.

It is too easy to fall back into the old pattern of needing to control everything and feel responsible for it all. Peace is not a by-product of a life trying to keep it all under control. Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10)! But in walking the path toward recalibrating life, I need to remember to let go of control, and learn deeper trust in the One Who truly is in control, that is where true peace is found!

So with aching muscles from lifting, packing, and unpacking…with a tired mind from five hours of driving almost daily for about a week, I find rest. Not because the work is done, but because I know I am not alone in the doing. The Lord continues to faithfully provide. He knows my weariness and He touches me with His love in sweet and unexpected ways. My husband heating up dinner, Mom’s neighbor offering to rake up all of the leaves that have fallen. Another neighbor promising to get the mail, take care of the garbage and recycle containers, as well as cleaning up any snow that may come. And then there is the Christian realtor who has access to many other helpful resources. The Lord never ceases to amaze me with His goodness and loving-kindness. His mercies really are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

He knows my overwhelm, He knows my worries, He knows my neediness, and He has it all under control. He is able (Ephesians 3:20)! His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)! He meets, He supplies my needs “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

His peace is real, and I find rest in the hope of its constant availability. He is present with us through all of life. Pray. Keep your mind stayed on Him. Remember His faithfulness. Look at how He has been at work. Your heart can know peace in the midst of anxiety and overwhelm. He only wants us to whisper a prayer, tell Him our need.

Cultivating peace means the need to weed out worry, and choosing to focus on Him.

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

What do you know about grace?

Have you ever thought about the phrase “learn the unforced rhythm of grace? ”

I have been giving a lot of thought to recalibrating my life and those words from that verse have intrigued me. It sounds light, easy, peaceful, and restful. It sounds, quite honestly, like just exactly what I need. How about you?

Life can get messy, busy, difficult, painful, and overwhelming. And in the midst of it you grow exhausted and needy. You may come to recognize your own fragility.

Ok, it is not like I haven’t been in this place before, similar feelings brought on by different situations. I have found myself needy and fragile in the past. But my response to it often was one of choosing to keep pushing through. I did not want to give into it. I wanted to stand strong even though I felt as though I would crumple into a heap at any moment.

This time I am realizing my neediness is a place to invite in God’s grace. He is waiting for me to do just that each time I get to this place. He wants me to learn the unforced rhythms of His grace.

Grace. It is about Him, actually the word describes so much of who He is. It is about His love. It is about His presence and His going with me. It is not about me trying to do anything on my own. It is about connection, the connection of my abiding in Him. It is about me trusting Him. Doesn’t it seem like it always comes back to that word trust?

I have to trust Him enough to allow Him to show me the way through, to guide me in a gentle way. And in that He helps me to know that I am not all alone. His presence, His grace help me to know I do not have to go it alone, the pressure is off. I can stop, I can cry. I can say, “I’m tired.” I can be real and vulnerable.

The rhythm, the cadence of His sure-footedness is steady. Not racing or rushing. Just moving me forward. He isn’t forcing me or pushing me. He isn’t dragging me along unwillingly, He is by my side, always with me.

It has become so vivid to me now. His grace, His love are always here. He is with me. He has been with me, but I have been walking way too fast, super-focused on the mission at hand, pressing on to get my own way. And I have missed the tenderness of His gracious presence.

This time I see it, I feel it, I truly am learning of the unforced rhythms of His grace. His grace is for me all of the time.

Yes, we learn about grace mostly from the cross, but I am realizing my depth of neediness for tender grace in all of life. I am looking for it more and more as I walk through the rough spots in life.

How about you, is your life making you aware of your neediness, specifically your need for His tender grace?

The picture this verse gives talks about “yoke.”  A yoke we may be slightly familiar with is the yoke placed on two oxen at work. The stronger one showing the way to the weaker one. This gives us a picture of guidance, and helping to carry the weight.

Yoke here also speaks of the yoke of a rabbi, the yoke if a rabbi was his teachings, and if you chose to follow him it was said that you came under his yoke. This is another helpful picture. When we come to follow Jesus we come under the yoke of His teachings. Jesus’ yoke of teaching isn’t heavy or ill-fitting. That is to say it isn’t filled with expectation and obligation to fulfill the law on our own. Jesus has fulfilled it for us through His work on the cross. Now as we take on His yoke He walks with us through life gently leading us in His perfect way. He takes off the heavy yoke of sin that weighs us down and leads on the paths of righteousness.

I can stop striving under His yoke, I have nothing to prove. He knows my true nature and apart from Him I can do nothing. As I trust Him and walk in His yoke I can rest when I stop fighting for my way, or struggling to make it under the weight of my life’s burdens. You see He carries the burdens for us. And ahhh, yes, with the weight of sin and striving lifted we can rest in the saving grace He provides. True rest.

Abandoning control. Choosing His yoke. Choosing the way of trust. I am not good at this. In fact, I often struggle and strive to have my own way. And I choose the yoke of sin and the burden is heavy and I have to once again come to the place of realizing I can’t do it. I need Jesus. I need His tender grace and I need the rest I find in Him.

His yoke is easy when I choose to trust His heart and walk in His way.  His love calls us, “Come to me,” will you run to Him or find your own way?  I have run my own way too often but His grace definitely is the better way. It is there that we can find rest.

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.

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?