Is Your Soul Hungry or Nourished?

I have been noticing the past few months that as I take a quick break from the pressure cooker of responsibilities and obligations in order to choose activities that encourage me to breathe deeply, I am suddenly overcome with sadness.

It happened one day as I chose to take a quick walk in a park by a river. I had my camera along and was taking photos for memories of this peaceful time. I walked along and suddenly felt as though I was about to burst into tears. Feeling too vulnerable to allow that to happen, I quickly stuffed my feelings away, but remained aware of the nagging ache within.

It happened just yesterday, I stopped at a favorite coffee shop, bought my Americano, and headed back to my car to continue on my drive home. I got into the car, set my coffee down, put my head back breathing deeply, and felt this incredible longing to not have to move. Again, the feelings of sadness filled me, and  I pushed them away, starting the car for the drive home.

So, what is this about? I have been thinking and praying about it as I realized it was happening more frequently. I have come to realize through books I have been reading and through intimate times with the Lord that I am yoked to satisfying people. It is a hard yoke to bear. Jesus promises that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (see Matthew 11:28-30).

I have been trying so hard to control everything, to be responsible for everything, to please everyone, to do it all, but I cannot do it. I am yoked to an impossible taskmaster. 

So what is the sadness about? The sadness is about my hungry soul. I have been trying to get it fed in so many places, but I never get the nourishment I need. I am left longing, starving, needy, and fragile. Fragile? Me, Miss Independent, Self-Sufficient? Yes, fragile.

I am needy for a place to grow that is safe, where there is food to nourish my soul, and a place to have belonging for my heart. I am needy for the place where the taskmaster isn’t cracking the whip to see how much I can do, or how many appreciate me, or if they are satisfied, but rather where there is unconditional love that I can be held in.

The place I am talking about is this, it is the place where I can put my fragile roots down in the soil of Christ’ love and be free and nourished so that the flower of my true-self can grow. It is being yoked to Him who knows me so well, so intimately that He will lead me in all of life to fulfill His purposes. But, the difference is, there I don’t have to prove myself, because I am already loved and accepted just as I am.

So today I am trying again to find that place, and stay there. It seems that the Lord takes off the heavy burden of the yoke of the other taskmaster, and I am relieved. But all too soon I have put it back on trying to find my own nourishment in the satisfaction and the appreciation of others. I lose sight of the love Christ has for me, I forget about the freedom I have in Him (see Galatians 5:1). 

There is a place for the fragile me, for the hungry me, for the heart filled with unfulfilled longings, for the needy self, there is a place in His love for all of me. He is the One who can fully nourish and satisfy me. I know this in my head, but I have to yet learn to live there in that place.

How about you?  Is your soul hungry? Or have you found the nourishment of Christ’ love and learned to live there?

I know the tears may still come when I forget that He is the One who meets my needs, it is just a gentle reminder that I have been trying too hard, not resting in His love. There is hope in knowing He will help me in this process because He is my loving Father.

Looking for JoyWings

Where is joy?

There are so many oppressive things in life. You listen to the news or read a news feed on your computer and you feel pressed down on every side. Accidents, illnesses, depression, suicide, broken families, terrorist scares, floods, hurricanes, or tornadoes. All of these weigh heavily on us. Feeling dissatisfied in a relationship, being hurt by a best friend, or a bad business deal can crush you. Circumstances can bring us low.

Yet Scripture tells us to “Always be joyful” (1 Thessalonians 5:16 NLT). Did you catch that? Always. Not just when circumstances are pleasant. Not just when life is good, but even on the horribly, terrible, bad days, we are to be joyful.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is through the Spirit at work within us that we are able to know joy in times of deep trouble, when life seems so overwhelmingly hopeless.

But, it isn’t only when things are terrible that our level of joy fades, too often it seems joy is rare in every day life. I recently noticed that to be true in me. I feel hungry for more joy in my life. I did a little Bible word study in order to learn more about joy.

Here is what I discovered from some of the verses I read.

Joy is found in reading God’s Word and knowing that our belonging is in Him.

Jeremiah 15:16 “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”

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

When we take time to be in the Word, He leads us in delighting in Him, in finding joy in Him. I find that joy comes in seeing how intimately He knows my heart and the neediness of it. He meets me in His Word in a personal way, drawing me to Him in deeper connection.

Joy is found in receiving from the Lord.

John 16:24 NLT “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

When we pray to the Lord and look expectantly to Him for answer to the words of our prayers, we can find joy in Him answering us in beautiful, creative, loving ways.

A few weeks back I prayed for the Lord to make His presence known to me in a special way, I wanted Him to reveal Himself to me in a way He had not before. That afternoon He showed me a beautiful butterfly that sipped nectar and flew around me repeatedly as I mowed the lawn. The butterfly in its fluttery dance filled my heart with joy in the Lord’s gift of creation. It was a precious time. I found “JoyWings.”  My heart found wings to fly to the Lord, my heart was filled with joy in Him.

Joy is found in the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 16:11 NLT “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your hand are pleasures forevermore.

It is in our quiet times seeking the Lord, looking to know more of His love and as we know His presence we know joy. He leads us in wisdom, He shows us our path, He touches our individual lives in such a way that we find joy in His closeness.

Joy is given from God.

Romans 15:13 NLT “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Isaiah 29:19 NLT “The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.

The hope that we have in knowing all the Lord has done for us brings joy to our hearts, it is a resulting gift. It is Paul’s prayer here in Romans that God fill us with joy. We can continue to pray for this as our personal prayer for our lives.

The second scripture tells us that walking in meekness leads us to the promise of fresh joy in the Lord. (See my post Surrendering: Growing Meek in Spirit for a better understanding of growing in meekness and what that means.) Reading the Word, digging deep for understanding, and then walking in obedience can bring joy as the Lord is faithful to fulfill His promises.

I found new hope for living joyful always as I read these verses.

Finding JoyWings every day to fly to the Lord with praise and to give Him glory is my hope as I continue on this journey of knowing Him more.
Continue reading “Looking for JoyWings”

Find Joy in His Refreshing Presence

Psalm 63:1b NLT “My soul thirsts for you; my whole being longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.”

Does your life sometimes feel like a parched and weary land?

I am learning to make some changes in life to create spaces to be refreshed.  I am learning that I need an Oasis of refreshing. I need to go to the Well. I need to recognize what the thirst of my soul is really for. I am able to find true joy drinking there.

The things that I seek are not really what my thirst is about. My thirst does not get quenched by them.

•My thirst is not for more satisfaction of others.

•My thirst is not for accomplishing more.

•My thirst is not for getting something like a tangible reward.

Although I do desire each of these at times. The bottom line is that I am thirsty for the Living God, for what He can give me. I thirst for His presence and the refreshment I find in that. But in my humanness, I often overlook the truth of this and I get pulled into thinking I can quench my thirst with other things. It never works.

Recognizing the real thirst within leads me to the only One who can refresh me. But, recognizing this is only half of it. Once I recognize my real need, I need to make my way on the path to Him. In fact, I am realizing, I need to seek the oasis of His refreshing before I am parched.

I am realizing that I need a deep drink when:

• I am constantly striving.

• I am seeking human recognition or accolades more than God’s glory.

• I feel little to no joy within, and no praises are pouring from my lips.

• I keep reaching to fill my emptiness and come up empty every time.

• I am grumbling and complaining at every turn.

• I can only find negative responses to everything life asks.

• I feel oppressed by all that is happening in this world, really forgetting Who is in control.

So, what can I do?

I must find refreshing in His presence.

Acts 3:19 NIV says:”Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

The first thing I must do is to come with a heart of repentance, confessing my sin of “adultery” or “idolatry”. They end up being the same thing. I sin when I seek other waters to quench my thirst (See Jeremiah 2:13). After I have repented, then I am ready to seek His presence, and to find times of refreshing.

I find this refreshing in:

• Praying Scripture. I love reading and praying the verses of the Bible. Currently, I am personalizing the book of James chapter by chapter and praying it back to the Lord. There is so much I find to repent for, so much I need to ask Him to give me, and so many ways I desire to grow. It is wonderful.

Asking the Lord to give me a picture of His love. (For example, an example of His love is a picture in my mind of being safe, sheltered, and loved beneath the shadow of His wing.)

Coming to Him little, fragile, in real desperation, in my true needy state, (not with masks of pride, attainment, self-confidence or others) and pouring out my heart. Being little helps me to know more of His love and tenderness for me. I remember singing “I am Jesus little lamb”as a child. I still am, but I haven’t thought of that in years. I find refreshing in feeling Him carry me like a little lamb, holding me tight against His chest, in His arms.

• Knowing Him more through the Bible stories that show me His attributes and putting myself in the stories, or taking the Word personally. For example, I was recently reading in the book of Ezra. I read chapter 9, verse 9, this verse talks about God’s unfailing love, and how He did not abandon the Israelites in their slavery. Ezra goes on to explain God was the One who revived them to be able to rebuild the Temple and to repair the ruins. I realized this is not only true for the Israelites  but for me also. I am in bondage too. God restores and revives me, my soul, my life, my heart. I am the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3: 15) He repairs the ruins of me when I am broken, or hurting. He heals my pain. He forgives my sin. He meets me in my thirst. He teaches me deep and intimate reliance on Him when I finally make the choice to seek Him for it.

Are you thirsty? How are you trying to quench your thirst? How will you find refreshment and true joy?  Go to the Oasis. Drink deep from the well.

What is Essential?

Being intentional is so very important in life. It is too easy to be scattered, distracted, and to lack focus. There are too many choices in everything, every day.

The question: What is essential?

How do you determine what is essential in your life, for the next moment, for the next month, for life?

What are the values that are non-negotiable that help you determine what is essential?

Believers in Christ have the Truths of the Scriptures that are a plumb-line for decisions in life. Yet beyond that, I am realizing how beautiful our individuality is as created beings. The Lord also has bestowed on us wonderful spiritual gifts to give bloom to in various areas of our lives for the purpose of glorifying Him.

There are certain values that we want to be intentional about focusing on in life. Values that help us in decisions about what we want to do, who we want to spend time with, and where we want to be.

I have taken some time to consider the ones that stand out as important to me.

I am realizing more and more how important belonging is to me. The belonging I have in my relationship with the Lord, the belonging I have with my husband and family, and the belonging I have with my friends. I want to guard that, I place high value on having those relationships in my life.

Right along with belonging is connection. I value deep connection with the Lord and others. It is important to pour myself into those important relationships, and grow in intimacy within them.

I also value creativity. I am a daughter of the Creator of this universe. He has gifted me with a creative mind that I can use to bless others with. Maybe that means cooking creatively with leftovers, or decorating our home in a beautifully, creative way. Maybe it means being creative in writing or in women’s ministry activities. Or demonstrating creativity in how I touch others lives with Christ’s love.

Another area I value is joy. I am realizing that this is an area I want to grow in. It is too easy to have circumstances and attitudes keep you on a rollercoaster, rather than having the constancy of the joy of the Lord holding you above all of that.

Finally, I value play and playfulness. I look around at the beautiful creation that the Lord gave us to enjoy and see so much playfulness in the scampering squirrels, the diving dolphins, and the fluttering butterflies. I have to believe that the Lord wants us to find ways that we can play. A few weeks ago, I was mowing the lawn and a monarch butterfly was floating from dandelion to dandelion sipping nectar and then coming close flying around me. It was delightful. It was playful.

So, what is the point of all this? The bottom line is when you recognize what you value, it helps you to be able make intentional choices. Just as your God-given purposes help you sift through the choices of what you want to put on your calendar, your values can benefit you in the same way.

When we discover what our purposes are and what we value we can look at our calendar, our daily lives, and see if we are being true to who God created us to be. We can see if we are being true to ourselves. We can focus on what is essential and grow in living that out.

I find that I get overwhelmed by too much on my calendar, I get frustrated with too much cluttering my closet, and I get exhausted by too much on my to-do list. Finding what is essential helps me to have energy as well as feel less stress in doing what is most important. Finding what is essential helps me to choose what I need for what I am doing.

So, what is essential to you?

What do you want to be intentional about? What do you value?

How can you benefit from taking time to determine the answers to those questions?

And more importantly, how can you glorify the Lord with your choices?

The Trouble with Prayer

Does your prayer life get into a rut?

Are you just going through the motions?

Praying to the Creator of the universe, our Holy, Almighty God is a privilege. He who calls us His children wants us to come to Him. But why does it seem so difficult sometimes? It is amazing that He wants to hear from us and be at work in our lives, working on our behalf. He thinks about us, cares for us, and desires intimacy with us. Yet, I hear so many Christians talk about their struggles with prayer. I, too, have struggled with prayer.

The trouble with prayer is

– Prayer takes time, and there always seems to be a shortage of time in our lives.

– Prayer requires us to be fully present, knowing the Lord’s presence. Our being fully present means setting aside a million little distractions of the day.

– Prayer is all about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and many of us struggle to know Him as our Sweet Abba. We struggle to know and feel His love for us.

– Prayer, really pouring out your heart, means learning humility and recognizing how fragile we really are. It means realizing our human frailty and desperate dependence on God. Who wants to go there? It feels safer believing we are in control, besides, feeling self-sufficient increases our feeling of independence.

– Prayer means being thoughtful and cognizant of others and their needs. We are often so busy and self-focused, we miss out on so many opportunities to lift up others in prayer.

– Prayer means being open to the Spirit of God, having our ears open to hear His windwords. There is so much noise in our lives, and we don’t take time for the disciplines of silence and solitude to hear His gentle whisper.

It sounds overwhelming, and sometimes it just feels like we can’t do it right. But, it all comes down to one thing, do you really want relationship and intimacy?

I have enjoyed writing out my prayers for years, but for a while I found myself writing the same things everyday. I got bored. I felt extremely frustrated. I was in a rut. It was obvious that I was just going through the motions, my heart wasn’t in it. I wasn’t desperate for knowing the Lord more, or growing in intimacy with Him, or hearing from Him. I just was checking off my quiet time off of my to-do list and there was a lot more on the list that I needed to get done, so I just wanted to get through it.

Something had to change. I started praying about prayer. I needed the Lord to teach me how. I wanted to really be with Him, and learn from Him. Little by little, He led me in knowing Him more. He led me in seeking His heart and His will for my life. I am happy to say that I am no longer in that rut. He has lifted me out to the solid ground of a deeper relationship.

Every relationship in our lives that we really care about takes time and effort. How much is your relationship with the Lord worth? What is worth more? It comes down to a matter of priorities.

If your prayer life is in a rut, set aside some time to ask your Heavenly Father to teach you to pray. It is a request that He will always answer. He desires an intimate relationship with you. He is waiting for it. It is why He created you.

He meets us where we are with His heart filled with His unconditional love and stays with us there whispering His Spirit’s windwords to our hearts. Prayer can be a precious gift, when we reach for relationship with Him through it.

Enjoy some time of prayer today.

His Love is Enough

His love is enough, I know this is true, but often I do not live as though I believe it. Recently, as I was reading Holley Gerth’s book You’re Going to be Okay, I realized that I strive endlessly to satisfy others to earn their love. I put so much pressure on myself, and often it all goes unnoticed.

God’s love is unconditional, I do not need to do anything to earn His love. But when I don’t realize that truth and don’t let that love hold me, I strive for human love to fill the emptiness.

I know I am not alone in doing this. I have had many conversations with friends and others who tell me their stories of trying to earn love. It all comes down to the same problem, we don’t know the magnitude of God’s love. We don’t trust Him to be enough, to fill the emptiness, to meet the hunger or neediness, or maybe it is our own pride that says I can get what I need myself. Whatever it is, it leaves us aching.

I wonder how we move the truth of His love from our heads ro our hearts. How is it that the Lord can continually be loving and faithful and yet we seek getting our needs met elsewhere?

Do you need to be reminded today about your Heavenly Father’s love?

His love was demonstrated to us while we were yet sinners when Christ died on the cross for our sins. (see Romans 5:8)

His love is everlasting. (see Jeremiah 31:3)

He loves us as a father, and calls us His children. (see 1 John 3:1)

His love is as high as the heaven is above the earth, immeasurable. (see Psalm 103:1)

The Bible tells us that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. (see Romans 8:35-39)

We are so easily deceived into thinking we can find more or better elsewhere, but the Lord has perfect love for us.

I am praying that He help me stop striving to earn earthly love that rarely satisfies for any length of time, and help me know His perfecr, satisfying love more and more.

The Apostle Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT that “…Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you wilbe made with all fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

It is a viscious circle of striving, and having, then hungering, then striving again. I think in my striving, I too often take on unnecessary reaponsibilities.  Paul tells us that the Lord’s yoke is easy. He leads us in His love to fulfill His perfect will. Ic an find rest from srriving as I know His love more.

Oh Lord, help us to know the reality of the great extavagance of Your love!!

Facets of God’s Character: Sovereign Over All

Do you know who is in control? It is so easy for us to yearn for that. We strive and strive to have the control so we feel safe and secure. But, wait, where is God in all of that striving? I love the Bible stories from Sunday School that taught me such amazing truths from the pages of scripture.

The Hebrew name El Elyon speaks of God as the Most High God. El means powerful and here the El is used twice, indicating that God has supreme power, there is no higher authority. Elyon means that God is the highest one, the exalted one. We often use the term sovereign to describe this attribute.

Our Sovereign God is Creator, Provider, Sustainer, Ruler over all. Job 42:2 tells us He can do all things, no thought or purpose of His can be restrained or thwarted. Daniel 4:35 tells us that He does according to His will and no one can stay His hand. He is all powerful.

One of my favorite Bible story is in Daniel 4 where King Nebuchadnezzar shares his story of transformation. He explains how he was at home in his palace relaxing, not worried about a thing, because he in his pride thought that he had everything under control.

Pride is an offense to God, and is is the opposite of the humilty of heart we are suppose have before God. Proverbs 16:18 tells us, “Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before the fall. ”  Well, that is the truth that we will see King Nebuchadnezzar learn.

He has this nightmare that shakes him to the core, but he has no idea of what it means, so he calls in the wise men of Babylon. He asks these magicians, enchanters, fortune tellers and witches to tell him what the dream meant but none of them are able to do so. And then Daniel was called in and with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit Daniel is able to interpret the dream.

Daniel was afraid to even tell the king the meaning because it was in regard to what would happen to him if he didn’t turn from his evil ways. The king encouraged him to give it to him straight, so Daniel explained that the king was the tree he dreamed about. He had grown strong and great, ruling over much. And the holy angel that spoke of chopping down the tree, destroying it in the dream, was speaking of the king also. It was a warning that if the king did not change his ways he would be driven away from other humans to live with the wild animals. He would eat grass lik the ox. This would go on for seven years to make him realize that the Most High God, El Elyon is Ruler over all. Daniel warned the king that he better make some changes, but the king ignored it all.

When all is going well, and in our human pride we get to thinking we have it all under control, sometimes we laugh at trouble as if it cannot touch us. We lose sight of who God is. We lose sight of His sovereignty. It seems so much more comfortable being in control. But that is not what is real. Our hearts always need to bow in humility before the Most High God, El Elyon.

Back to King Nebuchadnezzar. Things went on without change for a year. Then as he stood on the balcony of his palace proclaiming his own greatness and how it had all come about by his hands, for his honor and glory, suddenly the verdict was given and the kingdom was taken from him. The king was driven out to the fields as he had been shown in the dream. He was given seven years to learn that El Elyon is the Ruler over all.

There in the field he ate grass like and ox and grew feathers like and eagle. He had claws like that of a hawk. Then, at the end of seven years he was given his mind back and he blessed God, giving Him thanks, and giving Him the glory due His name. It was then that he was given back his kingdom and he became greater than ever.  Daniel chapter 4 comes to a close with King Nebuchadnezzar singing and praising the King of Heaven. King Nebuchadnezzar learned humility the hard way. He learned of the sovereignty of God by way of a very difficult lesson.

King Nebuchadnezzar in his pride had taken credit for what was God’s alone to take credit for. 1 Peter 5:6 tells us, “…humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in His good time He will honor you.” When we do it His way, he promises to give us honor also.

Humble yourself under El Elyon. Remember He alone is the Sovereign One. He is the One with all wisdom, and power, and strength. We, like Adam and Eve, and like King Nebuchadnezzar, often want to be the god of our own lives. This name of God tells us the truth about Who He is. He is the One we honor, and the One we give glory to. He is the One in control, and the One we are to be in submission to?

What are your trying desperately to control that you need to turn to El Elyon with?  Is there something in your life that holds a higher place than Him? It seems so easy to conceal our pride, or think it is a lesser sin. But that is not how God sees it. His truth is clear, King Nebuchadnezzars story makes God’s view of pride very evident. I know I need to fall on my knees before El Elyon and confess my pride, what about you?