Communion

What does communion mean to you? How does communing with the Lord change you? 

Communion is the final word that I want to respond to from the book The Broken Way. The Lord has used this word to impact my heart deeply, He has helped me to realize so much about my relationship with Him, where I am and where I want to be. I hope that you will find a part of my journey that you can relate to and that it will touch your heart in special way, leading you to desire the Lord more. 

To commune is defined as to “share one’s intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone) especially on a spiritual level.” It goes on to say that”the purpose of praying is to commune with God” (Oxford Dictionary).

Dictionary.com defines commune as “to converse or talk together with profound intensity, intimacy etc.”

I like using the word commune as a verb in connection to prayer and relationship with the Lord. We receive communion in church as part of the service, and we are told to do this “in remembrance of Him”.

Ann Voskamp shares in her book that the act of a Jewish man asking a woman to marry him, and the act of receiving communion mirror each other. She explains that in communion the Lord is asking for our union with Him and in marriage a man asks to be united with a woman.

As I was praying and reading the Scriptures today, the Lord has shown me how I am “prone to wander.”  In Jeremiah 2:34b, the Lord says “…my people have forgotten me days without number.” Reading this made do a personal inventory of my time with the Lord. I thought, no, I haven’t forgotten Him, but the Lord made it clear to me how all too often I just go through the motions but don’t open my heart to really commune with Him.

My word for the year 2017 is “yield” , but I struggle to yield. I instead find myself distracted, or busy and not surrendered as I want to be. I spoke to the Lord telling Him that I need to find balance, and the words were barely out of my mouth, when Matthew 6:33 came to my mind. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” “All these things”, all the things I am preoccupied with, worrying about, busy with or tending to, He will take care of. All that I need. He will supply. I only need to seek Him.

I wanted to argue and say, “but it’s not that easy.” And then I was reminded that it was only this morning that I learned the word “delight”  in Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” comes from a Hebrew word with the root word meaning soft, pliable, or moldable. And there I was, back at yielding. Communing with Him, seeking Him, delighting in Him is all about yielding to Him and when I do He will change the desires of my heart so that they are aligned with His will. He will add all the things I need or desire accordingly.

No, He is not going to give me whatever I wish like a magic genie. He is going to take my heart and work in it to find the reality of my deepest need in that desire and as He meets me in that I will find that I am always satisfied in Him.

The emptiness within is not calling out for more to do, or more busyness, or more stuff. It is a yearning for HIm that is often filled temporarily in an unsatisfying way with the things of this world.

Our Heavenly Father knows what we need, and because of His love for us He wants us to seek Him so the need can be met according to His perfect will.  He doesn’t want us trying to find what we need in things that will never satisfy.

Isaiah 55 2 “Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me and eat what is good and you will delight in the richest of fare.

He knows our hearts yearn for deep communion with Him. He has what is good. He knows what satisfies. He can delight us with “the richest of fare.” The road to communion, truly as Ann says, is the broken way.

As we come into the presence of His holiness we weep in knowing more of our brokenness, but then, as we are led into communion with Him, we find the abundance that satisfies the desires of our hearts.

Our brokenness can lead us on many rabbit trails, but only in the Lord will we find our hearts healed, our needs met, our desires satisfied, all according to His perfect wisdom and will. Life is not perfect, but the Lord and His will are, and that makes life here on this earth worth it all.

I came away from my time with the Lord feeling a deeper yearning for more, for more of Him, for greater intimacy with Him, for Him to lead me deeper and deeper in understanding of His Word and in knowing Him.

He wants us to commune with Him, to be in union, and yield to, and find delight in Him. He longs for and waits for us to bring our brokenness to Him everyday, moment-by-moment. He wants to meet with us and intimately hold our broken pieces as we share them with Him.

I came away wondering why do I so often resist Him and end up choosing something less satisfying?

What is He calling you to?

Will you go and commune with Him?

Will you bring your brokenness and look at it with Him?

You will find abundance in Him as you walk the path of the broken way to communion with Him.

Oh Gracious Father, make my heart pliable and soft, meet me in my brokenness. Lord, I long to know more of You in communion with You. Lead my heart to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”(Psalm 73:25-26) Let it be so, Amen.

 

 

 

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Abundance out of Brokenness

Is there abundance out of brokenness? Can you wrap your mind around that?

It is a bit mind-boggling to say the least. This concept is not typically what we think of when we think of being broken. Brokenness is usually equated with emptiness, despair, helplessness, hopelessness, feelings of overwhelm, grieving, and on and on. There doesn’t seem to be any light for a path to abundance.

Yet, Ann Voskamp says that brokenness is a “daring path to abundant life.” It is all about risk, Ann describes it as “vulnerable communion.” Sharing our brokenness, embracing our brokenness, giving away our broken pieces is the road to finding true abundance.

The abundant life is promised to the believer in John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.Jesus came so that we as believers may have abundant life. Satan, the devil comes to take it away, to bring death, and for the purpose of destruction. We are dead to God’s gift of abundant life before we come to know Christ. When we are “dead in our sins”, we are not even aware of that fact of our deadness.

But we have been called to hope in Christ. Praise God for His amazing grace. Jesus came and took our brokenness, He took away our sins, He took it all to the cross, He died for us. Jesus came to bind up and to heal (Psalm 147:3). He takes us in all of our brokenness, in our sin-sickness, in our hopelessness and fear, and leads us to abundance.

Oftentimes, people hear the words “abundant life” and think of riches, and money, wealth. When Jesus promises abundant life, He is promising satisfaction in Himself. We are satisfied in knowing Him, in His love, in the peace He brings, and in the comfort He gives.

We can take our own personal brokenness and share it with others, and in the humility of recognizing our need for Christ, and in the knowledge of our pain, we can point others to Christ. Instead of turning inward, instead of hiding, we can share how we know pain within, we can find a commonality of brokenness in our lives, and find hope in the one Who came to heal us, the one Who robes us in His righteousness. We are covered in Jesus righteousness, and in that there is hope, the hope is because of His unfailing mercy and grace for us.

We can give out of what we find in Jesus. We can live broken open and poured out as we live our lives in Christlikeness because of what Jesus has done for us. And as we pour out our lives into the lives of others, we again and again go back to the Lord to be filled and refilled. It is in our emptiness that we realize our need and desperation for the hope we can only find in Him.

We all are broken, broken by sin, broken by pain, broken by grief, and it is when we stop covering it up, hiding it away and let our woundedness be the opening where we let others in to love us and let our wounded places be pressed into the woundedness of Christ that we find abundance. We find abundance, meaning we find full satisfaction in Jesus and the richness that comes in knowing the love, acceptance, and belonging we can only have in true communion.

Are you on that path to abundance?

Are you finding satisfaction in Jesus in the midst of your personal brokenness?

Are you sharing your brokenness with others and sharing what you have found in the Lord with them as well?

We can find true abundance as we know our brokenness, share our brokenness, and know the Lord in all of it.

Grace

Is your heart imprisoned by sin? God’s grace can set you free.

What role does grace play in your life? How significant does your sin have to be in order for you to feel the need to repent?

Sin made its way into the human race through Adam and Eve. But before the foundations of the earth God knew that man would turn away from Him in sin, and God had a plan. The Lord gave us Jesus to die for our sins. One’s relationship with the Lord only comes about through accepting Jesus’ payment for sin.  That is grace. Our sins are forgiven in Jesus, no matter what our sin is. Jesus took all of them to the cross. That is huge!

Yet I came to realize that I need to take my day sin much more seriously as I read The Broken Way. Grace isn’t a free ticket to sin. When I sin, I need to take time to talk with the Lord about what I have done, admit my sinfulness and ask for forgiveness. Grace wasn’t cheap, it cost Jesus His life.

It comes down to this,when I sin, do I even consider that cost? I need to keep that cross at the forefront of my mind to help me remember the cost of my sin to Jesus and the incredible value of the grace He gives me.

If I am not living life with a heart of repentance, I probably have no part of grace in my days. What does that say about my relationship with the Lord? What does it say about my love for Him? Do I even recognize the cost?

The Broken Way has made me take this to heart. We often take sin lightly, a white lie here, an angry word, or lustful look. These may seem small compared to sins like murder, adultery, or perjury, but they were all a part of the reason why Jesus died on the cross. They all are the basis of our need for grace.

So, what does it mean day-to-day? For me it means being more aware of how I live, act, and speak. It means being aware of my sin as I commit them. I need to talk to the Lord and receive His grace into my heart and life moment-by-moment.

Sin separates us from God, it causes a distance in our relationship with the Lord. The Lord desires our relationship, it is why He sent Jesus. His grace is always available, He looks for us to come to Him with humble hearts of sorrow about our sins.

When we come to the throne of grace, we come to find deeper intimacy and depth of relationship with the Lord. It means that my heart grows more tender to the things that hurt my Heavenly Father. It means a deeper understanding of what grace really is, leading me to knowing abundant hope in Him who died for me.

Do you need grace in your life today? At this moment? It is so easy to overlook our sins, and as we do our hearts become hardened and insensitive to the Holy Spirit’s convicting us. Realizing the truth of the correlation between my recognition of my sinfulness, my bringing that sin before the Lord and the reality of His grace being poured into my life and my heart, has created a new yearning for a deeper relationship with Him. I guess it made me recognize all the more how desperately I need my Lord and Savior.

So, how about you? What are you doing with the sin in your life? Is your heart hardened to the reality of it? Or is your heart opened to the grace the Lord wants to pour over your sin? We have access to the throne of grace through Jesus, His blood paid the way. Does that truth have any effect on your life? These are all questions I had to ask myself. It is so easy to take it for granted. Is the cross just being a shiny piece of jewelry around your neck? It is so much more. How do you keep this truth flashing in your mind as a reminder of Who you are living for, and of Who you belong to?

Grace greater than all our sin, Thank you, Jesus.

Giving the Gift of Love in Time

What is time to you? How do you think about time?

Time is my “Isaac”, it is something I need to learn to let go of. I need to learn to sacrifice the time I have and not hoard it. I seem to try to hold onto it too tightly.

Ann Voskamp, in her book The Broken Way, says that time is to be sacrificed not to be seized. It is something to give rather than hold onto.

The Lord gives us 1440 minutes each day, it is a gift, every minute, every second. It is so easily squandered away, wasted or used selfishly. The Broken Way helped me to see once again my tunnel vision when it comes to time. I have an agenda. I know what I need to do and what I want to accomplish. And I rarely see outside of that or beyond that.

Ann shares how she used her 40th birthday to give to others in so many beautiful ways. It all began with an idea in her mind but she did not feel the desire to carry the idea out. Yet, she moved forward with it anyway. She gave away her birthday in gifting others. She found herself so happy doing it. Blessing others became a blessing for her and her whole family.

This made me wonder about what I have been missing when I am so over-focused on my to-do list and so oblivious to opportunities.

Ann says that our days, each day is a “pocket of possibility” and that we only need a willing hand to give or to bless. She also talks about how her list of things she needs to do can become more about ways to love.

Those concepts really resonate with me. The way you think about something changes how you go about it. Can you imagine what it would be like if you looked at each item that you now see as an obligation or a thing to accomplish instead as an opportunity to love? Maybe the question to ask ourselves is: how can I show love or be love or give love today? Maybe it’s by making a delicious home-cooked meal eaten in candlelight. Maybe it’s by putting fresh sheets on the bed and spraying them with a favorite perfume, or with a love-note in the lunchbox. Maybe it’s a handwritten card or letter to a friend you know is going through a rough time or a visit to a shut-in.

Somehow thinking about it this way transforms how you look at your to-do list. When you think of it in terms of ways of loving your family, your friends, and those you have contact with, it spurs us on in creativity. You know how at birthday time and Christmas time we try to wrap up something special and keep it a surprise. Wouldn’t that be a fun way to look at your agenda? It would mean thinking of everything there is to do and the time it takes to do it as a gift for someone. And the creativity comes in when you go about deciding how you will fill it with love and make it a sweet surprise.

Looking at it that way makes me feel more apt to open my hands and let go of my tight grip on moments or hours of the day. Each moment holds another possibility to use my God-given time. I think that later when I write my to-do list for tomorrow, I am going to contemplate how I can make the things I need to accomplish into ways of loving others. And then I am going to explore the possibilities for being creative in how I live out love in the moments of my day.

How will you use your time to love as you go through your day? Be creative and remember your pockets of time are filled with so many possibilities!

 

Love

Where is love in your life? How do you get the love you need? These are questions I had to ask myself as I read Ann Voskamp’s book The Broken Way.

The love we receive from the Lord and the reality of how He demonstrated His love is all wrapped up in two words: unconditional and sacrificial. It has been said that our hearts have a God-sized hole within and that until we come to know Him we search a million places to find something to fill the emptiness inside.

I guess that is why it made so much sense to me when I read this in The Broken Way, “…everyone is always asking only for one thing- will you love me?” I thought, “yes, that’s true.” I know in my own mind and heart that it is what I desire. I also know that I keep my need for love mostly hidden. It is not something that I easily want to admit to or am vulnerable to share. I believe that this is true of most people, I think that we often try to hide our neediness.

People want love, acceptance, and belonging. We search for these throughout life. We desperately want the emptiness within filled. And we try to fill it with so many things. We grasp at the air.

So, where can we get our love-tanks filled?  The surest way is in coming to the King of Kings to be filled. He is available, generous, and gracious. He demonstrated His amazing love in sacrificing Jesus, His only Son, on the cross for us. He loves us that much. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

When we come to know that nothing else can satisfy, nothing else can fill that void, when we finally come to the realization of our need for God, we must cry out in the desperation of a beggar. He is the one Who is able to fill our hearts.

Once we have the joy of knowing Jesus and His sacrificial love, we find our own hearts filling with love as we feel His presence in our lives, as we learn to know His comfort, His peace, His hope, and His faithfulness.

But we also can lose sight of this. Unless we keep feeding on His Word and receive His nurturing in our relationship with Him, we can grow hungry and needy again. And, I believe until we reach heaven we will always feel a certain emptiness.

Recognizing my own desire to be loved, being made aware of this again through reading Ann’s book, helped me to think in a new way about others. It made me to see people as needy, needy for love. And it doesn’t matter who they are, what financial tax bracket they are in, what they look like, we all struggle with emptiness. We all need love. People especially need love from us as believers. As believers we can be filled moment-by-moment in our relationship with the Lord.

People need the love that says, I see your sad eyes, I see your homelessness, I hear your hopeless words; all of these are a cry for different ways to be loved. Maybe a word of encouragement, maybe an invitation to conversation or lunch, maybe an offer of prayer.

Ann says the following about love:

“…it is always sacrifice for someone” (p. 104) and it is “the willingness to be interrupted … the willingness to be broken into” (p. 177).

Love, a sacrifice, a being broken into, a being interrupted. Love takes time and effort, giving and responding and willingness to risk being hurt.

God sacrificed, God gives love and He wants to live through us, we are the conduit of His love to others.

Next time you are feeling lonely or empty, reach out with love to another, it will change the way you feel. It is too easy to throw a pity party in wallowing in our own loneliness, when all we have to do is reach out. Next time you feel resentful or frustrated, remember Jesus sacrifice on the cross. Let His love fill your heart and readjust your attitude so you might respond with love. Everyone is looking to be loved. Maybe it is your child, your aging parent, your neighbor, your bossy co-worker, maybe it’s the tired clerk at the store, or the pregnant waitress or the overworked tax accountant. They all want love. Thinking about this changes everything. Most of all hopefully it changes the way we live our lives.

How will you let love change you? How will knowing people’s need for love change the way you live and respond?

Take time to consider these questions. It may mean a softer answer, a helping hand, a bigger tip, a listening ear, or maybe just going out of your way sacrificing your time for another. Whatever it is, give love, show love, and live love. It really can change everything, but most of all it can change our very own hearts.

 

Joy

Joy, it is something we all long for, search for, and desire. But it seems so fleeting. When we are without joy in our hearts, depleted by life worries and busyness, it is easy to begin to feel as if we are losing hope.

Ann Voskamp says that our joy is related to the depth of the thankfulness in our hearts. I guess that seems like an obvious truth but I have never taken into consideration the reality of that correlation. It is too easy to dwell on the frustrating, the overwhelming, the worrisome, the painful; these seem to drown out our ability to know thanksgiving in our hearts. At other times we may be so focused and busy that we miss the blessings of life. The blessings come and go and we are oblivious to them. The sadder part of this is that we also lose sight of the Giver of those gifts and do not thank Him.

We get involved in the stuff of life and are blind to the goodness of God. I know for me that actually almost did happen about a week ago. We were blessed with some very warm-for-February-in-Wisconsin days and in my being busy inside, I almost didn’t stop long enough to go out. I finally decided that I needed to take advantage of the beautiful weather. The few moments I took, gave me so much joy, just taking that little break, breathing the fresh air, and writing in my journal a little restored my energy. It felt so nice to feel the warm breeze, hear the birds, and sip my frothy coffee. My heart was so thankful for all of that beauty it did overflow with joy.

Then, just the other night, I almost missed another blessing. I decided to clean my bunnies playpen, but I thought that I wouldn’t go in to sit with them. Instead, I ended up changing my mind. I felt such peace pour into my heart as I sat their on the floor petting them and playing with them. I felt myself slow and breathe deeply. The love I felt for little Lulu and Leila was wonderful and they, too, gave love in return. These few moments also gave me reason to be thankful and joyfilled. Furry babies can breathe relaxation into your soul.

Such simple pleasures bring so much thankfulness, leading to such great joy. It is true, when you recognize all that you have to be thankful for, you do feel joy in your heart. And the joy, that has bubbled up from your thank-filled heart, brings glory to our gracious, generous God. Joy somehow empowers you with new vigor. I know it does me. So, I ask you…

Are you a thank-filled person?

Are you a joy-filled person?

The yes or no answers you give to these question I would guess are the same for each. Give it some thought, can you see how having a thankful heart leads to joy in your life?

I want to recognize and be aware of the sweet blessings the Lord puts in my moments and my days. Oftentimes, I think we are apt to miss the little things, looking for something bigger and greater. I want to grow in awareness of His presence with me, seeing what He is doing and giving. I need to see the gift so I can thank the Giver. Our own desires can often blind us to the blessings. We are wishing for something specific that our heart is set on and in that yearning we miss all the other blessings. The simple sweet ordinary gifts might be overlooked.

I am guilty of this with my husband, for example, in my wanting to hear loving words of romance. I miss recognizing the love in his helping hand. I have to give credit to Ann Voskamp for helping me see the error in my thinking here too. My desire for one thing can keep me from seeing the beauty of another way of loving.

The same thing happens in our relationship with the Lord in prayer, we ask for something that we think is best and miss the goodness of the gift given that is in reality even better than we can imagine.

I want to see the Lord’s gifts, I want to allow them to fill my heart with thanksgiving so I may know the joy I have in Him, in His goodness to me. It is that beautiful joy that will give me strength in the hard and hurt-filled times.

I hope that your heart is encouraged as mine is to enjoy the Giver, to be aware of the love He shows us in His many blessings to us, to have hearts filled with thankfulness, and to know the amazing joy that is ours in Him.

May His sweet blessings to you fill your heart with joy and refresh your soul!

 

 

 

Givenness

Is your heart open to giving? Are you available to give?

We often think of giving as being in terms of material things or in terms of money. But there are so many other creative ways to give.

I was at a coffee shop recently and there was a physically handicapped man sitting at a table next to me. The tables surrounding us were filled with groups of people talking and there he sat all alone. The thought went through my mind of how lonely he must feel with no one to talk to. I have seen him there often, and always alone. This tugged at my heart, so I made a point of starting a conversation with him. He had difficulty speaking but seemed eager to share how he was doing. A simple connection brought a smile to his face. A caring of the heart can mean:

  • Taking time to be aware and notice another
  • Thinking about how one may feel in whatever their situation might be
  • Considering a need
  • Helping someone
  • Sharing in a conversation

Each one of these ideas fit under the label of givenness. And it probably will only cost a couple of minutes of time to show care.

During that same visit, I spoke with an elderly woman who was unsure of where she was in line. She was obviously frustrated and confused, she responded curtly. After she realized that I was trying to help her, her whole demeanor change. All she wanted was a glass of water, so when I got to the counter I asked the barista to get it for her. The woman was so pleased, she thanked me repeatedly. She felt seen and cared for.

It is funny, because these two incidences happened without me thinking about being intentional about giving. These situations just were just random opportunities given to me to be available to touch a couple of hearts. I know all too often I am so focused on where I am going or what I am doing that I am totally oblivious to those around me. It often take a little extra effort to remember to be present where you are but it can make a difference.

Being seen feels like love, I know that sounds silly, but think about it, when someone takes time to notice you it make’s you feel cared about.

I know I have shared in a previous post about how the Lord has shown me through His Word how He sees me. It has amazed me how much of a difference that has made to my heart. The realization of that fact changes how I feel in many situations in life. It changes how I respond to others as well, because I am comforted by His presence. Being willing to give out of our hearts, just showing special care as we see others around us can change their feelings, make even make their day..

In The Broken Way, Ann celebrated her 40th birthday with a day filled with givenness. She shares so many great ideas in her book of how to live given, ideas she put into action. Her words really have encouraged me to want to live intentional about givenness. It was interesting to see that when she initially considered giving something, she recognized that she really did not feel like it, but as she continued to give, her heart changed and her desire to give grew. I think that this is often true of us as humans we have to push ourselves a little, and our hearts follow, and feelings begin to change.

What ideas come to mind for you when you think of living given?

How will you be intentional about living surrendered and sacrificial?

There are simple ways and extravagant ways, but they all begin in the heart. Take time today to give away some of the love Christ gives to you.