What is at the Heart of Simplicity?

Only as we allow the love of Christ to penetrate our wounds will we be able to love again as children love. Only as we open ourselves to the love of Christ and His people can we begin our journey toward being real.” Claire Cloninger

My Recalibrate Life Read this month is A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living by Claire Cloninger.

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord brings it all together. Somehow He shows us exactly what our hearts need in order to heal. And He teaches us what is necessary for our souls to be cultivated and grow in Christlikeness.

The words of the quote at the beginning of this post touch my heart deeply. The words really resonate with me because the Lord is making their truth real in my life. He has been leading me in learning about His love. My learning is taking place mostly through my practice of lingering and listening.

I am learning that His love truly satisfies every one of my needs. As I grow in willingness in being vulnerable, places deep within are opening. These are places that have been locked closed in self-protection and fear for years. I am finding the healing balm of His love is touching every wound within me. The broken pieces of my heart are being bound together, and I am feeling a new wholeness within.

There have been some very important verses that He has been using in this process. I will be sharing more about these verses in future posts.

Today I want to share generally about what is changing within me in that process. The healing that is taking place is changing my life.

First of all, the way I love others is not as often about striving and people-pleasing. But instead my love for others is coming out of the fullness of the love the Lord is filling me with. This is a big step of simplicity in my life, because I am realizing when I depend on Him and grow in His love I can rest.

Secondly, the way I look at life and plan my days is less about my unending to-do list and getting recognition or people-pleasimg. My new outlook leaves room for a slower pace. I don’t need to earn love. We don’t have to do anything to receive His love, in fact, nothing can make Him love us more.

Finally, I am learning strategies to bring myself back when I fall into the old patterns. I am learning of His love as a respite. Oh, I have known of His love for a long time. The problem is it hadn’t touched my heart fully because my heart was so calloused and walled off in fear and self-protection. But as the Lord’s love seeps into the crevices opened by growing trust.

I see how I can run to Him like a toddler looking for mommy during play. The way they look to see if she is still there, making sure nothing has changed, to know that they are still safe. So, in my moments of doubt and fear, I look to see if God is real, and if He is Who He says and I am finding that He is. I am finding also that He is always there, ready to meet me wherever I am.

Praying His Word has led me in knowing these truths in my life and in my heart. And as they become a part of me I am choosing differently. I am learning to live out of a heart that has found the secret to simplicity in living focused on and rooted in His love. I still stumble and people-please and strive at times, but the Lord is at work within my heart changing all of that.

I am learning that it is focusing on the Lord, learning of His love, and reaching for Him moment-by-moment in the midst of neediness or fear. It changes everything, because when we are not focused fully on Him, we are striving to fill the emptiness inside with things and with what we think people should give us, like love and acknowledgement. We reach for these things out of our fear, emptiness, and neediness in order to fill the God-sized hole in our hearts. And, you know what, no matter how hard we work to fill it or keep it full, it will never happen, Only God and His love are meant to fill it.

I know, I am probably not telling you anything that you didn’t aready know. But I have to admit I always thought I knew God’s love, and I did know about it. I just didn’t allow it in fully, I guarded my heart out of fear. Now, after all these years, the reality of the healing effects of His love is pouring into my heart. His love is finally becoming more real to me. In a way that seems too hard to explain, I just know I feel the difference inside and I see a difference in my response to life.

I will be sharing more about my times of listening, lingering, and learning of His love as I spend time in His Word and in prayer in some of my future posts. I hope you will join me. I hope too, that you will find hope in His love in the midst of whatever life is bringing you.

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My Response to “Abundant Simplicity”

My recalibrate life read for the month of February has been Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace. This was a book I had read a few years ago but I connected with its contents much more this time as I read it.

The phrase that really stood out to me in the first few pages of the book was “The Christian focus of simplicity is to abide in Christ.” I loved that the author geared my focus toward making the Lord my Treasure.

The process of learning the disciplines of simplicity brings us to a couple of very important realizations. First of all, Johnson points out that “[we] don’t yet trust God to help us feel acceptable when we’re not managing what others think of us.” How often do we purposely try to make others like us or think well of us? And secondly, she reminds us that “[it] is not just others who have “the self-serving motives” of “pride, greed and desires to control”. It is so hard to take a long, close, hard look at our own motives.

Self-awareness is very important in our lives as it is the gateway to transformation. As we grow in self-awareness, we can take our thoughtss before the Lord to have Him search out our hearts. He can shine a light within to show us our motives and help us to know the path we should take. When we fail to do self-examination or soul-searching we miss this opportunity to talk it over with the Lord.

I mentioned in my response to Sacred Rhythms that doing the activities of self-examination and discernment were some of my favorite. I have learned a lot about myself through this process. When I take time to look back on my day and week and look at where I recognized the presence of the Lord and where I felt alone, when I take time to think about my attitudes, responses, and reactions, and then talk about all of this with the Lord, I gain new insights about myself.

I have learned about boundaries I need to set with people who push my buttons and bring me to a state of fuming. I have learned how my being available to others and fully present with them truly leads to deeper closeness, bonding, feeling loved, belonging, and acceptance for me. For me, that means putting down the planner, or my tablet, or setting aside my task list, and maybe asking my husband how I can help him, or what he wants or needs. Or maybe it means just being really present in the conversation, not allowing my mind to race on with a million other random thoughts.

I never really realized how all of this was impacting my life. The more I choose to do self-examination, to talk with the Lord about what is going on in my heart and my life, the more I learn to know Him as my Treasure. Because in those moments when I take time with Him to be real, I grow in trusting Him and my relationship with Him grows in intimacy.

One of the chapters discusses contentment with what we have and the importance of resisting the impulse for more. It was interesting to me to learn how our wounds from the past can play into our level of contentment. Later in the book frugality and generosity are further discussed.

Johnson also leads her readers to consider doing a heart exam to help us discover our longings and priorities in life. She says, “Simplicity strips away the things that distract us (sometimes good things), helps us to re-evaluate where our heart is, and provides room for God to speak.” Simplicity is all about being intentional rather than living “on autopilot.”

I once again realized that, all too often, I am trying to just do too many things, I have too many focuses. Narrowing my focus reduces my stress level a great deal. I have learned that choosing to slow down has given me space to hear the Holy Spirit convict my heart of wrong. Being busy all the time, failing to do the soul-searching, often left me unaware because I was barreling through life as a bulldozer. I realize how often I have missed the gentle nudges that could have led me down a better pathway, whether that be a calm response, a space for silence, or the learning of new wisdom.

The disciplines of practicing simplicity of speech, as well as, silence and solitude are discussed. Johnson found that in her practice of simplicity and gentleness of speech, her words “imparted grace” to her hearers. The importance of really thinking about how my words are being used and considering what the motive behind saying them is, became very clear to me. It surprises my how often my words are manipulative, such as trying to get another to do something I want them to do, without actually asking them to do it. I recognized how that annoys me a great deal when I feel manipulated by others, but I had not realized how often I do it. Another point the author made about our speech is that it is most important that the Lord hears all about it, and it is not necessarily important that others hear it. Oh, how often I run to tell others, by phone call, or via text, or email, when I could just turn that worry or concern into a prayer, or when I could turn that joy into a praise.

As I eluded to earlier, both frugality and generosity were discussed, The importance of how we use the gifts the Lord has given us was reiterated. Again the emptiness of our souls is a factor. This emptiness plays a role in our purchasing of items because of a personal need to fill an inner hole. Johnson reminded us to ask ourselves what we want and what we need. Unfortunately, that is not something that I have often done in the past, but it is something I am choosing to do more and more often now. Johnson states that “Practicing frugality involves two changes, limiting what we already own… and limiting what we acquire.” Her goal in this is to have us limit our possessions, so that we have space to treasure the Lord. As well as limiting our purchases so we can “live a generous life rather than a grasping life.”

The chapter that spoke on simplicity with time was one of my favorites. Johnson said, “Simplicity with time requires the diligent intentionality of creating enough space that I may say yes to treasuring God and loving people.” This is an area that I want to work more and more on.

The discussion on the importance of putting “margin” in our days or “serious nothing” in our weeks has led me to rethink my schedule as I continue to recalibrate life, We need the “free in free time.” Johnson gave a list of leisure opportunities and suggested choosing one to try.  I need to be even more intentional about putting “margin” in my days and “serious nothing” in my weeks. I frequently fail to follow through on this even if it is written in my planner.

The bottom line is living simply in all of life, the way we dress, the way we take care of our bodies, and the way we use media.

Johnson says that as we learn to live in simplicity and draw nearer to God we find less reason to worry. That in itself is encouraging as worry can consume so much of our lives.

Each chapter had questions to answer and experiments to try. I completed all of the questions but am still working my way through some of the experiments of simplicity that I want to try. Some of these experiments will be my topics for my next months posts.

This was an excellent read on my journey to recalibrate life. Next month I will be reading GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life by Christine Sine, M.D. I look forward to sharing my response with you.

We Need the Lord and Each Other

If someone asked you to describe the Lord and your experience of Him, What would you say?

How does that influence your interactions with others and how you respond to pain and difficulties?

Shadows are the result of something blocking the light. There are many things in life that cast a shadow on our faith and make us question the Lord’s goodness, His power, His timing, or His wisdom. Roman’s 8:38-39 tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Yet, Satan wants us to live in the dark places, and to have shadows cast on God’s love and faithfulness so our faith is shaken and we question God. Satan wants us to tremble with fear and feel very alone.

The Lord desires us to fully know His love and to share that love and build community. He wants us to be empathetic, authentic, transparent, and real about what we feel and need. He wants His love to touch our pain and to help us grow. He wants us to grow to know Him and His love more deeply. He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him (Psalms 62:8).  He also wants us to make confession of our sin to one another (James 5:16).  He desires us to live in a community of love.

When we as Christians are limited in our experience of knowing the reality and magnitude of God’s love, we fail to share and express it. We all need the Lord, the blessings of His love and grace, and we need each other, but how should this flow and work in life? And, more importantly, is it happening to the extent and in the way the Lord desires, or do some changes need to take place?

The Word of God is filled with people struggling with sin, pain, and fear in real life issues. We read about people who cry out to the Lord in desperation like Elijah (1 Kings 17-19), Ezra, and the Israelites (Ezra 10), and David (Psalms 42, 43, 69). People who authentically confessed their weakness, sin, and neediness. It is in those places in the Bible, in those places of authenticity and transparency, that I feel safe and not alone. I feel a level of community with them because they share their hurt,  and raw emotions with the Lord and with others.

We know that we are a sinful, rebellious people living in a world filled with pain, sickness, evil, and trouble. We know there is a cavernous emptiness within. It is in Jesus that we find grace and acceptance.

Yet, there are so many lonely Christians with dark secrets that they fear sharing. So many afraid to step into our churches because, more than being preached at or judged, they need to feel love and acceptance. There are so many hurting people; deeply wounded by abandonment, rejection, lies, betrayal, loss, grief, death, living in depression, or with another mental illnesses. There are many whose stories are walled off within because of fear, they live in self-protection. People who see plastered on smiles and hear “I’m fine” and wonder, “what’s wrong with me?” People who hear verses handed out like prescriptions, spiritual Band Aids slapped ineffectively on gaping wounds. People who hear Christian platitudes; the way it should be, but know that this isn’t their experience in life or their experience of God. These are people who desperately need to feel and know the love of Jesus in real, practical ways, but they are not finding it.

These are issues I want to discuss, issues I want to look at. You see, I have been on both sides of this problem. I have been the needy, desperate one feeling totally alone and misunderstood, as I felt when I was deep in my depression and people questioned my faith. And I have been that Christian, who has shared an unhelpful Christian platitude and walked away not hearing the pain of another. I think that most of us can probably say we have experienced both sides.

Many of us have been needy and desperate at some time. We have needed empathy, understanding, or a listening ear from a caring person, or maybe something more tangible. Yet we may have struggled to feel safe in asking to have that need met, and so have been left alone in our pain. We fear sharing the reality of our neediness, we question the safety in being fully seen and heard just as we are. Many of us know the pain of loneliness, neediness, or just wanting to know acceptance and have belonging. We feel left out, not good enough or just separate and different.

And many of us also have given out a verse when a listening ear was needed.

What can we as people and we as a part of the “Christian community” do? The change begins in us as individuals.

My next three posts will focus on loneliness, acceptance, belonging, Christian platitudes, and spiritual Band-Aids. I hope you will join me each week.

Lord, I Need You, Always!

There is no truer statement. We are a needy people.

My recent blogposts have narrowed in on our crumbling states of emotions that magnify our neediness before the Lord. I want to take one more look at these. Difficult times come up frequently in life and God’s Word gives us so many tools to help us through time when we are hurting in this life.

We considered times of exhaustion and the treasures the Lord gives us in the darkness. When we have grown so incredibly tired from the pressures of life, the Lord in His great love for us, shows up in amazing ways. We can look back and see how He has gifted us. We can see His presence through times when life seemed impossible, when we felt as though we were crawling through a dark cave alone.

We looked at our need for the Lord in the midst of helplessness. When suddenly we come to the end of ourselves and realize we are unable to make a situation any better, when it is evident that we are powerless to change anything, it is then we realize we need help. It is then we must reach to the Lord. King Jehoshaphat’s responded to an impending battle he faced with beautiful words of prayer. We can take his words in our times of helplessness and speak to the Lord, “We do not know what to do but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) The Lord will hear us as He heard King Jehoshaphat, and He will work on our behalf.

We learned from Elijah about the neediness in depression. Elijah’s story led us to see the Lord’s love throughout Elijah’s downward spiral. The Lord met Elijah at each time of need. The Lord knows our deepest needs as well. We saw how the Lord can whisper in His still, small voice, words of hope into our brokeness. He gave direction to Elijah after He had fed him and strengthened him.

We discovered that people respond differently to fear. Caleb and Joshua showed us what we need to remember when we are afraid. Rather than cower and choose to run away, Caleb and Joshua remembered the truth about who God is in the face of giants. We, too, need to remember who God is in the face of our seemingly insurmountable giants that we come upon in our present day lives. The reality of the Lord’s presence with us in everything should bring us confidence and courage. He is our strength and He promises deliverance from all of our troubles.

Emptiness is another place of neediness we considered. O how the Lord desires to satisfy our hearts. He has come to give us abundant life. He can fill the emptiness as nothing else can. We only must seek Him, that is what He desires most of all.

Finally, we looked at our neediness in loneliness. We learned from Jeremiah how he coped with his loneliness as a prophet. He showed us the importance of being honest with the Lord regarding our feelings. And he demonstrated how to feed on the Lord’s faithfuness- remembering God’s goodness and work in our lives during previous trials and difficulties. The Lord promises to always be with us.

Moment-by-moment in our lives we learn more and more of how very needy we really are. And in those times, if we don’t cry out with words, our heart cry out, “Lord, I need You!” We cry with desperation and the Lord hears us. Time and time again we see in the Bible how the Lord met His people in their pain and suffering.

God has not changed and our responses to trials are not much different from those living in Bible times. God knows what we need. We only need to seek Him in our neediness. We must look for Him and He will be found, for He is always faithful!

Just a side-note:

Summer is flying by, and our garden is growing beautifully with the plentiful rains the Lord has provided. My husband and I already have begun doing some freezing of vegetables and there is much more to do. Soon we will begin canning. I know my posts have not been on schedule due to the summer’s busyness, I will try to post once a week throughout the next couple months. I hope that your summer has been a time of learning more about the Lord’s love and provision. Thank you for being a faithful reader!

Sweet Blessings to you, Cheryl

Lord, I Need You, I’m Empty

When we are feeling empty, it seems that we cannot find satisfaction in anything. We feel discontent and are left wanting. Sometimes we feel as if we don’t know which way to turn. We often wonder why we are feeling this way.

Psalm 81 gives us a hint to a possible reason. Psalm 81 is a call to obedience. The psalm shares an overview of the Israelites journey out of Egypt and their choices to live in disobedience. The Lord wanted His people to listen to Him, as a parent wants their children to listen and be obedient. But the Israelites wanted their own way, they wanted to make their own plans, so they refused to live in submission to God a lot of the time.

Things haven’t changed much. Fast forward to my life or your life. There are times in life that our emptiness can come out of a place of disobedience. we too choose our own ways, and make our own plans apart from the Lord. We soon find out that we cannot find satisfaction apart from the Lord. No matter how many options, we try we are left unsatisfied.

F.F. Bruce explains our plight this way, “The soul’s deepest thirst is for God Himself who made us so that we can never be satisfied without Him.”

The LORD tells the Israelites in Psalm 81:10, “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.”

The Lord wants us to be satisfied, He wants us to know abundance in Him and not hunger, but only in turning to Him to have our needs met can we experience true fulfillment.

Emptiness may also come to our hearts and lives in order to create a spiritual hunger. The Lord wants us to desire Him and be in relationship with Him.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 says, “Remember that the LORD your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

The Lord humbled the Israelites by letting them go hungry. He wanted them to realize their absolute dependence on Him He wanted them to feel their desperate neediness apart from Him. He wanted to know what was really on their hearts. Were they fickle or true? Yet, when they cried, out He provided them with manna in the wilderness. He showed them His love by meeting their need.

The Lord desires for us to see that He is present to meet all of our needs. He loves us too much to allow us to constantly feed on the junk food of this world. So, although we may go through times of emptiness, when we run to Him, like the prodigal son, we will find that His heart is always love and His desire is to satisfy us.

God is a good Father who wants the best for His children in every situation. He loves us with a perfect love. God will allow us the freedom to seek other things to satisfy ourselves, but once we realize how empty we are, He knows we will run to Him. He waits for us to cry out to Him, “Lord, I need You.” And then there in our emptiness He will satisfy our hungry hearts with the perfect manna.

It always comes down to recognizing the REAL need so that we really may know satisfaction. The need is Jesus.

What’s in Your Treasure Chest?

What are you filling your treasure chest with for assurance and hope?

When we feel empty within, we search for things outside of ourselves to fill us. Shauna Niequist, in Present over Perfect, tells how she filled up on busyness, performance, recognition, and accomplishments, but ended up empty. Trying to find what will fill the emptiness, people reach for so many different things. It may be sex outside of marriage, alcohol, shopping, chocolate, drugs, or more and more work. What fills your emptiness within?

I have come to describe my heart to be like a sieve because the need for love within feels so great at times. It seems to get filled and then empty out, a constant cycle. Only God’s love, only God’s presence, only relationship with the Lord can fill or refill the holes.

Shauna says that when we carry God’s love and true peace in our souls as if our souls were a treasure chest, it is then we recognize that we don’t need to keep reaching and striving for more. The need inside feels so great but the Lord’s love is greater.

We need to consider what we are filling our lives, our hearts and souls with? What are you treasuring, running after, striving for? The Lord sees it as idolatry or adultery when we cherish anything more than HIm. He is the Treasure, His love is the gold that should fill our treasure chests. We should delight in Him above all.

Yet, we so easily get caught up in reaching for something here in this world when He holds out His arms and calls to us. He pursues us. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Literally, that means He chases after us with His loving-kindness.

Take a moment to create a picture in your mind. First of all, picture yourself striving for, running after whatever it is you think will fill you. Now, look behind you, look again, do you see the Lord following after you yelling your name? He is chasing you, He has so much to give you, so much loving-kindness to bring to your heart, soul, and life. Did you get a clear picture of that in your mind?

How silly we look. Think of it this way, it is like you are running away from someone with a ton of gold, calling to you, saying “this is for you.” But yet, you continue running towards whatever you think will fill the emptiness. The Lord chases after you with His love and mercy.

Over and over again in the Bible the Lord displays His love to men and women who do not respond. The Israelites repeatedly turn their backs on Yahweh and sin. We do the same thing, sometimes not even realizing how we have been overcome with desire for some thing or some one more than what our desire for the Lord is.

What are you delighting in, putting your hope in, banking your assurance on? It if isn’t the Lord, then turn to Him and talk with Him about it. Why are you running from Him? I don’t think we even consider that we are actually running from Him, yet we do “run” after other things.

We don’t need to continue striving to fill that emptiness. It is in relationship with Him that we can find the love and peace to fill the treasure chest within. It is an ongoing choice throughout life. We have to choose to reach for the Lord daily, and especially in our desperation and emptiness rather than for some quick fix.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us that we need to guard our hearts. We can get influenced by so much in this world. So, as you go through your day, guard your treasure chest. Keep finding God’s love to fill it. He wants to fill your treasure chest with His love. He wants to give you abundant life as only He can.