Acceptance and Belonging

Romans 15:7 tells us, “Therefore accept one another just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”

 

Do you long for acceptance and belonging?

I know that I do. We as humans generally want to feel that we are a part of something, we need to know that we have a place. We need loving acceptance to welcome us in relationships. The Lord created us with desire for relationship but finding acceptance and belonging can be a struggle. All of the issues that keep us imprisoned in loneliness leave us without the belonging and acceptance we so desperately need.

Paul tells us in Romans 15:7 that we are to accept one another. And we are to do this because of what Jesus did. He is our perfect example. He accepted us by His grace. He died for us and brought glory to His Father. We too can bring glory to God by living out grace in our lives as Jesus did.

We are called to accept one another even though we recognize many differences among us; different looks, different viewpoints, different beliefs, different perceptions, different ways of understanding and on and on it goes. Even so we are to emulate Jesus in showing patience to each other and in showing forbearance for each other. We are to show the same love that the Lord has showered on us.

The Bible speaks a lot about the importance of unity, and as you probably well know that does not come easily. It is only through the love and acceptance of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can we have unity. Unity is not born out of sameness in background. It is born out of the love that Holy Spirit pours into our hearts, and the grace we learn to share as we come to know Jesus in deeper ways. We all come from different backgrounds and have had many different experiences. The common thread for Christians is the Gospel. And it is as we grow in our faith, we grow in our desire to live out Christ-like love and acceptance to others.

Living out love and acceptance in the church, in the Christian community is what Paul is speaking of. He does not say that it will be easy, but he does make it clear that it is possible as we depend on the Holy Spirit. Paul knew the Truth, he knew the reality of God’s grace. He knew full well how his life had been transformed, how his heart had done a 180 degree turn around. Only in God’s power. The Lord led Paul’s heart to a place of peace, and to a desire for fellowship. Following this miracle in his heart, Paul wanted nothing more that to see the church, the body of Christ to grow in peace and unity.

So, it is as we seek the Lord and depend on the Holy Spirit, He will empower us to develop hearts wiling to accept others with Christ-like love. We desperately need the love of Christ in our hearts, the power of His grace, and the leading of the Holy Spirit to help us develop unity in our churches and to grow places filled with people who want to accept others because they have found acceptance in a loving Savior.

Belonging, acceptance, and community bring about an atmosphere where we are willing to carry one another’s burdens and weaknesses, trials, afflictions, and infirmities. This grows out of hearts filled with love. It is in a community of hearts filled with God’s love that we can begin to feel safe to share in authenticity.

When we are stuck holding our shame inside, walls are constructed that keep us separated. But when we are free to share our struggles, confess our sins, and be honest regarding our suffering, we open the doors to the possibility of finding community. We need to know God’s grace in our hearts in order for us to share His acceptance.

When we know the magnitude of God’s love and grace towards us, we learn of the freedom to come to Him just as we are. And knowing His love and grace deep in our hearts leads us to sharing that same kind of grace with others.

I find that people who have found the vast ocean of God’s grace are the ones who can share that same grace from their hearts with others.

The Lord desires the church to be a place of belonging. He created us with longing for belonging. He wants us to be in communion with Him. He wants us to live in community with others through sharing His grace.

The thing about belonging is when we truly belong we no longer need to hide, we can be real and authentic about where we are at in life. We don’t have to be chameleons or people-pleasers.

When we can be honest about who we are and where we are at, and not have to try to be someone we are not, we can feel at home, and truly feel loved.

So finding acceptance and belonging begins in our hearts when our hearts are firm in the knowledge and experience of God’s grace and love towards us.

Take time today to examine the reality to which you know God’s grace. Seek to know it more so that it overflows as you meet others. Acceptance starts with knowing Jesus and the fullness of His grace. Acceptance grows as we allow His grace and love to flood our hearts. We can make a difference. Our Christian communities can be places of acceptance and belonging. How will you begin to make this happen in your life?

 

It has been a number of weeks since I have been able to publish a post because of having to help with my mom’s care. I have felt the Lord’s grace in my life as I saw the Lord work through the prayers of others. I so appreciate those who so kindly prayed for my mom. She has been in and out of the hospital a couple of times in the past few weeks as well as in rehab. She is finally gaining strength and able to sit in a chair. Thank you so very much for your faithful prayers. 

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Cultivating Presence in Life

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Find Rest in the Ruckus

“Yet I know, in quiet pockets where my soul craved recharge and peace that rest was exactly what I needed. But how? How does one truly rest in the midst of life all around?” Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue.

It is a beautiful autumn morning. The sun is bright and bringing some warmth to the yet chilly air. I was up early beginning my new morning routine, and then outside digging up kale and parsley plants for pots to keep over winter, mostly to keep my bunnies happy. I had my morning coffee and toast, packed my husband’s lunch, did pet care, and now drove to the lakeshore. It is breezy and the waves are splashing hard against the rocks. I stopped at a local coffee shop for an Americano for this little mini-vacation in my day. So, here I sit in my car, windows open, listening to honking geese and crashing waves, breathing deeply the fresh air, and sipping coffee. Taking time to relax knowing the to do list is waiting for me, this is something new.

Summer flew past with much, too much, busyness and very little recharge or peace. The past few weeks the tight muscles in my neck and shoulders have been crying for reprieve from life’s stress. Every day has been the same, an endless to do list, impossible to finish in the hours allotted. Tension and frustration boiling over because I never get done. It was in the midst of all this that I remembered what I read in Present Over Perfect “Barns burned down, now I can see the moon.”  To me this is about clarity, it made me see that I was too bogged down in too much to do. Time to burn some barns. In another of Niequist’ books, Bittersweet, she shares how her friend told her to choose what she wanted to do and then decide what she was willing to let go of. I had to ask myself, “what am I willing to say ‘no’ to?”

So I took out slip of paper and made a list of my absolutes and there with the paper in hand I decided I needed to make some changes. I sorted things out, rather than trying to do everything, I began dividing the tasks listed into days. I also made routines for morning, afternoon, and evening to fit in time for journaling, reading, self-care, and exercise.

I began experimenting and really enjoying all of the changes. I have three main areas of tasks for each day, my to do list is narrowed down and my routines are allowing me time to do things I enjoy. I am not pushing through my days at breakneck speed but instead I am finding more quiet pockets to recharge and to know peace in. The pockets are there because I am being intentional about planning them in.

I know I have tried slowing down often before and I always get caught up in the rat race, but I feel like there is something very different about this time. It feels like it will stick. I am feeling so much more joy and peace.

My response to inquiries or comments have been sharp and defensive, but now the edges are softening because I am not in a constant state of overwhelm.

As I sit here at the lake, there is a flock of geese nearby, some of them are feasting on what they can find in the grass across the road. When they get their fill they fly overhead honking and flapping. They land in the water facing south and although they are probably paddling hard beneath the water, they are being moved north by the wind in the waves. I have been kind of like those geese trying to get things done but seemingly not getting anywhere with accomplishing it all. I felt pushed back by the wind and waves of busyness and too exhausted to keep paddling. The geese don’t seem to mind floating backwards, they are content to go with the flow. I want to move through my days with intention, yet knowing rest.

Finding rest doesn’t just happen. I am finding in the process of being intentional that there are quiet moments to listen to the Lord, to pray, and to draw near. These moments happen between the to do’s. I am choosing to stop pushing through. That is a big change for me, and it is a big challenge for me. It is difficult to allow myself that freedom, but I am learning to give myself permission.

I am also learning to be more consistent about praying for myself, telling the Lord the needs of my heart. I am taking time to rest with Him in the midst of my routine, and between my to do’s I am growing more aware of His presence. What a wonderful experience!

Pogue says, “To rest means to be filled up by the One who enjoys us right in the middle of the rush. Authentic rest emulates our Father, it’s turning my mind and heart to settle into a cozy rhythm that models Him…”

Pogue goes on to share how easy it is to neglect taking time to enjoy today, neglecting “to be present to the tiny moments and memories taking up who and what texture are now.”

There have been too many days that I have neglected to take time to enjoy the day. I have been oblivious to so much because of being over-focused on what I feel I need to do or want to accomplish. I am seeking to find that “cozy rhythm” in my life and find rest in the ruckus of life.

How about you? How are you being intentional about rest?