Learning to Long for God

Contentment, or the lack of it, is really an issue of the heart. In order to really understand our own feelings we need to look at our wants and longings. We cannot be content apart from knowing what we want or long for.

I took a long hard look at my wants and longings when I went through my first Recalibrate Life read, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. And I revisited the responses of my heart again as I read Abundant Simplicity by Jan Johnson in February.

One of the questions at the end of the second chapter in Abundant Simplicity is,”How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?” This is a question that intrigued me– especially since it came near the end of a chapter about contentment, wants, and longings.

The question took me back to my responses in Sacred Rhythms on my wants and longings. The act of talking with the Lord about my hearts’ desires was very precious, it was a very tender time. I shared about this in my post last month, My Response to Sacred Rhythms. I think this was true because I finally realized that all of my longings come out of a deeper neediness for more of the Lord.

In a way that surprised me, even though I knew this truth as head-knowledge. But the things we want whether it is about money, deeper intimacy in our relationships, feeling more loved, having more or better possessions, or accomplishing certain goals, are all rooted in our hunger for God and His love. I believe our longings are God-given. But, our longings are put in us to draw us to know Him more, to depend on Him more, and to find what we need in Him more.

In looking at my personal longings and seeking to reach for them, I realized that when I am not reaching for the Lord and especially for Him to meet my hearts’ longing, I am on the wrong path. If I am instead pursuing the end product or result for my own glory or others’ acceptance or personal security, I am missing the point.

The Lord delights in meeting our needs and satisfying our hearts’ desires, but if He sees those desires leading us away from Him, He will try to turn our focus back to Him.

So, back to that question, the one that has really tugged at my heart: How would you like to see your life progressively more organized around God and His eternal life?

Simplicity and contentment of heart depend on my focus. If my focus is scattered and I am living distracted, going after all of my desires to fulfill my own longings, the Lord will intervene. He will intervene because that is the wrong path. and He knows that I will not find contentment in the chaos that brings.

When I pursue God and my focus is on my relationship with Him, when it is on pleasing Him, and living for Him and His will, then, that is where I will find the heart of simplicity. And I have found that He will grant me contentment as I recognize Him as my All in All.

So, yes, I may want to grow my blog or finish my manuscript. But what do I do with that longing? My goal is to connect with the Lord in each longing. It is about wanting to bring Him into the longing, for Him to be at work within it and within me. And in that longing, as I prayed, I realized that I want Him to work in me and my life so other lives can be touched by Him through my words. I need to know Him more. I need to see His hand and heart touching my life, so I can share the glory of His wondrous work.

This demonstrates “organizing my life around God and His eternal life.” No matter what the longing is, if my life is to be more organized around God, I have to see that He is always what I want, or Who I want more of, more than anything else.

Our longings can so easily be mixed up with wrong motives. That is why Johnson’s question is so important to explore. We can get so caught up in self and self-sufficiency. We tend to live so unaware of the relationship of our longings and our need for God. It is so very important that we take it all, each of our longings, into His presence.

As I took each of my longings and brought them back to my deep need for the Lord, I sought to see Him as the center of my longings. This process helped me to see the path to simplifying my life. I also came to learn much about my deep-ceded personal fears. Fears of rejection, fear of replacement, fear of not belonging, or of lack of acceptance, fear of being misunderstood, and the fear of not having all I think I need. I discovered lots of fears within my longings. But all of this took me back to seeking God. That is what organizing my life around God is about.

Johnson says, “If we want to want God our next step is to come to terms with our underlying fears. We start where we are. We invite God to work with us on these fears so we can begin drinking God’s living water, God’s own Spirit…”

I know that I want to want God more, I want to love Him with all of my heart, mind, soul, and strength, but I continuously fall short. So I must daily look at these inner longings and talk with Him about them. I need to look at my calendar and my planner and see what my life and my schedule really say about what I want. Where am I spending my time? How am I spending my money? Where am I seeking security and acceptance? The proof and truth will shine brightly there.

This isn’t a “one-time-and-done” response regarding how to organize life around God. It is an ongoing check and re-check of our longings and what our lives are says about how we are living them out.

So, I am learning to long more for God in all of life. And it takes time and focus and prayer and soul-searching. I want to live my life longing for God moment-by-moment. This is becoming an important part of learning to recalibrate life here in 2019.

What about you? What are you longing for? Have you looked deeply at your longings and how the Lord is such an important part of your hearts’ cries? Take some of your longings to Him today. He wants to hear about your deep desires.

 

 

*Note the featured image is a photograph by Paul Varnum on Unsplash.

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My 2019 “Recalibrate Life” Reads

My theme phrase for this new year is “Recalibrate Life.” I have shared in previous posts how I want to intentionally recalibrate my life. My focus will be on slowing down, on choosing rest, on learning Sabbath, and on living in simplicity. So, I have chosen a book to read for each month to lead me in practicing these things. I have had many of these books for some time. I may have read them or skimmed through them but I did not intentionally put them into practice. This time through I want to glean practices to apply to my daily life. So, as I read I will be taking notes and journaling responses. At the end of each month I will share my response to the book with you. I will discuss what I learned and if or how I will be applying it to my life.

Let me start by sharing the book titles and a short synopsis of each as well as my thoughts on what I hope to take away from it.

Sacred Rhythms

by Ruth Haley Barton

Sacred Rhythms discusses seven key spiritual disciplines. Barton lays out practical ways to weave these disciplines into our busy lives. At the end of each chapter she gives you opportunity to try the discipline, leading you through a practice of it.

I have read this one years ago, and already started it this year. I am getting a lot out of it even after just a few chapters. I will be trying to incorporate some of these practices in my life.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace

by Jan Johnson

This book is about being intentional about our choices in life, choosing those that lead to living a simpler life in “an engaging and relational way” rather than filled with obligation and pretense.

I have read this one before also. There is a lot to learn and put into practice in this book. I will try to choose a few that I can do. This year is about simplifying, not adding more to-do’s.

GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms

by Christine Sine MD

First, this book explores spiritual rhythms and then, secondly, the author examines practical ways to incorporate these essential practices into our lives.

I want to learn rhythms to incorporate into my life to keep me from racing and running constantly. I want my focus to be more on the Lord! I like that it is both about GodSpace and GodsPace. Taking time to be with Him and going with Him in His timing!

Keeping Sabbath Wholly

by Marva Dawn

This book is a written invitation to learn to experience joy and wholeness through choosing to observe the Sabbath. The author shares reasons why this is important as well as methods for putting it into practice.

I want to learn more about ways to practice Sabbath. Not to practice it in a legalistic way, but to practice it in a way that gives me rest and honors the Lord.

A Worn Out Woman: When Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty

by Alice Gray and Steve Stephens

This is a book of practical solutions for the stressed-out woman. This book promises to help its reader to “trade in a life of running on empty for a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.”

Our lives can feel so empty when we are living in the place of stress and overwhelm. I am definitely ready to trade that in for fulfillment and meaning!

A Place Called Simplicity: The Quiet Beauty of Simple Living

by Claire Cloninger

I have read this one and loved it, but will gladly reread it. It takes you on a journey of simplifying many different facets of life. It has a “step-by-step plan based on a personal inventory to help you unclutter your life.”

I am constantly working on decluttering or at least it seems that way. This year I am trying to be more intentional about it!

Even God Rested: Why It’s Okay for Women to Slow Down

by Kim Thomas

In this book, the author shares how to cease from the things in life that are draining us and instead feast on the delight and refreshment God offers.

That is exactly what I need to learn! Life can feel so draining, we all need delight and refreshment!

Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythm of Rest

by Lynne M. Baabs

This one offers to be a practical and hopeful guidebook to help each of us slow down and really enjoy our relationship with the Lord.

Really enjoying relationship with the Lord and slowing down, those are things I need to learn to practice more in my life. It is too easy to just come to Him for things or try to prove self to Him.

Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives

by Wayne Muller

Muller “shows us how to create a special time of rest, delight and renewal. “He “teaches us how we can use this time of sacred rest to refresh our bodies and minds, restore our creativity, and repair our birthright of inner happiness.”

The words “rest, delight, and renewal” caught my eye in this title. I want more of each of these in my life.

Your Sacred Yes: Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Play

by Susie Larson

In this book the author shares “biblical ways to

  • learn how and when to say no without guilt or shame
  • find peace and perspective that matches God’s best for you
  • discern man-made obligation from God-given invitation

These are definitely areas I need help with as I live my life! I get bogged down with expectations and obligations that may not be what the Lord has for me.

Oxygen: Deep Breathing for the Soul

by Keri Wyatt

This book is described as a “perfect guide to help you deepen your walk with Christ.” A few of the important practices discussed are:

  • being with God rather than doing for Him
  • how to spend time in solitude
  • how to journal and pray
  • how to listen to what God is saying to you

I am hoping to glean a few new ideas from here to encourage me as I continually learn to grow deeper in my walk with the Lord.

SoulRest: Reclaim Your Life; Return to Sabbath

by Curtis Zachery

This one is a call to examine and restructure our days around purposeful and sustainable life with Jesus.

That sounds wonderful. So much of what we try to do does not fit into those categories in our lives. We get caught up in checking off our checklists that overflow from page to page. And, for me, too often it is more about the “getting done” than about the process. Purpose and sustainability are lost in that.

So, there is my list. I realize there is a lot of repetition in the topics and practices. I am hoping that I can filter through all of the information and come away with a life recalibrated. I will be sharing with you monthly about what I am reading and learning. If I get bogged down with a book, I may choose a different option as I had a hard time limiting my list to one book for each month, so I do have other choices available to go with. I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

Many blessings to you in 2019!

Where is Your Treasure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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