Simplicity

Finding simplicity in this complicated world is almost impossible. It’s illusive and quickly flees as soon as I reach for my planner. Simplicity is essential when it comes to witnessing, and opportunities are lost as I rush in and complicate God’s plan with my wonderful ideas. His plan is a simple one to which I add my own bells and whistles. The first step in finding simplicity is renewing my relationship with God. Connecting to God allows a wonderful fullness that spills over and enables my witness to become His.

Connecting to God is as important to my heart as drinking water is to my body. Being dehydrated last week reminded me of what happens when I don’t get the water my body needs. My spirit also gets dry and craves the living water Christ offers. Sabbath is is a long cool drink of living water that gives me the strength and love I need to connect to others. God refills and restores my sluggish soul and spirit as I take the time to be near Him and drink in His love.  As I’m recharged, His love spills over into all I do. A beautiful regenerative cycle begins.

My life has been about making others happy and fixing whatever’s wrong. It’s no wonder I found myself emotionally and physically drained. That’s not the love Christ showed. I’m not sure where I got my model for expressing love. Perhaps it’s just the nature of a middle child. I see clearly the futility of that cycle now, and I’m glad to be out of it and into the regenerative one. True love knows that fixing and doing debilitate and end up hurting rather than helping. I’ve done enough enabling in my life to know it doesn’t work.

Loving is so much more than enabling. Love spurs me to do for those I love, and Jesus makes it clear that all are to be loved. I find I am actually doing more for others than ever and enjoying it more as I let God lead and ignore the pull for attention and the yank of guilt. Taking them out of the equation leaves a beautiful open space for love. Love requires space; that is another simple truth I’ve learned this month.  Love grows, blooms, and is able to form deep roots when given space, and love that grows deeply is love at its very best. Love that does indeed last forever:)

Loving Deeply

Relationships in my life have been like stones skipping across a pond.  Staying on the surface and passing through without ever stopping and allowing love to deepen. Brief touches kept relationships from digging too deeply into my heart and would have caused me to skip through the entire span of my life with only a a drop or two of love had I not stopped and let God take my heart to a new level, one that went down and not up as do most graduations. God desires deep connections, and lessons this month were all about deep connections and the impact they have on who I am.

I’m fortunate to have those who hear my heart and know me deeply. It is the love God desires for me.  True love allows me to speak my heart and hear the heart of those I love. I have always had a special connection to my son, and no one loves me as he has and does. His quiet hugs fill my heart, and he hears my heart without having to hear words. I love that about him and the fact that he shows up when I most need a hug from an understanding heart.

God has blessed me with friends who, whether next to me or miles away, hear me, know me, and love me anyway:) I have a prayer partner who loves God and His Word more than anyone I know and shares that love with me. There aren’t words to adequately describe the effect that love has on my heart and the way I love and live. It makes me believe I can be who God created me to be while drawing nearer to Him and to those in my path.

In terms of the world, I’m not a wealthy person. In fact, I live a very simple life compared to most. I don’t own a home and drive a five-year-old compact car:) In terms of love, I’ve wandered aimlessly most of my life seeking someone to fill a void no one can. God has shown me that love is not something or someone I should be seeking but rather something I was born to express. In an environment of honestly expressed love, I am able to express it myself. When love is unconditionally given, fear flees. When I am accepted for who I am, faults and all, I can love and accept myself and others in the same manner. Such is the power of love, and such have been the lessons this month which have brought my heart out of the darkness where fear would have it stay forever.

Hope and love go hand in hand, and that has never been more obvious to me than it is now. The freedom that comes from accepting and expressing love that expects nothing in return creates an amazing space in which love responds obediently and finds joy that cannot be found any other way. The pieces of my heart have come together beautifully, and I am whole and ready to live and love as God knows I can. I love it when God brings things together beautifully even if I have to fall apart first:)

Sweet Side Effect:)

Side effect is defined by Bing as “a usually undesirable secondary effect produced by something.” Usually is the key word; the side effect I’m talking about is a very positive one. As I pray, I notice a sweet side effect that helps me understand Christ’s call to prayer. When I pray for someone who has hurt me or treated me unfairly, I notice that my attitude towards them begins to change. It’s a slow process that requires more than one dose of prayer to get the desired result, but the beautiful feeling defies description.

I see why Jesus sits at God’s right hand and prays for me unceasingly. He knows those prayers change me and bring me closer to God. When I understand that, I am also drawn near to those who have been at arm’s length or further away. Barriers are broken, priorities change, and suddenly the distance is absorbed by the love that intercession frees. There is nothing more powerful than intercession or Christ wouldn’t be doing it.

As I told my class this morning at church, if you’re looking for a financial advisor, shopper, lawyer, or sugar daddy, you need to find another Savior. This One is about the business of praying and lifting me up to God. So many look to Christ to get and do and fix. He loves and prays. Others need a superhero who is going to vanquish and kill. He loves and prays. Some might ask if that’s enough. As I’ve come to understand Who Christ is and Who He isn’t, I have come to know it’s more than enough. Prayer is the least and most any of us can do.

It’s only taken me sixty years to come to that understanding, but I’m thankful to finally get it. The fifties allowed me the space to find out who I am and begin to understand Who God is. I’m thinking the sixties is going to be more about what I am here to do. The call to prayer came at 57, but I kept God on hold for three years. I prayed during that time but not as He desired. I came up with my own to-do list and ignored His. I’m humbled that He never hung up on me but rather waited lovingly for me to understand the nature and importance of His call. I often wonder if the human life span is getting longer because it’s taking us longer to figure out what it is He’s trying to teach us while we’re here:) I say that as the slowest and most stubborn learner I know.

I’ve been sixty for almost a month, and I have to say it’s been an eventful twenty-five days. The lessons have been difficult, but the learning has been amazing. Change may be the theme for this decade, and that’s okay with me. Whatever God has in mind, I want to be open and ready to hear and respond with love. The good news is that I’ve lost ten pounds and can wear clothes I haven’t worn in years! I wouldn’t recommend the diet plan to anyone, but I have to say that I learned that I have to make some changes when it comes to what and how much I eat. Another positive side effect!

Change is good, and I know the sixties are going to be wonderful. Lessons in love are pointing me in the right direction, and my heart is changing. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks if you grab her attention and use the right motivation:)

Share a Prayer

This prayer written by a seventeenth-century nun blesses me each time I read it, so I share the prayer this morning in hopes that it blesses you as much as it blesses me.

Keep Me Sweet Lord

Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from getting talkative, particularly from the fatal habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. Keep my mind from the recital of endless details-give me wings to come to the point.

I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of others’ pains. Seal my lips on my own aches and pains-they are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Help me to endure them with patience.

I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally it is possible that I may be mistaken.

Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint-some of them are so hard to live with-but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.

I don’t know the name of the dear nun who penned this prayer, but I am thankful she had the courage and humility to put into words what I needed to hear. I love it when God does that:)

Friends Who Pray Together…

Job 42:10 says, “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Praying for and with those in my path is so very powerful, and it is the call God placed on my heart three years ago. The power of intercession was clear as Ethel drove me to the ER yesterday afternoon. While I was retching away, she was praying fervently. Her hand on my shoulder and her sweet utterances surrounded me and reminded me of the love such prayer represents. When God clearly called me to pray and study, I am ashamed to say that I was disappointed. I wanted to do more than pray and study, so the wrestling match began between Him and me. I kept adding this and adding that to His call because I thought it needed beefing up.

I can’t think of many kids I can outwrestle, and even little Mylah can wear me down and pin me to the floor, so I’m not sure why I thought I might win this match with God. He wrestles as one who knows His strength and has confidence in who He is. He puts His hand lovingly on my head and lets me swing away until I get tired of fighting. Again, being face down puts all things into perspective:)

The scriptures for the past two weeks came, as always, when I needed them, but they humbled in a way that left me wondering why God puts up with my willfulness. I know the answer to that question; I’m His child, and He loves me dearly. Knowing that is a big part of the lessons this week. As I’ve struggled with a simple virus, I have been touched by the outpouring of love offered at so many levels, but I have also come to a place of repentant humility in regard to God’s call.

Jesus is my priest and intercedes on my behalf unceasingly. He sits next to God and prays for me. The Holy Spirit utters prayers that I cannot begin to understand much less voice for myself. As I listened to His message this week, I was struck by just what that means. Ethel’s fervent prayers and sweet touch made a difference. Rita’s willingness to come and get me, take me home, get my medicine, and do chores I needed to do touched me deeply, as well. Sharon drove to a hospital in another city because she thought I was there. That also touched my heart and healed in a special way. My prayer partners lift me up in a powerful way as do so many others. I am, indeed a very wealthy woman.

Having someone who prays with and for me is the greatest gift I can ever hope to receive in this life. Jesus knows my heart better than anyone, and He and the Holy Spirit are constantly praying and lifting me up before God. I have a friend with whom I can share everything without judgment. Sharing prayer with love is as good as it gets, and friends who pray together do indeed stay together. Job was restored after praying for his friends because God knew he had learned the greatest lesson of all; I am here to pray for those in my path and be a loving presence. Job’s friends had forsaken and judged him, but he prayed for them anyway. He was blessed beautifully as a result of his unselfish love for them.

The week filled with silence, fasting, and dizziness has left me reeling at times, but I found balance in the reeling when I realized that a call to prayer is a call to be like Jesus. He made it perfectly clear today that when I think praying is not much of a call, I am dismissing His own call. That sobered, humbled, and got my attention. I don’t plan to dismiss His call ever again or try to make it what I want it to be. The irony is that I used to tell my mama when she cried and said, “All I can do is pray” that it was all any of us could do. I keep saying that my autobiography should be called “Take My Advice; I’m Not Using It” because I do know better. I just don’t always live in a way that indicates that I do. I’m thankful for His patience:)

I have a new attitude when it comes to praying and studying as I understand that God’s call is His and not mine. That was the most powerful message this week. When Lillyann says the blessing at the table, she puts one hand on her mouth and says, “Thank you God.” I believe she knows more about prayer than I do. I also know that kids know a lot more about everything until adults start teaching them to be like them:)

Like a Trembleur

Like a toddler learning to walk or a drunk trying not to hit the floor, I found myself seeking balance again this morning. I had a relapse after pushing myself to do too much and eat too much far too quickly. That’s a lot of too’s, but you get the idea. In the wee hours of the morning, I was afraid something was amiss, and when I tried to get up, it turned out my fears were well founded.

I have a friend who turns wood, and he is working on a trembleur. I had no idea what that was until he showed me a piece he had made that was similar but not the right dimensions to cause the trembling or wobbling which gives the piece its name. I was fascinated by the wiggly object and felt an immediate kinship as I am a wiggler myself:)

Making a trembleur isn’t easy and requires very patient hands, steady rests, and solid nerves. I fear that leaves me out of the process. It was actually used as a test in France to see if a turner was ready to leave his apprenticeship and become a journeyman. It seems an apt test, but one I’m sure many did not pass the first time around.

Trembleurs are attached to a base that allows the carving to wobbly freely without falling down. I thought of how like a trembleur I am when it comes to balance and falling down. If I attach myself firmly to Christ, the wobbling becomes dancing, and the trembling becomes prayer. The lessons this week have been about stillness and prayer. I needed the virus, the vertigo, and the trembleur to get the point God has been trying to get across to me. I love it when He puts just the object in my path that I need to see and feel to get the message He has in mind. I’m a visual learner and a kid at heart, and I love the notion of a piece of art that moves.

God expects me to move, as well, but He also needs for me to be still. The base of the trembleur brings stillness and stability that lets the wood dance. Eugene Peterson calls the sweet indwelling of the Trinity the Trinitarian Dance. I have felt that beautiful filling and much prefer it to the spinning rooms that came with this virus. I still tremble when I come into God’s presence, and I hope I always do. Knowing to whom I pray brings that trembling. Knowing how much He loves me turns the trembling into a worshipful dance:) God also knows how very much I love to dance!

I’m not up to editing today, so this is what it is. Forgive my mistakes and use this rough draft as an opportunity to extend grace to one who isn’t feeling well:)

Here’s a site that shows how to make those amazing trembleurs if you’re interested. trembleur_eng.htm

Christ’s Simple Rules

Cleaning up is much easier than clearing out. So often, I simply clean and rearrange. Clearing out makes room in my closet, pantry, heart, and head. Rearranging doesn’t work because the space remains full. When I truly clear away, there is room for growth. When there is room for growth, there is opportunity for change. Whether it’s outdated clothing, food I don’t eat, or rules that limit, it’s all about making room. Christ does some powerful cleaning up and clearing out when it comes to rules.

God requires space in my heart, but He will not take it. He insists that I do the clearing before He does the filling. The only time self plays an important role in doing God’s work and answering His call is when it comes to discipline. I have to have self discipline if I am to reach the self-differentiation necessary to connect as God desires. Discipline is the rub!

Discipline is difficult to define; there many directions those definitions can go. A few from Bing:

“the ability to behave in a controlled and calm way even in a difficult or stressful situation”

“the practice or methods of teaching and enforcing acceptable patterns of behavior

“punishment designed to teach somebody obedience”

“the system of rules used in a religious denomination or order”

All of the above are perfectly good definitions of discipline, but only one puts the responsibility in my hands. Practice, punishment, and system refer to discipline being taught or followed. I like “the ability to behave in a controlled and calm way even in a difficult or stressful situation” in that ability indicates competence, intelligence, natural tendency, or gift. Those are personal and something I have or can attain.

Self discipline is more about common sense than anything else. Knowing the rules in a school, church, business, or country are important. It is also important to know whether or not you agree with those rules before you follow them. That is especially true when it comes to a religious denomination or order. Many people belong to churches without even knowing the beliefs important to the group. While there is no church or other organization with perfect rules, there is a body with them. Christ’s rules were simple, and He showed a group of Pharisees who thought they had the rules down pat a set of rules that caused them to be quiet.

Christ’s rules involve loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving others as myself. That isn’t complicated until I get to the love my enemies part or love when I am not loved back part or the be willing to give up my selfishness part. Christ’s simple rules have nothing to do with which translation of His Word I use. If I’m in doubt,  I should go to the original Hebrew or Greek:) They do not say who can and cannot be a member or a minister. They do not say what percentage goes where; one hundred percent of all I have and all I am is God’s. His rules put the responsibility on me and my heart where it belongs.

I tire of rules and regulations especially when they separate and create arguments. I really hate it when they give folks the right to pass judgment on those who follow a different set of rules. So, in the interest of cleaning up and clearing out, I’m clearing out all but Christ’s simple rules. Too many rules will make me like the Pharisees who used rules to punish, judge, and divide. God forgive us when we do the same.

Have Mercy

Mercy is at the heart of forgiveness and grace. The dictionary definition reads “kindness or forgiveness shown especially to somebody a person has power over.” The Jesus Prayer asks for mercy. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.” The phrase “Have mercy!” is one used in a number of ways, some having nothing to do with Jesus or mercy. Mercy is something I say lightly even when praying until I stop long enough to take in what it means in regard to my relationship with God and others. Having mercy shows others the difference Christ makes in my life and is essential if I am to be the witness He desires for me to be.

God has power over me and over all in existence, yet He choses to be merciful. When I pray the Jesus prayer, I am humbled in a way that makes me want to be merciful. I have to think about those I have power over when I think of mercy. I’m not in a position that gives me power, but like everyone, there are those in my path who afford me the opportunity to show mercy. When I’m with my grand daughters, I can be merciful and show grace. When someone is waiting on me in a restaurant or a shop, I can be merciful. When I’m teaching, I can show mercy. I can also show mercy to someone who has mistreated me or been unkind to me. I have the right to retaliate, but if I chose to forgive and be kind, I take the opportunity to show mercy.

Showing mercy brings me closer to God who is the source of all mercy. When I pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner,” I add the phrase “and please help me to be merciful to those in my path.” Knowing what mercy is and praying for mercy is only the beginning. I have to have mercy, or the prayer is empty and the word useless. The same goes for grace and forgiveness. As I extend grace, mercy, and forgiveness, I draw nearer to God and to those in my path. I am to learn only one thing during this brief little blink of life in the midst of my eternal journey, and that is love. I am here to learn to say to God, to myself, and to those in my path, “I love you” and show I know what that phrase means in the way I live out my life here on earth.

Love, peace, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are words easily spoken. Unfortunately, living out the concepts they represent is much more difficult than uttering the words. I pray I will live out love, peace, grace, forgiveness, and mercy in my life as Christ taught. I am human and know I will fall short of the lofty goal, but I will come a lot closer if I make it my aim to show them to others instead of simply sitting back and asking God to show them to me.

Redefining Relationships

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, time is quickly consumed. Time with God becomes a quick plea here and a quicker thank you there. I’m beginning to understand the concept of praying without ceasing, and it isn’t at all what I expected. Being in God’s presence is the goal of prayer; being present with those I love is the goal of relationship. Words become less important as that presence increases. Being present is something with which I’ve struggled my entire life. I’m only beginning to experience the peace that prolonged presence makes when it comes to my relationship with God. I’m also learning that redefining relationships is necessary as I change and grow as God desires.

I’ve always thought of prayer as a time of getting on my knees and asking God for help and thanking Him for all He does for me. When I look at that from a relationship standpoint, I’m appalled. It shows a selfish, one-sided relationship that isn’t at all what God desires. Nothing shows love more than spending time together in honest communion or sweet silence where nothing needs to be said. God desires just that in our time together. Like me with God, there have been those in my path who take and never give. I’ve wasted a lifetime of love trying to make miserable people happy. It isn’t noble at all but selfish on my part as I become a martyr and get everyone’s pity. That’s a hard truth to see and absorb, but it’s one that God has brought home to me of late as I look at and see the need to let Him redefine my relationships.

Real relationships require self-differentiation, and that means I have to become who God created me to be before I can truly connect to others. In order to do that, I must let Him cut away all that isn’t who He created me to be. As a sculptor cuts away marble to bring out the beautiful image inside, so does God cut away at me until the beloved daughter He sees inside comes to the surface. That process is a painful one because unlike marble, I wiggle and resist the sculpting! The stillness of Psalm 46:10 is required for God to do His work, and I’ve found that God will bring stillness when I ask. I am learning to pray differently, and the results are powerful. I’m finding that honestly and fervently praying that His will, not mine be done is causing true change in my heart, soul, spirit, and body. I am beginning to see the results of His chisel, and it is amazing.

The need to please is gone. The need to fix is gone. The need to pretend all is well is gone. In the process, I find that guilt is no longer a source of motivation. I no longer feel the need to be who others expect me to be. I am the beloved daughter of God  and love Him as never before. Love is the root of my obedience now, and I can live out that obedience in a way that will bring joy to me, others, and Him. I feel as if I’ve gotten off a treadmill and gotten on to a beautiful path. The journey isn’t a guilt-ridden run to nowhere; it is a walk in His kingdom that forms beautiful relationships based on honesty and love. My relationship with God is first, and it must be the model for all my relationships if the redefining He desires is to take place.

Redefining relationships is not an easy task. Some will go as they are clearly not what God desires and are toxic to me and to others. Some will dissipate because they will not survive the changes in me. Others will flourish and grow as God desires. Those are the ones I plan to nourish. There will be wonderful new relationships along the way, and I look forward to each of them. Redefining relationships requires that I look to God first and let Him redefine me. The rest will fall into place as I love and obey Him:)