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