Journey With Gigi: Path to the Praying Life:)

The praying path leads to peace. In the midst of a storm with no power, I begin the second leg of this beautiful journey. I wrote the draft for the first lesson using the candle from my Emmaus Walk in May 2010. It is appropriate to use the light from that candle because it was on that walk I first heard God’s call to pray.

My first reaction to His call was to wait and pray for the rest of the call. I’m ashamed to say that I dismissed His call as not enough. I wanted more. I needed more. I had to have something more to do. I already prayed and prayed a lot, so what kind of a call was it anyway? I must have misunderstood. How utterly ridiculous that sounded to me as I wrote it last night and as I type it now. I suppose that indicates I have learned a little since then.

Darkness is necessary in order to see the light. That was clear to me as I sat in the dark last night with pen and pad in hand writing by candlelight. I pray I always remember the importance of Christ’s light as I navigate the darkness of this world. When all is sunny and bright, I still must light a candle of prayer. In fact, it is never more important to light a candle of prayer than in the midst of the bright lights this world offers to imitate His beautiful light.

I huddled near my candle in the dark, stormy night. (I have to admit here that the comedian in me so wanted to start off with, “It was a dark and stormy night….”) I’m glad I resisted the temptation, and I know you are too:) The darkness, accompanied by harsh winds and driving rain, forced me to be still and listen. I didn’t venture back to the church for the evening meal, but I did get out my laptop and go to the podcasts and listen to “Resurrection Living” from May 2011. Pastor John and I talked about the upcoming message in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 on resurrection, and I remembered that he had done a powerful message from 1 Peter 3 on the subject. I’m so thankful my battery lasted until I finished the message because it was just what I needed.

Here it is: “Resurrection Living” Dr. John Alden Tagliarini

In my study of 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 this week, I was shocked that some Christians don’t believe the resurrection actually took place. I can’t imagine leaving that part out of the story of Christ, but it’s done. Amazing! When I don’t live a resurrection life, I act as though I don’t believe it either. So, I won’t be tossing any rocks:) Without resurrection, Christ stays in the grave. Without faith, my praying life does the same.

The praying life is a resurrection life that provides evidence to the world that Christ is who He says He is, and His love is for all. Christ’s precious love is indeed the most precious thing on earth and in heaven. I always wonder what the angels must make of us and the way we deal with that precious gift. I let too much get in the way when it comes to hearing God’s message for me, embracing the love and forgiveness Christ offers, and letting the Holy Spirit do God’s work through me.

Since I’ve moved to the mountaintop, I haven’t had television. I have a pair of rabbit ears that help me get the closest local station with a lot of static. I only turn it on if there is bad weather coming or some big news event, and it’s a struggle to piece together the broken signal. God reminded me last night that He sometimes feels the same way when listening to my prayers:)

The lessons on praying came in the midst of a terrible storm, so I had no trouble praying, focusing, or listening to God. I was also very still which helps immensely. I pray I will have the same attention when things are bright, sunny, and filled with the busyness of my doing. That is the first and most important lesson when it comes to living a resurrection life and keeping to the path that leads to the praying life.

I’m ready to put God’s to-do list away and pray in a way that brings the sweet peace of His Holy Spirit’s indwelling. Jesus didn’t leave me alone, and that brings peace in the darkest storm. Last night, as the kids huddled together, I thought of how power outages have the tendency to pull us together. That calms the soul and lifts the spirit. I don’t know where the lessons will lead, but I do know they are off to an amazing start! Amazing what God can do with a storm, a power outage, and a little prayer candle.

The Beginning and The End

As I showed Lillyann and Mylah the book I was writing for them, I told Lilly that she could read it when she was older. She said, “Yep, when I’m your age, I can read it.” I had to smile and pray that she isn’t as slow as her Gigi when it comes to love. It’s taken me sixty years to finally “get it,” but I get it now. When it comes to love, Jesus is the beginning and the end:)

Anytime I have the Children’s Story, I know that God has a very important lesson for me. I’ve had it for two weeks and have it again on Sunday. It’s from 1 Corinthians 13, a beautiful way to end God’s “Lessons in Love.” I’ve struggled and searched for days for an object that represents love. Hearts, valentines, candy boxes, special cards and gifts from the past, little things Tyler made me when he was young just didn’t seem right. Love is in all of them, but gifts aren’t love.

I pray more intensely when I have the story because I know it’s important to get to the heart of the message and have a simple object that helps the little ones and me get God’s point. As I’ve gone in and out of my room this week, I’ve seen the object from last week’s lesson on my dresser. I threw away the picture of Jesus that was in pieces because I didn’t like to look at it, but I kept the one that showed my sweet, smiling Savior all in one piece.

Each time I passed the picture, I’ve touched it and said, “I love you!!” Last night, as I prayed once again, for God’s help with the story, I saw the smiling face of Jesus. God didn’t slap me in the back of my head, but I did smack myself on my forehead. Jesus is what love looks like because Jesus is love!! I’m glad God didn’t say, “Duh!” but I certainly did.

Since mama died three years ago, my search for love has intensified and become more of a quest than a journey. Mama was my anchor when it came to love, and when she left, my heart was disconnected. The journey has been like the ride the disciples took on the stormy sea, and my faith has been like theirs. Last night, He calmed my heart just as He calmed the turbulent waters in Galilee. Mark 4:35-40 describes that scene then and my troubled heart.

On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” NASB

Last night, Jesus looked at me with love and asked me the same question He asked His disciples. I have to admit that I felt pretty silly and was thankful for the beautiful smile that made my fears fade and my faith full:) So, Lillyann and Mylah, if you want to know what love looks like, here it is.

 Jesus Smiling

I love you both with all my heart, and I pray that your journey to find love is a beautiful one. However long it takes or wherever it leads you, may you find sweet comfort in Christ’s precious and perfect love. My love always is His promise and mine, Gigi:)

There is Nothing Without Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 makes it very clear what happens without love. Nothing!

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” NASB

Without love, I am nothing. Paul makes it clear, as did Jesus before him, that love is all that truly matters in this world. Without it, nothing makes any difference. God is love, and if we don’t have the level of love He desires, all our efforts miss His mark. Paul’s description of love is a beautiful one that shows a deep love for God and for others. He implores the church at Corinth to see the point of love.

The point of loving is getting closer to God. Each time I rock Mylah to sleep, read with Lillyann, talk with a hurting friend, or participate in any act of love, I feel a connection to Christ’s heart. The smallest act of love is a thousand times better than the greatest effort done out of obligation. Whether indebted or beholden, it all amounts to less than nothing without love.

The world has replaced love with lust and obligation, and the results are obvious all around. Love begets love, and that makes a difference in me and the world. True love wants nothing in return, and that spurs me on as nothing else can.

Living with my sweet grandbabies has taken love to a new level, and I’m amazed at all they are teaching me. Whether watching them sleep or showing them ways to love one another, I grow closer to them and to God with each act of love. Living with someone allows love to manifest in the mundane, and it is in the everyday that God loves for us to love. He, nor we, need extravagant gestures. Hearts and flowers flounder, but good night kisses and morning hugs last a lifetime.

Mylah asked about mommy and daddy as she was drifting off today. I told her that mommy was at school and daddy was at work. I added that Gigi’s right here. She smiled that beautiful smile of hers, played with my hair and closed her eyes. That’s love. Lillyann snuggled next to me and whispered while she was falling asleep. I looked at her sweet, sleeping face, and my heart just melted. That’s love.

I’m learning about love from two very adept teachers. The girls love with abandon, and that’s the way we all love until we learn the world doesn’t always appreciate that kind of love. I believe in the miracle of Christ’s precious love, and I have hope for the world because it does belong to God:)

The God of Hope

Love and hope are inseparable. God’s love offers hope that leads to joy and peace beyond description. Romans 15:13 is a sweet blessing that fills my heart each time I read it.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” NASB

Only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring the love, hope, joy, and peace of God. There are many substitutes in this world, but none compare to what God has to offer. I forget the Spirit and head out on my own sometimes and find myself lost and alone. When I am not feeling connected, I know the problem is love. I belong to the body of Christ and that means loving God and others. I can try to worship Him on my own, but it just won’t work. I can try to worship with others without loving them, but that will also fail.

Christ says this about love in Matthew 22:36-40.

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” NASB

Love isn’t negotiable and neither is being a part of His body. I am, and always will be, whether I like it or not. I can try to separate myself from other believers, but it is as futile an act as an eye deciding to take off on its own. “We are one in the bond of love” as the beautiful hymn says, and I cannot love or fully live without being connected to others.

I love being in a house filled with the sounds of love. The girls bless me each time they come running to my room to say good morning or good night. My heart is right at home here, and the lessons in love just keep getting better. This week’s have gone straight to my core and hurt deeply, but God is faithful to bless, heal, and stretch my heart a little with each lesson:)

Wholeness and Holiness

The scriptures this morning are about being one, and the lessons this week have been about wholeness. Holiness and wholeness go hand in hand. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 are beautiful verses that describe the oneness God desires.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” NASB

The image of drinking from one Spirit struck me this morning. Sharing a drink with someone is very intimate, and I don’t usually drink from the same cup as others. The scripture clearly says that we were made to drink of one Spirit. God made us for the intimacy of oneness, and holiness is about experiencing the unity Paul describes.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God are all one, and it is His desire for us to be one with Christ and so become one with Him through the Holy Spirit. The church is a poor example of oneness, and I know that breaks God’s heart. As we are apart, so is His heart. It is humbling to realize that I have the power to break the Creator’s heart, but I know I do. So do we all, and that should cause us to lay aside differences and come together.

I’ve said it before, but it bears saying again. Satan loves individuals, and God loves unity. I pray that we all will truly hear the words spoken to the church at Corinth and know that they apply more today than ever before. So much division exists in the body of Christ that He becomes an unrecognizable pile of pieces.

What a beautiful world this would be if all Christians came together as one! It would truly be His Kingdom come, and His will would be done in a way that would make us all wonder what took us so long to figure out that being whole is much better than being broken. Our brokenness is healed by the wholeness Christ affords. Thanks be to God:)

Vast Difference!

There is a vast difference between knowing what is right and the need to be right. God made that difference very clear yesterday with the cliff I came close to falling off! The scriptures this week had the crowd ready to toss Jesus over the cliff when He didn’t say what they wanted to hear. I didn’t like what He had to say to me and came close to slipping over the edge myself as I backed away from Him.

Evil has a way of disguising itself as good. It’s Satan’s greatest power, and my need to be right and desire to be loved brought me to a place of decision yesterday. A friend reminded me as we prayed together that I know what is right, and God reminded me again this morning. I do know what is right and what is good, but I am a stubborn and willful child who refuses to obey.

Disobedience breaks the heart and keeps the body from the wholeness God has in mind. The most difficult lessons are those which reveal sin for what it is. I chide myself for living up to daddy’s expectations when I see my stupidity. I don’t like to use the word he used to describe me on a daily basis, but it was the word that came to mind as I took inventory and prayed. God didn’t use it, but I did.

He loves and comforts me when I see my own mistakes with an attitude of true repentance, and loves me all the more when I decide to turn from them and heed His lessons in loving. Lust and love are not the same. Wanting what I want rather than what He wants is lust. Love is many things, but wanting isn’t one of them.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 has also been in my path this week, and I know that wasn’t a coincidence.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”NASB

I have taken and twisted those passages much in my life, and it has caused my heart to be broken over and over again. Yesterday, I looked at the brokenness and asked God to help me pick up the pieces. He had a better idea in mind. He asked me to leave those pieces at the cross and let Him give me a new heart, one held together by the sweet, powerful glue of His Holy Spirit.

I’m all for fixing things that can be fixed, but I also know that God knows best when it comes to hearts. I’ve tried for decades to repair my heart, but it only gets worse with each patching. I’m always left feeling less that what He desires, and that hurts deeply. Yesterday, I felt worse than ever and did not like what I saw. I know I must see myself as more before I can be who He wants me to be and have the love He has in in mind for me.

I’m ready to let Him have those pieces and accept the whole heart He has for me. Obedience is the key to wholeness and holiness, and I trust Him to help me find the joy that comes as a result of that obedience. My heart’s in good hands, and that’s just where it belongs. I feel like His beloved and cherished daughter, and that’s a new and wonderful feeling. A vast and beautiful difference from what I was feeling yesterday. Joy does come in the morning:)

Bedtime Story:)

The girls came knocking on my door this evening with their bedtime books and mommy and daddy in tow. Lillyann yelled, “Wake Up!” It was only 7:30, so I had to grin as I headed for the door. They ran in squealing at the top of their lungs. There is nothing like a good bedtime story to set the stage for a great night’s rest, and God knew I needed the interruption.

The day was a hectic one that left me worn and weary. I was away from home today and missed being with the girls. I needed the tough aerobics workout and a hot shower, but I needed the Lillyann & Mylah fix more:) The sweet time with them was a beautiful reminder of the love God provides for me. My heart needed the reminder today.

I was off track for a while today, but God got me back where I needed to be with the help of His two sweet assistants. They hadn’t been in Gigi’s room since it was all put together, and they loved it. They took note of the new decor and then immediately plopped right down in the middle of the floor. I had to laugh since I refer to it as my sanctuary. I had been praying and meditating before Cookie, the German Pointer, made a surprise visit earlier in the evening! I’m glad they all came calling!

A home is much better than a sanctuary was a sweet lesson I needed this evening. It was also great to be reminded that I am blessed with a beautiful family:)

Who Are the Poor, Blind, Captive, & Oppressed?

God took me back to Luke 4:14-21 last night and this morning to let me know I am the poor, blind, captive, and oppressed to whom Christ came to preach. I am part of the body of Christ and belong to His church. He is sitting in the synagogue saying to those listening that the Word is being fulfilled right before them.

I don’t like to hear that I am poor, blind, captive, and oppressed. I would rather take those verses and go out and find someone to preach or minister to myself. That’s easier than seeing myself as any, much less all, of the descriptors Jesus used in the synagogue that day. The church was, and still is, guilty of ignoring the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our agendas and programs take the place of worship, and we are just too busy doing His work to notice our own desperate need for Him.

Christ has a simple message, the same one He had for the synagogue. He came that our spiritual poverty could become His abundance. He opens our eyes to Who He is so we can see God and worship Him with abandon. He frees us from the captivity of rules and agendas. He lifts the stress of doctrines and denominations so we can find the unity He so desires.

When it comes to unity, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 says it best.

“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not a partof the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’”

Finding the beautiful unity of one Spirit is impossible as long as we worry about individual recognition, rules, doctrines, denominations, and agendas. If we truly hear God’s Word, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and look to Christ’s beautiful example, it is possible to have the unity Paul describes so vividly.

I have the Children’s Story again this week, so I expected a difficult lesson as I prepared my heart for it. I wasn’t prepared to hear that I was poor, blind, captive, and oppressed, but I needed the humbling message. He knew that better than anyone. Glad He is patient and loving. May I be the same:)

Child’s Play:)

Luke 17:18 and Mark 10:15 say the same thing about entering God’s kingdom.

Luke 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” NASB

Those verses have taken on greater meaning for me over the past few weeks as I’ve lived with children in a most beautiful way. I love the sound of little excited voices and delight in the sounds of play whether above or beside me:) I’m surrounded by the sounds of love and laughter and love every moment.

Children live in the moment, and I love that they can be playing full steam one moment and asleep the next. I marvel at their ability to change gears and go from one activity to the next. I decided when I first moved in that my living room would be the home’s loving room and went with an invitational design. It’s not innovative, and nothing really matches, but it’s the perfect room for plopping or playing.

I have my desk for studying, a table for coffee and reading, a table for the girls, a big comfortable couch with lots of soft cushions (Lillyann’s favorite thing about the house:), a great rocker recliner that looks out at the amazing view, an old TV that’s sole purpose is to play Mere’s old Disney VHF movies, and a big clear area in the middle in which to play or exercise. I’m sure a design team from HGTV would shake their heads in dismay, but the girls light up when they come in; and that’s all the approval I need.

My bedroom is a beautiful sanctuary, but I find myself staying and praying in the loving room most of the time. I know when the pool is filled, the room will also be filled with folks coming in and going out. Like Lillyann, I can’t wait to jump in! Every sunny day, she asks if we can put water in pool. I love the sweet optimism and eager excitement of children and know God does too. I pray we will all show the same for Him.

If you aren’t experiencing God’s kingdom here on earth, take some time to play with children. Their wisdom is amazing, and their enthusiasm is contagious. God knew that I was ready for the advanced lessons in love Lillyann and Mylah could teach me, so He set up a very special graduate course for me and even put me on an amazing campus designed to help me get the full effect of those lessons. I feel like a kid every time I think of Him, and that’s a good sign I’m heading in the right direction and walking in His kingdom:)

On The Way Up:)

I love the Psalms of Ascent, and Psalm 121 is especially dear to me.

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. NASB

I love to look at the mountains as I pray. Unlike the ocean, they do not move. I like that about them and could stand and stare at them forever. They are one of the few things that cause me to stop and be still:) My strength does come from God, and the mountains remind me of His majesty. This beautiful psalm reminds me of Who God Is. Asleep or awake, day or night, sun or shade, going out or coming in, God is there protecting and loving me forever. What blessed assurance of His sweet presence!

The mountains I love so very much will eventually wear away, but God always has been, is, and always will be the same. My faith falters, and my obedience is inconsistent; but God is faithful and patient. I beat myself up when I get off course because I waste precious time that could be spent with Him if I stay down when I stumble.

I will stumble and fall as long as I am living. It keeps me humble and reminds me I am human. Lillyann insists on pretending she is a puppy, and crawls all around the house. Her poor knees bear the bruises of her imagination. My heart bears the same skins and scrapes when I insist on my way instead of yielding to His.

I am so thankful God loves me and tends to my heart just as my mama tended to my many bangs and bruises. As I told Lillyann today that her poor knees couldn’t take much more abuse, I thought of my own heart and the punishment I put it through as I insist on my own way. God bid me to treat it with the same care He does and asked that I stop putting it in harm’s way. Hearts and knees deserve loving care; Lillyann and I both need to remember that.

I’ve been sleeping on the floor for two weeks as I’ve waited for the wonderful new mattress I ordered. I found out yesterday that it’s been ready for for me to pick it up for three weeks now. God made it clear that He has provided a new home, new furniture, and a great mattress, but I am still sleeping on the floor. I’m also still settling for less than He desires when it comes to my heart. God provides abundantly, but my stubborn insistence on my way keeps me from experiencing all He has for me.

The Psalms of Ascent are about moving up an drawing near to God, but I cannot move up to where He wants me to be as long as I’m satisfied where I am. Fear keeps me from ascending, and a lack of trust keeps me satisfied on the floor. I’m slowly learning to step out and up and put my trust in Him. Psalm 121 along with the amazing mountains I see at every window of the new home He has provided remind me that I am surrounded by hope and help:)

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