The Best Change Ever

Change is never easy, and I think that’s why this season of Lent has been so very difficult for me. So many changes in such a short time left me out of balance for a bit. This morning, as the sun broke through the dark clouds and filled the house for a few special moments, I had to smile back at God and thank Him for all the lessons. Those teachers who push me to the point of true change are the ones I most remember. I don’t normally have a lot of affection for those teachers as they are getting me through a difficult lesson, but I truly appreciate them when I finally get it.

The best teachers are the ones who care about me, and that means understanding that I may not understand or like the lessons they know I truly need. Good parents are not always popular, and neither are good teachers. Jesus is the best teacher ever, and He knew the lessons coming at the cross were going to break His followers’ hearts. He also knew they would lead to stronger discipleship and greater love than they had ever known. They would need those lessons when He was no longer with them, and we still need them today. Without the separation that came with His death, His resurrection would not have been possible. He knew that then, and He knows that now.

The lessons this season of Lent have been about separation more than anything else. I didn’t understand what God was doing and even became angry with Him at one point. This morning, I’m thankful for His patience with me. Hanging on to that which He bids me to release keeps me from experiencing all the good He has for me. My intentions get tangled up in His will if I try to pick and choose or keep one foot in my way and one foot in His. Then my feet, like those good intentions, keep both of us from doing any good. He made it clear that I need to clear my heart and stop trying to convince Him to let me keep this or hold on to that.

God is the Master Teacher, and the change He has in mind is the same change He had in mind on that beautiful morning when Christ rose from the grave. He wants me to experience resurrection living and loving. This morning I celebrate Christ who gave up all to God on my behalf. The result was the single greatest change this world will ever know. I am thankful that He is still a god of hope who gives me the chance to change and live a life worth living forever:)

Seeing the God in Others:)

If you’ve ever had someone see the good in you that you cannot see in yourself, then you understand the power of seeing the good in others. Seeing the good in others is seeing the God in them. Christ helps me do just that and connect in a way that changes them, me, and the world as God releases His Son’s precious love into His world. The message on this last day of Lent is the importance of that connectedness and the compassion that results when His love is recognized and released.

I am designed by my Creator to connect, and I cannot be who He wants me to be until I make the connections He has in mind. Having someone take time to help me understand Christ’s love by seeing the good and God in me gives me the courage to carry out His call to do the same for others. Love and worship must be shared. The body of Christ is connected by His love. When I think about Easter, I am reminded of the resurrection and humbled to think that the powerful love that brought Christ out of the grave is in my own heart and the hearts of all who accept His offer of love.

Christ’s love stays hidden in many, and I’ve certainly hidden it away in my own heart. Bringing His love out of the darkness and into the light of relationship changes everything. Having someone recognize that love and bring it to the surface with honest communion transforms me and allows the resurrection living and loving God has in mind for me. Jesus did not stay in the grave, and His love will not stay locked away in my heart. The grave could not contain His love, and neither can my heart. Christ’s precious love is meant to be shared, and it will be whether or not I participate in the process of sharing it or not.

Love cannot be imposed on others. To love out of fear or force goes against God’s very nature. Before I can see His love in others, I must first see it in myself. That comes when someone sees what I cannot and helps me come to the place of seeing it myself. It’s a sweet revelation that prompts me to want to do the same for others. The process is a painful one that takes time, but it is well worth the hurt to experience the delight that comes from loving as God desires. It brings out the very best when a dear friend sees the worst but still loves the best in me. Releasing God’s love into His world and helping others do the same frees the spirit and heart to connect and serve in God’s world in His way.

It’s been a crazy Lent this year, but on this Holy Saturday, I’m seeing the beautiful light at the end of the tunnel. The light is Christ’s love, and He’s waiting there for me with a sweet resurrection smile of delight on His face. God reminded me this morning that I serve a risen Savior, and that makes all the difference in the way I love and connect in His beautiful world:)  Happy Easter!!

Praising The Razing:)

Razing is literally taking something to the ground, and that’s just what God’s done with my heart this Lent. He started on Ash Wednesday and has been demolishing in ways I still don’t understand. I do understand that I don’t have to understand, so I suppose that indicates a little growth. The messages this week have all been about community, and I’ve been humbled by the questions they have raised in my heart. God created us to be in community, and I’ve struggled with that my entire life. I’ve seen my inability to connect as God desires in the bareness left by His razing. He made it clear that I have to deal with that before He can go any further with the building He has in mind.

I do not plan to spend another moment figuring out why I haven’t made connections as I should have, and I do not plan to ponder the problems which may lie ahead. God made it clear to me today that it’s time to move forward, forget past hurts, and let go of future worries. God is God and will work out all the details. He isn’t asking me to do the building, only sweep away the fear-filled failures so I can see the bigger problem with my heart.

He used the image of tearing down a rotten wooden structure and then building a brand new one on the massive termite colony that caused the other to crumble. It will be fine for a little while, but it will eventually fall. It is a familiar pattern. God will take care of my heart problem, but He wants me to acknowledge it first and give Him the license to dig deeper. It was not fun to sweep away the failures because it meant facing them one by one and forgiving myself for each. I did, however, find great peace in handing over the excavation to His loving hands.

God took my heart down to the ground and me with it the past few weeks, and now He is insisting on digging even deeper. It is much easier to give Him the space to dig now that everything is gone, and there is sweet freedom to the emptiness before me. Like the show Extreme Makeover, demolition is necessary before a new structure can be built. Watching the demo may be fun, but looking at the vast emptiness is frightening. I am excited about what God will do with the space now that it’s empty, I have no doubts that it will be much better than what the folks on the show see when Ty says, “Move that bus!!”

Until then, I’m praising His razing and not worrying about the results. God has a much better imagination than I do, and He knows what’s best for me. I marvel at God’s timing but then I remember that He’s been waiting for me to give Him the space so He can do the remodeling He has in mind. It was my prayer on Ash Wednesday, and it is my prayer this Good Friday. I pray it will always be my prayer. I might just see a tent when God moves that bus:) Whatever I see, I plan to shout “Hallelujah!!” at the top of my heart!

Picking, Pecking, & Pointing!

God’s didn’t give us His Word for picking, pecking, and pointing purposes, and it breaks my heart to see it used that way or as a battering ram. It is designed to bring us together, not tear us apart. I have never understood why some are so determined to use it in ways that show very little love. When asked which commandment was most important, Jesus humbled all of us with an answer that left those who understand His point less willing to peck, pick, and point. Matthew 22:36-40 says,

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 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

Jesus knows that all fall short in following these two commandments. He also knows that we use God’s Word to point at those who have different sins than our own. If asked on a game show the favorite pastime of Christians, I would push the buzzer and yell nit picking! Satan absolutely loves that about us because it keeps us from focusing upon those two important commandments. We point at sins that are “worse” than ours so we will feel better about our own and then back up our hate-filled opinions with God’s Word. I may overeat, but I don’t do drugs. I may do drugs, but I don’t commit adultery. I may commit adultery, but I don’t murder; I may commit murder, but I don’t judge. You get the idea. The bottom line is that none of us love as Jesus asks us to in Matthew 22, so we all fall short of God’s glory and have no right to point any of our fingers at anyone else.

I wonder what the world would look like if Christians took those two great commandments to heart and lived them out in our own families, neighborhoods, and countries. It would be a very different world. I know we’ll continue to argue over technicalities until Jesus comes again just as the Pharisees argued over the law before He came the first time, but I also know that we will not be arguing over them once He returns. He will not be taking questions because He has already answered them all, and He will not be zapping the list of folks we have for Him to zap. He will love, and the whole world will see Him in His Father’s glory. No trials or explanations will be necessary. If we allowed Him to have His way with our hearts now, the same would be true. I have a long way to go before I love as Christ loves, and I am humbled by His mercy, grace, and patience with me. So glad He doesn’t love the way we do or we would be in big trouble!

Ahhhhh….

The girls are sleeping peacefully, and I’m watching the snow. I can’t help but look as winter gives her last performance of the season. It’s been a difficult winter in many ways. I’ve been besieged, broken, and bewildered during this first winter of my sixties. Since my birthday in October, I’ve been inundated with change and numbed by all God has placed in and taken out of my path. I’m thankful for where He has brought me, but I wouldn’t want to relive these past six months!

As my world and heart are settling into a new routine and a new home, I thank God for the blessings He’s given. I didn’t always recognize them as blessings when they presented themselves, but I do now. Hindsight is notoriously clear; so as I look back, I see His hand at work in wondrous ways. His hand is always at work in wondrous ways, and I pray that I will see Him in each moment and I learn to be still and trust Him more completely.

The fifties were all about finding myself, and the sixties are proving to be all about finding God, which means losing the self I found in my fifties:) Today, I awoke with the sweetest sense of relief. I’m glad the kids were at Meme’s and Pepe’s because it gave me the chance to be alone with God on this quiet, snowy morning. This winter has been cold and dark for me in many ways, but God has used all to show me that without the darkness, light means nothing, and without cold, I cannot appreciate His warmth. I’ve learned to look to Him, and Him alone for my light and warmth. He is the Source of love, and love is the light and warmth for which my heart yearns. Like all God’s lessons, I already knew that, but I needed the reminder He’s given me.

The path to the praying life is off to a very rocky start, but God brought me to a place of rest and peace this morning that made me smile and breathe out a long ahhh……. God knows the importance of stopping to rest along the way, and He knows when I need a break. The snow He provided put my plans on hold as snow always does. I’m thankful for the snow and for the sun that’s coming soon. I plan to enjoy both and learn to thank Him in all things, especially when I don’t have a clue what He’s doing because it is then that He surprises me the most and the best. I love that about Him:)

Finding Fulfillment

Fulfillment is an interesting word which means to “make full, put into effect, meet the requirements, bring to an end, measure up, convert to reality, or develop the full potentialities of.” When I think of the word, I think of Christ. His coming was about finding fulfillment, and all those definitions apply to Jesus as He fulfilled God’s Word. The beautiful lesson God had for me today is that fulfillment is right in front of me and has been all along.

I have looked in many places and people to find fulfillment, but they all left me wanting. If I look to others to fulfill my needs, I am not only disappointed but also angry when they don’t meet my needs. It’s a big problem with the world, especially within the church. I cannot expect a church or minister to do what only God can do. It was a problem for Jesus, as well. He did not fulfill the needs of the religious leaders of the day, and that created as big a problem for them as it does in the church today. I can’t point accusing fingers at anyone because I am as guilty as those Pharisees when it comes to expecting Jesus to conform to my wants and needs.

My only hope is finding the fulfillment Jesus brought to God’s wonderful Word and loving as He does. My love must be for all His children. Praying brings a universality to my heart when I see myself as part of His beloved. Knowing that His beloved are all who live in His world changes the way I look at needs and fulfillment. God’s love isn’t about competition or picking favorites. It is inclusive in a world that cries for exclusivity. No wonder there is such conflict in this world!

The same conflict will exist in my own heart if I cannot open it wide enough to love all as they are. Expecting others to conform to my way of thinking is looking for fulfillment in the wrong place and will lead to great disappointment. Only Christ’s fulfillment will help the heart of this broken world find what it needs and stop the anger that comes from pointing fingers at those who fail to fulfill. Until we truly understand that fulfillment has already come and is waiting for us, those fingers will continue to close hearts.

Living the praying life means making enough room in my heart for the entire world. I suppose I should have realized what God was going to do with all that space I gave Him, but He caught me off guard, as usual. I love it when He surprises me with the obvious:)

Knowing & Doing

God reminded me this week of the power of fasting when it comes to living the praying life. Fasting clears the mind and helps focus the heart on God. It is best when done voluntarily, but I tend to neglect the discipline of simplicity even though I know it is good for me. Knowing and doing should go together without effort, but that isn’t always true with me. Like Bugs Bunny, I know I shouldn’t do something, but I do it anyway. It’s the mantra of the spoiled child, and I am guilty of being a very spoiled child of God. I cannot pick and choose when it comes to obedience.

Feasting is so much more fun than fasting, and I have no problem diving into a feast. The good thing about a virus-imposed fast is that the very thought of food is abhorrent so there isn’t the temptation of eating. I’m as empty as I’ve ever been after this three-day bout with whatever it is that has hold of my digestive tract, but I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fasting and confession are similar in that they empty out and leave space for God. I certainly have more room for Him now than I did last week. The question is what will I put back now that the space is available. Will I rent it to God or give Him the title and the keys? I have the tendency to let God rent space or stay on as a beloved houseguest rather than give Him ownership. I am supposed to be His temple not His landlady or hostess, but I’ve clearly been the lady of this manor and a gracious hostess. If I am to be His servant, I have to give Him the keys and stop trying to manage that which He should be managing.

As children, we are taught to take charge and be independent. God teaches us to let go and trust Him. The world’s message and God’s message are always going to be at odds if I try to balance both in my life. The best balancing is finding Christ in the center of my heart and holding on to Him. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Mine has the tendency to be much too heavy. He knows that I have to come to the place of laying down mine before I can pick up His, and I thank Him for helping me get to that place of not only knowing, but also doing that this week. Lent is about emptying out and about doing what I already know to do. It’s a simple and very beautiful lesson in living the praying life that I truly needed.