Loving & Swimming Lessons:)

We opened the pool on Monday when we celebrated Memorial Day. I was, and have been, very nervous about having the girls around the water. My fear of water is deep within my heart, and I was afraid of passing along that fear to the girls. I steered clear of the pool when they were in the water, but today was a beautiful turning point for my heart as God used the pool to give me loving and swimming lessons at the same time.

This morning was a turning point for my heart as I decided to accept and embrace the love God placed in my path, and I did so with a true non anxious loving presence. My heart was light and as full as it has ever been. I relaxed, let go, and “simply and bravely” loved. That was the title of the baccalaureate message Pastor John delivered to the graduates last Sunday; and while I was getting the message into pamphlet form this morning, I realized the title aptly described the lessons God had for me this week.

Lillyann swam on her own for the first time Monday, but she truly got it this afternoon. She just wouldn’t quit swimming back and forth across the pool. She had her water wings on, but she let mama let go and took off on her own.  Mama’s lessons finally clicked for her, and God’s lessons in loving and swimming finally clicked for me too. We both simply, and bravely, let go:)

After lunch, I decided to swim in the pool while the girls were napping. I prayed that I would not relay my fear of the water to the girls and asked God to please help me. An amazing thing happened when I got into the water. I started swimming, floating, and playing with abandon. There was no floundering, flailing, or thrashing about. I swam and played until the girls got up, and then I played for another hour and a half with them. They saw my excitement, and it was contagious! They especially loved it when I swam under the water and tickled their toes:)

God took away the fear I so worried would be passed along to my sweet little grandbabies and replaced it with delight. I am still in awe and don’t understand exactly what happened today, but God used Lillyann’s letting go and delighting in her new found freedom to get across His lessons for me. My heart has had on its water wings (the Holy Spirit), and my body had all the right motions for swimming. I knew what to do, but knowing and doing are two different things. Today, I loved and swam with abandon as I let go of my fears. I was as close to God as I ever have been in the process.

I shared Lillyann’s delight in a beautiful way because I knew exactly how she was feeling. That’s the way it is with love, as well. We laughed and loved each other as we played in the water, and we shared a very special moment. She kept telling me that I was her best friend while we were swimming together, and that was icing on an already amazing cake today. Love is like swimming; God waited for me to let go of the fears that were keeping me from loving as He desires. Just as mommy and I delighted when little Lillyann took off across the pool, I could imagine God doing the same when He saw that His swimming and loving lessons had finally paid off:) 

Flesh and Faith

Galatians 2:20-21 tells me, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

A Spirit-filled life is a life of faith lived out in the flesh, and Romans 10:17 reminds me, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” God’s Word fills my faith and tempers my flesh as it reminds me of Christ’s righteousness. When I see God’s Word as a set of rules for righteousness or try to live out the law instead of loving out my faith, I miss the life God has for me. The law is a guide and a reminder that Jesus did fulfill that which I cannot do on my own. As Paul says, “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” I’m learning to gauge all in my life by looking at how it relates to Christ’s gift of love. Leaning on the law, dismisses His gift. Floundering in the flesh does the same. The Holy Spirit allows me to live out my faith in a way that blesses Him and teaches me.

If I think I can be good enough, I nullify God’s grace. If I think His grace gives me the license to do whatever I want, I nullify God’s grace. If I believe Christ is the Son of God and understand that His love comes to me through God’s grace, then flesh and faith can work together. The problem comes if I try to live out my faith on my own or think I can control my flesh. Forgetting His Spirit is breathing without lungs. If I try to live by faith without the Holy Spirit, I end up worn, weary, and out of breath as I get caught up in the process of being good and forget the purpose of Christ’s coming. Paul knew, and I’m learning, that faith is hearing, understanding, and living out Christ’s words with the help of His Spirit.

 Christ promises to be with us always in Matthew 27:17-20, “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Christ’s commission includes a precious promise that assures me I can live by faith if I will take His words to heart with the help of His Holy Spirit. God’s sweet message this week has been that I am not alone. He is always with me through His Holy Spirit, and I can live the life He has in mind if I stop trying to do what His Son has already done. I’ve never felt as alive as I have this week as God has given me a taste of living the life He has in mind. Faith forces flesh to relax and allows me to breathe in a way that changes everything:)

How’s Your Love Life?

When fishing for details about intimacy, folks used to ask, “How’s your love life?” Friends, strangers, and even doctors would ask the question to gauge how things were going in regard to relationship. Physical intimacy is still a measure in the minds of many when it comes to love. The lessons this week have been about God’s abstracts conflicting with the world’s concretes. Love is abstract, and that makes it difficult to define and even harder to measure. Physical contact is part of the gauge we use to determine how loved we are. God took abstract love and made it concrete when He entered the world in human form. He understands our need to measure that which defies measurement.

I’m a hugger, so physical contact is very important to me. I respect those who do not like to touch or be touched, but I love to be held. I’m glad I’m surrounded with friends and family who offer hugs to me and accept the hugs I offer to them. It feeds my soul to be touched, and I love being close enough to my son and his sweet family to get my fill of hugs each and every day. When I find myself with a physical intimacy deficit, I remember Christ’s precious love, and that gives intimacy a new meaning and fills me with His sweet Spirit.

I’m learning abstract measures are more powerful than concrete ones when it comes to measuring my love life. God is redefining love for me and changing my heart in the process. He is helping me understand that the most valuable things in this world and the next cannot be held or seen. Love, grace, forgiveness, faith, hope, compassion, joy, and peace are all beautifully abstract, and there is nothing more real. As I get away from my need for concrete evidence and physical proof, I’m finding my love life is improving dramatically:) 

In the Aftermath of the Storm

I never tire of the beautiful view of the western horizon outside my bedroom door. I especially enjoy watching the weather coming in. When storms are in the distance, I sit and stare as the storm forms, but I do not enjoy the brewing when it’s taking place in my heart. When two fronts collide, whether in the atmosphere or the heart, storms do brew. Brewing creates tension, and tension must break. How it breaks and wreaks havoc in nature was painfully clear this week, and my heart breaks each time I think of those children in Moore, Oklahoma who found themselves in the midst of the storm without the comfort of their mothers’ arms. The teachers’ tears spoke volumes as they felt the pain of the dear little ones who died in the wreckage.

God hears every cry for mama, and He sees every tear in every storm. The strongest deluge cannot hide a single tear. Christ catches each and adds His own tears to those shed by His children. I love my son more than I know how to put in words, but I know that my love for him is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the love God has for him and for me. I wonder how I would feel if something terrible happened to him and everyone pointed their fingers at me for not stopping the storm or for not being there to stop his pain. God feels such pain each moment of every day as Satan bids the world to point fingers in His direction and lay blame on Him for every misfortune in this world.

My sin put Christ on the cross, and the pain He endured for me is beyond what I am capable of imagining. To blame Him when I hurt adds insult to His injury, but He takes all the insults and the pain and loves me anyway. His lovingkindness is forever, and it doesn’t matter if I kick and scream, point and cry, or hide and whimper; He loves me still and always will. There is nothing I can do to separate myself from His love. When fronts collide, and they always will, His love is in the aftermath to bring calm and perfect peace. A perfect storm is one that causes the most mayhem. God’s perfect peace is greater than the perfect storm, and it always will be.

I am guilty of neglecting God in the good times, and the same is true of that beautiful western front when blue skies and sunshine go on and on for days. I’m sorry to say I don’t pay much attention, but when a storm is on the horizon, my focus is upon that western front. I am the same way with God when fronts collide in my own heart. If trouble is brewing, it’s best for me to turn to Him and let Him settle the storm before it brews. I told Mylah and Lillyann that storms are necessary to clear and clean the air, and the same is true in my heart. Those storms in my heart can be avoided if I let God clear my heart before I attempt to clear the air:)

Abba Father

My heart was frustrated, so I cried out, “I don’t know what I want anymore!” while praying last night. The sun was setting, so I simply sat and stared into the western horizon after blurting out my heart’s frustration. God not only held my attention but put on an amazing display that made me forget about everything but Him. A powerful thunderstorm had just rolled over the mountaintop, and the sky suddenly lit up in a breathtaking way. In the stillness and awe of the moment, I stopped crying and remembered that He is Abba Father. I sat and watched the sky in silence soaking in His loving presence.

Coming to the end of my wants allows me to reach out for God. He showed me last night that I know what I want, and I know what He wants. It isn’t complicated. I want to be loved, and so does He. So do we all. His love defines who I am; it always has and always will. I’ve grown dizzy looking for love. My heart is like little Mylah spinning in circles; it causes me to lose my balance. I end up on the ground every time, but that doesn’t stop me.

I was grounded last night, but God’s love and grace lifted in a beautiful way. The Holy Spirit brought my heart a sweet sense of peace as the sky went from a frightening stormy gray to a beautiful pink and to a soft white before finally fading into night. Turning off the lights and letting the room darken naturally brought a sweet sense of sleepiness. It took a while for darkness to come because God turns off the lights much better way than we do:)

A lingering flash of lightning came from a distant storm as the sky darkened completely. God reminded me the Holy Spirit’s comfort comes slowly at times and in a flash at others. I lost sleep Sunday evening thinking about future worries and past regrets. Last night, I slept like a baby knowing that Daddy could and would take care of my heart. Abba Father indeed:)

Look! It’s Touching the Sky:)

Pepe and Ray opened the pool today, and the girls were mesmerized by the process. We had to put little chairs by the door so they could watch. When they finally got to go outside, Lillyann pointed to the water and said, “Look, it’s touching the sky!” I smiled as I heard her perfect description and wished I had thought of it:) I also couldn’t help but think about how wonderful it is when we touch God through His Holy Spirit. Just as the pool touched the sky when the cover was removed, so did my heart touch God when I allowed His Holy Spirit to remove its cover. The pool was covered all winter, and I know that water was happy to see the sky. My heart was hidden for far too long, so I understand both the longing and the joy involved in touching the sky:)

I love watching the water, especially the little ripples created by the filter system. The openness is inviting, but I know I have to wait until the filters and potions do their magic before venturing in. It’s fun to watch the transformation taking place, and I can already see a noticeable difference in the color and clarity of the water. Until the transformation is complete, I can only look at and anticipate a refreshing swim. The girls were just beside themselves, and Lillyann kept asking if she could get in. I know she will love swimming, and I know we’ll have a lot of fun playing together in the water. I hope I never forget her reaction to the pool the first time she saw the water because it will remind me to make sure she sees God in me the same way she saw the sky in the pool.

Opening my heart is a lot like opening the pool. Like pools, hearts must go through a transformation before they are ready to love as God desires. The first step is touching Him and reflecting His love in a way that invites others to come in. The lessons this week have been powerful ones that helped me open my heart a little wider and touch God in a beautiful way. Pastor John reminded me that I am God’s child, and that gives me the courage to reach up, touch God, and open my heart to the love He has for me. Pastor Jodi reminded me that I need to be filled, and I thought of her honest and beautiful message when I looked at the pool today. No matter how beautiful the pool, it’s of no use when it’s empty. The same is true for my heart. The images this week have been powerful ones that I pray will stay with and continue to bless me as I touch God, remember who I am, and remember to stay filled:)

Touching the Sky

God’s Grounding

Staying grounded without hitting the ground is a challenge, but balance comes more easily when I let go of pride and pity and look toward the Holy Spirit. Looking back throws my heart off center and makes traveling forward impossible. Luke 9:62 makes it clear that looking back is a problem when it comes to following Christ. God’s grounding requires that ground be broken in my heart. He used the image of a plow and a beautiful field to help me understand the importance of focus when it comes to plowing.

But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” NASB

Looking back is the surest way I know to get off track and fall to the ground. My heart has hit the ground so many times that I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just lay down and stay down. God made it clear this morning that the problem with my heart stems from going in one direction while looking in another. I have always been easily distracted and have trouble focusing. It is a nuisance when it comes to completing tasks, but it is disastrous when it comes to living and loving in God’s kingdom.

Christ’s words humble because I am guilty of forging ahead while looking back. I don’t want to let go because I know the plow is keeping me grounded, but I continue to look back. My heart will never be grounded as long as I allow the plow to dig down while I decide whether to trust God and move forward or continue to focus upon what I want. I find myself stuck between where He wants me and where I want to be. If I keep looking back while trying to move forward, I will continue to go in a circle, an easily recognizable pattern in my life.  

Being grounded is about looking ahead and following Christ. His Spirit is pulling the plow to which I cling, and He knows where He’s going. It is where I should be going. God will let pine and look back, but He makes it clear that I am not fit for His kingdom if I do. That humbles and sobers me in a powerful way. God knows my struggle with attention, and He knows how very much I love Him and His precious Word. I hold fast to His love, and I’m not letting go. He reminded me this morning that I have to turn my full attention to Him if I am to learn and grow in His Spirit as He desires.

It’s human nature to be distracted by desire. The body demands attention and will not be ignored, but God’s Spirit is strong and bids me to choose. God never forces me to go His way. He hands me the handle and lets me determine the direction. He won’t put a blinder on me either and lets me look in whatever direction I desire. I’m thankful for the freedom His Spirit brings; without it, I would simply be a drone. He knows my heart must decide when it comes to love, and He knows how difficult it is to not look back. He also knows, and I’m learning, that I have to look to His Spirit if I want to be truly grounded. God’s grounding leaves my heart open and ready to bear His fruit, and He knows that only I can let His Spirit give my heart a new kind of grounding:)

God's Grounding