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

Gravity & Grace

I thought of Lillyann and Mylah this week as God’s lessons led me to see the power of His Holy Spirit to lift my spirit and bring me into a sweet intimacy with Him. Earlier in the week, the girls were pretending to be birds and decided to get on the couch and  fly. Gina and I watched as they showed us how real birds fly. Lillyann, the engineer, had the proper wing formation and proceeded to fly in true bird form. Mylah threw her arms up in delight, squealed, and flew with abandon. Lillyann tried in vain to get Mylah to use proper form, but Mylah was soaring and didn’t heed her directions.

I told Lillyann that humans would fly with their arms outstretched like Mylah’s and used Superman as an example of such flight. Lillyann wasn’t buying it, so I told her that Mylah could pretend fly any way she wanted. That seemed to make sense, so on they flew. I love the abandon of children, and I envy the freedom with which they express their spirits. The lessons this week were all about Spirit, and God used the vivid image of the girls’ flight to bring home a powerful lesson in gravity.

We celebrate Pentecost this week. I’ve read and heard about Pentecost all my life, but I understood Pentecost for the first time today. I was flying like little Mylah with the help of God’s sweet Holy Spirit, and it was the best high I’ve ever experienced. I’ve felt God’s Spirit before, but today was different. It was the most beautiful AHA! moment I’ve ever had as I understood the difference between God’s ways and mine as never before. God dwells in Spirit; I tend to dwell in the body. It was clear to me today that the Spirit has the body beat when it comes to soaring, and I loved the feeling of absolute bliss I felt today. God made it clear that He knows what’s best for me. His timing is always perfect, and I was especially thankful for that today. I got His message just when I needed it, and I love that about Him.

I know I have to die to self, and I know it is a daily death, but I lived the lesson today. That is much better than simply hearing it. I’ve been thinking about Romans 8:14-17 and Acts 2:1-21 this week, and I read commentaries and articles half-heartedly as I prepared the folders last week. In fact, and I’m ashamed to say this, I dismissed Romans and moved on to Galatians because I found it more interesting. I am so very thankful God that is patient, loves me more than I can begin to fathom, and sees me just as I saw Mylah with her  little hands raised in pretend flight. I am also grateful for loving friends who nudge me along the path:)

The lessons this week have all been about allowing God to define me. I am His daughter, and He made that very clear today. The lessons began on Sunday, continued all week, and came together beautifully today. I was His daughter this afternoon, and that made me want to jump and shout and lift my arms like little Mylah. My body reacts to gravity, and that makes it very difficult to stay in flight. Gravity keeps me from experiencing what God has in mind for me, but God’s grace gives me a taste of His freedom that I can’t forget. Bing gives three definitions for gravity:

1)gravitational force: the attraction due to gravitation that the Earth or another astronomical object exerts on an object on or near its surface

2)seriousness: the seriousness of something considered in terms of its unfavorable consequence

3)serious behavior: solemnity and seriousness in somebody’s attitude or behavior

Gravity literally keeps my body from floating up in the air, and I’m very thankful for it; but I must make sure my body does not keep my spirit from being lifted by God’s grace. That pesky sin of seriousness will also keep my spirit from soaring and will ground my soul. Seriousness and gravitational force have their places, but my spirit isn’t one of them. My spirit belongs to God, and I am His beloved daughter. He showed me what He could do when given the space and freedom He needs. What a lesson! What a week! There just aren’t words that describe the way I felt when I was lifted to a place where I escaped gravity and flew into His presence today, but John Gillespie Magee Jr. comes very close his beautiful poem that I’ve always loved.

“High Flight”

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
 And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
 Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
 You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
 High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
 I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
 My eager craft through footless halls of air….

 Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
 I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
 Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
 And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I’m not a pilot, and that was especially true today as God’s Spirit took the controls. My body was forced to be still on the ground and watch as my spirit slipped those surly bonds, and I truly felt like His daughter. Reality set in, and I came back down to earth, but I flew long enough to learn the earth is never the same after flying:)

Taking Flight

Traveling Companions

I had a wonderful eight mile walk with a dear friend this morning. Actually, Rita is more than a friend; she’s family. We both agreed that we would not have ventured up the mountainside alone in the near freezing weather, but we also agreed that it was great to be walking. The lesson was clear as I came down the mountain feeling great and ready for whatever God had in store. Walking in God’s kingdom is best with company because fellowship is an essential part of the journey. I’ve learned over the past few years to let down my guard and let others hear my heart, and I’ve found some great traveling companions in the process.

Traveling companions are special because traveling together requires a level of trust and friendship that goes well beyond a casual acquaintance. I must be willing to let others be a part of my life and be part of theirs. Kingdom relationships involve listening, loving deeply, and spending lots of time together. Living and loving together requires commitment, and that’s just the word Rita used this morning. She said, “We’re committed, and she’s right.” We walk about twenty miles a week, but it isn’t about exercising or clocking time and distance. It’s about taking the time to be together in a powerful way. We love one another, and that makes the journey a joy. Two hours pass quickly as we talk and enjoy the beauty around us. On Friday morning, we came upon a young deer. It stood for a long while gazing at us curiously. It would have stayed longer if a jogger hadn’t broken the sweet silence.

Kingdom living is about being committed and taking time for God and one another. It means hearing the hurt, sharing the joy, and trusting God and each other. It’s about non judgment, being my truest self, and allowing others to be the same. Love doesn’t judge or fix, and love is all I need to pack for the journey that leads me to His kingdom. Deciding not to judge is dying to self and allowing God to be God, and it’s a daily decision. Some days, I do a wonderful job and get in a beautiful walk in His kingdom; but some days, I worry, fret. and fuss and get stuck in my muddy mess. As long as I’m on earth, I will have to die in order to walk in God’s kingdom. Dying to self isn’t easy, but I’m finding that it’s much easier than striving, struggling, and digging out of the mud.

Walking in God’s kingdom is a witness walk, not a judgment trudge. Like my morning hikes with Rita, a walk in God’s kingdom is a beautiful commitment to travel together in a way that draws us nearer to God and one another. It also helps that we make sure not to fall into the sin of seriousness along the way =]

Traveling Companions:)

Hung Jury

Giving up the need to judge isn’t a noble gesture but rather a natural response to understanding that judging others is taking God’s place. That humbles and sobers in a way that makes me drop my gavel, get on my knees, and beg for mercy. Judgment seems harmless enough and even acts as a guide if I allow myself to listen to Satan who encourages judgment on all levels. Being a non anxious loving presence is impossible with a gavel in my hand. I found myself doing a lot of judging yesterday, and I didn’t like what I heard from my heart.

God’s message this morning is that judgment is a full time job, and jury duty is eternal if I choose to go that route. It’s a life that reflects a bitterness that comes from a lack of control, and there is nothing in this world that quenches God’s Holy Spirit more. Judging is about the need to control, know, or explain everything, and God bids me to wipe the dust off my feet and move away from it. God showed me the frustrations of a hung jury yesterday. It opened my eyes and heart to see the effect such frustrations can have on His work. He made it clear that He prefers for me to leave judgment in His capable loving hands and not get caught up in the futility of eternal jury duty.

There’s nothing worse than being on a jury that cannot come to a consensus, and Christians are the worst when it comes to serving on hung juries. Being right means someone has to be wrong, and Shakespeare would say “therein lies the rub.” It’s a rub that rubs raw and brings past hurts to the surface. It’s a rub that creates friction and pain. The only way to avoid the rub is to let God do the judging and excuse myself from feeling the need or the duty to serve on or fix those hung juries. There’s a place for juries on this earth, and I’ve served on my share. I dread the call because I know it’s going to be a difficult process that takes time I would prefer to use elsewhere. Time is precious and should be used to love instead of judge those in my path.

Walking in God’s kingdom means leaving the judging to God, forgetting the juries, and loving as He desires. It’s a much better use of the time He so graciously gives me to worship Him and love others. My role is one of a witness, and my only concern is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with love; the rest is up to God. There are no juries in God’s kingdom and only one Judge. Christ’s cross settled all accounts, so I won’t be needing my gavel anymore:)

Judge & Jury