Falling Up :)

My son Tyler gave Shel Silverstein’s book, “Falling Up,” to me for Christmas one year. He knows how much I love poetry, and Shel’s a favorite. I thought of the book’s cover as God’s powerful lessons became crystal clear this morning. A dear friend reminded me that the journey is about spiraling upward, and as he made a twirling motion with his index finger pointing to God, I realized falling upward is part of spiraling upward because falling is part of the journey.

Life involves stumbles, trips, and flat out falls, and that’s why it’s so important to travel with company. Rita will be out of town for a while, and I’ll miss our long treks up the mountain. I’ll stay near the bottom and circle a lot while she’s gone because I don’t go up alone. It’s not the fear of bears or snakes that keep me from the higher ground; I just don’t want to fall with no one around. I did that at Whiteside Mountain once and drove home a bloody and embarrassed mess!

Having someone who loves me walk with me helps me keep my attention on the path and the beautiful scenery, and that’s where it belongs. It’s easy to lose focus; that’s why I need a loving companion. I can catch them if they trip, and they can catch me when I do the same. If we both fall at the same time, we can still help each get up, dust off, and find our balance once again. It’s not funny when you fall, but I thank God for love that lets us laugh together when wounds are healed and feelings mended:) It’s the beauty of love, and God is the very best example of love that looks at mistakes and finds humor in lessons learned.

There is nothing sadder that someone who has fallen alone or been left behind when they fall by those who don’t care enough to stop and lend a hand. I thank God for surrounding me with loving companions who make my journey a sweet joy and share both the tears and the laughter that come with loving as God desires. Love humbles as nothing else, but it also brings greater joy than anything else in this world. It is a taste of what is to come, and I thank God, the source of all love, for helping me help others when they trip and for putting those in my path whose love lifts and encourages me to keep going.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says it best, Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Words to love and travel by if you want to fall up and help others do the same. Too often we bring others down or beat ourselves up. I’ve done my share of both, and that causes everyone to fall and many to stay down. If we don’t find the courage to get back up and help others do the same, the body of Christ will be less than God desires. If we love as God desires, our falling will result in honest communion and love that makes others see Him in us and in our relationships. That’s what this journey is all about 🙂

Going up :)

A Forgiving Heart

Luke 7:47 has a beautiful ring of truth to it. Jesus says to those who wonder at His allowing a sinful woman to wash His feet, For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Those who recognize their own sin and embrace the forgiveness Jesus offers love much. Those, like the Pharisees, who recognize and keep a count of the sins of others love little. Jesus isn’t encouraging sin by any means, but He is pointing out that reconciling our own sin is much more powerful when it comes to loving than judging the sins of others.

Jesus tells the story of two debtors in verses 41-46.“A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume.”

Anyone who has ever loved knows the deep connection between love and forgiveness. True forgiveness begets love that manifests itself in loving acts of gratitude. The woman who washed and kissed the feet of Jesus understood the connection perfectly, and I pray that I will also come to the same level of understanding as I find the courage to open my heart in honest communion with Christ and others. It very easy to be a pious judge pointing out the sins of others, but it is best to be a humble sinner filled with gratitude at the feet of Christ.

Acknowledging sin and opening my heart allows me to love with an abandon that doesn’t care about what others think and to appreciate the true depth of the love offered to me by one who has every right to point His fingers and judge me. He chooses to open His arms and love me, and that changes the way I look at myself, others, and Him. When I understand the debt Christ cleared for me, my gratitude spills over into my life and allows me to love as He does with a forgiving heart.


Healing Peace

Past hurts and future worries invade my present peace if I allow them to take up space in my heart. I do wish I could stay in the present moment more and enjoy God’s presence more fully. I suppose it is human nature to forget that God’s presence is about allowing His Holy Spirit to control each moment. It’s not easy to simply be, but I’m doing a better job in that regard. I’m not holding fast to my plans and my wants, and I’m trying to live and love in each moment. Praying centers, but I have to make sure my time with God is more about being with Him than rehashing the past and rehearsing the future.

It’s been a week filled with time, and that has led to slipping into the past and fretting about the future. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself and decided to redirect and do something for someone else. It’s the surest way to truly stay in the present and forget my worries and regrets. Listening to the rain also brings me to the present in a beautiful way, and I’ve certainly had lots of time to do that this week! I love the sweet peace rain brings, and I love the sleep that comes during a downpour. I’m not sure why I sleep so well when it’s raining, but I love the feeling I get from the deep, replenishing rest that comes during a night of rain.

Healing peace is not only attainable, it gets easier as I learn to focus upon God and what He places in my path each moment. His work is never tedious, and I loose track of time when I listen to and obey Him. Healing and peace go together perfectly, and I’m sure there is research out there to connect the two. In Mark 5:34, Jesus makes a beautiful connection. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” NASB

I know from personal experience, that Jesus brings peace, and peace brings healing. When I rehash and rehearse, I loose peace. When I rest in God and have faith that He is Who He says He is, I find the sweet peace that heals. My heart hasn’t been as whole as it is now ever in my life, and I thank God for bringing me to this place of healing. It isn’t about happiness as much as it is about joy and holiness. Living in God’s Spirit allows me to live out Christ’s precious love in each moment, and that heals my heart, settles my soul, and brings me nearer to God.

Peaceful Rain

Open House and Open Heart

Climbing up the mountain is much easier with company; my hikes with Rita are proof of that. Walking, like living, is better together. When we come to the steep hills, we get quiet and work our way up the mountain. Knowing I’m not alone is a big motivation, and that’s why sweet loving connections are so important on this journey. It’s literally true as I walk up Indian Creek or figuratively so as I navigate the rough patches in life. Having someone walk beside me makes all the difference in life.

Living with my son and his family has been an amazing blessing, and I love that our home is on a beautiful mountaintop. I’ve been climbing, falling, and getting back up for sixty years, but I’ve found the same sweet sense of peace that comes when arriving home after a long and difficult trip. I’m not sure how God will work out the details, and I don’t even know if He will keep me here; but I do know I am where I need to be right now. There have been many changes in my life over the past few years, but the biggest one has been the change in the way I see my life and my heart. God placed the most amazing view of the western horizon right outside my bedroom door, and I marvel at how that view has changed the way I see HIm and myself.

I cannot help but stare in awe when I stop and take in His handiwork. I love to look at the beautiful view as I pray because I see His presence in the majestic mountains whether they are sunny and clear, nestled in the fog, or under an impending storm. My favorite time of day to pray is at sunset, and God always puts on an amazing display as we sit together and recall the day. I’m learning to listen as never before, and that makes the trip to the mountaintop worth all the climbing.

I’m also learning the importance of openness when it comes to loving and living together. Life and love are meant to be in the open, and that changes my heart in a very beautiful way. God has brought me to a home that is wide open inside and out. The sun rises on the front of our home and sets on the back; the town lies on the south side, and the quiet northern side sits quietly in the shade of beautiful plants and trees.

Getting to the top of the mountain is about finding openness. The summit allows me to see all that surrounds me. God made it clear this morning that love and life belong in the open. He knows my heart has been hidden away for far too long. He asks me to look at all that surrounds me and bids me to open my heart so He can have His way with it. God’s ways are all about truth, and truth flourishes in open hearts that share honest communion.

Love is what makes my hikes with Rita a joy. Love is also what makes life a joy-filled journey when shared with an openness that allows my heart to see in and be seen from all directions. With openness, comes reckoning, and that often brings deep hurt as God’s ways and mine collide. Giving up what I want isn’t easy, but holding on to it means missing the panoramic view He has of the world and heart He desires for me. Now that He’s given me a glimpse of that world and that heart, I know that I cannot settle for less.

Seeing life and love from God’s summit makes the climb worth the while and allows me to live in God’s Spirit in a way that changes my heart.

The view

Girded with Gladness:)

Psalm 30 is in the readings for this week, and it perfectly describes my heart this morning. I especially love verse eleven, for God truly does turn mourning into dancing and gird me with gladness in a way that leaves my heart singing with abandon:)

“Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me;
O Lord, be my helper.”
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
 That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” NASB

In “The Message,” Eugene Peterson translates verses eleven and twelve beautifully.

“You did it: you changed wild lament
    into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
    and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
    I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
    I can’t thank you enough.” 

The last line captures the way my heart feels this morning because I find myself struggling to thank God enough for this amazing feeling of freedom. Sin is a black mourning band or confining sackcloth when I cling to it and forget that the Holy Spirit is waiting for me to let it go so God can change that wild lament into a whirling dance.

Connecting with the Holy Spirit is indeed a whirling dance, and Eugene Peterson refers to His sweet indwelling as the Trinitarian dance. I love that dance and miss it when I let sin creep in and steal my joy. Sin does steal joy and fill my heart with guilt. I cannot dance with its weight upon my heart, or if I listen to those who would have me sit alone. Christ extends His loving hands, bidding me to come out on to the dance floor and join Him as He bursts into songs of praise and glorifies God, the Father.

Sin creeps in to steal the joy God has in mind if I allow Satan to convince me that there is nothing I can do about it. He’s right because there is nothing I can do about it except feel guilty and wear a black armband and cinch the sackcloth tightly if I try to handle temptation and sin without God. The great news is that Jesus loosens the sackcloth of sin that tightly entangles my heart. When I step out of it and toss it aside, He girds me with a gladness that will not let my heart be still.

The beauty of singing with abandon is that you don’t hear the naysayers around the dance floor. I’ve let others define and confine me my entire life, and I’m finding that living in God’s Spirit is a beautiful dance that comes naturally when I take Christ’s hand and let Him lead. It’s the most amazing dance ever, and it causes my heart to burst out into songs of thanksgiving and love for a God who loves me just as I am. God reminded me this morning that I always have a dance partner, so there is no need to sit on the sidelines and mourn any more:)

Ready to Dance

Finding Freedom in Forgiveness

I find great comfort in Psalm 32 and thank God for placing it in my path this morning. 

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
 Whose sin is covered!

How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, 
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away 
Through my groaning all day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
 My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.

I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide; said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
 And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
 Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
 You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; 
I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding,
 Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check,
 Otherwise they will not come near to you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, 
But he who trusts in the Lord, lovingkindness shall surround him.

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones;
 And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.” NASB

When my heart is heavy, I know I need to acknowledge that sin is weighing it down. A friend reminded me last week that it is important to float in faith, and God showed me this morning that I cannot float when my heart is heavy-laden. God is always ready to extend His grace and forgiveness when it comes to sin. Unconfessed sin is too heavy a load for the human heart, and it shows a lack of faith if I try to handle sin without Him. I have an impudent and disobedient spirit if I ignore or rationalize it. 

I have a recurring dream that reminds me of the importance of confession, and I had it last night. The dream varies slightly, but it is vivid and very discomforting. The message in the dream is that God has prepared a place for me to relieve my heart if I will simply have faith and follow His Spirit. Romans 3:23 tells us “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sin will not go away on its own; I have to confess it if I am to be free from it. Christ took care of all sin on the cross. I learn from the dream that I can look and look on my own for a way other than confession to get rid of sin, but my attempts will always end in vain and leave me more frustrated than ever. Confession leads to repentance, and repentance leads to that shout of joy in Psalm 32. Finding freedom in forgiveness gives my heart a reason to sing and shout for joy:)

If I could handle temptation and sin on my own, Jesus would not have had to take care of it for me. His sweet gift of forgiveness doesn’t give me license to do whatever I want, but it does give the Holy Spirit to guide when I fall. Confession and repentance are the steps I must take if I am going to walk in God’s kingdom and live a Spirit-filled life. My spirit is strong, but as the old saying goes, my flesh is weak. Breaking free from sin and accepting God’s forgiveness allows me to stop floundering and find the freedom to float in faith to that place of love, joy, peace, and hope He has prepared for my heart:)

Lifted by Love

The Hymn of Invitation on the Sunday of my profession of faith was “Love Lifted Me.” The lyrics were written by James Rowe, and Howard Smith composed the music. I’m not sure what influence the song had on my decision, but I do have a very vivid memory of it. The idea of being lifted out of the water is something to which I can relate because of my early experience at Lake Hickory. Daddy lifted me from the water when I was five and saved my life in the process. In April of 1964, Christ’s precious love lifted me from the turbulent waters of this life and saved my soul in a very similar process. I remember the feeling I had fifty years ago as if it happened yesterday. The Holy Spirit filled and lifted me as I’ve never been lifted before.

Love always lifts. It is a simple, but profound, lifting that takes the heart in a new place. That’s exactly what happened in the spring of 1964, and it’s what happens every time I find myself in God’s sweet presence. His love lifts me from the troubled waters and allows me to sing praises in the deepest water. His love never changes and is always present. It is love I depend and lean upon. Music touched me again this morning as we sang “Forever Reign” by Hillsong; my heart was reminded that there is nothing like God’s embrace.

Water has been at the heart of the lessons this week. Seeing water in Christ’s light changes everything. The sweet rain this morning reminded me of the living water Christ offers and took me back to my baptism. His living water replenishes and refreshes as nothing else can, and I welcome it as the dry ground welcomed the rain it so desperately needed this morning. God’s embrace opens my heart and allows it to completely soak in His Spirit.

Living a Spirit-filled life is living a life completely drenched in His Son’s precious love. It was raining this morning when Mylah came in to say good morning and rock in my rocker. I told her to look outside at the rain. She loved it until I told her we couldn’t swim in the rain. She stomped her foot and hit the glass door with the palms of her hands as if to make it go away. After she went upstairs, I started wondering why I couldn’t swim in the rain. I couldn’t think of a reason other than lightning:) It wasn’t storming, and I needed a shower before going to church; so, I put on my suit and hopped in. It was amazing! I loved floating on my back and letting the rain hit my face, and the hot shower after the swim was just what my body and soul needed to get me in the proper mood for worship.

The worship service was wonderful, and there were allusions to water in the songs we sang together in praise. I love it when God does that:) I came home from the service in a torrential downpour that filled the streets to overflowing and unnerved me as I tried to navigate in the menacing mess. It was a morning filled with soaking, but it was also a morning of reminders that God is with me in the storm, in the deep water, unexpected downpours, and the quiet pools. The sun peeked out from the clouds for a brief moment to reassure. Lillyann would say, “Look, Gigi, the sun is playing peek-a-boo!”

Everything was so clean and the pool was beautifully blue and still for a few moments before another front brought in another downpour. I love the fragrance and the clarity after the rain. Love has given my heart the same clarity this week as I’m learning to relax and let God’s love drench, quench, and lift it to a new level. The message this morning was to make sure my heart and both my hands are in the same accord so God’s love can not only lift my heart but also the hearts of those in my path. I pray my heart and hands will sing the sweet name of Jesus as I lose myself in His embrace.

Here’s the song that touched my heart this morning:)