Circle Up the Wagons!

Circle Up the Wagons

I was a surprised by the image of a wagon train circling up on the prairie this morning, but I’m learning not to question God when He’s teaching a lesson. In the wild west, circling up the wagons was necessary for the safety of those traveling through dangerous territory. It is an effective strategy for keeping that which isn’t desirable from getting in and that which is precious from getting out.  It formed a tight-knit community of travelers and probably saved many lives.

In this day and age, the technique doesn’t work. In fact, it acts as a sort of bullseye for someone flying overhead. People have the tendency to clump together when threatened, and that is especially true in politics and in religion. It would be comical if it weren’t creating so much tension in our country and all around the world. It’s easy to throw a rock or fire a gun from the inside of a circle of wagons, but it’s much more difficult to love those who think differently that we do.

I get so very tired of the circled up right and left wings, and I’m sure God sighs each time a group of His children decide to circle up and make a stand. Pointing fingers instead of guns, the circles hurl insults and accusations toward one another while trying to get others into their circle. When God looks down upon the circles, I’m sure His heart breaks. He knows the best way to love is to let others be who they are. Christ didn’t circle up the wagons even though His followers were chomping at the bit for Him to do just that. “Let’s rain some fire down on them Lord!” was the fervent cry then, and it is the fervent cry now.

Having to be right and in control is at the heart of circling up in the political arena, and the same themes abound in the world of faith. I grow so weary of folks worrying about that which differentiates us. Self-differentiation is what God desires. He says clearly, “I AM.” He expects us to be who we are and to love each other not only despite our differences, but because of them. God forbid that we should all circle up one day and spew the same rhetoric.

Circling up the wagons is a great example of what fusion does to relationships. It was good for the pioneers to lock hands and stay very close when danger threatened them, but it is terrible for God’s children and shows a lack of faith in Him. Self-differentiation enables growth in our individual relationships with God and one another. When I feel the wagons circling up, I quickly look for a crack to slide through before the circle becomes a noose. I don’t mind if you are on a bandwagon or in a wagon train, just don’t expect me to be on or in it with you. Love me for who I am, not for what I believe. I have my own unique way of loving and living in this world, and I’m learning it’s best to stay away from those tight-knit circles if I want to love as God desires.

Ready or Not….

Weather isn’t the problem; our preparedness for it is. That’s never been more obvious than yesterday with the crippling snow in the south. The folks in Michigan accuse us of being weak-kneed, but all things are relative. Folks in Atlanta are simply not prepared for the kind of storm they experienced yesterday. The ice storms of 2011 caused them to panic briefly, but the powers that be promised it would never happen again.

We all make promises in the heat or cold of the moment, but they are forgotten as soon as things cool down or warm up. After all, it’s never going to happen again.  While we cannot prepare for or even imagine every disaster, we can be prudent. The storm was coming, and we all knew it. It is better to err on the side of reason and let go of our plans for a day than face the mess those poor folks in Atlanta faced yesterday. I remember a year when I had to wait for all the children to get home before leaving school. I was scared I wouldn’t get home myself, but there was comfort in being with others. I never had to spend the night with my students during a storm, and I’ve never found myself stranded in a storm on the side of the road. I thank God for both and pray I’ll be a little more prudent myself when it comes to future preparations.

I know I should have water, food, blankets, and flashlights in my car, but I don’t. I know I should keep my gas tank full during winter months, but I don’t. I don’t always do what I know I should do. God would interject an amen here if He weren’t such a patient, loving Father. The lesson this week has been, ready or not, the storms are coming. Preparing for the personal storms in life are not as simple as putting emergency kits together or stocking the pantry. They require emptying, opening, and trusting completely.

Stacking supplies leaves me feeling smug and self-sufficient. I’m a survivor, so bring on your worst. I’m ready and looking forward to the opportunity to say, “I told you so!!” Emptying out leaves me feeling vulnerable and dependent. I accept the reality that I cannot make it on my own. I’m ready to say, “I need You so!” There is a world of difference in the way I prepare my home and my car and the way I prepare my heart and my mind.

Ready or not, disasters will continue to come as long as we are in this world. Thankfully, they are few and far between. Ready or not, Christ is coming! Preparing for His return is never a disaster drill, even though it is often portrayed as such. Preparing for His return simply involves letting go, surrendering to His love, and letting Him lead the way home. The beautiful news is that He is always nearby and ready to help with the clearing and cleaning necessary to experience His kingdom now. Lessons in preparedness are most effectively taught in my unpreparedness. That way, I won’t forget them. God mostly wants me to be prepared to accept and share His love. Sounds easy enough, but I often get stranded when it comes to my heart! The path sometimes seems unnavigable, but then I remember I’m not alone. Christ’s promise in Matthew 28:20 is one I can count on, and that changes everything 🙂

 “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASB

The Road Less Traveled

Unplugged

I was reminded on Friday that unplugging the computer and waiting a moment before rebooting will solve most problems. The same is true for people. It usually takes an illness or bad weather for me to unplug, and I was faced with both today. Yesterday, I started coming down with the virus the girls have had for the past week. I was running on fumes and worn completely out when I went to bed last night. My schedule today was filled with important meetings and such, but I just couldn’t muster up the strength to get out of the house. I decided to unplug, rest, and reboot.

Weather and illness force me to stop when I want to keep going, but I need to unplug before my system crashes. God knows the importance of rest, so He created Sabbath as a space for us to do just that. There are many scriptures on the Sabbath principle, but I like Mark 2:25-28 best because it emphasizes the fact that God created the space because He cares for me.

Jesus said, “Really? Haven’t you ever read what David did when he was hungry, along with those who were with him? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, with the Chief Priest Abiathar right there watching—holy bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat—and handed it out to his companions?” Then Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made to serve us; we weren’t made to serve the Sabbath. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath. He’s in charge!” (The Message)

I veer away from the Sabbath God had in mind, but Jesus reminds me that God cares for me and wants me to take care of me. He also knows that when I stop and get still, I’m filled with His presence. I don’t stop often enough. Sunday and Sabbath are not the same. Sunday is the Lord’s day and involves stopping and taking time to honor and worship Him. That is a form of rest that is also necessary to maintain a healthy heart, spirit, mind, and body. Sabbath simply means to cease/rest.

I don’t get sick often, so I’m not a patient patient 🙂 It’s good to be reminded that health is something to be appreciated and not taken for granted. I’m sure this bug will be gone in a few days, but I hope it leaves me remembering to unplug and reboot my system before it crashes next time.

unplugged

Hearts and Hairdos

The lesson this week was about moving on, but I’ve had a hard time with it. As I listened to an elderly lady fret about her new hair length and how to style it, I smiled and realized I was having the same trepidation about my heart she was having with her hair. Once again, God used a very vivid example to get His point across.

As I pulled in to the beauty salon this morning, I sighed because I saw the car of an elderly lady who fusses continuously and disrupts the peace I prefer when going to the salon. She was irritated by my presence and said, “Is she at ten?” I told her I came early because I love to write while I wait. I quickly settled in the corner of the waiting area and listened as she continued to argue with Greg about which curling iron he should use. She wanted longer hair because it was stylish, but she wanted to style it the same way she did when it was short.

Greg patiently explained the problem with using the old tools and styling with her new hairdo. She was frustrated, frazzled, and determined to convince him to do things her way. I was hidden from view, grinning broadly, and enjoying their exchange until I realized God was showing me how I sounded to Him. That sobered and humbled me. I’m glad God loves me unconditionally, and I’m very happy He uses humor to teach. I want my heart to move on, and I want to go where God wants me; but I want things to stay just as they are while I do.

My heart went out to the feisty little woman who always knows best and insists things be done her way. Greg used the curling iron he knew would work and explained why. Last week’s visit was obviously a fiasco that he didn’t intend to repeat. The resulting style was great, and even she had to concede that he had been right. I knew that wasn’t easy for her, but it enabled her to move on, albeit a tiny step. God showed me that I have to do the same thing, trusting Him to know what He is doing.

I marveled at this little woman as she presumed to know more about styling hair than her hairdresser, but I marvel more at the fact that I presume to know more about my heart that the One Who created it and loves me more than I can imagine. Oh well, lesson learned. This lady isn’t the one in the salon this morning, but her expression is the one I had when I realized the lesson was on me this morning!! My heart needed changing even more than that fiery little woman’s hairdo. We both left with a smile on our face, and I know from teaching that’s the best way for a student to leave the classroom 🙂

Hearts and Hairdos

Captivated, Not Captured

Whee!!

Whee!!

God placed Colossians 2:6-8 in my path this morning. As I read these verses in another blog and looked at the snow outside, I thought about the difference between captivated and captured.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” NASB

I am captivated by the beauty of the snow this morning, but I feel captured by the freezing temperatures and the ice-covered roads. Children don’t think about temperatures or roads when they look out at the snow. They trust their parents to take care of them. They only see a winter wonderland, and their thoughts are about snowmen and sledding. Being captivated is a beautiful feeling; it’s what Christ’s precious love does when it is firmly rooted in my heart. Like a child, I have faith in my Father’s love.

The principles of the world capture my heart and mind in a different way, but Christ turns those principles upside down with principles based upon love and grace that made, and still make, no sense to pragmatic or lust-filled folks who say it’s a nice idea, but it just won’t work in the real world.

What is the real world anyway? Are the elementary principles of the world right, or did God change the world with Christ’s precious love? The answer depends upon whether or not I’m changed by His love. If I walk in Him and remember that I am firmly rooted and built upon Him, my faith will overflow with gratitude. That kind of gratitude changes the world. If my faith has the attitude that I’m being punished or that others should be punished, the world sees fear. If my faith depends upon or promises prosperity, the world sees lust. There are many in the market to be held captive by either principle. Captivity is the safest place to be because I don’t have to worry once I choose my cage. I can shout my happy song, squawk my rhetoric, or sing my sad suffering all day long and never experience the freedom of Christ’s love.

If I seek the truth and embrace Christ’s love, I’ll be captivated. That makes a big difference in the way I live and love in this world. Gratitude is the key. Gratitude that comes from being firmly rooted and built in Christ isn’t bragging about all I have. It’s a much deeper gratitude not dependent upon circumstances. It can only come when my heart experiences the captivation of Christ precious love. Lust holds the heart captive and is the root of all addiction. Practicality and pragmatism hold my mind captive and is the root of all doubt. Faith sets me free and is the at the root of my love for Christ. It opens doors and sets my heart free to love as God desires.

Warm Whirlpool

Muddy Feet

Living in the world means living in the mess. The mess gets muddy, and that is especially true when cold and wet join forces to form winter mud. The season is a difficult one for the body and the heart. The soothing image this morning was of a warm whirlpool washing the cold, caked mud off my body and my heart. Christ’s precious love is a warm whirlpool of living water. It’s always there when I find myself mired in the mud.

I stay stuck in the mud because I think I need to clean up before getting into His crystal clear love. God reminded me this morning that no amount of muck can muddy His living water. Christ’s love is designed to clean, clear, and cleanse as nothing else can. Many feel the way I do when it comes to entering those waters, but God doesn’t care if we ease in slowly, dive in gracefully, or do an awkward belly flop, just as long as we get in! Once in those healing waters, all that doesn’t belong in my heart or body is released and carried far away. Christ’s love absorbs the hurt, tension, and anxiety, allowing the release I need to move on.

Restoration can’t take place until release takes place. God’s lessons this week have been painful ones, but the sweet cleansing has been worth all the hurt. Releasing and restoring have been the themes this week. God reminded me that I wouldn’t build a new house on top of the ruins of an old one, but that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do. Razing comes when the clinging mud and debris is removed, and raising comes when Christ’s precious love soaks deeply into every fiber of my body. It’s an amazing feeling, far better than the best spa treatment the world has to offer.

Too often, I try to do what only Christ’s love can do.  That leaves me frustrated because the mess only gets worse as I try to clean it up on my own. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” God already knows about my mess, and He is just waiting for me to put down my hose of cold water, slip into His warm whirlpool, and let Him do what He does best.

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