You Do the Math

You Do the MathI prefer solving equations to balancing books; God used both in His lessons this week. I love math, but the expression “You do the math” is more about figuring out the obvious than actually doing any math. I may be a whiz when it comes to equations, but I’m horrible at “doing the math.” Constants, coefficients, variables, and operators make sense to me, but they don’t apply to my heart. There is no logic in love, but there are constants that apply.

Romans 13:8-10 says “You do the math” very effectively.

“Don’t run up debts, except for the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other “don’t” you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” (The Message)

The sum total of God’s Word is love, and Christ gave us all the answer to God’s equation before asking us to do the math. In Algebra, the answer is given before I start, so I’ll know where I’m going. The same is true with God because the process of working out problems is the whole point of our journey. I struggle with the obvious and understand the difficult, so doing the math isn’t easy for me. God knows that better than anyone and used it well this week.

I can’t make an answer be what I want it to be in math or in life. No matter how many times I try to convince myself or God that I am right, He patiently waits for me to see and correct my mistakes. Sometimes, I smile and see how silly my mistakes are and quickly fix them; more often, I cry in frustration, wad my heart up, and toss it back at Him. He picks it up, smooths it out, and gently waits until I’m ready to begin again.

There is but one answer when it comes to any heart problem, and that is love. Love is amazing, and I can’t go wrong when I love others. Love doesn’t mean I can break the rules and laws God gives when it comes to loving. I can’t make up my own rules or skip the ones I don’t like. I have to follow His principles and laws if I want to come up with the right answer.

I thought I had things all figured out this week, and I was feeling pretty smug. God showed me that I have learned a lot about love. He is very pleased about that, but He is concerned about my continued trouble with the obvious. Love is the point of this journey, and doing the math will be required all along the way. I’m very grateful God provides all the help I need to find the right answers. The Holy Spirit is a terrific Tutor, and Christ is the Master when it comes to teaching. I know with Their help, I’ll be able to solve any problems that come my way and “do the math” with ease. It is nice to know that being in debt is a good thing when it comes to love.

Fear, Take a Hike!!

The peace of God can only be found in the present moment. He promises peace, but I lose it the moment I begin rehashing the past or rehearsing the future. I wrote about that in http://wp.me/p2G1u5-Ln, so I won’t rehash it now. God ended a difficult chapter last week and began a beautiful new one. I love a good ending, especially when it’s a surprise. The writer and reader in me loves leaving a chapter with a great feeling, and there’s nothing I like better than a new beginning. All endings lead to beginnings, and that was a big part of the learning this week.

I decided to rest instead of run this week, so peace caught up with my heart. I tore up the mountain in tears on Tuesday, but God brought me back down filled with the sweetest peace I’ve ever felt. I marvel at the difference in my before and after heart. I got something off my chest on that walk. I left the elephant that took up residence in my heart five years ago on top of that mountain. I came down feeling a thousand pounds lighter. Past regrets and future worries dissipated in God’s loving presence. His forgiveness gently lifted the weight of the world from my heart and left me transformed. I felt as though I had just lived through a year of Extreme Weight Loss in one hour. I literally jumped for joy because I was the me God created me to be.

Fear causes me to lose the peace God has in mind for me, and it was chasing love away. God made it clear that only love is able to cast out fear, and I had to choose whether or not to let it.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NASB)

God showed me the root of fear is a need for punishment, and He made it clear that He is tired of me wallowing in that need. He is not, and never has been, a God of punishment. He is, and always will be, a God of love. He knew only I could let go of my need to be punished and embrace the love in my path. Love does cast out fear, and that’s a lesson I lived and loved this week. God showed me I was surrounded by love, and that allowed me to put fear and punishment aside and let Him begin perfecting my heart. The Holy Spirit’s perfect love isn’t about being perfect. It is about getting rid of fear. Love perfects peace as soon as I tell fear to take a hike. I did just that with the help of a sweet loving friend this week, and it changed my heart in a beautiful way.

Love is the Way Out

I’ve never been nearer to God than when I walked up Indian Creek today. He made it clear that there are no endings or exits when it comes to love. Love is love, and that’s all there is to it. It isn’t something I can control or manage; it simply is. When Moses asked God His name, He replied “I AM WHO I AM” God is love, and there is nothing I, or anyone, can do about that.

Love doesn’t go away because it’s inconvenient. It doesn’t end because people change or grow apart. Circumstances do not change the nature of love, but the nature of love changes circumstances in a beautiful way. The surest sign of love is that there are no endings or exits, and that is taking some getting used to on my part. I begin looking for the exit as soon as I enter a building, and my heart does the same when I enter into a relationship. God showed me today that I can never deny or escape love.

Exits and endings are easy, and I’ve relied on them all my life. Love is not something from which I can escape; believe me, I’ve tried. Love is a gift from God and should never be taken for granted.  It is meant to be embraced with an open heart and cherished dearly because it is a piece of God’s own heart. It is the only thing worth holding on to in this world, and the only thing I can take with me into the next. 

Love will not be ignored, and it will not go away at my command. It becomes a part of who I am and cannot be separated from my being. Like the threads in a tapestry, love weaves itself into every aspect of my life. Unraveling a tapestry doesn’t make the thread go away, so God urged me today to leave the weaving in place and trust Him with the outcome. His outcomes are always better than my exits, so I plan to leave love in His hands and see where He takes my heart. I’ve done all the running away I plan to do in this life, and I’m no longer looking for a way out. Love is the way out.

Happy Birthday Daddy!!

Happy Birthday Daddy!
Happy Birthday Daddy!

Daddy would be 98 today, and he’s been very near my heart over the past few days. Foy Hart Holden was born to Anna Scruggs and Flave Holden on June 16, 1916 on a farm near Brevard, North Carolina. He was the oldest of nine children and learned from a very early age that hard work was part of life. He worked in the fields, but he also dreamed of more. He told me once that he worked himself to death getting out of the mountains for a better life, and I went right back up there. He asked me what that said about me, and I replied, “that I have more sense than you do.” He and I were on opposite sides of the fence most of my life, but he grinned from ear to ear at my response. He loved the mountains and knew I was right.

I’ve never known anyone who loved to garden more than daddy. Every day, he came in from work, changed his clothes, and headed straight to his beloved garden. He took a small city lot and turned it into a work of art. He filled in the koi pond in the backyard and made it his prize heirloom tomato patch. He composted the scraps from our table and turned them into dark, rich soil that produced mounds of delicious food. He may have left the mountains, but the mountains never left him.

We always had fresh, frozen, or canned food from the garden on our table, and I loved every bite. I wish I had paid closer attention when he tried to get me interested in gardening. I learned some of his tricks, but I regret not learning more. Daddy worked in his garden until dark every week night and all through the weekend. I realize now it was powerful therapy for him to dig deeply and bring life from the soil. There was nothing daddy loved more than the first fruits of his labor, and I always think about that when I come across a reference to first fruits in the Bible. There are many verses dealing with bringing God our first fruits. I know from daddy that it takes a lot to give them to Him.

Daddy did much more than garden. He also taught me the value of hard work and education. He had an appetite for learning that I inherited from him. Tyler, Lillyann, and Mylah all have his insatiable curiosity. They love to take things apart and put them back together just as he did. Daddy always had something he was fixing or making. Those who work closely with Tyler, know he won’t stop until he figures out how to fix a problem that needs fixing. Daddy was the same way, and I love seeing his curiosity in my son and granddaughters.

I was with daddy when he had his stroke. I’ve never been more scared in my life than when I took him to the hospital. This giant of a man was suddenly weak and vulnerable. As the doctor asked him questions, I tried not to look shocked by the answers he was giving. He was looking at me with fear in his eyes, and that was something I’d never seen before. Two men put daddy on a gurney and left us alone for a moment. Daddy looked up at me with something else in his eyes.  I knew he wanted desperately to say something, but he wasn’t physically able to do so.

I held his hand, looked into his eyes, and told him I loved him and knew that he had loved me the best way he knew how. I felt a beautiful sense of peace as I watched his eyes smile and his face relax. Daddy had dancing eyes that were always filled with mischief. I smiled when I saw them dancing in that brief moment. I thank God for a sweet moment of clarity and for the love that filled the space between us. I marvel at the way God closed a gaping hole in both our hearts and brought an end to the senseless war that raged on for decades. Past hurts no longer mattered as love brought our hearts together. That precious moment is what I will always remember most about my daddy.

Happy birthday daddy!! I love you and think of you every time I look at Tyler, Lillyann, and Mylah 🙂 I’m glad we all got your curiosity and your love of life. It makes the journey a lot more fun. I know you’re resting in peace, but I also know you are most likely up to some sort of mischief or following God around asking if there’s anything that needs to be fixed 🙂

Day of Reckoning or Time of Reconciliation?

Reconciliation“I reckon so” is a response used in the mountains indicating whatever asked makes sense based on what is known. Reckon means to calculate or figure, so it’s a fairly literal use of the term. It all adds up, so to speak. I’m not an accountant, but I did work as a bookkeeper for four years. I was uncomfortable balancing books, but I was ecstatic when the monthly reconciliation came out correctly. Seeing that sweet zero balance made me shout “Hallelujah!”

The lessons this week have been difficult ones that left me completely spent in more ways than one. I kept the girls last night, so I was in bed by 8:30. After they drifted off to sleep, I asked God for comfort and direction. God knew my heart was the problem. As soon as I think I’ve found some balance when it comes to my heart, the rug is invariably pulled out from under me. Roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, and yo yo’s are fun, but my heart doesn’t belong on any of them. It’s exciting to be lifted up and down; but when the ride stops, so does the fun. Being drawn near is thrilling, but being pushed away is so terribly chilling. My heart was as tired as it’s ever been this week. God saw my emptiness, but He was waiting for me to ask for help.

I did ask, and God was faithful to answer. I didn’t ask earlier because I feared a day of reckoning was coming. I’ve seen God as a Smiter most of my life, but I’ve learned nothing is farther from the truth. I suppose my upbringing caused me to think of Him in that way, but He made it clear the balancing He had in mind for my heart need not be feared. His sweet Spirit showed me truths that helped bring the zero balance I needed. So many things just weren’t adding up in my heart, but I kept pretending all was well. I knew where the problems were, but I didn’t know how to fix them. I had a flashback to personnel and payroll and had to smile when I thought of Joanna, a CPA, who would always come and patiently help me find my mistakes. The Holy Spirit was very like her as He sat with me last night and this afternoon.

Knowing what needs to be fixed and fixing it are very different things, but I know I’ll find the courage to move forward with God’s help. He knows the pain love can bring when it isn’t returned. He also knows that making someone love me is never the right way. He could make everyone love Him, but He doesn’t dare. He knows that only leaves the heart empty and hurting. Hearts need truth to bring them into balance, and the truth has never been harder to hear than this week. It’s always my choice whether or not to hear the truth. I knew what I was going to hear before I heard it, and that’s what “I reckon so” is all about. It is a way of coming around to what I may not want but know is right based on the obvious.

A dear friend told me as we walked today that my heart was worn out. She said I was emotionally empty, and it was affecting my health. She was genuinely concerned about me. My sister told me the same thing during my visit with her over the weekend. Both touched my heart where it needed to be touched and helped me find the courage to ask God for help. My heart is worn out, and that zero balance is hurting right now. I know God will bring renewal as I close the books on past hurts, stop trying to change what I cannot change, and begin anew. It is what reconciliation is all about.

A day of reckoning is “a time of punishment or retribution: a time when somebody is made to answer for crimes or mistakes.”  Reconciliation is the process of making consistent or compatible.” I like the sound of consistent and compatible but realize I’ve been drowning in punishment and retribution my entire life. I’ve made many mistakes when it comes to my heart, but God knows I’ve punished myself far too much for far too long. I don’t have to answer for any crimes, and I’ve certainly paid for my mistakes and more. 

Pain is part of reconciliation, and no one knows that better than God. His innocent Son died to bring the world’s heart into balance. I pray, with the help of His Holy Spirit, I will make stop making choices that break my heart and start making ones that heal and help. A zero balance is terribly painful when it comes to love, but every ending is a wonderful opportunity to begin again. There are no easy paths when it comes to love, but there are clear choices based upon the truth that make the heart’s journey a joyous one.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 gives me the courage to see that zero balance with an attitude of anticipation rather than fear.

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation” 

On Fire or Burned Out?

I like order and always have. When order is taken away, I find myself drowning in the resulting mess. I was going under yesterday, and I wondered if I even wanted to come up for air. Life overwhelms me when I am surrounded by clutter and craziness, and I was as buried in both yesterday. I slept peacefully at my sister’s and felt a beautiful sense of belonging. I love the order of her home, and we speak the same language. That brings a sweet connection that gives meaning to the mess. In Paul’s account of what happened on Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4, order comes to the chaos when the Holy Spirit enables the disciples to be heard by all.

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” NASB

The lessons from Pentecost were many last week, but finding meaning in the midst of a maddening mess was the main one. My world has been messy lately, and I was beginning to think I might never find my way out of the muck. Like quicksand, messes, madness, and muck get deeper as I struggle and strive. Stillness is the only way for my heart to hear the peace spoken by the Spirit. He speaks the language of love to my heart, and that makes sense of the mess. Air and wind have figured greatly into the lessons surrounding Pentecost. I’ve been literally swept off my feet by the power of the wind during the past week.

The fire of the Holy Spirit isn’t like any other fire, but all fires require air in order to burn. When the terrible winds knocked out the power last night, I was reminded that the Holy Spirit is sometimes like a rushing wind. It seemed my own power had been knocked out of me, so the power outage served as a vivid reminder of what happens when faced with forces out of my control. Things were flying around outside, so I decided to open the door and retrieve the flying pool toys and bathing suits before they were lost. The door almost knocked me to the floor when I did!

I came in quickly and left the door closed until the storm passed. The pool was covered with sticks, leaves, and other debris. When the wind subsided, I scooped up as much as I could before the mess sank to the bottom. I realized I had allowed a lot of debris to settle in my heart and had to smile as God used the mess left by the wind to drive home His point. It’s best not to let the mess settle and stay because that causes the fire in my heart to burn out. Wind can blow out a fire or kindle it depending upon the circumstances. The fire in my heart was at the point of going out when God sent a mighty rushing wind to revive and remind that His fire isn’t at all like mine. When the Holy Spirit’s fire comes, mine seems insignificant.

As I rushed around getting ready for the coming darkness, I was worried that the girls wouldn’t be able to find their way downstairs in the dark. As I lit my last little candle, the electricity returned. There was a vast difference between my candles and the light that suddenly flooded the house. There is an even greater difference between my efforts to bring order to the mess and God’s ability to clean and clear. Without His Light and Spirit, I stumble around in the darkness. With His love to guide me, I gain access to His power. That is more than enough to keep the fire burning brightly in my heart.

Reality is Real

Photo credit: Lauren Davis
Photo credit: Lauren Davis

When daddy was drinking and in a philosophical mood, he would say, “Reality is real!” My sisters and I would try very hard to hide our grins; but when daddy wasn’t around, we would mimic him by repeating his famous line with serious faces.

As teenagers, my sisters and I didn’t understand what daddy was trying to tell us, but God made it clear that daddy’s wisdom was right on target for my heart. Reality is real, but I have always preferred fantasy to reality. The world of fantasy is a safe one where I can pretend all is as I wish it were. Fantasy is a beautiful hiding place where I can create my own world away from the pain of reality. The problem arrives when reality will no longer be ignored.

Reality sent my heart reeling this week. God gently, but firmly, showed me the futility of fantasy while I was wallowing in self pity on the ground. It takes a while for me to process information, but when I finally do get it, I don’t forget it. God showed me that the place where my heart was hiding was not where He wanted me to be. He has been over and over this same lesson for years, but I keep taking His reality and twisting it into my fantasy.

Whether a decision is made for me or I come to the learning on my own, the results are the same. Transitions and transformations are painful. Leaving the known has never been easy for me, and reality means facing the truth. I’m an eternal optimist and hope to stay one, but sometimes that optimism gets in God’s way. He reminded me this morning that I’m like Charlie Brown trying to kick that illusive football, and that is keeping my heart in limbo.

I never have found the image of Charlie Brown and Lucy on the football field to be a funny one. My heart went out to poor Charlie Brown, and I wished Lucy would stop messing with him. I knew it was never going to happen, but that didn’t stop me from wanting it for him. Perhaps I simply wanted it for me. I am a lot like Charlie Brown when it comes to love. I keep running toward it, but it is always snatched away at the last moment.

Charlie Brown seemed doomed to fail forever when it came to that football, but God showed me there is always hope. Lauren Davis gives Charlie Brown a new ending in her version. I had to laugh when God placed it in my path. The Holy Spirit takes on some unusual forms when helping me find God’s way, so I wasn’t surprised when God used Spiderman, Charlie Brown, and daddy’s words of wisdom to teach an important lesson.

Reality is real, and that’s a good thing. Trying is a good thing, but trying to make things be what I want them to be isn’t. It’s comforting to know that God is always there to catch me when I fall, and His sweet Spirit will teach me a new way to love. Every ending is an opportunity for a new beginning, and that gives me the courage to get up and kick that ball. When I find myself failing over and over, I need to remember that God knows more about love that I ever will and is always right there to help me get where He wants me to be 🙂