Searching for Satisfaction

Mealtime was the best part of the day when I was growing up. Mama always had delicious food on the table, and we knew to be seated before daddy so we could begin as soon as he sat down. We shared food three times a day every day. Saturday night was a special night, so we ate in the dining room. The fare was almost always steak cooked to perfection on the grill daddy built on our closed in back porch. The smell of charcoal drove the neighbors crazy during the winter, but daddy was determined to enjoy a very rare steak every Saturday night. He was in charge of the grill and the fare on Saturdays.

Sunday lunches were also eaten in the dining room. They were mama’s cooking at its very best. Pan-fried chicken with rice and gravy was my favorite meal, but I also loved her Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mama was the gravy master. The streets of heaven may be paved in gold, but the rivers and streams are definitely filled with her amazing gravy. Mama had a gravy for every meat. Deliciously rich brown gravy accompanied her roast beef, and I can taste it anytime I encounter a Parker House Roll.

All mama’s breads were homemade. She made biscuits, cornbread, and wonderful yeast bread each week, but her special homemade yeast rolls were for special occasions. Her Parker House Rolls would literally melt in my mouth. She put a slice of ice-cold butter inside each before baking  them to perfection. I could eat a dozen in a sitting. Food was mama’s way of expressing herself, and she expressed herself beautifully three times a day.

I awoke every morning to the aroma of her handiwork. Coffee was the first smell to come down the hallway from the kitchen, and bacon and/or sausage followed closely behind. I loved to guess what might be on the table. My favorite breakfast was a bacon and egg sandwich grilled in butter. I also loved sausage links and pancakes smothered in syrup and melted butter. Whatever we had, it was always great. I don’t remember ever eating anything I didn’t enjoy except when daddy was cooking seafood one Saturday night and made me eat an oyster. It went down my throat, but it didn’t stay in my stomach for long. Daddy didn’t force me to eat anything else after that.

Mealtime in my childhood home affected the way I look at food and the way I feel about eating alone. For the past twelve years, I’ve eaten many meals alone. It never has, and probably never will, feel right. I find myself munching and grazing as soon as I finish a meal. I know I’m searching for the satisfaction I got from those childhood meals, but it was not food alone that satisfied my cravings. The fellowship around the table is what made those times so filling. Mama’s food was amazing, but sitting down with my family and spending an hour eating and talking allowed the food to settle and satisfy.

We always had desert when everyone was finished. Mama brought coffee for herself and daddy, but we usually had a glass of cold milk with our delicious sweet treat. I left the table with a sweet sense of satisfaction that I don’t find when I eat alone. I have put on some extra pounds over the past year, and most the calories have come from searching for the satisfaction I felt when I sat at the table with my family. Things have changed drastically since the fifties and sixties, and it’s hard to get two people to find time to sit down for a meal. It’s important to take time at least once a week to sit together and share a meal with loved ones.

The little girls are in the habit of coming to my room for breakfast each morning, and I love having a little taste of that sweet table fellowship I remember from my childhood. The picture is from Leave it to Beaver. We certainly weren’t the Cleaver family, but we did feel a little like them three times a day 🙂

Photo Credit: ABC
Photo Credit: ABC

Compasses or Covenants?

The road to God is clearly marked; the directions are charted in His covenants. I have been misdirected and rejected more times than I can count, and I continue to veer off the path. Daddy scolded me for taking a round about path to a neighbor’s house. I was very little and told him, in a serious tone, “I went way wound.” He laughed out loud and shook his head. I’m sure God can relate to daddy’s frustration because He’s been watching me take the long way around for a very long time!

God knows I prefer a circuitous path have a penchant for dead ends, but He never fails to correct my misdirection. He’s there with His loving hand held out when I find myself lost or at a dead end. His love has never failed to point me in the right direction, but I have failed, on many occasions, to follow His directions.

“God is fair and just;
He corrects the misdirected,
Sends them in the right direction.

He gives the rejects his hand,
And leads them step-by-step.

From now on every road you travel
Will take you to God.
Follow the Covenant signs;
Read the charted directions.” (Psalm 25:8-10 NLT)

Lent is a time to check my direction to make sure the road I’m on is a road that will take me to God. Even though He will always be there to lead and correct, there comes a time when I need to follow the Covenant signs and read the charted directions. I can’t do that as long as I continue to go my own way.

Covenant signs chart the course for life. If I use anything else for direction, I will be lost. I’m very good at finding my way, but my way isn’t where I want to go anymore. Realizing my way isn’t the way is the first step in finding His way. It’s scary to let go of my compass, but I will never get on the road that takes me to God until I do. Only God’s Covenants are able to do that. I plan to look at each one more carefully in the coming weeks and see where they point my heart.

Photo Credit: psta Travel Directions
Photo Credit: psta Travel Directions

Shattered Heart

Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:16-17 MSG)

I love Eugene Peterson’s translation of verse seventeen because I truly believe that a heart must be shattered before a life is ready for love. A heart-shattered life can no longer go through the motions, and God’s notice is captured in such a life.

A shattered heart cannot simply be pulled together. Appearance doesn’t matter to one looking at a heart in pieces. My heart has been shattered and scattered many times, and I’ve vainly tried to put together that which only God can repair. He knows that going through the motions won’t help a shattered heart, and that’s why He isn’t pleased. He wants whole hearts for His children, and He knows pride must also be shattered before He can begin the work only He can do.

Psalm 51 has long been a favorite of mine, and I turn to it when I am hurting. David’s heart was shattered, and his pride was in pieces on the ground when he wrote this beautiful song. God heard his plea, and he hears mine when I come to a place of repentance and confession. The world provides easy answers for shattered hearts and provides many ways to go through the motions, but God will not give even a flawless performance His attention.

God is struck by a heart-shattered life that is ready to love. His repairs that which is irreparable, and that changes everything. The world says sweep the pieces under the rug and don’t make that mistake again. It also says to get even. God says give me those precious pieces to Me and let My Son’s perfect love give you a fresh start and a new heart.

Photo Credit: Hive Resources
Photo Credit: Hive Resources

Leftover Lies

Lies lead my heart in the wrong direction and keep me from the good God has planned. The lies I tell myself are leftovers from long ago; my sisters call them tapes and tell me to stop replaying them. I did stop playing them a few years ago, but I still hold on to them. As I prayed last night, God bid me to give them to Him. I asked Him to help me hear them as the lies they are and give me truth to replace them.

God reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11 “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (NLT) 

The first lie God showed me is also the biggest one. It is the mother of all the lies in my life. I tell myself I am not worthy of love and believe the lie. Jeremiah speaks the truth about God and His love for me. He knows my heart better than anyone, and He knows His hope for my future is hidden beneath my leftover lies. Like my furniture, I can move those lies without help. I need God, and He is ready and waiting to take those lies off my heart.

Giving Him those lies sounds simply enough, but it’s like cutting out a part of my soul. My identity has rested upon those lies, and I’m afraid I won’t know who I am without them. Lent is about change and growth; it is a time for new beginnings. Lent leads my heart toward the greatest change the earth has ever known. The power that raised Christ from the grave is beneath the pile of lies that began forming in my heart the moment I was born. I’m not sure how many lies God will show me, but my sincere prayer is that I will hear each of them as I heard this one, in His loving voice instead of the voices from my past.

God put my leftover lie in the form of a question. “Do you truly believe you are not worthy of My love?”

Coming from Him in that form, I knew the answer immediately. “Of course not!”

“Then get that lie out of your heart and put My truth in its place.”

I felt a deep sense of relief without feeling the need to rehash the past. It wasn’t true. Like the clothes that do not suit or fit me anymore, it went in the stack of things I’m not taking with me to my new home. I am worthy of God’s love, and I am worthy of the love He wants for me. His plans are filled with hope, but He can’t carry them out until I let Him take the trash out of my heart. I’m a believer in recycling and reusing, but when it comes to these hateful leftover lies, I want them gone for good!

A New Hunger

Like Sabbath, Lent is made for man, not man for Lent. Like Sabbath, there are many and varied opinions on what it means and ways to observe Lent. I’ve pondered and prayed about Lent over the past few years, and I have gotten away from the notion of making it a punishment. Lent is about growing, and that may mean doing some weeding so growth is unhindered.

Whether you believe the forty days of Lent are based on Israel’s years in the desert, Christ’s days of fasting in the Judaean Desert, or His hours in the grave, all three have one thing in common. They are about healing and growing nearer to God. Lent should be about the same. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and turning my heart toward Christ’s precious love, death, and resurrection.

I will be in the midst of a move during Lent, so I’ve started sorting my belongings. I’ve been through this process four times in the past thirteen years, and each time I come away feeling a little lighter. I’m moving into a small apartment in town, so  I’m having to do some serious purging. I’m giving up anything that doesn’t fit into my new home, and I plan to do the same thing with my heart.

Jesus went into the Judaean Desert to be tempted for forty days and nights, and He didn’t get a break on Sunday the way we do during Lent.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.” (Matthew 4:1-2 NLT)

I am struck by the fact that Christ came away from the desert very hungry. I think the point of Lent is to bring my heart to a point of great hunger. As a teacher, I loved seeing my students hunger for knowledge. I hunger for it myself. I pray I will always have that hunger, but I pray this Lenten season brings a new hunger to my heart, a hunger for Him.

lent

Over the Fence

The openness of the mountaintop affords incredible, unhindered views of distant mountains from my bedroom, but it also gives the wind free reign. Last night, as the wind was raging, I thought of the description of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

“Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.” (Acts 2:2 NLT)

I moved the outdoor furniture away from my glass door and secured what I could before I went to bed, but a few things managed to escape during a roaring windstorm last night. When the girls heard the hissing and howling yesterday afternoon, I told them it was a wind storm. Lilly asked if I could see the wind. I told her that no one could see the wind, but we could see its movement in objects as it goes by. I showed her the weeping cherry branches dancing all around and the bigger trees standing firm.

The same is true of the Holy Spirit. I cannot see the Spirit, but I can certainly feel Its presence. It can be a gentle breeze that cools on a summer day or a mighty winter windstorm that turns my heart upside down. It was the latter last night and so was the wind!

When I went out to assess the damage this morning, I saw a little white bucket lying on the ground far from where I had left it. I thought of my heart’s battle this week and started to leave it on the other side of the gate to remind me to give the Holy Spirit free reign. The iron gate that surrounds the pool is a lot like the iron gate that surrounds my heart. The pool needs a gate, but my heart does not. That was a difficult lesson requiring a storm to make clear.

It matters little if the gate around my heart is ornate or simple if it hinders the Holy Spirit. It is the last Sunday after Epiphany, and Lent begins on Wednesday. Two years ago, God sent my heart sailing over the fence into unknown territory. I didn’t want to go over the fence then, but the Holy Spirit lifted me over it just as the rushing wind lifted that little bucket last night. I know I cannot go where God desires unless I give His Spirit free reign, and I know He knows best when it comes to my heart. I think I’ll give up the need to know for Lent this year and see where the Spirit takes me. I have the feeling it will be over another fence 🙂

Over the Fence

 

 

Giving Change a Chance

Change is a difficult challenge, and it’s my choice whether or not to embrace the changes that come into my path. The change necessary to manifest God’s will won’t be accomplished until I give God the chance to change me. Security, my need to control, and pride keep change from occurring in my life. Surrendering to the Holy Spirit starts a transformation that only God can accomplish through His Holy Spirit.

Security is linked to safety, and I cling to that which I know in a desperate attempt to remain safe. The irony is that my tendency to stick with the known threatens the very safety I am trying to protect. I remain content with the way things are and have always been. I convince others, and sometimes myself, that I know what I’m doing so I can avoid having to deal with changes that bring discomfort or uncertainty.

If I am to give God the chance to change me, I must be willing to step out of my comfort zone. Rearrangement, not change, occurs if I attempt to change on my own. Stepping into the unknown puts me in a prayerful state of mind and requires faith that God is who He says He is. That’s exactly where I need to be, but exactly where I don’t want to be. Like the Israelites, I complain and ask God why things cannot stay as they are.

God asks me to have faith and let go of my need to control. Admitting I need God is the first step. When I finally let go, God shows me how pleasant it is to have someone who knows the way lead me where I need to go. I would never step off a plane in a foreign country, signal for a taxi, and then tell the driver to move over, but I am guilty of doing just that when it comes to allowing God to have control.

Several years ago, I was in San Francisco on a business trip. It was during Chinese New Year, so my colleagues and I decided to go to China Town. I was separated from my group by a group of revelers dressed in a large red dragon costume. They were setting off firecrackers in front of each store to bring good luck to the store owners in the coming year. I began to panic as the fireworks got closer and my colleagues got further away. I was lost in a sea of foreign faces and filled with fear.

When faced with danger, I look for help. When in a ditch, I become very open to suggestions. The challenge of change is having the same attitude without the danger or the ditch. Successful people know the importance of change and are willing to take the risk involved. Like a child in the backseat, I bombard God with questions. When will I get there? How much longer? Where am I? I’m hungry! Can I have a drink? My father responded to those questions with the threat of pulling of the road. God’s patient love lets me wait until I am ready for the changes He has in mind for me. He pulls over for a very different reason.

God could easily take control, but that goes against the nature of His love. He loves me too much to force. Pride keeps me from giving God the chance to change me, but love bids me to relax and let Him has His way with me. When I listen to love, I am able to relax into obedience and allow change to bring the change God desires.

Psalm 51:10 is a plea from David that touches my heart in a special way. God cannot create a clean heart or renew a right spirit in me if I am not open to change.

Psalm51-10