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

A New Perspective

I’ll be moving into an apartment in town in a few weeks, and my granddaughters have been less than excited about it. My son and his family are building a new home, and I decided to rent rather than build beside them. We’ve all lived together in a big house for the last two years, and Lilly told me that my new house had to be in walking distance of her new one. She said she liked my house now because she could walk to it inside her house. I like that too, but I’m also looking forward to having my own space.

Lilly will be six in a few months, and I wonder when that little toddler was transformed into a girl who uses words like ‘cool’ and ‘dude!’ I’ll only be a few miles away from their new home, but that seems like a long way to little Mylah. She’s three and said, “Gigi, I already miss you!” They both touch my heart in places no one else ever has or ever will.

Lilly was washing her hands in my bathroom last week and came out grinning from ear to ear. She looked at me and said, “Mommy said I get your room when you move!” She proceeded to do a little happy dance, and I burst out laughing. Suddenly, she was no longer a little lawyer trying to get me to stay. She was a big girl getting her own room! Mylah didn’t look very happy about the new arrangements, but I know she will enjoy the changes once she gets used to them. I know I will too.

Change is never easy, but a shift in perspective helps with the transition. Philippians 3:21 explains the change that comes when I trust God. He has the power to change me, but I must have the courage to let Him.

“He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (NLT)

God could make me whoever He wants me to be at any given time. He has the power, but He won’t use it until I’m ready. I am ready, and I know little Lilly is too. Mylah will be soon enough 🙂

Lillyann

 

Memorials and Sticky Notes

I can’t imagine seeing Christ transfigured with Moses and Elijah standing next to Him. Peter’s desire to build memorials is a natural response to his being taken completely off guard. Jesus understood his fear and appreciated his desire to honor Him, but I’m sure He was also frustrated by his lack of understanding.

Jesus asked the disciples not to say anything about what they saw. I imagine that wasn’t very hard for them to do. They didn’t understand what they saw, so I don’t think they were anxious to explain it to others.

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (Mark 9:2-9 NLT)

I’ve build my share of memorials for God and find myself at a loss for words in His presence, but I cannot imagine seeing what the disciples saw. Jesus had told them of His coming death and asked them not to mention His transfiguration until He had risen from the dead. They remembered His words when He rose, but they forgot them when He was arrested.

It’s easy to get lost in the heat of the moment, and the disciples were lost in the transfiguration and the arrest. My senses fail me, and my heart falters in the face of love. I suppose that will only increase when I see God in heaven, but I will be transformed myself by that time. I ramble when I’m nervous and can relate to Peter. I would probably ask Jesus, Moses, and Elijah if I could get them something to eat or drink.

Words are not necessary in God’s presence. I won’t be stuttering and stumbling over what to say because I won’t have to say a thing. God knows I am like a middle-school girl on Valentine’s Day when it comes to expressing my love for Him, and that only makes Him love me all the more. One day, I will come to the place of no words. Until then, I’ll continue to babble and build.

The little girls have been making Valentine’s  with precious hearts and scribbles on them all week. I treasure each and every one. Those sweet pink sticky notes are like my attempts to tell God how much I love Him. I’m learning that words, gifts, cards, flowers, and chocolates are not as powerful as a warm embrace and sweet “I love you.” Being still and taking in His presence is the best way of all to express my love for Him. I think Peter would say, “Amen!” to that sister!

Heart in the Sand

The Face of Jesus

The glory of God can be seen in the face of Jesus, and God makes His Son’s light shines in our hearts so we could know His glory. I love the image Paul paints in his letter to the church at Corinth.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:3-6 NLT)

Having the light of Christ’s love in my heart changes the way I view the world, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way the world views me. If I keep His love hidden behind a veil, others will not see His love in my life. The message may be framed by my story, but I cannot be the story. Jesus is the story, and He always will be. My story is meant to point to God’s glory, and Christ’s love allows me to do that.

Christ’s reflects the glory of God. If I get away from that beautiful truth, His story will be hidden as mine takes the stage. The light God places in my heart is not meant to be hidden, but it also is not meant to be a spotlight for my own story. My witness should be about God’s grace and Christ’s love. Like a witness called to the stand, I need to give testimony that brings a greater understanding of God’s glory. Witnesses who focus upon their stories cloud and cover the true issues. The same is true of those who witness to Christ’s love and God’s glory.

The veil comes off when focus is fixed upon Christ’s face. God’s glory is there, and it connects to the light He placed in my heart when I turn to take in the love that allows me to see God’s glory. Like the moon reflecting the sun’s rays, I can’t look away when faced with His glory. When I see someone looking into God’s glory with love, I find myself stopping and staring too. Looking at God’s glory together is what worship is all about. If we do that as we should, others will find themselves unable to look away. When the face of Jesus is the focus, words about me fade into the background.

Photo Credit: dailymail.com
Photo Credit: dailymail.com