Hold On or Be Held?

Holding On

Holding On

As a follower of Christ, I have to give up my need to hold on and learn to be held. Christ didn’t cling to things or people; He rested in His Father’s arms. His life is a beautiful example of the strength found in being held. 1 John 4:18 reminds me of the power of being held in God’s loving hand.

“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.” (NASB)

Holding on is about fear. Being held is about love. Human nature and the ways of the world say hold on! Christ says trust God’s love to banish fear. It seems a simple choice, but I find myself holding tightly when I should be relaxing into obedience.

Holding people tightly leads to losing them. Love can only grow when let go. Possessions are more easily held, but there’s no joy in the ownership we think we have. All ownership is merely an illusion. Nothing valuable will be owned; that is particularly true when it comes to love.

No one holds more tightly than those determined to promote divisive doctrines. The body of Christ is a fragmented mess because of the holding and pulling that take place within it. Christ makes His will for His body beautifully clear in John 17:21

“I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (NLT)

I get very frustrated and sometimes want to head to the mountaintop and leave the messiness of the church. I know God enjoys our special time alone, but I also know He created me for community. He loves Christ’s body, and He wants me to love it too. Love isn’t about fixing or doing for; it is about living and loving honestly and with a whole heart. Sharing my story and my journey with others puts my heart in the perfect position to be held, and that’s exactly where God wants it to be.

Holding on is about my strength and endurance. Being held is about dependence upon God. I can choose either path, but God made it clear this week that being held is the best way to go.

Being Held

Being Held

Tit for Tat??

Tit for tat is an abbreviation for this for that and can be summed up by saying I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. It can also mean I’ll get you if you get me, but it’s most often used to describe getting what I want by giving you what you want.

Christ was not a tit for tat sort of guy. He didn’t give so He could get because He knew that cycle is an unending one that leaves everyone feeling empty. God sent Jesus because He loved us. Love never involves tit for tat and doesn’t keep an account of who’s ahead in the giving department. Love only sees love. God is love, so it follows that He only sees love. Obligation and obedience are often found together, but they do not belong together. The toxic relationship they form spreads venom faster than the bite of a viper. Christ feels the effect it has upon His body, and it breaks His heart.

Jesus gives His take on giving in Luke 6:37-38.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (NLT)

His words may sound like tit for tat, but they go far deeper than giving to get. They involve a change of heart. They are not about giving out of guilt, fear, obligation, or a desire to get. They are about giving based upon love. Love doesn’t judge; it doesn’t condemn; it forgives and gives. When I learn that beautiful truth, I give with a new heart and receive far more than I ever imagined possible.

I suppose it is human nature to want a fair return on investments or to get tit for tat when it comes to money and time spent. Jesus offered a new way of living and giving that opens hearts and fills them with peace. Peace isn’t about even trades or great portfolios. Peace is sweet contentment that fills a heart beautifully poured out in love.

Earlier in Luke 6:32-36 Jesus reminds us that God’s way of loving and giving is not like ours.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (NLT)

Thinking of the way God loves and gives makes me look at the way I love and give. If I am to nudge nearer and be more like Christ, I must let love be at the heart of all my giving. It is the heart of Christ’s message, and it must be the heart of mine.

Idol Lies

Exodus 20:4-6 is about more than golden calves. It’s about not allowing anyone or anything to take God’s place.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who worships a graven image, but I know many, including myself, who allow things and people to get in the way of worship. Food, money, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, beauty, relationships, the quest for fame or fun, and so much more draw attention away from God or take His place.

I used to worry about the sins of the parents being laid upon the children for four generations. I saw it as further proof that God was out to get me. He was not only going to get me; He was going to get my great, great, grandchildren too! I’ve since learned to see God in the light of Christ’s precious love. That enables me to see scripture in a new light, as well. God is a loving Father who knows idol lies will hurt me deeply and keep me from His love.

Idols take the best from those at their feet. Like all shiny objects, they tempt and promise much, but they never deliver on those promises. Idol worship is a one-sided relationship that sucks life from the body, love from the heart, and peace from the soul. Idol lies appear to be truth because the master of deceit is behind them. I can’t discern the truth without the help of the Holy Spirit. That means listening and obeying God’s commandments and understanding they are forged in love and designed for my good.

Good parents and teachers know the importance of boundaries when it comes to safety and learning. It isn’t easy to be a loving parent who cares enough to make sure their children understand the importance of loving obedience. I’ve seen far too many fall into the trap of wanting to be liked. I’ve fallen into it myself.

God doesn’t want to be popular; He simply wants me to know how very much He loves me. That means trusting and obeying even when I don’t understand. Idols weave lies into a beautiful nets that cover and capture all at one time or another. Many stay trapped in those nets because they believe there is no hope of getting out. God doesn’t forget His children when they are caught up in the traps of idols. It breaks His heart to watch His beloved struggle in the net of idol lies, but He knows they won’t truly be free until they are ready to hear the truth.

Idol lies drown out the still, small voice of God because He will not compete with idols. He knows how tempting it is to fall into the trap of an idol. It is why He sent His only Son to break the hold of those traps. His love and truth shed light on idol lies, exposing them for what they are. I can listen to His love, or I can listen to a lot of bull. The choice is, and always will be, mine.

Golden bull sclupture on grey glass

Making Sense of Tenses

English was the bane of my existence when I was in school. The logic of math made perfect sense to me, but the inconsistencies in English irritated me to no end. I wanted to be a teacher from a very early age and enjoyed playing school in what we called the “Little House” behind our home, but I never had the desire to teach math. I had no patience with those who didn’t get it. I got it and couldn’t understand why others didn’t. I also couldn’t explain how I knew what I knew. I ended up teaching Language Arts in middle school for 33 years and loved every minute. I could relate to the struggles my students had with English, and I knew how to help them get it.

My troubles with English stemmed more from an irritation with its irregularities than an inability to understand. It took longer to do my English homework than all the other subjects put together, and I resented the free time it sucked from my life; but for some unknown reason, I loved diagramming sentences on the board and conjugating verbs out loud. I think that may have had something to do with saying he/she/it quickly enough to annoy my teachers.

God used conjugation to get across an important lesson in love last week. I know the importance of staying in the present moment and not regretting the past or fretting over the future, but I learned last week that the way I live in the present is a reflection of my feelings toward the past and the future. It is also a powerful reflection of my faith.

God used two beautiful messengers to help me see that His presence is what brings peace into my present and that what I do with the resurrected Jesus during, before, and after the highs and lows of my life showcase who I believe He is. Amazing lessons that helped me make sense of my heart’s tenses.

Some experts argue there are only two tenses in the English language, past and present. Most go with twelve, and some even push the number to sixteen. The Chinese language has no tenses, and the Greek language has a whole different approach to tense. God made it clear that tenses can be tricky when it comes to the heart. Tenses have the tendency to get tangled in the heart because love crosses all tenses, has no borders, and knows no endings. Love is, was, and always will be. What I do with those tenses is completely up to me.

I looked at the conjugation of love and realized I still have a lot to learn about that wonderful verb. God added a new tense that changed everything when He loved me enough to give His only Son so I could know how much He loves me. Knowing I am loved makes all the difference in the world. I haven’t always felt loved and didn’t always see myself as lovable, but God has changed that by letting me feel love as it is meant to be felt. I’m finding love to be a lot more like English than math. There’s no logic when it comes to love, and there are crazy  inconsistencies that make no sense whatsoever. I’m learning to simply accept love when it comes into my path and remember that God loved, loves, and will always love me. Love will not be conjugated any other way.

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

Photo Credit: zazzle.com

Unpacking My Heart

My dreams this week have been unlike any I can remember. Like folders neatly stored in a box, they have come in simple succession. Each contained a small bit of history or a memory long forgotten, and each was very pleasant. I’ve dealt with recurring nightmares that contained trauma too difficult for daylight, but these mundane little memories were simple scenes that left me wondering what to make of them. God used a tapestry to remind me to enjoy each and not ponder hidden meanings.

I overthink, overlove, overeat, and overdo; so God’s message made me smile as I enjoyed the memories the dreams brought to the surface. There are many opinions when it comes to the meaning of our dreaming, but I agree with the notion they are meant to help us heal and move forward.

“In the 1980’s, Wallace Clift and Jean Dalby Clift took the work of Ann Faraday and further explored the relationship between images produced in dreams and the dreamer’s waking life. Their books identified patterns in dreaming, and ways of analyzing dreams to explore life changes, with particular emphasis on moving toward healing and wholeness.” (Wikipedia)

I’m not an expert when it comes to dream interpretation, but I have found great healing in dealing with recurring nightmares in the past, and I am finding sweet solace in the simple dreams of the past week. When I downsized before moving, I had to go through the painful process of letting go of things that were dear to me. It wasn’t an easy process, but the results have been amazing. I am moving forward, unencumbered and free.

I found healing and wholeness packing and unpacking all those boxes, and the simple dreams this week have unpacked my heart in the same manner. My sister, Ann, made a tapestry for me years ago that I have above my desk. It reads:

“We shared many secrets,

the same Mom and Dad.

We shared lots of good times.

Don’t think of the bad.

Our memories we’ll cherish

with love without end.

I’m glad you’re my Sister.

I’m glad you’re my Friend.”

When I woke wondering about the deeper meaning of the simple dreams, I saw the tapestry and smiled. I needed to remember the good times, the simple times, the everyday and ordinary times. My heart has been deeply hurt by bad times and and shared secrets, but it is by good times and shared memories. God’s lesson for me this morning was to unpack those memories and savor each one.

When I got to the bottom of my heart, I found love expressed in thousands of moments which came to the surface in simple dreams. It was nice to unpack each, smile, and remember to focus upon the good times instead of the bad. I’ve allowed nightmares to define me, but God sent a new image with a series of sweet, simple dreams that paint a much more accurate picture of my heart.

Unpacking My Heart

Back on Track

Running with a heavy overcoat isn’t the best way to travel; but I have a hard time laying aside encumbrances and staying untangled. Holy Week is always difficult, but the pain has been overwhelming this week. Christ’s passion is more than I can comprehend, and it breaks my heart to think of His suffering. Hebrews 12:1-3 helped me change my focus and get my heart back on track.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NASB)

I was lost in the weariness of the world this week, but God put these scriptures in the path to remind me to lighten my load and run the race He has set before me. Christ saw the joy set before Him, and knowing that joy allowed Him to endure the cross, despise the shame, endure the hostility, and end up at the right hand of His Father. He did it all so I could share that joy with Him.

I cannot run the race Christ ran, and thinking I have to is what makes Holy Week weigh me down each year. I can, however, run the race specifically designed for my heart by One who knows me better than I know myself. No one is able to run my race for me, but sharing the joy and pain found on my journey humbles and fills my heart with wonder. That was a powerful part of the learning this week. If I try to run Christ’s race, carry His load, or carry my burdens alone, I will quickly become entangled and encumbered. I came to a place of quitting this week, but God bid me to get up, keep going, and trust Him.

Good Friday is the perfect day to fix my eyes on Jesus. He is, and always will be the author and perfecter of faith. If I keep my focus upon Him, I will find the love, joy, and peace I was missing this week. Encumbrances will continue to entangle as long as I am in this world, but I can keep my balance and run the race with endurance if I remember I am never alone.

Walking Together