Purity

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (NLT)

When King David prayed this prayer in Psalm 51:10, he was asking God to help him get back on the right path. I love his supplication because it comes from a repentant heart. To me, that is the highest level of purity we humans can achieve. King David was not a perfect or a pure man, but he was a man after God’s own heart who wanted to be near his dear Lord.

Christ was pure in every sense of the word, the ultimate unblemished Lamb suitable for the proper sacrifice to God, the Father. We can stumble along the path Christ lays before us, but we will not achieve true purity until we are with Him in heaven.

Until then, God asks us to have the courage to walk along the path His Son walked. I like to think it is like taking the first step on a snow covered road. I hate to be the first to trod on the purity of that path, but I remember what is underneath the white covering and step out.

Like a beautiful snow covered path, Christ’s sacrifice covers the ugliness of our hearts with a purity only He can achieve. Unlike the snow, Christ’s covering is permanent. He wants us to trust Him and walk bravely in the same places we have always lived but with a light heart knowing our paths are covered with His Holy Spirit’s presence.

There’s nothing more fun that being the first one out on a snowy morning and frolicking with abandon in newly fallen snow. The animals usually beat us to the path, but sometimes, we get to experience the world in the light of the sweet purity of a winter wonderland. If we tune our hearts to God’s sweet presence each morning, we can get an even greater sense of wonder without the cold 🙂

Longing…..

Three years ago I had the privilege of watching the release of seven sea turtles on Topsail Island, North Carolina. The turtles varied in size, but their longing to get back to the sea was the same. I don’t remember the names of all of the turtles or what circumstances caused their journeys to be interrupted, but I do remember the last, and least, turtle because he was close enough for me to see the deep yearning in his eyes. I’m thankful for the image I was able to capture because it serves as a reminder of that miraculous moment.

Leonardo was the smallest turtle, and his flippers began flapping vigorously the moment he spotted the ocean. They did not stop beating until he was placed into the water. He was revving up his engine for a fast getaway and wanted to hit the ocean swimming. As I watched his handler trying to hold on to him, I understood the necessity of the restraints around the larger turtles. They needed four adults to carry them to the water. I’m sure ten strong men would not have been able to hold the largest turtle if his giant flippers were free to flap like little Leonardo’s.

This amazing pageant of healed turtles returning home humbled me in a powerful way. I was so happy for the turtles and so very thankful for volunteers, like the lady in line, who are willing to provide help and hope to injured travelers on their way home. I was watching a miracle and sharing the experience with those around me. It was a small crowd because the release took place the day after Labor Day. Tourists had returned home, and children were back in school.

I was standing near a woman deeply connected to this moment, but she was standing with the crowd and not with the volunteers. I could tell by the tone of her voice and her knowledge about the process that she was not just an observer. She told me the direction the turtles would swim and where they were headed. She also talked about the turtles as if she knew them well and loved them deeply. She represented the love that kept the hospital going. I wondered if she had known Karen Beasley, perhaps she was her mom. Whoever she was, she helped me see that more than turtles were being released that day.

I was on the beach that afternoon because God allowed my sister and I to overhear plans for the release as we waited in line for our afternoon coffee and smoothie. A lady who worked at the Turtle Hospital was telling her friend about it while we waited in line behind her. She was very gracious when we asked for details and told us when and where to be the following day. My sister was unable to go but insisted I go and tell her all about it.

Advent is a time of sweet longing as we await the arrival of Christ while remembering His birth. I can only imagine what those who witnessed that beautiful miracle first hand must have felt. I am still in awe when I think of those majestic turtles plunging into the ocean and making a sharp right turn as their built-in GPS directed them to the Gulf of Mexico. I got to see their longing satisfied, and it was amazing. Seeing the Messiah fulfill God’s promise is more than I can begin to fathom.

I long for the day when my spirit is released, and I am able to be with God; but I also long to be more aware of the miracles He places in my path each and every day. As I watched little Leonardo flap his wings in sweet anticipation, I found myself wanting to abandon all, jump in, and swim to the Gulf with him.

His longing was contagious! I pray mine will be too.

You can read more about Karen Beasley’s legacy at http://magazine.wfu.edu/2014/07/10/karen-beasleys-legacy-save-the-turtles/

Hope

Advent is a season of hope which takes my faith to new heights each year as I celebrate Christ’s birth and anticipate His second coming. Life is filled with ups and downs, but hope brings a beautiful place of balance. I wrote this poem years ago, but it still resonates with my heart. I look forward to all God has in store, and that is what hope is all about.

Hope is the spark that lingers

Long after the fire seems lost.

He remains to remind us

To go on, He paid the cost.

 

We are prone to forget Him

Until nothing else remains,

But He sits waiting patiently

To ease our heartaches and pains.

 

 

Drive or Driven?

There’s a world of difference between drive and being driven. My life has been one of being driven. Driven to succeed, driven to mend, driven to be good, driven to do good, driven to find answers. I lost my drive in the process of being driven…….

There’s nothing wrong with having drive, but there is something inherently wrong with being driven. Drive is a good thing. Encyclopedia.com defines drive as an”energizing force directed towards a particular goal or objective. Drives may be innate (physiological) or acquired (learned).” Simply put, we are born with some drives and we learn others. I believe, with some exceptions, it is our learned drives that cause the problems.

Being driven is defined as “motivated by or having a compulsive quality or need” according to Google. Need drives, and I go along for the ride. Nowhere has this been more evident than in my desire to serve God. I was driven by that need for forty-two years and found myself at the bottom of a huge pile of ashes when my need and I finally crashed. Being driven ends badly and the wreck that results is never pleasant. I’m just thankful my heart is still in one piece!

God is a god of restoration Who waits for me to come to Him. I first came to Him in 1964 when I realized He loved me. Knowing that brought me out of the deep darkness in which I was drowning. It was great to be on dry land, but I was in no condition to be driving. Instead of relying on His love to lead, I did what I did best. I did! I was driven to do and was determined to show God how much I loved Him by doing and doing and doing.

After forty-two years of doing, I finally came to a place of stopping that was more about giving up than resting. I reveled in the emptiness for almost a year before I was drawn to a little church across the street from my new apartment. God bid me to check it out because He knew I needed a community, and He knew the peace I was trying to create on my own was there if I would trust His love to lead and not fall back into old patterns.

After nine months of healing worship, I was ready to become part of the work of the body of believers God placed in my path. It wasn’t the first church I ever joined, but it was the first one where I didn’t feel driven to do so. I was drawn to the love they had for God and one another, and I was drawn to the work they were doing in the community.

I was driven into the desert in 1964 because I needed a desert. It took forty-two years for me to learn the lessons God had for me there. It took Israel almost as long, so I don’t feel bad about my time there. In fact, I cherish all that brought me to this place of peace.

Love is the innate, energizing, driving force I now feel, and it is bringing the sweet peace and holiness I need to move on to all God has in store. Levity is important when it comes to love and to drive. I hope to remember that as I move forward. God reminded me that being driven is part of the process of learning to drive a car, and the same is true for hearts.

 

 

 

That Sweet By and By

Happily ever after used to be my battle cry.

I was sure I would see Jesus in that sweet by and by.

I couldn’t seem to find my dreams no matter how I tried,

So I began to drown inside the ocean I had cried.

 

Jesus never seemed to tire as He caught each falling tear.

I know He wished I’d let go of my paralyzing fear.

He made sure that the way to Him was always crystal clear,

But I put up my obstacles and would not let Him steer.

 

He bid me trust and promised that He’d never told a lie,

His precious love so much more than simply pie in the sky.

I loved Him more than anything and said that I would try,

But wondered if I had been wrong when I began to die.

 

I gave up the steering wheel and prepared myself to veer.

I let go of everything but decided to stay near.

His sweet loving word of comfort was all my heart could hear.

He showed me miles of faces, and I saw those I held dear.

 

Some were here and some in heaven, but all were filled with cheer,

When they saw I realized their love would always be near.

That sweet by and by is not in the sky; it’s always here.

The love I sought, already bought, by Someone very dear.

Defining Moments

I am looking prayerfully at the defining moments in my life, and that’s helping me make sense of my journey. I have a penchant for paths that offer safety and allow me to hide. I grew up on a street that led to another right before it ended mysteriously. The dead end was clearly marked with a caution sign, but I couldn’t resist sneaking peaks at the old Victorian house falling apart in the midst of what had once been an impressive yard. Rumors were that the house was haunted, and the woman who lived there was a witch.

Mrs. Norton certainly looked like a witch with her long nails, crazy hair, tattered clothing, strange hat, and heavy make-up. My youngest sister and I loved to go down to look at her house and went inside once when she asked if we wanted a book. The inside of the house was in worse shape than the outside. Holes punctuated a floor completely covered with books, papers, and boxes piled high. Mrs. Norton was hiding from the world, and part of my heart could relate to her plight.

I didn’t know she was a former teacher who decided to retreat from society when her husband died, but I connected to her unhindered spirit and her fear of the world. She talked and sang when she walked up and down the street to get what she needed from the world, but she stayed hidden away the rest of the time. Some of the neighborhood kids made fun of her, but she never seemed to notice. I guess her years in the classroom helped in that regard.

A part of me envied Mrs. Norton’s freedom. She or her house never scared me, but I never went back for another visit. My sister and I endured a harsh scrubbing and a a long lecture when we arrived home, and Mama promised to tell daddy if we ever went back. It was Mama’s fear that kept me from returning to Mrs. Norton’s house. I didn’t want to scare my mama; like me, she was scared enough.

There are defining moments in every life that lead to dead ends, open roads, busy highways, and ditches. I’m learning my heart will only thrive where God’s love intersects with His world. Christ’s precious love abides in the center of a very busy intersection. In the world, intersections are not places to dwell; they are places to rush through or avoid when possible. Walking in God’s kingdom gives intersections and dead ends new meaning.

I am not always comfortable in the intersection, but I know I will become more comfortable as I come nearer the center where there is but one definition of who I am and Who God Is. In that beautiful moment when the journey takes its final turn, there will no longer be any doubts about direction. Until then, I know God wants His children to come together and love as His Son loves. When that happens, the journey will have new meaning and direction will be defined as never before.

The Center