There is nothing more peaceful than a river. The rushing water drowns out the noisy world and fills my heart to overflowing. I first face downstream so the river can carry away any clinging negative energy. When I feel sweet emptiness, I turn and face the flow. The filling I receive is better than any drug or food this world has to offer.
The Nantahala River runs near my home in Bryson City, North Carolina. It is filled with adventurous kayakers, squealing rafters, relaxed tubers, or folks just looking for a peaceful spot to sit by the shore.
My home church has a ministry called The River of Life that offers music, praise, and worship by the water. They raise money to help build wells in Haiti, so it’s the perfect setting for worship. My favorite part of the service is taking time to sit by the river and reflect on the message and how we can carry it out into the world. When we connect to the Source of all Love, we cannot help but pass it along to all those who share the path ♥️
Topsail Island, North Carolina is famous for its amazing sunrises. There is something majestic about the sun rising over the ocean. Like a pampered queen, she takes her time appearing before her adoring audience. She never wears the same gown twice, so those in attendance are never bored.
I marvel at how anyone cannot be stunned into silence by such a show; but then I remember how much beauty I miss each and every day as I scurry about in a mad dash to get somewhere or do something. The journey is so much better when I slow down and take in all the wonders in my path.
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.
I’ve struggled, in the past, with letting others love me. I’m not sure if that was because I felt unworthy or perhaps, I was simply afraid. Letting somebody love me isn’t easy; the Eagles make that clear in “Desperado.” The song cautions those afraid of love to “let somebody love you before it’s too late.”
I’ve loved the song for decades and could relate to its lyrics, but the lessons in love of late have been very different ones. God is helping me see that I must let somebody not love me if I want to love as He loves. God loves everyone, no matter who they are. That bothers some, but brings great peace to me. He loves completely and perfectly, but He never forces anyone to love Him back. He could, but He knows better than anyone that love isn’t love if it’s forced upon us.
I’ve always had the need to be liked, so it’s not surprising I would have difficulty letting someone not love me. I find myself trying to convince others to accept my love and to love me back. It hurts deeply when they don’t. I am learning I can only be a loving presence and choose whether to accept the love offered to me. Life and love are wrapped together beautifully in relationship, and I’m slowly learning to relax into relationships and not worry if they are not what I expect them to be.
Chasing love is pointless because it can never be caught. Pursuing it only distracts, disturbs, and deters the love already in my life. The notion of relaxing into obedience has brought powerful growth during the past year. I’m finding that relaxing into whatever God has in mind brings a sweet sense of peace. Relaxing is not easy for me; but when I remember it’s simply believing God is Who He says He is, it becomes much easier.
I’ve been getting deep tissue massages since April to correct some health issues I’ve had for years. I was groaning yesterday when I felt my tendons and muscles begin to relax. The difference in my body over the past few months is unbelievable, and I know it has to do with the fact that I’m learning to relax just like those stubborn, twisted muscles. I told Braden, as she massaged out the sore spots, that learning to let others not love me was having the same effect on my heart that her massage techniques were having on my body. Does it hurt when someone doesn’t love me? Absolutely!! Can I make them love me? Absolutely not! Does allowing them the space to not love me bring them closer? Sometimes 🙂
If love is meant to be, it will be. If it is not meant to be, it will not be. I can cajole or coerce with some success, but I will miss the kind of love God has in mind for my heart. Wasting time and effort trying to get someone to love me keeps me from enjoying the sweet love already in my path.
So, let somebody not love you before it’s too late.
Love is the first step in finding peace. As incomprehensible as God’s love is, it is the beginning of everything and must be the place from which my heart starts its journey toward peace. Grace enters into the journey in the life of Christ. God became one of us and extended grace to a world in need of connection.
Grace became the glue that connected God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s peace in our hearts. Christ made that connection possible when He died and rose from the grave in the most amazing plan ever. Grace is more than amazing; it is more than any word we have in our vocabularies. It is what brings love and peace together. Just as the Trinity are three and one, so are love, grace and peace beautifully connected. They do not exist apart from one another, but they are three separate entities.
I don’t pretend to understand the Trinity, but I feel Its effect upon my life. I can’t define love, grace, or peace; but I know what they do to my heart. I cannot imagine life without the love of God, the grace of Christ, or the peace of the Holy Spirit. I know when my heart is out of balance it is because I allow other than love, grace, and peace to be present in it. Love, grace, and peace will step aside when hate, lust, or discord enter in. They will not share or force their way into my heart’s space.
The beauty of love, grace, and peace is that they create a beautiful harmony that cannot be found anywhere except in a heart tuned to them. Hearts can find love and peace for brief periods, but without the grace Christ offers, it is only a temporary possession that dissipates quickly and must be sought over and over again. Christ’s grace provides a sweet Comforter in the Holy Spirit who coexists with me. There is a world of difference between possessing and coexisting, and as big a difference between the peace I can find on my own and the peace Christ’s grace brings. The peace of the Holy Spirit is like having a beautiful friend who hears my heart and never leaves my side. Peace that possesses is a temporary high that feels good for a moment and then goes away.
My peace is disrupted when I allow my desires to override God’s will. God is all powerful, but He will not force His love, His Son’s grace, or His Spirit’s peace upon anyone. He knows I must experience discord occasionally to appreciate the difference His peace offers. Last week, I got carried away with my selfish wants and found myself floundering and flustered. I know prayer is the path to peace, so I did a lot of praying. What happened is what always happens when I get tired of spinning out of control and ask God to help. He extended love and grace, and I surrendered to His peace.
There is no verse more comforting to me than the sweet simple words of Philippians 4:7
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NASB)
I suppose I will veer off the path of peace as long as I live, but it comforts my heart greatly to know that peace is only a prayer away. Now, if I can only get better at praying a little faster each time 🙂
There is a world of difference between love and lust, grace and greed, and peace and power. Lust, greed, and power are shiny objects that take my attention away from God. I know His love is better than anything this world has to offer; but I occasionally fall prey to the bling in my path. God reminded me this morning that bling is temporary and loses its luster as soon as I gain possession of it. His love will not be held or captured, and He will never hold me captive or attempt to possess my heart.
The need to possess is at the heart of lust, greed, and power. We have all been possessed by someone or something at one time or another, and we’ve all had the desire to possess something or someone at some point in our lives. Lust, greed, and power revolve around that desire. Love, grace, and peace exist outside the realm of possession. They flourish in freedom and reside with truth. It’s human nature to want to possess, but Christ taught a new way of living and loving when He came into the world as a man. He possessed nothing and had everything. He didn’t need Satan to remind Him that lust, greed, and power cause great temptation. Christ knows exactly what they do to a heart, soul, spirit, and body. His precious love releases us from captivity and gives us a new heart.
Christ’s grace showed the world a new kind of power, and His love brought a peace unlike anything the world had ever known. Like a child chasing a butterfly, I end up straying from the path and find myself on a very slippery slope when I take my focus away from God. He is always there when I fall on my face. He and I both know it’s the best position for praying.
It’s easy to get caught up in my agenda or the agendas of others, but it happens a lot less when I keep my eyes on the One who exemplifies love, grace, and peace. Jesus took the lust, greed, and power that put Him on the cross and turned it upside down. The beautiful result is unending love, amazing grace, and unexplainable peace.
The lessons over the past two weeks have been difficult ones that pushed my heart beyond what it could handle alone. God never leaves me, but He will not possess me. I’ve made terrible decisions when it comes to love. I’ve tried to possess and hold on to it. God gently taught me that possession goes against the very nature of love. What I control or possess does not define love in my life, but what I am able to let go of does.
God placed Melanie Gainsley’s quote back into my path today. It sums up the lessons in love God began the year mama died, and it was in my path then. It was so hard to let go of mama. I realized today that love doesn’t have to let go because true love doesn’t hold on in the first place.
“Sincere love is not born of possessiveness but of necessary space and distance.” Melanie Gainsley
Jesus spoke with authority, and that upsets those who place a lot of faith in their own authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, religious teachers, political leaders, Zealots, and Essenes disagreed with Jesus differently, but they shared an unwillingness to give up their own authority. I have the same problem. That was not an easy lesson this week, but it was a very freeing one. We all have issues with authority at some level, and that causes us to miss the life God intends for us to live. Mark 1:21-28 says,
“They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.” NASB
It’s easy to talk about God’s love and power as long as I don’t apply the lessons to my own heart. The unclean spirit in the demoniac knew exactly who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing. Shouldn’t I have the same knowledge of His power? I struggle with my issues, but I wouldn’t have to if I would relinquish my authority and believe in His. Why is that so hard to do? It may be because I’m comfortable with my issues. They are mine and define who I am. Letting God define me means I have to change who I am, and I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with the new me.
God’s timing and ways always amaze me, but this week’s lessons have been so very powerful that I don’t know if I will ever stop shaking my head in amazement. In addition to Mark 1:21-28, I’ve been studying David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. I would never put those scriptures together on my own, but God connected them in a powerful way. Tony W. Cartledge says in the Smyth & Helwys commentary on 1 Samuel,
‘The surprising truth about the spirit of God is that we do not do something to get it. We do not have to become more attractive or even more worthy. Our openness is enough. Our not knowing is enough. Our willingness is enough. The Bible makes it clear that God delights in surprising the world by doing great things through small people. We may never be anointed with royal oil, as was David, but we can be anointed by the spirit of God. We can look forward to a future that is filled with unknown opportunities for life and service and joy. We can become the persons God wants us to be; there is no greater goal in this life.”
I was struck by his last statement. No greater goal in this life!! Giving up my authority and letting God have authority isn’t easy or we would all be doing it. The demoniac and David had something important in common; they trusted God. They both learned that God saw them in a way they could not imagine on their own. They trusted His authority, and it made an amazing difference in their lives. God will do the same for all of us.
I’m not sure what I had in mind when I thought of unclean spirits, but I think it was the stuff of horror movies that didn’t apply to me. When I realized evil spirits are my need to control, my anger, my insecurity, my lack of trust, my bitterness, etc…I was taken aback. Jesus has authority over all my issues if I will acknowledge and trust His authority and let go of mine. There is a degree of comfort in the known evil. When I let go of my issues, God will redefine me. God’s definitions of the demoniac and David were not the same as the ones they or the people in their lives had. The transformations God has in mind will always be a shock. Perhaps that’s why I hesitate to let go of those old habits and issues.
Whatever the reasons for my hesitating and complicating when it comes to my issues and authority, they pale when compared to Christ’s authority and His precious love. Together, they make for an amazing transformation. I feel the peace, love, joy, gratitude, and grace God has in mind when I surrender my authority and embrace His. Seeing those pesky issues as demons helps me call on Christ to help rid my heart of them. The Wizard of Oz theme continued into this week; God used images of those flying monkeys to make me smile and realize that I can’t handle my issues on my own. Christ already knew that; He was simply waiting for me to ask for help. It is something I must do daily if I am to live the life He desires. There is a place over the rainbow, and it doesn’t have to stay in a lullaby. I can enjoy its peace here and now. The happy ending is knowing God’s transformation will allow me to be who he wants me to be. There truly is no greater goal than that.
The starting point is more important than the final destination because it defines my journey. If I’m stuck in the past, I’m never able to catch up to myself. If I keep a foot in the future, I hobble along at a pitiful pace. I do both and end up stuck or stalled as a result. If I start where I am by making peace with my present, the journey will be as God intends. I rehash my past, rehearse my future, and miss my present.
Ice and snow have made for treacherous travel this week; when I finally did get out of the house, I found myself driving around with no destination in mind. It was wonderful to be moving after being sick and stuck indoors. Then, I sat in the sun and did nothing for a very long time. It was healing to soak in the sunshine and simply be. The best traveling is done when sitting still. It’s what allows my heart and soul to spiral upward, and that’s the destination I most desire.
Culture says be productive, go places, take charge of your own future, and never look back unless you need an excuse for your troubles. In Psalm 46:10, God has a different view.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” NIV
It’s silly to think stillness is the best way to move. Love is also a lot of silliness when you think about it. In fact, all of God’s ways are silly to the world. His ideas may be foolishness to some, but I learned this week that foolishness is the greatest wisdom of all. I plan to love when it makes no sense and be still when I feel like running. God reminded me this week that stillness is the very best starting point for any journey.
I was a surprised by the image of a wagon train circling up on the prairie this morning, but I’m learning not to question God when He’s teaching a lesson. In the wild west, circling up the wagons was necessary for the safety of those traveling through dangerous territory. It is an effective strategy for keeping that which isn’t desirable from getting in and that which is precious from getting out. It formed a tight-knit community of travelers and probably saved many lives.
In this day and age, the technique doesn’t work. In fact, it acts as a sort of bullseye for someone flying overhead. People have the tendency to clump together when threatened, and that is especially true in politics and in religion. It would be comical if it weren’t creating so much tension in our country and all around the world. It’s easy to throw a rock or fire a gun from the inside of a circle of wagons, but it’s much more difficult to love those who think differently that we do.
I get so very tired of the circled up right and left wings, and I’m sure God sighs each time a group of His children decide to circle up and make a stand. Pointing fingers instead of guns, the circles hurl insults and accusations toward one another while trying to get others into their circle. When God looks down upon the circles, I’m sure His heart breaks. He knows the best way to love is to let others be who they are. Christ didn’t circle up the wagons even though His followers were chomping at the bit for Him to do just that. “Let’s rain some fire down on them Lord!” was the fervent cry then, and it is the fervent cry now.
Having to be right and in control is at the heart of circling up in the political arena, and the same themes abound in the world of faith. I grow so weary of folks worrying about that which differentiates us. Self-differentiation is what God desires. He says clearly, “I AM.” He expects us to be who we are and to love each other not only despite our differences, but because of them. God forbid that we should all circle up one day and spew the same rhetoric.
Circling up the wagons is a great example of what fusion does to relationships. It was good for the pioneers to lock hands and stay very close when danger threatened them, but it is terrible for God’s children and shows a lack of faith in Him. Self-differentiation enables growth in our individual relationships with God and one another. When I feel the wagons circling up, I quickly look for a crack to slide through before the circle becomes a noose. I don’t mind if you are on a bandwagon or in a wagon train, just don’t expect me to be on or in it with you. Love me for who I am, not for what I believe. I have my own unique way of loving and living in this world, and I’m learning it’s best to stay away from those tight-knit circles if I want to love as God desires.