Make Room

Making room for God requires letting go of self. That doesn’t mean I can’t be me; it simply means I can’t keep all of my stuff. When I moved into my tiny apartment in town, I had to downsize considerably. The home I shared with my son and his family for two and a half years was over 5,000 square feet. My new place is 550 square feet. My bedroom and bath were larger than my apartment, so I had some serious downsizing to do.

Taking stock of my belongings wasn’t easy, do I did it while the kids were away on vacation. I made three piles: treasures to keep, things to give away, and things to sell. Two of the piles were easy, but the one in the middle brought me to tears. I love books and had hundreds of them, but I knew they would never fit into my apartment. The same was true for all I had accumulated over the years. After agonizing over each possession, the largest pile held treasures I wanted to keep. I decided to deal with the other two first because they were easier on my heart.

The pile to sell was easy. I felt great after taking several car loads to a nearby consignment shop because I was going to get paid for letting go. I was energized and ready to tackle the give away pile. It was fun to think about who would love and appreciate the stuff I no longer needed. I started with materials and books from my classroom. I had given away a ton of materials when I retired. I left most everything behind in my classroom when I retired, but I did take special books and units with me just in case I decided to teach again.

I knew several wonderful young teachers, one a former student I knew would put my things to good use. She was elated, and that encouraged me to press on. It was time to deal with that troubling treasure chest at home. I made a new pile of things for my son. That was fun and made a big dent in the pile, but there was still the treasures to keep pile!

I decided to take a break and do some praying. God knew this was a hard process, and He knew that was more about letting go than sorting out. Not having room is convenient when it comes to homes and hearts. There is a certain safety in not having space because it keeps me from inviting in the new or stepping into the unknown. If I don’t have time or space, I don’t have to worry about growing. We all know that growing pains are very real and apply to more than teenage joints and muscles.

With God’s help, I was able to let go and grow into my tiny apartment with room to spare. I absolutely love my new home because it is filled, but not full. Simplifying was satisfying and opened the door for a similar transformation in my heart. My apartment and my heart are loving the openness. God is loving it too because His Holy Spirit has enough space to dance. That makes both of us very happy. My grand daughters are happy because they also have space to dance and play. Making room in a house or a heart isn’t an easy process; but once you create a little open space, you want more of it and will never be satisfied with crowded again.

What’s in a Name?

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body, she was filled with grief and frustration. She arrived at the tomb at first light, but it was empty. Jesus was gone. The others went home disappointed, but Mary lingered, longing to know what had happened to the body of her beloved Lord.

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;  and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). John 20:11-17 NASB

This passage has always tugged at my heart, but it touched me even more deeply this Lenten Season as I witnessed the power of love in a new light. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus, but that isn’t surprising. None of us see what is right before our eyes, especially if it is something we are not expecting to see.

Henry Cavil, the actor who plays Superman in the new movie, stood in Times Square under a giant advertisement for Superman vs Batman wearing a tee shirt with the Superman logo on the front. His face was in lights above him, but no one recognized him. He was responding to criticism about Superman’s trademark disguise. Critics pointed out that glasses would never be enough to hide Superman’s identity from those around him. The experiment proved superman didn’t even need glasses; he could easily hide in plain sight because people do not see what they are not expecting to see.

Mary asked the man she thought to be a gardener what he had done with the body. He simply said, “Mary!,” and suddenly her world was changed forever.  One of the most powerful moments in the Bible, for me, is when she utters, “Rabboni.” She wanted to embrace Jesus, but He bid her not to come near because He had not yet ascended to His Father. Like Mary, I am beautifully changed when someone speaks my name in love. Being known heals and makes my heart whole. No one knows that better than God, and Mary learned its power that morning at the empty tomb.

The first time my son uttered the syllables “ma ma,” my heart melted into a puddle. The first time my granddaughters called me “Gigi,” my heart went to a new level of love. The children in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class call me “Gigi” when I visit or volunteer, and that fills my heart with joy. They squeal with delight each time they see me at school or out in the community. They act as though it’s been years since they’ve seen me. That delight is what love is all about, and it never gets old.

God delights when He hears His children say His name with love, but His heart is broken when His name is used to justify violence or spread hatred. His greatest desire is to be with us, and to know that we know how much He loves us. When we say His name and the names of those around us in love, His kingdom comes, and His will is done.

A name spoken in love brings joy into the world, and that is what Easter is all about What’s in a name? Everything!!

Happy Easter 🙂

 

 

 

Desires

The truth be told,

A heart on hold

Is not what God desires.

 

He knows that love

Like that above

Is all my heart requires.

 

My will persists.

My soul insists.

So what I want transpires.

 

I get my way!

I have my say!

His voice gently retires.

 

I find myself

Upon the shelf

In a world that admires.

 

Beautiful stone

Cold and alone

Warmed by the glowing fires.

 

Suddenly real

Loving the feel

Of all my heart’s desires.

 

I start to cry

But don’t know why.

My aching heart inquires.

 

God hears my plea

And rescues me.

Beautiful change transpires.

 

Love chases fear

As He draws near

Giving me His desires.

Following in Faith

I’m the world’s worst when it comes to directions. I get lost easily and panic when I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings. Today is Epiphany, so it’s fitting that God would bid me to head home in a different direction. He knows how hard it is for me to change direction, and we both know it’s because I let fear get the best of me. Matthew 2 has been in my path for the past few weeks, but it took on new meaning yesterday.

“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (NRSV)

2015 was filled with changes in direction that left me reeling and feeling lost. The problem, as always, was in trying to find my way instead of yielding to God’s. The Magi traveled a great distance to see the Messiah; whether they were from Prussia or some other exotic location, their journey was a long and difficult one filled with the unfamiliar.

When God warned them not to go back to Herod, they willingly changed direction. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do what they did. They knew the importance of pleasing the ruler of the region, but they listened to God and ignored Herod. It was customary to bring gifts and show respect for kings when traveling to or through their kingdoms, so they were doing much more than changing their travel plans. They risked insulting the reigning king because they knew Christ was a new kind of king. Some folks are insulted when you change direction, and that has been the most difficult lesson of late. I worry far too much about what others think, and that gets in God’s way. Following God may mean disappointing others, and that’s more uncomfortable than heading down an unknown road.

If the Wise Men had ignored God’s warning and done what was expected of them, God would have found another way to protect His Son. He didn’t need them, and He doesn’t need me to carry out His plans. He lets me participate so I’ll learn and grow nearer to Him. I don’t always listen, so I miss important lessons. I prefer the safety of the familiar, but God’s lesson this week has been that safety is only an illusion. The safest road is the one He is on even though it is seldom the most familiar. Faith is trusting God even when others insist they know what I should do. Epiphany is seeing the light of Christ’s precious love and having the courage to follow it in faith.

 

 

A Mess of Pottage

“A mess of pottage” refers to something that may be very desirable in the moment, but is of little value when taken in exchange for something less tangible but of immense value. It refers to Esau trading his birthright for a pot of lentil stew in Genesis 25:27-35.

When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he had a taste for game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. (NASB)

Trading one’s birthright for a pot of stew may seem farfetched, but we all misplace priorities at one time or another. Shortsightedness occurs when that for which I hunger is right in front of me. The present presents temptations difficult to resist at times. A dear friend heard my heart and used the mess of pottage reference to help me get my priorities in order. I haven’t heard that expression in decades, but it rang true in my heart as soon as I heard it this week.

Having friends who hear my heart and love God is a blessing I cannot imagine living without. I was at the point of trading a beautiful friendship for a mess of pottage, but God placed Esau’s stew in my path to help me see the folly of such a trade.

Walking in God’s kingdom now is a new concept for me. I smile and shake my head when I think of the number of times I said the Lord’s Prayer without seeing the kingdom as here and now. Christ clearly says “on earth as it is in heaven.” (NASB Matthew 6:9-13)  It is sobering to realize how easy it is to trade a walk in God’s kingdom for a jaunt down my own path. A mess of pottage is all it takes to lose any birthright.

The phrase also reminded me of a beautiful poem I haven’t read in years, “Touch of the Master’s Hand” by Myra Brooks Welch. The phrase is used powerfully in the last verse of the poem.

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
      Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
      But held it up with a smile.
“What am I bidden, good folks,” he cried,
    “Who’ll start the bidding for me?”
“A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
      Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?”

“Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
      Going for three…” But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
      Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
      And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
      As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
      With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: “What am I bid for the old violin?”
      And he held it up with the bow.
“A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two?
      Two thousand! And who’ll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
    And going and gone,” said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
    “We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?” Swift came the reply:
    “The touch of the Master’s hand.”
And many a man with life out of tune,
      And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
      Much like the old violin.

A “mess of pottage,” a glass of wine,
    A game — and he travels on.
He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
    He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
    Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
    By the touch of the Master’s hand.

The lesson this week was that I am more than I can imagine myself to be. Like the old violin, I have seen myself as battered and scarred; but the touch of God’s hand changed that. God is love, and love is what His kingdom is all about. I tend to sell myself short, but this week I decided to let God play a new tune on my heart. I want the birthright He has for me, and that means seeing myself in His light. I can’t do that on my own, but I can do it if I relax in His hands and trust Him to do what He does best.

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