Mirage, Oasis, or Fount?

Living WaterMy heart always manages to stumble into the desert despite my best efforts. God woke me this morning with the image of water flowing in the desert because He knew my heart was thirsty and needed filling. I try to quench my heart’s thirst, but my efforts are like chasing mirages.

A mirage promises satisfaction, then quickly disappears when I get close. Mirages sidetrack my heart and keep it from the path God has in mind. Oxford defines a mirage as “something that appears real or possible but is not in fact so.” Even seasoned bedouins fall prey to the illusion of water created by heat in the desert. Heat turns a reflection into an enticing pool that gives false hope to a thirsty heart. Lust, like a mirage in the desert, promises satisfaction even when the facts say otherwise. Mirages give false hope, leaving me thirsty and feeling foolish.

An oasis is real and offers life-giving water to desert travelers. I thank God for the oases He has placed in my path; without them, my heart would never have survived its journey. It’s tempting to cling to an oasis, but I know I can’t. An oasis revives travelers in the desert, but it is not the destination. God knows leaving an oasis is painful and frightening, but He also knows I must move on if I am to get where He wants me to be.

I’ve been fooled by mirages and tempted by oases, but I am learning to have faith and rely upon the living water Christ offered the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:13-14 ”

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (NASB)

Mirages don’t exist, and oases are only temporary. The best wells and springs in the world will eventually run dry, but the living water Christ offers will become in me a well of water springing up to eternal life if I with trust God with my heart. It’s hard to imagine my heart never being thirsty again, but that is exactly what Christ promises. I simply have to believe Him.

Christ’s love is not an illusion or a temporary fix, but I fear I have seen it as both. The image of an ever-flowing fountain of sweet spring water in the desert is a powerful one. Knowing Christ’s precious love can be forever flowing from a fountain in my own heart is more than I can imagine on my own. God will always let me chose where my heart will drink, but His Holy Spirit will hold my heart and help me drink deeply when I am ready to leave the mirages and oases and let His fountain run freely through my heart.

I Am My Father’s Child

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When I took this picture of my son and his daughter, I was thinking of God’s love for me. Lillyann was fussing terribly, so Tyler held her until she settled down. The word translated “repent” at the end of Job is a Hebrew word that describes the sigh of release that comes from a child who has stopped struggling. Christ’s story of the prodigal son reminds me of that sigh. The son is ready to beg his father for a job. He is hoping for a handout but receives an embrace that surprises all. We recently finished a four-part series on Luke 15 that caused me to pause and reflect on my own longing to be embraced.

“We have all of these influences in our lives by whom we long to be embraced, but we will never be fully accepted, fully embraced in this world. Father God says, ‘I want to embrace you for your being, not for your doing. Will you come home? Will you let me embrace you?'” (Jeff Helpman-“Scandalous Grace Part Four” October 12, 2014)

Christ’s vivid image of a father running with abandon toward a son he believed to be lost models God’s love for us. He didn’t care what others thought or whether his reaction was the right one or not. Love caused him to forget and forgive all and run into his son’s arms. I’ve always loved the story and often wished my own father had been able to love me the way the father in this story loves. God reminded me that my father ran down an embankment and jumped into a muddy lake with the same abandon when he kept me from drowning the summer I was five.

Daddy didn’t say, “I love you” or embrace me tenderly; but he loved me the best way he knew how. He did his best to prepare me for the rough hands of this world. He knew I wasn’t going to make it if I couldn’t pay attention, so he had to do something. He chose corporal punishment to get my attention, and it worked. My spirit was broken, but I learned to pay attention. I loved school and ending up teaching for thirty-three years. I had a special place in my heart for those who had a hard time staying focused because I understood their struggle. I wouldn’t recommend his method of teaching, but it did give me the discipline I needed for success.

I am my father’s child in many ways. He had an insatiable curiosity and loved to learn. I am very like him in that regard, and I see a lot of him in my son and his sweet daughters. I love my father, and I’m thankful I was able to tell him that before he died. We had a rocky relationship for many decades, but we became very close before the end of his journey. I was with him when he had his stroke, and my mother insisted that I take him to the hospital. As I watched him losing his grasp on reality, I held his hand and told him what I knew he needed to hear. It is the same thing my heavenly Father wants to hear. I told him that I knew he loved me. He relaxed, and I saw relief settle into his beautiful blue eyes. It was a turning point for both our hearts.

Fall has been a time of beautiful healing in many ways. I’ve looked back in love at how my heart was handled and come to see that it was handled the best way those holding it could handle it. That may not make sense to some, but it has helped me see that we all love differently and imperfectly. Christ’s precious love is perfect, but ours never will be. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to love as Christ loves. I believe it’s what the story of the prodigal son is all about.

I Wonder….

Wonder wakes my heart and directs my wandering mind. I love words, and wonder is a favorite of mine. The dictionary definition for the noun form reads, “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” The verb is to, “desire or be curious to know something.” 

God gives each of us the gift of curiosity. It is a thirst which drives us to His love. Jesus tells the woman at the well in John 4:14 that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (NASB) The woman was filled with wonder and wanted to understand something inexplicable. She was not satisfied with the  world’s water and knew in her heart there was something better. Christ’s words awoke her wonder.

The desire for something better, newer, bigger, faster, etc., is never-ending. Christ offers another way of living. He offers living water that creates a wellspring in our own hearts. Christ’s precious love doesn’t pass through us like all the other things we put into our bodies and minds in an attempt to quench a thirst only God can quench. We all know about thirst we can’t quench and hunger that will not go away. God knows the source of all yearning is a desire to be loved, and He also knows that satisfaction needs a never-ending source.

God doesn’t take away our thirst, but He  does offer to quench it once and for all. The old saying that you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink comes to mind when I read John 4. This woman’s thirst, like all of ours, comes from a deep need to be filled with something other than what the world has to offer.

No amount of water, food, sex, power, money, or drugs comes close to a drop of the living water Christ offers to the woman at the well. I can refuse or delay, or I can take a little taste and walk away; but if  I drink deeply, His love becomes a beautiful spring in my own heart. The choice is mine, and it always will be. God doesn’t force His love on others, and He doesn’t force others to love Him back. He knows unconditional love is the only thing that will satisfy. The wonder of the woman at the well is in all of us, and I’m thankful for that wonder because it brought me to a fountain of living water that changes the way I live and love.

I wander when I’m distracted or disturbed, but wonder always brings me back to His well. I hope I never lose the wide-eyed wonder that fills me with a desire to embrace His “beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, and inexplicable” love. I believe it’s what Jesus meant in Matthew 18:3 when He said, ““Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (NASB) Children have a natural sense of wonder until we destroy it. It would be a wonderful world indeed if we allowed children to help us find our wonder so we could find our way back to that fountain and drink deeply.

September Sunset

September Sunset

 

The sunsets of late have been spectacular as September makes her exit in style. Her departure comes as God bids me to end my old testament. It’s human nature to want to stay in the familiar, albeit painful, past; but staying there keeps me from writing my new story.

The lesson this week has been for me to put away the old songs and stories that no longer apply to my heart. I’ve been mired in the muddy mess of my childhood for over five decades, and God is ready for me to move on. He brought cleansing tears that opened my eyes and cleared my heart last night. I saw myself in the role a victim and began sinking into that muddy water that almost drowned me as a child.

My old story is my old story. It explains and enlightens, but it isn’t who I am anymore. Satan continues to dredge up past hurt, and I continue to find those in my path who will repeat old patterns. God made it clear that the difference between my old and new story is the fact that I had no choice as a child. I do have a choice now. I must make the conscious decision to learn from and leave my past behind me.

September has always been an important month in my life. School started in September, and I loved going to school. The summer before my first September in school, I almost drowned in the muddy water in Lake Hickory, and I’ve been struggling to get out ever since. My journey almost ended that summer, but school offered an escape. I still remember the thrill of walking home from school with my sister Linda my first week of school. I was only five and small for my age, so my teachers made quite a fuss over me. My sister and I had matching red plaid kilts, and I still remember how much I loved wearing mine. I was a big girl, and I was going to school! I also remember wearing the kilt my sister wore six years later in seventh grade.  I’m still wearing a kilt woven five decades ago, and it’s even more inappropriate than the hand-me-down one I wore in seventh grade. I’m ready for a change!

Kilt or no kilt, that same feeling of excitement accompanied me to school every fall for fifty years. A big part of my decision to go into teaching was my love for school and for fall. I got a new beginning every year, and I could escape the outside world within the walls of my safe haven. School was always place of escape for me, and September has been a time of endings and beginnings. It’s fitting for God to use this month as a backdrop for the change He has in mind for my heart.

Fall is a time of dying, and death accompanies both endings and beginnings. The victim in me died last night, and I know God will use her death as an important transition to His transformation. It’s time for a new story, one that is rooted in the past but routed in Christ’s precious love.

Selfishness is a Sieve

Water in a SieveTrying to satisfy selfish desires is like trying to fill a sieve with water. God used Lillyann to make that point last week. She was in a huff about the water in the water table being dirty because there were some tiny leaves in it. When we didn’t empty and refill it, she took matters into her own hands. She picked up a shark-shaped sieve and set out to fill the table. Refusing to heed our cries to get a bucket, she left a trail of water on the ground with each trip. She was going to do things her way, and I can relate 🙂

Trying to make selfish people happy is as futile as Lilly’s attempts to fill her water table. It won’t work no matter how hard I try. I’ve spent most of my life trying to fix and satisfy; I’ve gotten the same results and felt the same frustration Lilly did during her little mission. Seeing her carrying that sieve back and forth made me realize I need to let go of my way of loving and go with God’s plan.

Servants in the world’s kingdom spend a lifetime trying to satisfy selfish people. That leaves them and those they’re trying to please miserable. In God’s kingdom, servants love, listen, and let God transform hearts. If I choose the latter, my heart and the hearts of those I love and serve will grow nearer to God. Holiness is a beautiful maturity that simply means I am ripe and ready to be God’s servant. That means letting Christ’s precious love be the model for all the love in my life. It also means saying goodbye to pleasing and appeasing and hello to healthy, holy helping.

Proverbs 19:21 says it best.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” NLT

 

Breaking the Mold


Breaking Free
“Breaking the mold” is an idiom that means to stop doing something the way it’s always been done. Molds take a long time to make and a longer time to break.  My heart was molded to believe it was not worthy of love at a very young age, and it conformed to the limits of that mold for fifty-six years. It took a lot to break the grip that mold had on my heart, but God knew my heart and knew exactly how to go about breaking the mold without breaking my heart.

Labor Day has always been a turning point for me. I left my marriage of twenty-nine years on Labor Day 2002, and the holiday marked the beginning of a new school year for eighteen years of my life. It is fitting that God chose this weekend to show me that His Son’s precious love is the only thing powerful enough to break the mold holding my heart captive.

The changes this month have been hard on my heart. God knew it was time to break free of the mold on my heart, but I wasn’t prepared for the pain. He began chipping away at that mold the week mama died. He could have broken my heart’s mold with a single blow, but He knew that would damage my heart beyond repair. Instead, He shocked it awake and took it on a five-year journey that would let His Son’s precious love do what only it can.

Hindsight is crystal clear, so I see God’s plan now even though it made no sense to me at the time. He allowed me to experience love He knew would break the mold that encased my heart and free me to be who He created me to be. The breaking was more painful than anything I’ve ever known. I was as empty and exposed as I’ve ever been, but there was a beautiful difference this time. Fear was not part of the pain. For the first time, I wasn’t afraid. That was due, in part, to being numb and not caring what happened, but a bigger part was trusting God in a way I never had before. I had no choice, and that is usually when I listen and trust Him most.

Christ’s precious love grows quickly when given space, and that was the message God had for me this morning as I saw the roots of His love reaching down into the depths of my soul and the beautiful branches reaching up and out in a way that made me forget all about the broken mold out of which it was growing. I wish I had an image that captured His this morning, but I don’t. The little tree breaking through the concrete is where my heart is now, but I know with the Holy Spirit’s help, His love will be reaching down and out and up as the tree below.

Reaching out up and down

Thank You God for breaking my brokenness and opening my heart as only You can.

A Different Darkness

I love sleeping at my sister Linda’s house. I sleep ten hours and wake feeling great every time I visit. Many factors work together to create an environment perfect for sleeping, and my sister’s unconditional love is the biggest one. Another factor that intrigues me is the darkness. The room is void of light when the blinds are closed, and that is exactly what my body and mind need for a great night’s rest. Research shows I need lots of light during the day and darkness at night if I hope to achieve healthy melatonin levels and a circadian rhythm conducive to rest.

When my journey leads to a new path, I find myself in darkness. Fear normally comes as I leave my comfort zone. It’s like entering a tunnel with no end in sight. My heart underwent a big change a few weeks ago, and the path lead to unbearable darkness. I’ve never felt more alone or afraid in my life; I pleaded with God to find another way. He reminded me that He would never leave me alone and knew what was best for my heart.

God’s timing is always perfect, so I wasn’t surprised when the new path came as I was preparing to visit two of my sisters. God knows their love helps me find my balance. No one knows me like my sisters, and no one loves me the way they do. Their love is always great medicine for my body, soul, spirit, and heart. God also knows how much I love Topsail Island and how it affects my heart, so He made sure the weather was picture perfect the entire week I was there with my youngest sister Edie. The rhythm of the water rocked peace into my soul, and my sister loved me in a way that restored and renewed my heart.

I stopped at Linda’s house on the way to Topsail Island and again on the way home. God used the dark nights at Linda’s and the sunny shores at Edie’s to teach an important lesson. Darkness is different when fear is gone. Perfect love casts out fear, and that was so true during the ten days I spent with my sisters and God. I’ve come to the end of paths before, but I’ve never had the peace I had this time. My heart hurt, and I cried a lot of tears during those dark nights; but there was joy each morning, and I never once felt alone. As Lillyann would say, “God is always with us. Right Gigi?”

Right indeed little Lilly! God is always with us, and He knows exactly what we need. New paths are hard to start, but knowing God is there gives my heart the courage to move in a new direction. Living and loving will always require my heart to leave the familiar, but the darkness of a new path need not be fearful. My heart hasn’t adjusted completely to the new lighting, but its focus is upon the One who knows the way and assures me that I do not have to worry about what’s ahead. I only need to know Who I’m following. Christ’s precious love is a beautiful light in a dark tunnel, and it always will be. Sharing it with others makes the light even brighter, and that causes fear to flee and hope to surround in a way that changes the way I love.