There’s something about a sunrise
That humbles my heart
and reminds me God’s been watching
From the very start.
Learning Along the Way
There’s something about a sunrise
That humbles my heart
and reminds me God’s been watching
From the very start.
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 🙂
When Jesus told Simon and Andrew He would make them fishers of men, I wonder what was going through their minds. I may not know what they were thinking, but I do know what they did. They dropped their nets and followed Him.
Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men. Mark 1:14-20 (NLT)
Simon, Andrew, James, and John were going about their normal work routines when Jesus asked them to trust Him. The fishermen followed without flinching. When I read these verses, I envy their faith. Unlike them, I want to know the plan and see the map before I drop my net and leave my boat.
Years ago, I came into work to find a banged up old fishing boat sitting inside the building. I taught middle school, so I was accustomed to seeing strange things in the hallway; but this was a first. The boat was a prop for my principal’s newest motto, “Get in the boat!” As his campaign unfolded, we did our best to hide insubordinate grins and pretend to be as serious as he was about his newest epiphany. I’m afraid we weren’t successful and neither were the students. The boat disappeared along with the principal’s buoyant mood.
I thought about that silly boat when I visited the middle school yesterday. I also thought about Christ asking those dedicated men to get out of their boats and follow Him. Change isn’t easy for middle schoolers, and it’s even more difficult for professional fishermen. My principal had good intentions when he put a boat in the hallway. He knew change was necessary for growth, and it took a lot of effort to get that boat through the front door. The middle schoolers didn’t get with his program because they knew it was designed to control them. If you know anything about middle school students, you know they don’t like being controlled.
Christ’s invitation involved a complete change of life for the men who stepped away from their boats and followed Him. He knew the work they would be doing could not be part time. They knew, when they followed Him, life as they knew it would be gone. The same is true for me when I choose to follow Jesus. Life, as I know it, has to go before I can live the life He desires.
Jesus didn’t ask His disciples to get with the program or get in the boat. He asked them to come away from the world they knew and trust Him to show them a new way of living. I wonder how those fishermen would have reacted if Jesus had brought an old fishing boat inside the building and asked them to get into it. I believe they would have gotten right in because they knew He knew what He was doing. They were willing to follow Him no matter where He led because what, where, when, and how didn’t matter anymore. They were only concerned with Who.
God used the image of an invisible fence to help my heart get where He knew it needed to be. Assertive pups quickly learn that the shock of the fence is temporary and well worth the freedom that lies beyond that invisible line drawn in the lawn. Other dogs find contentment in their confinement and learn to live within the space given. I was like the latter until last week when I finally found the courage, or maybe the faith, to cross lines I’ve allowed to confine and define my heart all my life. I learned that pleasing others is not the same as loving them, and that beautiful lesson freed my heart in a wonderful way.
God doesn’t want me to please Him or others, and He certainly didn’t create me to be a happiness slot machine. He created me out of love and simply wants me to love Him, myself, and others. The invisible fence wasn’t His; it was one I installed early in my life in order to keep my heart safe. Boundaries are important in life. They keep me from straying into unknown territory and help me know who and where I am, but the heart is not designed for any kind of fence.
God’s love knows no boundaries, and He expects my love to be like His. I crossed lines last week that I’ve never dared to cross before, and I have to say it felt great. I stood up for what I believed and for those I love. I felt an immediate sense of freedom after an initial shock of leaving the known and heading into territory I’d always considered too dangerous for me.
At the heart of loving and being loved as God desires is a willingness to know and be known in ways that shock my heart. As I ate and talked with a new friend yesterday, she expressed her reluctance to allow herself to get to know someone too deeply and her struggle with allowing others to know her deeply. I knew exactly what she was feeling because I had been there myself.
I allowed myself to be deeply known decades ago and again a few years ago. Both friends changed me in a beautiful way. I’m blessed to have three sisters who know and love me deeply and friends who do the same. Their love encourages me to continue to reach out and to be who I am. That level of love enabled me to take a flying leap at that electric fence and head out into the world in a way that is sure to make a difference in my heart and in the hearts of those I love.
God placed Colossians 2:6-8 in my path this morning. As I read these verses in another blog and looked at the snow outside, I thought about the difference between captivated and captured.
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” NASB
I am captivated by the beauty of the snow this morning, but I feel captured by the freezing temperatures and the ice-covered roads. Children don’t think about temperatures or roads when they look out at the snow. They trust their parents to take care of them. They only see a winter wonderland, and their thoughts are about snowmen and sledding. Being captivated is a beautiful feeling; it’s what Christ’s precious love does when it is firmly rooted in my heart. Like a child, I have faith in my Father’s love.
The principles of the world capture my heart and mind in a different way, but Christ turns those principles upside down with principles based upon love and grace that made, and still make, no sense to pragmatic or lust-filled folks who say it’s a nice idea, but it just won’t work in the real world.
What is the real world anyway? Are the elementary principles of the world right, or did God change the world with Christ’s precious love? The answer depends upon whether or not I’m changed by His love. If I walk in Him and remember that I am firmly rooted and built upon Him, my faith will overflow with gratitude. That kind of gratitude changes the world. If my faith has the attitude that I’m being punished or that others should be punished, the world sees fear. If my faith depends upon or promises prosperity, the world sees lust. There are many in the market to be held captive by either principle. Captivity is the safest place to be because I don’t have to worry once I choose my cage. I can shout my happy song, squawk my rhetoric, or sing my sad suffering all day long and never experience the freedom of Christ’s love.
If I seek the truth and embrace Christ’s love, I’ll be captivated. That makes a big difference in the way I live and love in this world. Gratitude is the key. Gratitude that comes from being firmly rooted and built in Christ isn’t bragging about all I have. It’s a much deeper gratitude not dependent upon circumstances. It can only come when my heart experiences the captivation of Christ precious love. Lust holds the heart captive and is the root of all addiction. Practicality and pragmatism hold my mind captive and is the root of all doubt. Faith sets me free and is the at the root of my love for Christ. It opens doors and sets my heart free to love as God desires.
Past hurts and future worries invade my present peace if I allow them to take up space in my heart. I do wish I could stay in the present moment more and enjoy God’s presence more fully. I suppose it is human nature to forget that God’s presence is about allowing His Holy Spirit to control each moment. It’s not easy to simply be, but I’m doing a better job in that regard. I’m not holding fast to my plans and my wants, and I’m trying to live and love in each moment. Praying centers, but I have to make sure my time with God is more about being with Him than rehashing the past and rehearsing the future.
It’s been a week filled with time, and that has led to slipping into the past and fretting about the future. I caught myself feeling sorry for myself and decided to redirect and do something for someone else. It’s the surest way to truly stay in the present and forget my worries and regrets. Listening to the rain also brings me to the present in a beautiful way, and I’ve certainly had lots of time to do that this week! I love the sweet peace rain brings, and I love the sleep that comes during a downpour. I’m not sure why I sleep so well when it’s raining, but I love the feeling I get from the deep, replenishing rest that comes during a night of rain.
Healing peace is not only attainable, it gets easier as I learn to focus upon God and what He places in my path each moment. His work is never tedious, and I loose track of time when I listen to and obey Him. Healing and peace go together perfectly, and I’m sure there is research out there to connect the two. In Mark 5:34, Jesus makes a beautiful connection. “And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” NASB
I know from personal experience, that Jesus brings peace, and peace brings healing. When I rehash and rehearse, I loose peace. When I rest in God and have faith that He is Who He says He is, I find the sweet peace that heals. My heart hasn’t been as whole as it is now ever in my life, and I thank God for bringing me to this place of healing. It isn’t about happiness as much as it is about joy and holiness. Living in God’s Spirit allows me to live out Christ’s precious love in each moment, and that heals my heart, settles my soul, and brings me nearer to God.
Galatians 2:20-21 tells me, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
A Spirit-filled life is a life of faith lived out in the flesh, and Romans 10:17 reminds me, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” God’s Word fills my faith and tempers my flesh as it reminds me of Christ’s righteousness. When I see God’s Word as a set of rules for righteousness or try to live out the law instead of loving out my faith, I miss the life God has for me. The law is a guide and a reminder that Jesus did fulfill that which I cannot do on my own. As Paul says, “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” I’m learning to gauge all in my life by looking at how it relates to Christ’s gift of love. Leaning on the law, dismisses His gift. Floundering in the flesh does the same. The Holy Spirit allows me to live out my faith in a way that blesses Him and teaches me.
If I think I can be good enough, I nullify God’s grace. If I think His grace gives me the license to do whatever I want, I nullify God’s grace. If I believe Christ is the Son of God and understand that His love comes to me through God’s grace, then flesh and faith can work together. The problem comes if I try to live out my faith on my own or think I can control my flesh. Forgetting His Spirit is breathing without lungs. If I try to live by faith without the Holy Spirit, I end up worn, weary, and out of breath as I get caught up in the process of being good and forget the purpose of Christ’s coming. Paul knew, and I’m learning, that faith is hearing, understanding, and living out Christ’s words with the help of His Spirit.
Christ promises to be with us always in Matthew 27:17-20, “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Christ’s commission includes a precious promise that assures me I can live by faith if I will take His words to heart with the help of His Holy Spirit. God’s sweet message this week has been that I am not alone. He is always with me through His Holy Spirit, and I can live the life He has in mind if I stop trying to do what His Son has already done. I’ve never felt as alive as I have this week as God has given me a taste of living the life He has in mind. Faith forces flesh to relax and allows me to breathe in a way that changes everything:)
The fog today was as thick as any I’ve ever seen. I missed seeing the beautiful mountains in the distance, but there is a soft lesson hidden in the white mist that touched my heart. It reminded me that faith is believing without seeing, and that was a lesson I needed today. I like knowing what’s ahead when it comes to finding my way, and that’s exactly what God is trying to get me to change. Not being able to see ahead is unnerving, and uncertainty about where He is leading is even worse. The praying life is about love, but it also requires a level of faith I do not yet have. I suppose that’s the point of the lessons:)
I don’t know if it’s human nature or just me, but I say I trust and then offer a list of questions up to God in an effort to find out what’s coming. Even with all those lessons in love about being present and staying in the moment, I still find myself with one foot in the future. The world says to get a foot in the door, but God says to keep both feet in the present and leave the future to Him. Perhaps one day I’ll learn to do that without having to be reminded.
Lillyann is like me when it comes to wondering and worrying about what’s coming, and I love that about her. If I ever get weary with her worrying, I just remember that I am the same way with God. He is patient and loving, and I ask Him to help me be the same. Lillyann is surrounded by those who love and care for her, and I thank God the love He placed in each of their lives and in mine. Knowing you’re loved is at the heart of faith, and God’s love is the most powerful force on earth and in heaven. How can I not have faith when I know who He is and how He loves.
Fog is part of living in the mountains, and I love watching it settle in the valleys. When it comes too close to home, I don’t like it. Today was a vivid reminder to have faith in Him when I can’t see or don’t understand what’s next on the path. The fog is lifting, and the temperature is dropping. I see the mountains, and I see the beautiful white fluffy snow clouds coming from the west. The girls are excited, and so am I:) The beauty of a spring snow is that you know warmer temperatures are just around the corner. Looking forward to the snow and also the sixties this weekend.
My faith is getting stronger, but I have a long way to go. The girls don’t worry about whether or not mommy and daddy will take care of them. They play happily as all children should. They have reminded me today to do the same when it comes to my Father:)
Courage is “the quality of being brave: the ability to face danger, difficulty, uncertainty, or pain without being overcome by fear or being deflected from a chosen course of action.” I’m finding that prayer takes a lot of courage as I let go of the known and trust God. Facing all life brings and all God asks without fear takes courage. Praying not only takes courage, it also gives me courage. It’s a blessing to have wonderful friends who encourage and pray for me; I am very blessed when it comes to friends and family, and I thank God for surrounding me with so much love. Love makes fear flee and gives me courage. Courage and encouragement are derived from the Latin root for heart. I’ve learned that my courage has to come from God’s love. As I share His love with others, we are both encouraged.
God is calling me way out of my comfort zone. He does that when He wants me to get out of His way so He can do His work through me. I don’t understand all He has in mind, but I do know that He is calling me to leave the known and trust Him in the unknown. It’s what faith is all about, and I’m learning to be still and remember that He is God and knows what He’s doing. Once I stopped wrestling and arguing with Him, I found the sweetest peace I’ve ever known.
It’s difficult to explain to others what I don’t understand myself, but those who know and love me don’t need an explanation. I love that about connectedness; it doesn’t require words, just love. I’ve studied God’s Word for many years now, and that study has been intense during the past four and half years. God is bidding me to step out and serve those who are disconnected from Him and from society. He is using disconnection to teach me powerful lessons that I must learn before I can do what He’s asking me to do. His ways are higher than mine, and sometimes they go right over my head. That’s when faith becomes even more important. Painful is an understatement when it comes to making the changes He’s asking me to make, and uncomfortable doesn’t begin to describe my angst. He has given me peace, and that gives me the courage to keep praying.
Living a praying life means more than praying more fervently or more often. It means having the courage to ask God to be honest, hearing His call, and answering it when I don’t have a clue where it will lead me. It also means dealing with those who don’t understand. Thanks be to God that it means feeling His sweet presence as never before and finding that those who love me dearly encourage me to keep listening. One friend said it sweetly, “I trust God, and I trust you.” That spurs me on and lifts my spirit when those who need concrete answers pull me down. When it comes to the praying life, nothing is set in stone. That makes some very nervous as they worry I’ll drift too far away. It makes others happy that I’ve pulled up my anchor and given God the wheel:)
I get very frustrated when I cannot have something I want. I’ve had a week of wanting that left me crying out to God. I am grateful for His patience and deep love that allows me to cry out honestly and freely. As I said before, I needed the children’s story this week:)
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 brought sweet comfort this morning just when I needed it. God always has just what I need, but I’m usually too busy trying to convince Him to go with my way to notice.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
I am and shall be eternally grateful for God’s love and for the love He has placed in my path. Love changes everything and is the greatest gift on earth. Separation brings a level of suffering unknown by those who refuse to open their hearts in honest communion and love. That suffering reminds me of my humanity, humbles as nothing else, and gives a small taste of what hell is like.
Trusting God should be simple. He is God after all and knows what He is doing. The problem is never trusting God; it is wanting what I want when I want it and wanting Him to understand that. He not only understands, He also suffers with me. He knows what is best for me and knows the joy that comes when I do His will.
Two years ago, God called me to a life of prayer. Rather than celebrating and embracing the call, I continued to ask, “What else?” Prayer didn’t seem like much of a call to me. I wanted some thing to do. I admit that with humility and embarrassment. God patiently let me wander around with my ‘You have more for me to do, but until then, I will pray’ attitude.
This weekend, I repented my dismissal of His call and embraced it as I should have two years ago. God loves me and knew I would eventually come around to His way of thinking. The prayer retreat this past weekend reminded me that praying is not an aside. It is the work to which I have been called. I asked God to forgive my dragging feet and guide me to pray as He desires.
I learned a lot during my “until then, pray” stage, and I’m very thankful God uses all things for His good. I am called according to His purpose and love Him dearly, and I am ready to have the praying life His Son so beautifully modeled for me. I nudged a little closer to His precious side this weekend, and the frustration in not getting my way was an important part of the lessons in love He had for me.
I’ve looked at praying as something to do until something more important comes along, but I’m learning it is a way of living that comes as naturally as breathing when I let love lead the way. It is a call I plan to answer humbly and gratefully.