Still Ready

To be ready to do God’s will, my heart must be still. The human heart is never physically still, and the healthy heart will beat anywhere from 40 to 100 beats per minute depending upon age, size, condition and activity levels.  It is the strongest and most important muscle in my body. The stillness God requires isn’t about motion or muscle; it’s about focus and love.

Worry is the biggest obstacle when it comes to my heart being still. The Greek word translated as ‘worry’ in Matthew 6:25-33 means “split attention or divided concern.” That makes perfect sense when I think about my own tendency to worry. If I think about God and truly believe He is who He says He is, then my attention is no longer split. If I pray “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done” with my whole heart, my concern is no longer divided. When I read the beautifully reassuring words from Matthew, my worry turns to stillness as faith replaces fear.

 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”NASB

What other words do I need? I am learning to read God’s Word with a stillness that centers my focus and so centers my heart and life. The stillness lasts as long as my focus:) I’m doing better in many ways, but I have a long way to go before I stay still. Perhaps that will only come when I am in heaven. When I experience the sweet stillness that comes when my focus is completely upon God, I get a tiny taste of what is to come. It’s more than enough to make me want more!

The world is great at grabbing my attention and taking it away from the sweet center Christ provides, and my concern is easily divided when I fall into the trap of listening to voices other than God’s. Knowing I can do nothing without Him and everything with Him reminds me to keep my focus upon Him and seek His kingdom and righteousness first, last, and always with a single-heartedness that will help me be still and know He is God. It also helps me to eagerly await His return in a way that helps His kingdom come and His will be done. That’s what walking in God’s kingdom is all about:)

Rest in Peace

God’s healing brought a new rest to my heart, unfamiliar in that restlessness is absent. He left my heart as sore as it has ever been, but it isn’t broken or aching any more. The soreness, like the rest is a new sensation that causes me to pause as I notice the absence of aching. I’m not sure how long this soreness will last, but I pray the rest will never leave. There is nothing better for the body, soul, mind, and spirit than rest. I believe it is the stillness in Psalm 46:10. I’ve tried to find that sweet stillness but have been frustrated by its fleeting nature as I have caught a moment but been unable to hold it.

This rest is more than a moment; it is a state of being unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I struggled last week as God worked out the hurt buried deep in my heart. The exhaustion of the week along with facing the choices I have made in regard to my heart one at a time, but all in one week took the last bit of stubbornness and the need to retaliate right out of me. I was as depleted as ever on Thursday evening after aerobics, and I was ready to find a secluded spot and hide away. The beauty of God’s timing is that He placed that facing in a week filled with reminders of one beautiful choice I have made when it comes to love.

My son Tyler is an amazing man, and I love him more than life itself. When he puts his arms around me and tells me he loves me, my heart is never better. God knew I would need his sweet presence as I went through the ‘surgery’ He had planned for my heart. He also knew that having those sweet girls would help put my mind and heart right where they belong. Lillyann spent the night with me last night, and I love falling asleep with her next to me. She and Mylah know just how to soothe my heart, and God has made sure they were near me all week. Gina was a beautiful bride in my path this week, and she reminded me of what God wants for me when it comes to love. I haven’t ever seen myself as a bride. God does, and I plan to see myself in His light from now on.

It’s never easy to face my mistakes, but it is especially difficult to be confronted with so many in such a short time. I suppose it’s like the surgeon saying, “while I’m in there, I plan to…..” Well, the Master Surgeon took His two-edged scalpel, and while He was already in my heart, decided to go ahead and take care of all that needed cutting away. The soreness is similar to the feeling I get when I haven’t walked or exercised in while, and I call it good soreness. I welcome it as it reminds me to be mindful and remember that it is easy to fall back into those destructive patterns if I listen to the wrong voices.

The rest since Thursday has been just what my heart needed. My mind and body haven’t minded it either:) True rest is what God promises in Isaiah 26:3, and it is what my heart desires. I love that scripture, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.” That’s the peace and rest that allows me to be still and know that He is not only God, but He knows what He’s doing. Handing over my heart was not easy because it meant giving up my desires and embracing His. When I felt the rest that followed, I knew I had no desire to go back to the old restless aching. Just as walking in His kingdom doesn’t have to wait until I die, neither does resting in peace. I can do both now, and that’s a lesson I loved learning:)

Stillness

Stillness is ever waiting

For me to slow down my pace

To stop and take a moment

And forget about the race.

 

Often I have to be forced

To wait for a circumstance

Or be worn by weariness

To offer stillness a chance.

 

When I do stop to notice

I can hear a raindrop fall

And take in the tenderness

Of the One behind it all.

Between God and Me:)

Love is the only thing that matters when it comes to a wedding. Tyler and Gina’s wedding was a perfect example of that. I almost let all the activities and busyness of the week come between God and me, and I almost let the lesson in love He had for me slip away. I’m glad He persisted, and I’m thankful I finally understood His lesson last night. Weddings have the tendency to be busy, and this one was no exception. In the midst of the madness, God managed to quiet my spirit and touch my heart as never before. The images and lessons were clear, and His message was unmistakeable. All came together in a powerful way, and I found peace-filled relief as I listened to Him.

There comes a time when the only choice is letting go, and that letting go allowed me to draw nearer to God this week. I have a choice when it comes to doing and having what God desires. I can be obedient, or I can make the process more difficult for Him and for me.  I do that by rationalizing, ignoring the obvious, and delaying Him with my persistent questions and need to know. Lillyann helped with that lesson this week:) The lessons were obvious and would have been comical had they not cut so very deeply into my heart.

I was powerfully reminded that the things which get to me most are the ones which touch upon a sensitive spot in my heart. That sensitivity is always about my refusal to learn a lesson or see a truth about myself. If someone particularly angers or irritates, that indicates there is something in them which I refuse to see in myself.

I got myself into a dither over nothing this week and didn’t like what I heard and saw, but I learned the truth God wanted me to see. The truth often hurts, and the pain of recognizing that I share the quality that brings judgment when I see it in others is beyond humbling. It is devastating. God is faithful, so when I was humbled and flat on my face before Him yesterday, He gently led me to a place of understanding. I am thankful that He is faithful to take my humility and use it to teach. Last night as I cleaned, I found healing in a way I cannot describe effectively.

I opened windows as I cleaned, and the air that came through them felt like the Holy Spirit Himself airing me out. I couldn’t get away from that October breeze no matter where I went in the house, and I’m glad. It cleared my heart and my sinuses:) I was as tired as I’ve ever been in my life when I got home after dark, and I had to smile when I realized I was breathing was better. I love it when God does that. I slept like a baby after the physical activity that was such a blessing to me. Last night was icing on the beautiful cake this week.

Speaking of cake, we never got to the groom’s cake at the wedding. Things were hectic, and it was left unnoticed. If it had been an ordinary cake, I would have tossed it, but it was a heavenly work of art, so I brought it home and put it in the refrigerator. I wanted to save it, so I cut it into pieces to put in the freezer for the kids. I decided to have a piece, and it was amazing! I have never eaten a better chocolate cake in my life!! I can’t wait until Tyler and Gina taste it this evening. I plan to have some waiting for them and know they will enjoy it even more than I did.

Difficult lessons are difficult for a reason. Most lessons God has in mind are not easy, but they are the ones I most need to learn. That late night chocolate was literally a sweet sticker God put on the week to let me know that He noticed that I did something hard and learned something valuable as a result. My students know how I feel about stickers, so they’ll understand just what I mean. Whether it’s one of Lillyann’s little yellow stars on the refrigerator, a smiley sticker in school, or an A on an important entrance exam, it all adds up to the same feeling. I did what I was supposed to do, and in so doing learned a valuable lesson. It’s nice when someone notices, and God never fails to notice because He is God the best teacher ever. Obedience does indeed lead to joy.

Here’s my facebook post this morning and the amazing image that helped me remember that when it comes to a groom and his bride, love is all that matters. The same is true for God and me, and I don’t plan to let anything come between me and my God:)

This beautiful image captures the love between Tyler and Gina. Just as with this wonderful couple, nothing must come between Christ and me. I let the waiting of this world and the scurrying around do that sometimes, but Gina and Tyler taught me that love is all that truly matters when it comes to a wedding. My favorite moment in the wedding was when they expressed that love to one another in the vows they prepared. “I vow to let nothing come between us, God, and our children, and hold this beautiful family under God as my guiding light from now until eternity.” When I heard that, my heart could only say amen and pray the same for all of us. Thank you Aaron for your sweet patient love that captured the image that sums it up so beautifully♥

When it comes to weddings, nothing matters but the love between the bride and groom:)

Heart of Diamonds

Like a diamond, my heart has many facets. God used that image to teach an important lesson yesterday. He has been cutting away at my heart for decades, and sometimes the pain is more than I can bear. Yesterday, He showed me His handiwork on my heart, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. God has always seen what I could not when it comes to my heart. I’ve made many mistakes in regard to love, but God is love and knows what He’s doing when it comes to love and hearts. He continued to cut and polish even when I resisted.  The beauty of a well-cut diamond is that it becomes more beautiful as it is turned and held up to the light. My heart was turned all around yesterday in God’s light, and I saw love, hope, peace, and joy beyond anything I could have imagined on my own.

According to Wikipedia, when it comes to shaping diamonds, “Cut does not refer to shape (pear, oval), but the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond. The cut of a diamond greatly impacts a diamond’s brilliance; this means if it is cut poorly, it will be less luminous.” I understand and appreciate that more after yesterday:)

The scriptures this week are from Hebrews 4:12-16

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

When I’ve read those scriptures, I have always imagined God with His scalpel cutting away at my heart in a loving and skillful manner. That is a beautiful image and one that is accurate given that the Greek word for two-edged sword in the passage is similar to a scalpel. I know the wedding today is all part of the image involving a diamond. In the hands of a master diamond cutter, a rough piece of worthless rock becomes a priceless masterpiece. In the wrong hands, a priceless jewel becomes a pile of useless dust. I’m thankful God knows what He is doing. His love has a precision that the world’s best diamond cutter envies.

God sees beauty where I cannot. He’s been carefully cutting and polishing my heart for sixty years. He placed it in the perfect setting yesterday and bid me to take a look. As He held my heart up for me to see, I saw love all around in the faces of my family, and I also saw Him in the beautiful mountains that I know He made just for me. He was waving and smiling broadly everywhere I went yesterday. I love it when He shows off, and He definitely did that in a big way yesterday. We all love seeing our handiwork and want others to see it too. God is no exception:)

I thought you might think I was exaggerating, so I’m including a photo:) Can you see God in the background? He’s always there, but sometimes I don’t notice. Can you imagine that?

 

Unexpected Gift

Coming face to face with death was not what I expected on my birthday, but God had me do just that. I watched a sweet saint go into God’s presence yesterday afternoon and was awed and humbled as never before in my life. I wasn’t with mama when she died, but even if I had been, it wouldn’t have been the same experience because I was in an altered state and unaware of what was going on around me during that time. Yesterday, I was able to observe calmly and was touched deeply by God’s unexpected gift. It caught me off guard and caused a stillness unlike any other as I held my breath and watched as Edith took her last breath.  She was so like mama, so my heart was immediately carried away in a flood of emotions that took me to my car and followed me home.

Being in the presence of death was a lesson I will not soon forget. Life is a vapor, and ethereal took on new meaning as I shared the room with death. Life is tenuous and a mere blink when compared to the eternity within which we live. That was the lesson as God captured and held my attention tightly in those few frozen moments.

Mama left a hole in my heart when she died. I think of her often but particularly miss her on my birthdays. She always made sure they were very special. She was like a child herself and loved celebrating birthdays. She would sometimes hide my present under the bed so I could open it as soon as I awoke. One year, I got a Barbie doll! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that lean lanky doll in her black and white swimsuit:) I remember birthday cakes and parties and feeling like a princess all day long. I felt very like a princess yesterday morning, but in the hospital room yesterday afternoon, I knew I was a bride.

Edith had waited patiently for Christ to come for her and grown weary in the waiting. I thank God for allowing me to see her wait come to an end. She isn’t anxious any more, and she is in the presence of more love than she or I could ever imagine. As I worked on last minute details for the wedding, I was reminded of the excitement a wedding brings. The bible study yesterday morning also reminded me that I am Christ’s bride. That changes the way I wait. I am to be preparing for His coming just as He is preparing a place for me in His Father’s House. I know He’s doing a much better job than I with those preparations, but I plan to improve on my preparing.

I thank God for the beautiful, unexpected gift of stillness in the presence of His love that touched my heart. Death helped me see life and love in a new light. It’s easy to get weary in the waiting, but knowing that Christ is also waiting eagerly helps me puts everything into perspective. It sometimes seems like a long wait, but if I wait as an expectant bride or a child on Christmas eve, the wait is not a weary one.

The Need to Lead

When I think of leadership, I think of all the workshops and classes I’ve taken over the course of my life. Most had to do with education, but all leadership lessons are the basically the same until you come upon the teachings of Christ who led like no other. His lessons in leadership are still the same, and they still clash with the world’s view of what makes a good leader. The world’s lessons feed those with a need to lead, and I’ve always had that need. I realize that whether I was trying to fix someone or prove something to myself or others, I felt as though I had to lead.

Getting to the bottom of my heart has been a difficult part of my journey. As I’ve gotten there with God’s help and the help of loving friends, I am surprised by what I find. I should have known that the journey to find self wouldn’t be pleasant. Otherwise, Christ would not tell me I have to die to self before I can follow Him. As difficult as it is, finding self does make it easier to do just that.

I have had to redefine myself several times during my life. Each has left me wanting to know exactly who I am. As I posed that question to someone in frustration this week, I realized God was directing the question to me. He has been waiting for me to decide and was all ears. Soul searching is never easy, and the outcome is much the same as that of finding self. The soul is seldom subtle, and when I go delving into it, I come away shocked by what I find.

The good news is that such searching humbles and causes me to pause long enough for God get in a word or two. While dazed, I hear His still, small voice loudly and clearly saying that I need to remember Who He is and who I am. His model for leadership hasn’t changed. Jesus was not, and still is not, your typical leader. He will not be when He returns. He does not measure up by the standards of this world any more now than He did before. He doesn’t have the need to lead, and He didn’t seek out leadership positions or teach seminars on how to be a successful leader. That bothered the leaders of the day and would bother them even more today. His authority comes from God, and that is His bottom line on leadership.

Jesus has a leadership style all His own, and it is the most effective one ever known. He doesn’t set out to lead; He sets out to love. Love was the impetus behind His leadership, and no matter how confounded the Pharisees or the disciples got, they just couldn’t get around His love. His love let those who hated Him have His life, and Satan thought for sure he had won the war when it came to leadership. Christ’s love brought Him back with even more power than He had before, and the war was won once and for all. There is no way to understand the love that put Jesus on the cross and brought Him back; it can only be accepted with the understanding that it cannot be understood. What a leadership strategy! Love, listen, and let go of the need to lead. The secret to successful leadership is knowing Who’s in charge, and it always will be. God doesn’t need any more leaders. Christ has His authority and will always have it. He needs those who will follow His leader humbly without grumbling. Anything else is unacceptable.

Will the world like it? NO! Will it make me popular? NO!  Will it get me elected to positions of power? NO! Will it help me win friends and influence people? maybe:) Will it connect me to the Source of all Love and true power? Definitely!

I know the world will always have hierarchies, and positions of leadership are necessary when it comes to organizations. God’s design is a body, an organism, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to a body. Whole and working together is what God desires. When it comes to God’s kingdom, there’s only one Sovereign, and the position is already filled. We are asked to follow, not lead.  A simple seminar if I ever heard one:)

The Heart of Encouragement

Encouragement is not giving someone courage; it is seeing into the heart of someone you love and helping them see the courage that is already there. It’s what love does when it joins with truth, and there is nothing stronger in this world. That beautiful combination enables me to do what I don’t believe is possible and help those I love do the same♥

The dictionary defines encouragement as “support that inspires confidence: support of a kind that inspires confidence and a will to continue or develop.” The etymology of the word comes from the Old French “to make or put in” and the Latin “heart.” Encouragement comes when someone truly knows my heart and helps me know it better. When love and truth intersect, a sweet balance causes me to find an inner strength that gives me courage. God’s love and Christ’s truth allow the Holy Spirit to breathe life into my heart.

Courage occurs when my heart comes to life. I am revived and ready to move forward. Christ’s power is in His meekness and humility. It is what I find when I get to the center of my heart, and it “inspires confidence and a will to continue or develop” just as the definition states. For the first time in my journey, I have the confidence to go where God desires without worrying about what others may think. That’s very freeing and allows me to let go of my notions of courage and go with His.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: