Importance is Relative:)

When I read Mark 9:30-37, I think of how the disciples mirrored what the world so wants to know. How important am I? We all want an answer to that question from God, our loved ones, our employers, and our friends. The disciples argued about just that:

(The Message Eugene Peterson) Leaving there, they went through Galilee. He didn’t want anyone to know their whereabouts, for he wanted to teach his disciples. He told them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed to some people who want nothing to do with God. They will murder him. Three days after his murder, he will rise, alive.” They didn’t know what he was talking about, but were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was safe at home, he asked them, “What were you discussing on the road? The silence was deafening—they had been arguing with one another over who among them was greatest.He sat down and summoned the Twelve. “So you want first place? Then take the last place. Be the servant of all.”He put a child in the middle of the room. Then, cradling the little one in his arms, he said, “Whoever embraces one of these children as I do embraces me, and far more than me—God who sent me.”

I love the way Jesus teaches. He first asks a question for which He has an answer. Confession is necessary to clear the heart and mind so He can begin. That’s true for the disciples and for me. I understand that deafening silence all too well; it is the beautiful open space God gives for growth. It seems like an abyss when I’m not ready to admit any wrongdoing or wrong thinking. Space is freeing, but only when truth is allowed free reign.

Jesus never answers my questions with a simple yes or no. Like the one He gives His disciples, answers are designed to make me come to knowledge. He doesn’t impart; He saves that for those who know it all and stand in judgment of others. He doesn’t work that way, and it bothers those who want easy answers and quick punishment. Christ is clear in His answer and gives food for thought, as always with Him.

Being first is still important, and it tears at the heart of God’s work. Divisions limit God and His work. Who gets to be the leader? Who will be in charge? Who will make the decisions? The answer to all those questions is obviously God, but man has the need to define and create a hierarchy when it comes to serving Him. Such a shame in that it causes His work to take a back burner to our plans. I wish the body of Christ looked more like Him, and it would be wonderful if we were more concerned with following than leading.

With the election coming near, division has reared its ugly head and is tearing our country apart. It’s hard not to get caught up in the anger this year. I’m used to the mudslinging that goes on, but this election goes well beyond the mud and is cutting right to the heart of this country. It breaks my heart, but it has taught a wonderful lesson as I’ve found myself floundering and falling right into the fray at times. I am reminded of the answer Jesus gave a group of followers falling into the same trap.  He isn’t like the world, and I need to remember that. He isn’t running for office or sanctioning either candidate. He is bidding me to be last and to embrace the little ones who have the right answers until the adults teach the wrong ones.  There’s a lot of bad teaching going on right now as those little ones mimic and mirror what they see before them. God forgive us all for that!

Stop and Ask For Directions

Yesterday would have been my fortieth wedding anniversary if I hadn’t found the courage to leave. I needed courage to admit I was wrong and accept that God never has, and never will, sanction marriages that are not of His doing. Before I went through the ceremony forty years ago, I knew with all my heart that it wasn’t what God wanted. It wasn’t what I wanted either, but I believed it was something I had to do. Two wrongs never made a right, but I thought God expected me to correct my mistake. Marriage seemed the logical way for me to do that and maintain my pride at the same time. I know how silly that sounds now, thank goodness. I didn’t listen to God and went with my plans rather than admit I was wrong, swallow my pride, accept God’s forgiveness, and move forward.

I thank God for giving me a beautiful son and cannot imagine life without him. God brings beauty and love out of my wrong turns. I am most amazed by that characteristic of my Creator. He knows I am going off in the wrong direction and will not stop me, but He will use the circumstances in my life to continue to teach and draw me near.  The rub is that the lessons change and are always more difficult when I insist on having my way. My problem is not being able to admit I am wrong. Admitting I’m wrong is the point when I veer off the path. Like those who stubbornly refuse to stop for directions, I pretend I know where I’m going and don’t need help. Repentance is simply knowing I’m heading in the wrong direction and making a turn in the right direction. It took thirty years for me to realize that two wrongs don’t lead to the right path! God wants me on the road and in the field living life and loving Him, myself, and others. As long as I wander in circles waiting for those two wrongs to add up to a right, I will not arrive at the destination God has in mind for me.

I’ve always allowed others to define me rather than looking to God who created me to tell me who I am. The most beautiful way He does that is to first show me Who He is. I have come to know Him as a loving Father, a waiting Groom, and a dear Friend, I see the Trinity as a beautiful Three in One. God wants the best for me, and  that involves becoming one with Him. Staying in a bad relationship limits God. He is all powerful, but He will allow me to limit Him. That is what confounds and frightens me the most about Him. I get to choose whether or not to let Him has His way in my life. He will take my bad choices and redirect my path; GPS will do the same when I get off course. The big difference is that GPS can be inaccurate, but God is always right when it comes to direction.

Until I let go of my pride and let Him lead, I can’t find His way.  I know in my heart that I will get where He wants me to go if I will simply stop doubting and start trusting Him to forgive me for my bad choices and help me start making good ones. He said He will direct my path if I will only acknowledge Him in all things, and I believe Him. The key to being on the right path is to stop making wrong turns and stop to ask God for directions:)

The Right Gift

Mylah’s first birthday is Sunday, so I was shopping for her gifts yesterday. Gifts are important, and I don’t take them lightly when they are given to me or when I give them. Those I know well know what delights me, and I know the same about them. I don’t always know ahead of time, but I know the right gift when I see it. Along with a willingness to search, I must be mindful when God puts the right gift into my path.

Gifts which involve giving yourself are the very best ones. When I was just beginning my journey and had very little money, I would give coupons to friends that could be redeemed for house cleaning, cakes, babysitting, or some other act of love. Acts of love are the always the right gift. I loved fulfilling the promises on those coupons as they were redeemed, so the gift gave back to me. Now that I have more resources, I buy gifts and sometimes give cash. I go backwards in regard to gift giving when I trade time for money. Time is always the right gift and something we have far too little of when it comes to those we love. No gift is greater than time.

My most cherished gifts are those made with love. I still have the sweet Mother’s Day gifts Tyler made for me when he was young. The little clothes pin butterfly and popsicle stick heart are on my refrigerator to remind me each day that the love that went into them is still in them now. I treasure them and would grab them should a disaster cause me to have to evacuate. The perfect gift usually surprises me when I find it as much as it surprises the one who receives it. Those are the ones I let God pick out. I’m still surprised when a gift He selects is just the right one. I know He knows what He’s doing, but I love that it still delights me each time He reminds me. I believe it also delights Him:)

I hope Mylah likes the gifts I found for her. I can’t tell you what they are because that would ruin the surprise. Actually, she wouldn’t find out or even know the difference, but I still want her to be the first one to see them. The beauty of babies is that they love whatever you give them. I could put something I’ve already given her in a box, and she would squeal with delight when she opened it:) I could put nothing in a box, and she would delight in opening it. I love that about children; the older I get, the more I’m getting to be like them. In fact, my memory is such that you could actually wrap up something I already have, and it truly would be a surprise! One of the joys of growing older:)

Giving something that you’ve already given reminds me of a special Christmas when I did just that for Tyler. He was away for his first year of college, so money was tight. I got some new things for him, but I really didn’t have the resources to get much other than the necessities. It seemed sad that he wasn’t going to have a fun present, so I decided to go to the attic and get all his favorite toys out of hiding. As I cleaned GI Joe sets and Ninja Turtles, I smiled and thought of all the fun he and his friends had with them. The remote control car needed charging before I could run it around the house, so I charged the battery and polished it up. The toys kept coming, and I enjoyed each building set and action figure as they reminded me of different legs of the beautiful journey he and I share. Ernie and Freddie Bear took me back to the beginning of his sweet life, and I cried tears of joy as I thought of Ernie waiting for him when he came home for the first time, and Freddie Bear arriving on his first Christmas in Hickory. I was also reminded of the beautiful gift God gave me when Tyler came into my life. Watching Tyler play with all his old toys was the best gift that year and avoiding that remote control car was icing on the cake!

Lillyann and Mylah still play with Ernie, Bambi, Lion, and Freddie Bear; and I use Tyler’s little blankets and pillow with them. Lillyann knows to be very careful with those special toys and loves to hear how daddy loved them. The right gift is the one that is still around decades after it is given. What makes it the right gift is the fact that love not only went into it but also stayed in it. I have to admit that I still go get Ernie, Freddie Bear or a little blanket when I need a hug. I also sometimes sleep with mama’s prayer shawl, a sweet gift my sister gave me after mama died. I cherish the love it represents, and it comforts me in a special way when I wrap it around me.

My home would never be on a design show because my decor consists of gifts that are special to me. They may not match or fit a certain theme, but as I see them all around me, I feel the love they represent and find comfort in each. Experts would surely rid the rooms of all those precious gifts if I gave them license to do so and would even consider them clutter. I know better and plan to leave them just where they are because they reflect my heart and bring love and joy into my home.  I hope little Mylah enjoys her gifts, but I hope more that she feels the love that went into them.

I can’t think of gifts without acknowledging the most perfect gift ever, and that is the love Christ brought down on the very first Christmas. He laid down His life in the single greatest act of love ever, and He did it just for me. God’s love, Christ’s grace, and the Holy Spirit’s peace are gifts I cherish more than all others combined. They are gifts that are unique in that once you truly get them, you cannot help but give them away. The more you give them away, the more you have them. They also last forever and can never be snatched away. Now, if that isn’t the perfect gift, I don’t know what is:)

A Changed Heart

Repentance turns my heart in God’s direction. Metanoia does the same for my mind and is the first step in letting God change my heart. Metanoia isn’t possible without God any more than a clean heart is. I have tried to find my way to the change God has in mind for me but have been frustrated by my inability to get where only He can take me. I shouldn’t be surprised that it took so long to come to a place of peace because I’ve taken the long way around my entire life.

When I took Lillyann home yesterday, Gina had given Matza and Cookie a bath and cleaned the house.  Matza is a short and very stocky English Bulldog, and Cookie is a long and very lean English Pointer. They are as different looking as any two dogs can be, but they are kindred spirits and best friends. I had to smile as I looked at the cute odd couple that fill their home with love and laughter and have won my heart as well. I told Gina how wonderful they and the house looked and laughed as I added for a few minutes anyway:)  Houses, children, and dogs get very dirty very quickly.  All require constant attention and cleaning. I know that about houses, children, and dogs but God reminded me today that the same principle applies to my heart and mind.

As Rita and I hiked in the downpour this morning, the sweet rain soaked me and cleansed beautifully. There is nothing that compares to rainwater for the skin and the hair, and mama told me that she and her sisters would collect it a large barrel to use for washing their hair. We decided to laugh and enjoy the shower, and it felt amazing. There is a sweet fragrance that follows the rain, and Rita noticed it as the sun came out and we were finishing our walk. A favorite song of mine compares that fragrance to the name of Jesus, and I couldn’t agree more.  His presence was obvious as we walked this morning. I felt Him in the sunshine, rain, and the sweet fragrance after the rain. His love cleanses and clears my heart to bring about the changes He desires.  Like the downpour this morning, there is sometimes no where to go and no place to hide. I’ve had that feeling this week as God has bid me to write. I’m glad I went with His flow, which has felt a lot like that downpour this morning.

God brought my heart into the open, and His living water washed like that cleansing rain. Both were just what I needed, just when I needed them.  I love that about Him:) The field cannot bear fruit without a little rain, and neither can my heart. I’m soaked, and it feels great!

This message What’s In Your Heart from last week touched my heart and was, like the rain, just what I needed, just when I needed it.  It helped me let God have His way with my heart this week, and I’m so very thankful I did. I pray it blesses you as much as it continues to bless me as I allow God to cleanse and change my heart as only He can.

Left Alone

God takes my weakness and turns it into strength if I trust Him to do what He does best-the impossible! My greatest weakness has always been my need for approval. As long as I can remember, I’ve tried to make up for the fact that daddy was disappointed in me. My life revolved around my need to be loved, and I tried to please others rather than God. That took a toll on my heart, my body, and my spirit; it kept me from receiving what God haa in mind, and left me alone.   

If I were to write the story of my love life, it would be called Left Alone. In focusing upon pleasing and gaining approval, I’ve given my heart to those who won’t, don’t, or can’t love me the way my heart and God desire. I’ve never loved as God desires because my heart hasn’t been where it needed to be. Loving Christ was a right choice in my love life, but I turned from His love for a long time because I knew He didn’t approve of the mess I had gotten my heart into.

As long as I focus on doing everything for everyone else, I don’t have to face my own weaknesses. It’s easier to be a suffering saint than let God deal with my demons because I have to admit I have them before I can ask Him to help me get rid of them. I have to be humbled, and God will take it from there. The problem is the humbling that allows me to face them and Him. 

My choices in regard to love have been about avoiding rejection. If someone will not, does not, or cannot love me, I don’t have to worry about losing them because I never really have them.  It is far easier to just fix and help because loving involves hurting. That’s something I learned early in life, but God has brought me to a place of healing. I’ve learned that while love does involves hurting deeply, the joy it brings is well worth the risk. God will show me the love He has in mind if I keep my eyes and heart on Him and follow His Son’s beautiful example. 

It is far easier to please people than to sincerely and purposefully love them. It is so simple to let fear keep me from risking rejection or worry make me wonder about the response or the lack of it that comes when I open my heart. I’ve looked for love and acceptance in many places and even seen them as the same thing at times. Love accepts me the way I am and doesn’t expect anything of me except to share a loving presence. I can do just that if I trust God to know what He is doing when it comes to love. I know that makes Him smile and say “Trust me. I know what I’m doing. I am love after all.”

Finding Balance

Mylah taught a lesson in balance as she tried desperately to keep up with her big sister Lillyann. I was keeping them both while Gina was in class, and we were playing animal hospital. I explained to Lillyann that we all had to play together so she decided that Mylah would be the cook, and she would be the doctor. Lillyann had her beanie baby animals spread out on the floor.  They had little blankets on them, and she was tending to their wounds.  She removed ticks, fixed cuts, bandaged broken wings, and much more to the little bat, blue jay, tiger, and puppies.  She worked intently,  as I helped Mylah in their little kitchen.  Mylah handed off cups, plates, and little plastic food as Lillyann rushed in to get them for her patients.  Lillyann’s pace was rapid! Mylah barely got one item in Lillyann’s hand before she was back for another. It took both of us to keep up with the demand for food!

As I watched Mylah in the little kitchen, I thought of mama in her kitchen focused upon the task at hand and unaware of what was going on around her. When Mary Sue was in her kitchen, she was on a mission and lost in a world of her own. It warmed my heart and made me smile to see the girls playing together. Mylah wasn’t to the point of letting go and trusting her balance completely when it came to walking on her own. Her walking was sporadic, but in the little kitchen with Lilly running in and out, she had to let go because she needed both hands to keep up with her big sister. I loved watching her find and keep her balance in all the commotion. I realized balance is also easier for me when I focus upon doing for others instead of worrying about whether or not I might fall♥

Mylah scurried around little play kitchen and handed off plates, cups and bowls to Lillyann with the intensity of a missionary.  What a blessing it is to work together.  As we share the work, Jesus lightens the load. Mylah was delighted and almost fell as she bounced up and down with joy while working away. She had no idea what she was doing, but she knew she was part of something very important. She loved playing with her big sister and keeping up! That’s the attitude God needs for me to have. I don’t have to understand what He asks me to do, I  just need to enjoy doing what He calls me to do and keep up with the enthusiasm I saw in sweet little Mylah. When I focus upon God and think about others, I connect beautifully and find God in myself and others. Mylah and Lillyann were doing just that, and it warmed my heart just as it warms God’s when He sees me doing the same.