Ready for Some Rain

Love is a river

Flowing through the desert.

Bringing new life,

Changing everything.

God’s promises spring from deep love. I don’t appreciate His love as I should, and that is particularly true when I find myself wandering in the desert of my own desires. God knows the desert is the perfect environment for transformation because it creates a deep thirst that causes my heart to forget my wants and search for His living water.

Psalm 105:41-42 paints a beautiful picture of that water.

He split open a rock, and water gushed out
    to form a river through the dry wasteland.
For he remembered his sacred promise
    to his servant Abraham. (NLT)

I end up in the desert each time I search for answers I want to hear. God lets me wander in the wasteland because He knows I will find what I always find. Nothing but His love satisfies my heart’s thirst.

I was drenched by a downpour as I watched several baptisms on Sunday afternoon. I decided to walk after the storm passed over and got soaked on my way home by another. I let the rain wash over me before going inside because I was already saturated. I looked up, smiled, and realized God knew my heart was ready for some rain.
Living Water

Precious Thoughts

Psalm 139:13-18 is a beautiful image of creation that leaves me feeling dearly loved. I can imagine God, The Creator, gently knitting and weaving me in my mother’s womb and then carefully recording every moment of my life in His heart. I’m His beloved, and that changes the way I live and love.

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
    They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
    they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
    you are still with me! (NLT)

Knowing God thinks precious thoughts about me is hard to grasp, but Christ and the Holy Spirit help me wrap my head and heart around knowledge that is too wonderful for me to absorb alone. When I look at God’s Word, one thing strikes me throughout its pages. He says over and over again in a thousand different ways that He will never leave me. I know God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient, but I have a hard time believing He thinks precious thoughts about me. My granddaughters help me understand this psalm. I find everything about them to be precious, and thoughts about them fill my life with joy. I love them dearly, but I know God loves me even more.

Most give David credit for this psalm, and I believe it is his work. His love for God stemmed from knowing God’s great love for him. David knew from a very early age that God loved him dearly. Knowing I’m loved so much changes me. Allowing my heart to grow deeply into God’s love frees my heart to be what He knitted it to be 🙂

Dearly Loved
Dearly Loved

Proud Daddy

It is the deep desire of every heart to be dearly loved. Mark 1:10-11 gives me a glimpse of God’s love for His Son. Jesus knew He was dearly loved, and His message for me is so am I.

As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” (NLT)

As a child, I longed to hear those words. Christ provides a way for all of us to hear them. We must, however, be willing to come to a place of repentance and plunge deeply into His precious love. Baptism is a symbol of obedience, and obedience is the sign of true repentance.

Repentance isn’t about punishment. It is about the change that comes when I truly believe I am a dearly loved child of God. I love the way Mark gets that message across in his gospel. Eugene Peterson describes Mark in The Invitation.

“An event has taken place that radically changes the way we look at and experience the world, and he can’t wait to tell us about it. There’s an air of breathless excitement in nearly every sentence he writes. The sooner we get the message, the better off we’ll be, for the message is good, incredibly good; God is here, he’s on our side. Mark says he even calls us ‘family.'” (p. 162)

Each time I read or pray the Lord’s Prayer, I marvel at its opening words. “Our Father” is the way Jesus told us to address God, The Creator. I like pause and let those words sink into my heart. God is my Father, and He dearly loves me. My obedience brings Him joy, and that brings me joy.

I so wanted to be dearly loved by my father. I secretly wished for daddy to be proud of me, but I knew he wasn’t. He constantly belittled me and even called me  “stupid.” He seemed anything but loving or proud, but I came to see him through the lens of Christ’s precious love before he died. I’m so thankful I was able to tell my daddy that I loved him and knew that he loved me.

God loves to hear how much I love Him, but He prefers hearing that I know He loves me. When Jesus came up out of the Jordan River after being baptized by John the Baptist, God was a proud daddy who could not contain His joy. He had to let Jesus and all present know how much He loved Him and how very proud He was of Him.

Baptism marked the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ. God knew where it would lead and so did Christ. God dearly loved His only Son for His willingness to obey unto death, enabling all His children to know they were dearly loved.

I only have one son, but I know he knows he’s dearly loved. There is nothing that delights me more than knowing he loves me. I fixed a plate for his lunch yesterday, and he sent a text thanking me when he sat down to eat it. It’s the kind of thing he always does, and that makes me a very proud mama.

Seeing him love and delight in his daughters is the most beautiful blessing of all. His girls know they are dearly loved, and that legacy of love is all that matters in this world and the next. I thank God for my loving son, and I thank Him for His loving Son whose precious love changes everything.

Tyler & Me at 33

Worth the Effort?

Worth the Effort?I love searching for shells, smooth stones, and sea glass on Topsail Island. I keep my treasures on a wooden tray in my bedroom because the girls love playing with them. Looking at the shore for shells relaxes me as nothing else can. I love cleaning and sorting my stash because I wonder at the beautiful diversity before me. The entire process heals my heart and soothes my spirit.

I had to laugh while Edie and I were out searching. She’s younger and far more agile than I am, so she bends and stands back up easily. She was bending over, finding beautiful shells, and handing them to me at a rapid pace. I found myself watching her rather than the shore. I wasn’t getting my normal stress relief, but I was getting a kick out of her generosity. When I began pointing out shells and telling her to pick them up for me, she cut her eyes at me as only she can; but when she saw my grin, she knew I was messing with her. We both laughed and experienced an even better kind of stress relief.

Combing the beach takes a lot of effort; in fact, there are those who do it for a living. A decision has to be made in regard to each object in the sand. Is it really worth the effort bending over and picking it up with cost me?

God made it clear this week that He loves all His children and bends over backwards to pick up each and every one of them. He starts with the broken ones because they need His love the most, but He never wonders for a moment whether or not they are worth His effort. He knows they are!

I was humbled when I realized loving like God would mean picking up every tiny piece of shell on all the shores in the world. I couldn’t do that on one stretch of Topsail Island in a lifetime. I can, however, make an effort to pick up some of His broken children by being a loving presence in their lives. It takes effort, but it is worth bending my heart down and picking it back up again to experience the kind of love God desires for my heart. We wiggle out of His hands or bite like those pesky little gnats on the beach, but God picks us back up and loves us anyway. He always will, no matter what.

I could spend a lifetime searching for the perfect shell, but God knows I won’t find it if I pick up every shell on every beach in His world. They is no such thing as a perfect shell or a perfect person. He did, however, have one perfect Son, who made the effort to bend down in loving obedience so He could pick me up off the shore. I wiggle when I’m worried and bite when I’m angry, but He loves me anyway. He holds me especially close when I’m hurting because He understands my pain like no one else can.

I plan to tell Lilly and Mylah about all the shells, stones, and pieces of glass I found while at Topsail Island; but I want them to understand that shells, like people, need more love when they are broken. I think we’ll make a little shell hospital so we can wrap up the little hurt shells and give them the extra love they need.

Love + Grace = Peace

Love is the first step in finding peace. As incomprehensible as God’s love is, it is the beginning of everything and must be the place from which my heart starts its journey toward peace. Grace enters into the journey in the life of Christ. God became one of us and extended grace to a world in need of connection.

Grace became the glue that connected God’s love and the Holy Spirit’s peace in our hearts. Christ made that connection possible when He died and rose from the grave in the most amazing plan ever. Grace is more than amazing; it is more than any word we have in our vocabularies. It is what brings love and peace together. Just as the Trinity are three and one, so are love, grace and peace beautifully connected. They do not exist apart from one another, but they are three separate entities.

I don’t pretend to understand the Trinity, but I feel Its effect upon my life. I can’t define love, grace, or peace; but I know what they do to my heart. I cannot imagine life without the love of God, the grace of Christ, or the peace of the Holy Spirit. I know when my heart is out of balance it is because I allow other than love, grace, and peace to be present in it. Love, grace, and peace will step aside when hate, lust, or discord enter in. They will not share or force their way into my heart’s space.

The beauty of love, grace, and peace is that they create a beautiful harmony that cannot be found anywhere except in a heart tuned to them. Hearts can find love and peace for brief periods, but without the grace Christ offers, it is only a temporary possession that dissipates quickly and must be sought over and over again. Christ’s grace provides a sweet Comforter in the Holy Spirit who coexists with me. There is a world of difference between possessing and coexisting, and as big a difference between the peace I can find on my own and the peace Christ’s grace brings. The peace of the Holy Spirit is like having a beautiful friend who hears my heart and never leaves my side. Peace that possesses is a temporary high that feels good for a moment and then goes away.

My peace is disrupted when I allow my desires to override God’s will. God is all powerful, but He will not force His love, His Son’s grace, or His Spirit’s peace upon anyone. He knows I must experience discord occasionally to appreciate the difference His peace offers. Last week, I got carried away with my selfish wants and found myself floundering and flustered. I know prayer is the path to peace, so I did a lot of praying. What happened is what always happens when I get tired of spinning out of control and ask God to help. He extended love and grace, and I surrendered to His peace.

There is no verse more comforting to me than the sweet simple words of Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NASB)

I suppose I will veer off the path of peace as long as I live, but it comforts my heart greatly to know that peace is only a prayer away. Now, if I can only get better at praying a little faster each time 🙂

My Heart is Strong

The heart is the strongest muscle in the body, so it’s no wonder we associate it with love. The body surrounds and protects the heart in an amazing way. The ribcage is tough, but flexible, and does a great job of protecting the heart. I’ve attempted to fashion a similar cage when it comes to love, but I haven’t had much success.

Whatever covers I created, the end result was always brokenness. God made it clear to me this morning there is only one place for my heart, and He created it. The heart must have a body, and God created the perfect one for my heart. That may seem like a silly lesson to you, but it made perfect sense to me after the clay pots, plowed fields, and wooden vases I’ve imagined on my own. I’ve always seen my heart as being outside my body and needing protection because I learned at an early age it was best to keep the heart and body separate. God knew I needed to see my heart in a new light and bring it back to where He wanted it to be. God used the body of Christ to help me understand His lesson. Christ’s body is the perfect place for His heart, but it has the same problem as I do when it comes to love. The body of Christ tries to fashion the same types of cages and containers I have, and the results are the same frustrations I’ve felt when it comes to connecting. Christ’s precious love belongs in His body of believers; it needs to be shared, not protected.

I can trace my need to protect my heart to an early childhood when love was painful. I understand perfectly why I struggle when it comes to love, but God helped me see the Light with a lesson in trust. It’s hard to admit it, but I have never really trusted God with my heart. I’ve seen Him in the light of my own father rather than the Light of His own Son. Changing my vantage point allows me to see my heart as He does and Him as He is.

Simple lessons are not simply applied to the heart, but I don’t have to worry about my heart if I will simply trust God. My heart is strong and connected to One Who is stronger than I can imagine. Thank God my heart is an involuntary muscle or I would be dead. I don’t sit around all day wondering if my heart is pumping blood correctly, but I do worry about whether or not love is flowing as it should.

God assured me this morning that loving is an involuntary action. Christ’s precious love flows freely in and out of my heart if I take away the obstructions. Love should not be contained or controlled anymore than the blood coursing through my arteries and veins. When I attempt to control the flow of either, I end up in trouble. It’s best to let love and blood flow on their own. I trust the heart to do its job when it comes to blood flow and God to do His when it comes to love.

Strong Heart

Guilt Ridden or Grace Driven?

This journey to find the love God has for me has been a guilt ridden ride that has drowned my spirt, broken my heart, and withered my soul. I found my heart at a dead end for the third time in my life. Dead ends are always clearly marked so as to warn those who may venture down the path.  The same is true for my heart’s journey. I knew the paths did not lead anywhere, and perhaps that’s why I took them. There is safety in a dead end road; at least I know where it goes.  God puts beautifully open, loving roads all along my path, but I’ve never have the courage to take one.

The recent reminder of such a road not taken reminded me that the decision is always mine to make. I can blame on a bad beginning or a naive spirit, but my heart’s journey is determined by my decisions. I, and I alone, am accountable for my choices. That was God’s powerful message throughout the day yesterday. I decided to take a late-night swim after dinner. As I swam, I looked into that amazing western horizon knowing the sun would soon be setting. I realized in that moment that God has been using those stunning sunsets to show me that an end was near. It was the most painful ending yet, but God’s loving grace put on an amazing show before the light in my heart was completely gone.

My heart came through this most difficult season in one piece for the first time in my life, and God’s promise of a new beginning gave me hope as He put me back on His wheel for reshaping. I almost allowed guilt to carry my heart back into a dark hole, but God had other plans. I listened this time and let His sweet grace flow over my heart and around it in a way that swept away the last remnants of my brokenness. It truly was a rush of living water. I’ve always seen myself as damaged goods, and that does comes from a bad beginning that left my heart adrift. Funny that water should continue to play such a big role in my heart’s journey. I’ve been battling it for so very long, but as I swam in the cool, clean water and looked at the beautiful sun last night, I surrendered and began turning in the water. I could feel myself on His potter’s wheel; His hands turning and pulling my heart nearer to His own.

It was a feeling I can’t put into words, but I hope to put it into my life and my love from now on. God removed the remains of a guilt-ridden ride, took me out of a ridiculous religious rut, and put me in a place filled with more grace, peace, and love than I’ve ever felt in my life. It was a new beginning as I gave my whole heart to God and let go of the guilt that has been a thorn in my heart from the moment I came into this world. The lessons of the past six months have been  the most difficult ones in my life, but they have allowed me to let go of guilt and embrace His grace as never before. What an amazing difference His living water makes. I don’t think I’ll be digging any more cisterns for a while. Thank you Jeremiah for the reminder, and thank you God for Your love, Your Son’s grace, and Your Spirit’s sweet peace. Grace driven is so much better than guilt ridden! My heart feels just like this sunset, and I can’t wait to see what sunrise God has in mind.

Sunshine + Rain = Amazing Sunset