Take a Deep Breath….

I’ve been getting therapeutic massages for the past month to alleviate the stiffness and pain that has plagued me all winter. I have arthritis in my hip, knee, and shoulders, but walking and exercising have always been enough to keep my joints flexible and pain free. The pain began to spread in January, and my body felt like rusting metal left out in the rain. By the end of March, I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t want to go the pain killer route until trying other options.

My daughter-in-law in a wonderful massage therapist who is in business with her dear friend Braden. I decided to give massage a chance before heading to the doctor’s office. I’ve had massages in the past, but I always opted for the “feel good” Swedish or hot stone massages. I had one deep tissue massage years ago and decided it was far too painful to have another. I suppose I wasn’t ready to give up those knots 🙂

The tough winter left me desparate to be rid of the stiffness and pain, so I went to Braden and asked if she could help. She listened lovingly to my concerns and said she believed she could relieve the pain and the stiffness. She warned me that it would not be pain free or easy. I would have to be willing to endure the discomfort, stretch, and relax. I agreed, and we began the treatments the last week of March.

I got relief after our first session, but I soon learned that my muscles weren’t the only things getting a workout. Some knots were rooted in my poor posture, lack of stretching, arthritis, and an injury from an accident a year ago; but more of them came from hidden hurts that needed to come to the surface. I experienced weeping during a massage years ago and was told it was perfectly normal for massage to bring emotional pain to the surface. I went into the treatments determined to let go of all my knots and allow the healing God had in mind take place.

Braden and I prayed that God would use her hands to help me heal and that I would be able to relax and not get in the way. I have a hard time relaxing, and I’m finding that keeps me from fully experiencing much of what God has in mind for me. It is, and always has been, hard for me to be still. I realized yesterday that the choice is mine. I can relax into obedience or let fear stiffen me into stillness. With the Spirit’s help and a loving massage therapist, fear is losing its hold on me.

If you’d had a deep tissue massage, you know the level of pain released when knots are untied. Braden knew I was hurting and felt my muscle tensing when she hit a particularly painful knot in my neck. She quietly told me to take a deep breath and continued pushing on the sore spot. I wanted to tell her to stop, but I wanted healing more. I realized I was holding my breath and bracing for the pain, something I’ve done all my life. I let go of my breath and took in a long, deep breath. I was shocked at the difference it made as she worked the tension out of the twisted muscle.

God never ceases to amaze me with His powerful lessons, but the sweet message that came during my massage yesterday was one I will not soon forget. Relaxing isn’t possible in the presence of fear, but God’s love banishes fear once, and for all.

1 John 4:18 says it best.

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” NLT

Love, breath, and spirit are all one. I knew that but didn’t fully know it until that deep breath helped me relax into healing on that massage table. I have been holding my breath expecting punishment all of my life. I’ve felt unworthy of love, especially God’s. I have no problem loving God and loving others. I do love and love completely. I just cannot seem to take in the love as deeply or fully as God would like. He knows love and breathing go hand in hand, so He bids me to take a deep breath and fully experience His perfect love and the love of those around me.

I am struck by the image of the bride in Revelation 21:1-6 and heard two very beautiful messages on that passage last week. My heart was broken when I saw myself as less than a beloved bride, but God made it clear to me yesterday that I have been, am, and always will be His beloved bride. Nothing can ever change His perfect love for me, but I can miss it by holding my breath and believing fear’s vicious lie that I am not a beloved bride. I plan to relax, breathe deeply, and fully experience all the love God has in store for me.

Swimming in the Kingdom

I’ve been afraid of the water for almost sixty years; so when my granddaughter Lilly asked me yesterday why I didn’t like to swim, I decided it was time to be honest with her. I had skirted the issue before when she had noticed my reluctance to get into the water, but I was ready to tell her the truth. I told her that I almost drowned when I was her age, and that made me afraid of water. She said, “Didn’t you know how to swim Gigi?”

I told her I didn’t know how to swim at the time but I did learn later. She wanted details, so I told her that my father threw me into the deep end of a pool a few years after I almost drowned. He was determined to get me to swim, and he was tired of waiting. Sink or swim is an effective method because fear is a powerful motivator. I was already afraid of the water, so it made sense to use that fear to help me learn to swim. Lilly was sad that I didn’t like to swim because she’s a little fish who loves the water, but now she understood why Gigi stayed near the edge and always had a noodle near by. She offered to help me swim better. Her sweet offer makes me want to swim better because it comes from her heart.

God knows I am a visual learner, so He used the image of a country club pool to help me understand my struggle with the water and my search for community. I don’t belong to a country club; but there is one near my sister’s home, and she is a member. Club members may bring visitors as long as they don’t overstay their welcome, and I’ve gone with her a few times. I don’t recall a time when I ever felt unwelcome, but I was definitely unwelcome at the pool in my dream.

In the first dream, I was swimming happily with a dear friend who was a member of the club. It was a beautiful image of how I would so love to feel in the water, but the sweet moment was cut short by an angry voice screaming from the side of the pool. I saw a man pacing back and forth, telling me that I did not pay dues and should not be in the pool. I was rattled by his rage and started treading water so I wouldn’t sink.

His wife has a different concern. She is yelling instructions because I was not treading water the proper way. I tried to follow her instructions, but fear got the best of me when I noticed all the angry faces and heard loud voices screaming for me to get out of the pool! I stopped treading water and started sinking. Now, this was a familiar feeling.

I found strange comfort in sinking, but loving hands lifted me to the surface. A calm presence guided me to the safety of the side. I was clinging to concrete, coughing water, and wailing like a two-year-old. When I stop sobbing, I noticed a man kneeling in front of me. He looked down with loving eyes, and I realized I knew Him. He was the same man who had been on the pier fifty-eight years ago when daddy pulled me out of the lake. He looked over my head and said, “This all belongs to My Father, and I’ve already paid your dues. So enjoy it.” The dream ended abruptly, and I woke wondering what it all meant.

This morning, the dream picked up where it left off last week. The kneeling man was bidding me to look behind me. I thought He meant the country club belonged to His Father, so I expected to see the same scene I had seen before going under the water. I knew the man was Christ and imagined He meant He would help me deal with the angry mob, but He had something much different in mind. His sweet, loving presence made me forget about the danger of letting go and gave me the courage to turn around. I saw an image I could not have imagined on my own.

Crystal clear water stretched as far as I could see in every direction. The beautiful body of water was filled with people of all sizes, shapes, and colors. They were swimming, floating, talking, walking, or simply sitting. There were no paddle boards, boats, tubes, noodles, or floatation devices. There were no sides to this pool, and the temperature was perfect.

Everyone, including me, was suspended in water that felt like a warm, loving embrace. I moved and felt the sensation of freedom. I dove under the water and saw legs all around me. There was no kicking, thrashing, or splashing because they was no need to struggle or impress in this pool. Fear wasn’t present in this body or in mine because I was connected to Love that flowed through the water and each of us.

When I came to the surface, I looked around and noticed Christ laughing and clapping His hands with delight. He had been waiting fifty-eight years to watch me swim. He was loving every moment, and so was I. Everyone smiled at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back. Such a different scene than the one at the other pool. This was kingdom community at its best.

When I awoke from the dream, I was as rested as I’ve ever been. I smiled when I realized it was morning, and my very first thought was Psalm 51:12.

“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit. “(NASB)

There is joy in His salvation, and love is His kingdom. His Holy Spirit will sustain me with a willing spirit if I will simply let go of my fears and swim with the heart of one who trusts His love to keep me afloat.

 

 

Fear, Take a Hike!!

The peace of God can only be found in the present moment. He promises peace, but I lose it the moment I begin rehashing the past or rehearsing the future. I wrote about that in http://wp.me/p2G1u5-Ln, so I won’t rehash it now. God ended a difficult chapter last week and began a beautiful new one. I love a good ending, especially when it’s a surprise. The writer and reader in me loves leaving a chapter with a great feeling, and there’s nothing I like better than a new beginning. All endings lead to beginnings, and that was a big part of the learning this week.

I decided to rest instead of run this week, so peace caught up with my heart. I tore up the mountain in tears on Tuesday, but God brought me back down filled with the sweetest peace I’ve ever felt. I marvel at the difference in my before and after heart. I got something off my chest on that walk. I left the elephant that took up residence in my heart five years ago on top of that mountain. I came down feeling a thousand pounds lighter. Past regrets and future worries dissipated in God’s loving presence. His forgiveness gently lifted the weight of the world from my heart and left me transformed. I felt as though I had just lived through a year of Extreme Weight Loss in one hour. I literally jumped for joy because I was the me God created me to be.

Fear causes me to lose the peace God has in mind for me, and it was chasing love away. God made it clear that only love is able to cast out fear, and I had to choose whether or not to let it.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NASB)

God showed me the root of fear is a need for punishment, and He made it clear that He is tired of me wallowing in that need. He is not, and never has been, a God of punishment. He is, and always will be, a God of love. He knew only I could let go of my need to be punished and embrace the love in my path. Love does cast out fear, and that’s a lesson I lived and loved this week. God showed me I was surrounded by love, and that allowed me to put fear and punishment aside and let Him begin perfecting my heart. The Holy Spirit’s perfect love isn’t about being perfect. It is about getting rid of fear. Love perfects peace as soon as I tell fear to take a hike. I did just that with the help of a sweet loving friend this week, and it changed my heart in a beautiful way.