Free At Last!!

FreedomGod 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.

Bibbity Bobbity Boo!

I’ve spent a lifetime wishing things were other than they are. I love watching my little granddaughters pretending to be princesses and fairy godmothers, but I twinge a little each time because I am reminded of my nagging need to be someone or something other than who I am. I say need instead of want because that’s just what it was. Getting lost in childhood fantasies is fun when playing; but when fantasies followed me into adult life, they kept me from living the life God had in mind.

I’ve often treated God like my Fairy Godfather instead of my Creator, and that has strained our relationship. As a teenager, I imagined that my real father would come for me one day. That fantasy resurfaced in the dark days before I left my marriage. I was looking for someone to rescue me, and I just couldn’t ask God. His patience amazes me, and I wonder at times why He didn’t pull out a magic wand and zap me! I used to see Him as a Smiter, and part of me believed He was the one behind the hurt. I was getting what I deserved! I smile when I think of that now because I realize how ridiculous it was for me to see God that way.

I was taught to fear God, so I kept a safe distance during my adolescent and adult life. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I knew from my childhood what happened when I got daddy’s attention. I didn’t think I could handle God’s wrath since I couldn’t handle daddy’s. Seeing God as my father instead of my Father shaped my relationship with Him and caused me to retreat into a safe world where fairy tales did come true – eventually – if I was good and waited long enough. It sounds so ridiculous when I type it out, but it was harshly real to me then. I am only just beginning to see that all hearts hurt. It comes from living and loving in an imperfect world.

I’m all for fantasy, and I love a good dose of Bibbity Bobbity Boo occasionally; but fairy tales are for entertainment and not meant to be models for finding happiness. Snow White and Cinderella are happy in their messy lives before their princes arrive, and that was the message this morning. Living and loving where I am is what God desires. Little Mylah loves Snow White, and she cracks me up singing “I’m Wishing” because she says, “I whoosing.” Whoosing is a great word for what I found myself thinking yesterday. I allowed my heart to drift back into those adolescent fantasies, but God called me back before I got lost in the woods.

I asked the girls what they wanted to play before we had dinner yesterday, and they said they wanted a magic wand. We couldn’t find anything suitable, so I made wands with ribbons and colored pencils, put on the princess dresses, and popped in the Bibbity Bobbity Boo video. Their little serious faces tickled me, so I got out my phone and captured one of the many renditions I was privileged to witness. Once again, God made me laugh at myself while learning an important lesson. Research shows that humor makes learning stay with the learner. I used it in my classroom for thirty-three years and believe it works. God knows I love to laugh and learn at the same time, and He used two very convincing little fairy godmothers to transform my thoughts.

I plan to keep enjoying fantasy, fairy tales, and fiction on the big screen, in books, and during playtime but keep my relationships centered in reality. I’m sure God will be glad to see me put up my princess dress and put on something a little more comfortable so I can love Him and those in my path the way He knows will bless Him and me.

Little Fairy Godmothers

Photo Credit Walt Disney
Photo Credit Walt Disney

Time to Turn Around

When it comes to matters of the heart, God knows best. He is love, and hearts are built to hold and share His love. The decisions I’ve made when it comes to love have put my heart in harm’s way my entire life. I love with my whole heart because it’s the only way I know how to love, but I love those who are unable, for one reason or another, to love me completely. I struggle with worthiness when it comes to love. I don’t expect to be loved because I don’t believe I deserve to be loved.

God’s lessons this week left me feeling like an empty cupcake wrapper. He put the image in my heart on Tuesday, and it wouldn’t go away. My heart is empty, and it’s a feeling much worse than anything I’ve felt before. I’ve held on to hope that isn’t there for a very long time. God gently, but firmly, opened my hands and my heart to show me the emptiness. I knew there was no hope, but I thought if I held my hands clasped tightly and pretended it was there, I might convince myself that clinging to it would make a difference.

The emptiness of that cupcake wrapper turned into a vast canyon when I came to the end of the path yesterday. It stretched out before me sending my cries back in a hollow, haunting echo. I’m used to dead ends when it comes to love, but this wasn’t like anything I’ve felt before. Standing on that precipice was like standing on the pier as a child. I could step off into the nothingness or turn and go in a new direction. At five, I didn’t have a choice, but God showed me that I am not who I was. He also told me in no uncertain terms that I am not who He knows I can be either. It is tempting to just step off, but I’ve learned enough about love to know that I will not settle for life without it.

Repentance simply means to turn, and God assured me that He’s right behind me waiting for me to make up my heart and let Him lead me down a different path. There is a part of me that can’t bear to face Him, but there is a much bigger part that wants to jump into His arms. Admitting I went down the wrong path and saying I’m lost is the first step when it comes to repentance. Knowing God is patiently waiting to pick me up and carry me until I am ready to walk on my own gives me the courage to turn around. Matters of the heart matter most in this world, and it’s time for me to turn around and let God decide the direction when it comes to love.

Time to Turn Around
Time to Turn Around

Crystalline Delight

The poem “Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe goes from the light silver bells we associate with love and life to the heavy iron bells of a church tower announcing death. I used to tell my students that I would begin with the iron and move toward the silver so the reader would be left with a sense of hope and love. God reminded me this morning that love begins with those sweet silver bells and leads to the mellow, golden wedding bells. From there, alarms bells go off and death inevitably comes at some point. The way to love as God desires is to make the trip back from death.

I know it’s a strange image, but it’s one God knew I needed this morning. I understood perfectly and could relate completely to those bells. Love changes everything, and love itself changes on this journey. I came to a place of letting go yesterday, and God showed me that death isn’t the end when it comes to love. It is the beginning. Those iron bells weigh heavily upon my heart, but they lead to the brass bells that sound the alarm when flames arise.

The golden bells of marriage take on a new meaning when applied to God’s way of loving. He’s the patient groom who waits for me to accept  His proposal and unite in a way that allows my heart to be one with His. I’m afraid I’ve left Him waiting at the altar far too long. When I do show up occasionally, I give Him a warm embrace, tell Him how very much I love Him, and quickly get back to my busy agenda. He is left waiting, and that is a terribly lonely place for the heart to be. It hurts deeply to be left waiting, but it hurts even worse to realize I’ve made God wait.

The silver bells that come after the wedding bells remind me that loving God puts me in the Spirit. Christmas bells bring my heart back to a time of innocent love that has hope and is filled with a lightness that only pure love can bring. The love God has in mind doesn’t weight down my heart or scream about a four-alarm fire in my body. It makes my heart tinkle with a “crystalline delight.” Keeping love pure and in the Spirit isn’t easy, but I’m thinking the image of those bells tolling, clanging, swelling, and tinkling will help me keep my heart out of the graveyard and on the sleigh!. Those little silver bells make a heavenly sound when they join with other silver bells.

I
Hear the sledges with the bells-
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.

II

Hear the mellow wedding bells,
Golden bells!
What a world of happiness their harmony foretells!
Through the balmy air of night
How they ring out their delight!
From the molten-golden notes,
And an in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
On the moon!
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
How it swells!
How it dwells
On the Future! how it tells
Of the rapture that impels
To the swinging and the ringing
Of the bells, bells, bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!

III

Hear the loud alarum bells-
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
In a mad expostulation with the deaf and frantic fire,
Leaping higher, higher, higher,
With a desperate desire,
And a resolute endeavor,
Now- now to sit or never,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
Oh, the bells, bells, bells!
What a tale their terror tells
Of Despair!
How they clang, and clash, and roar!
What a horror they outpour
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the ear it fully knows,
By the twanging,
And the clanging,
How the danger ebbs and flows:
Yet the ear distinctly tells,
In the jangling,
And the wrangling,
How the danger sinks and swells,
By the sinking or the swelling in the anger of the bells-
Of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells,bells,
Bells, bells, bells-
In the clamor and the clangor of the bells!

IV

Hear the tolling of the bells-
Iron Bells!
What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!
In the silence of the night,
How we shiver with affright
At the melancholy menace of their tone!
For every sound that floats
From the rust within their throats
Is a groan.
And the people- ah, the people-
They that dwell up in the steeple,
All Alone
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone-
They are neither man nor woman-
They are neither brute nor human-
They are Ghouls:
And their king it is who tolls;
And he rolls, rolls, rolls,
Rolls
A paean from the bells!
And his merry bosom swells
With the paean of the bells!
And he dances, and he yells;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the paean of the bells-
Of the bells:
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the throbbing of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells-
To the sobbing of the bells;
Keeping time, time, time,
As he knells, knells, knells,
In a happy Runic rhyme,
To the rolling of the bells-
Of the bells, bells, bells:
To the tolling of the bells,
Of the bells, bells, bells, bells-
Bells, bells, bells-
To the moaning and the groaning of the bells.

Silver-Bells

New Heart, New Song

I can’t sing a new song until I get the old ones out of my heart, so I wasn’t surprised when God put the Four Tops and “It’s the Same Old Song” in my path this week. I used to love that song, and that’s exactly the point of the lesson God had for me. “Used to” is the key phrase in the song and His message.

My old love songs say I’m not worthy when it comes to love, and I believed them far too long. I lived up to their lyrics and let my heart linger in a loveless limbo believing love was for others and not for me. God shows me otherwise and bids me to throw out those outdated eight-track tapes and download His beautiful new songs.

Musicals and seventies songs have reminded me how easily songs can get stuck in my head and my heart, but Psalm 96 bids me to sing a new song. Old songs have to take on a different meaning before I can let them go. God tunes my heart to sing His songs and love as He desires. I know I’m loved, and that makes my heart want to sing.

Listening to old songs isn’t a bad thing, and I have favorites that bless me over and over. Letting lost love define me is a bad thing, and pining away for what never was mine is worse. God bids me to see myself in His light and listen to His love songs. No one captures God’s heart more than David; he was a man after God’s own heart, and it shows in the songs he sang. There are happy and sad songs when it comes to love, but dwelling on the ‘can’t have’ or ‘don’t deserve’ leaves my heart stuck in a rut that gets deeper and deeper each time I listen.

Singing a new song requires letting God’s lyrics lead when it comes to love. I learned this week that I still equate love with pleasing and doing. Love is about delighting and being. Love changes everything, and being loved gives my heart the courage to move a little closer to God, love myself, and love others as God desires.

God used humor and music to teach important lessons, and the truth honestly spoken opened the doors of my heart in a way that allowed me to toss my old tapes and start downloading new ones. Old love songs can make me swoon and cry or grin and shake my head. It was nice to smile, shake my head, and realize I am not who I used to be. I could see God grin and say, “That’s my girl!” It’s the reaction all parents have when our children begin to see themselves the way we do.

Photo from http://cincinnatiit.com/11/heart-music-clef
Image from http://cincinnatiit.com/11/heart-music-clef

Gravity & Grace

I thought of Lillyann and Mylah this week as God’s lessons led me to see the power of His Holy Spirit to lift my spirit and bring me into a sweet intimacy with Him. Earlier in the week, the girls were pretending to be birds and decided to get on the couch and  fly. Gina and I watched as they showed us how real birds fly. Lillyann, the engineer, had the proper wing formation and proceeded to fly in true bird form. Mylah threw her arms up in delight, squealed, and flew with abandon. Lillyann tried in vain to get Mylah to use proper form, but Mylah was soaring and didn’t heed her directions.

I told Lillyann that humans would fly with their arms outstretched like Mylah’s and used Superman as an example of such flight. Lillyann wasn’t buying it, so I told her that Mylah could pretend fly any way she wanted. That seemed to make sense, so on they flew. I love the abandon of children, and I envy the freedom with which they express their spirits. The lessons this week were all about Spirit, and God used the vivid image of the girls’ flight to bring home a powerful lesson in gravity.

We celebrate Pentecost this week. I’ve read and heard about Pentecost all my life, but I understood Pentecost for the first time today. I was flying like little Mylah with the help of God’s sweet Holy Spirit, and it was the best high I’ve ever experienced. I’ve felt God’s Spirit before, but today was different. It was the most beautiful AHA! moment I’ve ever had as I understood the difference between God’s ways and mine as never before. God dwells in Spirit; I tend to dwell in the body. It was clear to me today that the Spirit has the body beat when it comes to soaring, and I loved the feeling of absolute bliss I felt today. God made it clear that He knows what’s best for me. His timing is always perfect, and I was especially thankful for that today. I got His message just when I needed it, and I love that about Him.

I know I have to die to self, and I know it is a daily death, but I lived the lesson today. That is much better than simply hearing it. I’ve been thinking about Romans 8:14-17 and Acts 2:1-21 this week, and I read commentaries and articles half-heartedly as I prepared the folders last week. In fact, and I’m ashamed to say this, I dismissed Romans and moved on to Galatians because I found it more interesting. I am so very thankful God that is patient, loves me more than I can begin to fathom, and sees me just as I saw Mylah with her  little hands raised in pretend flight. I am also grateful for loving friends who nudge me along the path:)

The lessons this week have all been about allowing God to define me. I am His daughter, and He made that very clear today. The lessons began on Sunday, continued all week, and came together beautifully today. I was His daughter this afternoon, and that made me want to jump and shout and lift my arms like little Mylah. My body reacts to gravity, and that makes it very difficult to stay in flight. Gravity keeps me from experiencing what God has in mind for me, but God’s grace gives me a taste of His freedom that I can’t forget. Bing gives three definitions for gravity:

1)gravitational force: the attraction due to gravitation that the Earth or another astronomical object exerts on an object on or near its surface

2)seriousness: the seriousness of something considered in terms of its unfavorable consequence

3)serious behavior: solemnity and seriousness in somebody’s attitude or behavior

Gravity literally keeps my body from floating up in the air, and I’m very thankful for it; but I must make sure my body does not keep my spirit from being lifted by God’s grace. That pesky sin of seriousness will also keep my spirit from soaring and will ground my soul. Seriousness and gravitational force have their places, but my spirit isn’t one of them. My spirit belongs to God, and I am His beloved daughter. He showed me what He could do when given the space and freedom He needs. What a lesson! What a week! There just aren’t words that describe the way I felt when I was lifted to a place where I escaped gravity and flew into His presence today, but John Gillespie Magee Jr. comes very close his beautiful poem that I’ve always loved.

“High Flight”

 Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
 And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
 Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
 You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
 High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
 I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
 My eager craft through footless halls of air….

 Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
 I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
 Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
 And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 – Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I’m not a pilot, and that was especially true today as God’s Spirit took the controls. My body was forced to be still on the ground and watch as my spirit slipped those surly bonds, and I truly felt like His daughter. Reality set in, and I came back down to earth, but I flew long enough to learn the earth is never the same after flying:)

Taking Flight

The Treasure in My Chest:)

Matthew 6:19-21 says,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;  for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” NASB

My heart is a treasure chest. What I put in it is entirely up to me. It’s been taken, shaken, broken, and stolen as I’ve allowed other than His love to occupy the space. When I fill my heart with God’s Spirit, Christ’s love allows me to hear Him and clean out the clutter. The message is clear that God is near and love comes from above. Life is about loving, and love is the greatest treasure in this world and the next.

No one can steal Christ’s love, and it never rusts or rots. The measure of His sweet treasure is that it grows as it’s shared. Caring and connecting is not about taking and raping, trying and lying, or using and abusing. It is allowing the Spirit to show me the love in all God creates. Love comes from above, and it is stored in heaven. Jesus gives access to God through His Holy Spirit when I’m ready to accept His love and let it flow through my heart.

Once I know God’s love, the desire to store or stack up cheap imitations is gone. I’m learning to leave my treasure chest open as God’s love cannot be taken or stolen away. My heart’s been like a storage locker filled with junk left to the rust and dust that comes when I let Satan convince me that doing, fixing, enabling, and pleasing are what love is all about. That is true when it comes to the treasures of this world, but God’s kingdom is about a different kind of love and storage that creates a beautiful open space that invites His Spirit to flow through and fill at the same time:)