Tit for Tat??

Tit for tat is an abbreviation for this for that and can be summed up by saying I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. It can also mean I’ll get you if you get me, but it’s most often used to describe getting what I want by giving you what you want.

Christ was not a tit for tat sort of guy. He didn’t give so He could get because He knew that cycle is an unending one that leaves everyone feeling empty. God sent Jesus because He loved us. Love never involves tit for tat and doesn’t keep an account of who’s ahead in the giving department. Love only sees love. God is love, so it follows that He only sees love. Obligation and obedience are often found together, but they do not belong together. The toxic relationship they form spreads venom faster than the bite of a viper. Christ feels the effect it has upon His body, and it breaks His heart.

Jesus gives His take on giving in Luke 6:37-38.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (NLT)

His words may sound like tit for tat, but they go far deeper than giving to get. They involve a change of heart. They are not about giving out of guilt, fear, obligation, or a desire to get. They are about giving based upon love. Love doesn’t judge; it doesn’t condemn; it forgives and gives. When I learn that beautiful truth, I give with a new heart and receive far more than I ever imagined possible.

I suppose it is human nature to want a fair return on investments or to get tit for tat when it comes to money and time spent. Jesus offered a new way of living and giving that opens hearts and fills them with peace. Peace isn’t about even trades or great portfolios. Peace is sweet contentment that fills a heart beautifully poured out in love.

Earlier in Luke 6:32-36 Jesus reminds us that God’s way of loving and giving is not like ours.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (NLT)

Thinking of the way God loves and gives makes me look at the way I love and give. If I am to nudge nearer and be more like Christ, I must let love be at the heart of all my giving. It is the heart of Christ’s message, and it must be the heart of mine.

Sweet Perspective

As I watched Mylah fall asleep in my arms after a full morning of play, I thanked God for the sweet perspective she and Lillyann give me. Since coming home from Topsail Island, I’ve had a new sense of direction. I knew I needed a sunrise when I went to visit my sister, but I didn’t know why until this week. What I needed was a new beginning, and the amazing sunrises on Topsail Island were God’s way of telling me it was time to head home. I was sinking in a sea of guilt, and my heart needed to stop floundering on the shore and head to higher ground.

Each morning I was on the island, God arranged a spectacular sunrise. I needed to stop, rest, and be filled before beginning the next leg of this journey. Bad choices left my heart filled with hurt and guilt.  Neither are part of the love God has in mind for His children, and that lesson was crystal clear each morning as I started my day in His presence. I’ve drifted from His presence often on this journey, and I’m sure I will again before arriving home; but I was as close to Him as I’ve ever been while on Topsail Island.

Life is about loving and connecting to others. I’ve made too many unhealthy connections, but I pray I’ll listen as God shows me a new way of connecting in regard to relationships. I see now that I am His daughter, and that makes me see me and His love for me in a whole new light. Tuesday evening as I met with a small group of women interested in drawing nearer to Christ and to one another, I knew I was right where God wanted me to be. The women ranged in age from nineteen to ninety-one, yet we all were in sweet accord. I’ve never felt anything like it before, but I have the feeling it’s only the beginning of what God has in store for my heart.

I was tossed upon the shore in a way that left me out of breath and gasping for air, but I’m breathing and connecting deeply for the first time in a very long time.

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Holy Singing!

My studies took me to Isaiah this week. One word describes the prophet’s words about God. Holy. Eugene Peterson says it best in The Invitation, “We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them. Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it. Holy, Holy, Holy is not needlepoint. It is the banner of a revolution, the revolution.” He goes on to say, “He (God) uses everything and everybody as material for his work, which is the remaking of the mess we have made of our lives.”

Isaiah means “God saves,” and his poetry brings, according to Peterson, “Messages of Judgment (chapters 1-39), Messages of Comfort (chapters 40-55), and Messages of Hope (chapters 56-66). Holiness is the goal on this journey, and I’m finding that love leads to praying, and praying leads to singing. Singing is wonderful for my soul and brings me into God’s presence in a powerful way.The songs have been interesting this week, but I realize they were meant to make me to think about falling in love and singing a new song as a result of that love. To know God is to love Him, and my heart cannot do less than sing when I love and pray to Him.

I realized this week that I’ve lusted after God more than I’ve loved Him. Give me this. Help me do this. Fix this. Heal me. Heal others. Praying and loving are so much more than I understood before, and that is where the singing comes in. John describes the song I will sing when I come into God’s presence. I am learning I can sing it now if I allow love to give my heart wings.

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.’ And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.’”Revelation 4:8-11 NASB

Those beautiful words have inspired many songs, and two of my favorites are “Holy Holy Holy” by Reginald Heber and “Holy Holy” by Nathan Fellingham. Both touch my heart in the same beautiful place, where God resides. Holy simply means mature, ripe, and ready to be picked. I used to think it meant perfect. Silly me! I’m learning that holy is much more than being who I think God wants me to be. Isaiah helped me come to the place of understanding John’s beautiful words. I can sing those favorite songs of mine with a new vigor knowing my heart is ripening a little more each time I sing out to the God I love more than life itself.

Holy Holy Holy

Reginald Heber

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Holy Holy

Written By: Nathan Fellingham

Holy, holy, 

Holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Holy, holy,

Holy is the Lord God Almighty.

Who was and is and is to come,

Who was and is and is to come.

Lift up His name with the sound of singing,

Lift up His name in all the earth.

Lift up Your voice and give Him glory

For He is worthy to be praised.

Jesus, Jesus,

Jesus is the Lord God Almighty.

Jesus, Jesus,

Jesus is the Lord God Almighty.

Who was and is and is to come,

Who was and is and is to come.

Lift up His name with the sound of singing,

Lift up His name in all the earth.

Lift up Your voice and give Him glory

For He is worthy to be praised.

I am closer to God and to those in my path as a result of the lessons this week, and I am lifting my heart in a new way and singing a new song because of it!

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therealmimi.files.wordpress.com

The Sound of My Own Voice:)

When I talk with a dear friend about what’s on my heart, I am often surprised by the sound of my own voice in an atmosphere of honest communion. As I returned to the week my mama died, I let out some frustration and found that I was hanging on to something I needed to release. I also realized my selfish need for the world of others to stop when mine does. It cannot, and I’m thankful God helped me see that this week. In fact, He made it clear that the world doesn’t ever stop. It brings me to my knees when it spins out of control, and it puts me flat on my face when I try to stop it. When I look up and remember Whose world it is and Whose child I am, I find the balance I need to walk and love in His kingdom here and now.

Yesterday was a fourteen hour day with the girls, and my patience wore thin as Lillyann refused to put away her Kindle, go to the bathroom, and lie down. Poor Mylah was awakened by the music at the end of her movie, so I had two girls awake at nine o’clock. I didn’t lose my temper, thank God, but I did wonder if it wouldn’t be better to just live somewhere else, pop in once in a while with some goodies and a little cooing, and be a different sort of Gigi. I really didn’t like the sound of my own voice in the atmosphere of impatience and knew that I wouldn’t trade living with and loving this sweet little family for anything in this world. Living and loving, like praying, requires a deep connection that is much more than once in a while. It is the forever love in 1 Corinthians 1-13.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or aclanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. NASB

I told Lillyann that I couldn’t help her if she didn’t listen and obey. I could hear God in my own voice and had to smile. I am very like little Lillyann when it comes to obeying, and I know that getting her and myself where we need to be is not a simple task. I don’t want to take the easy path when it comes to loving God, Mylah, Lillyann, or anyone else, and I thank God for not taking the easy path when it comes to loving me. Love is not giving in or giving up. It is giving as I’ve never given before. The girls may not understand now, just as I often don’t understand God, but they will when it matters:) I plan to keep listening to God and doing what I know He wants me to do. That’s love, and that’s not always easy, but experiencing love at its truest level is worth whatever God asks me to do. 

I can do my best and love the best way I know how my entire life and be miserable in my failure at love, or I can love the way God loves and find Him in the love I have for myself and for those in my path. There is no self help book or video that explains love any better than the beautiful scripture above. God continues to bring me back to His Word and His way when it comes to loving because He is love and the best teacher ever. With His help, I’m learning:)

Words Are Not Necessary

When praying and loving, words are not necessary. In fact, the lesson yesterday was that weeping is praying and loving at a deep level. As I wept, I wasn’t consciously praying or loving, but I felt a sweet sense of relief and love. God hears my heart more clearly when my mind and mouth are still, and nothing silences them like weeping. Words are not only not necessary when loving and praying, they often get in the way. When I offer consolation, advice, or comfort, I never know what to say. When I pray, I am the same way.

The most important lessons so far in the path to the praying life have been about words. All who know me, know I love words, but I’m getting better with silence and am very thankful for God’s patience in that regard. I have practiced prolonged silence at the reflection center, but I have difficulty with silence around others. I have a need to fill the space, but I’m learning to give up that space to God and be still. There is nothing like silence to help the spirit and heart draw near to God, and there is also nothing like silence when it comes to worshipping and loving Him. I love raising my voice in praise, and I will sing as long as I have breath in me; but silence is the sweetest worship.

I sat for a long while yesterday and watched the beautiful horizon. After a week of crying and a morning of weeping, my heart lifted in God’s presence. The sounds from above blessed my spirit and I thanked God for Mylah and Lillyann’s healing. They have a way to go before they are up and running, but they are on the mend. While they are sick, only mommy will do, so I know Gina is worn thin. I’ve thought of God as I’ve seen the girls cling and even fight over mommy’s lap. I am the same way when I’m hurting; I want God, and nothing or no one else will do. That was the message this week. The only way to survive grief here is to have God at the center of my heart and life. Only His Holy Spirit can offer hope when I am hurting. Nothing or no one else will do.

I may have a tough day today as two little girls go through mommy withdrawal. I’m hoping they are well enough to play and eat, so I can fill in for her while she’s away at school. I’m sure mommy will have Mylah and Lilly withdrawal as well because I’m ready for some little girl time myself:)

Good Grief

I didn’t expect to find myself kneeling and weeping with abandon on the altar this morning, but that’s just where I found myself. God is calling me to be part of worship in two places right now, and that’s not something I understand. I have learned not to question His ways, but sometimes He confounds me. Perhaps He knows I’ll get lost in the confounding and find Him. I love both places and know He is present and alive in both. It’s a rare blessing to find someone willing to speak the truth with love, and both Pastor John and Pastor Jeff do just that. 

The deaths this week, especially Dorothy’s, left me numb. I’ve heard five amazing messages this week, and the message this morning touched me more deeply than I was prepared to be touched. God knew it was time to weep for mama. I put off weeping four years ago. I cried and cried and cried, but I didn’t weep until today. Weeping with abandon in front of others isn’t something I would have chosen to do, and it’s far too personal and intimate to do in from of others, but God knows that weeping together is part of the grieving process. I felt a sense of release on that altar that can only come when I let go of everything and let God and others hear my heart and my hurt.

It isn’t easy to let others hear my heart, but weeping frees the spirit and opens the heart as nothing else. As I watched Pastor Jeff, a big strong man, tear up as he talked of his own journey, the way was wide open for me to do the same. Letting others see our vulnerability opens doors for ourselves and others. Jesus wept openly for Lazarus. He was a very strong man who loved his friend dearly. Perhaps He cried because He knew he was bringing his friend back into a world of pain. Perhaps he cried because he knew Lazarus had suffered and would suffer again at the hands of death. 

Christ gives me hope and is my strong center. That was the beautiful message this morning. God’s grief is good grief because He is my hope, my comfort, my rock, and my redeemer. He never moves or changes, and that is the best news of all. There will always be weeping and loss in this world, but I can walk in God’s kingdom and chose to grieve as He grieves knowing that I can grieve with Him and share my grief and His love with those in my path. I will weep until I am with God in heaven, and I learned today that weeping is a very powerful form of prayer. That changes my journey in a most beautiful way. That’s good grief, and I thank God for showing me the difference between the world’s way of grieving and His.

Breathing In:)

I’ve been out of my regular loop this week as I’ve been busy getting moving into the new house. There are still many boxes to unpack, but my bedroom furniture came yesterday, and Tyler worked late getting it all together! The girls and I have been sleeping on mattresses on the floor in my room this week as Tyler worked long hours and Gina helped care for her grandmother. Last night, mommy and daddy were here, so I was alone for the first time since Saturday. I missed the sweet pillow talk that lulled me to sleep each evening and brightened my spirit each morning. It’s been over a decade since I’ve shared a bed with anyone, and I loved the sweet snuggling.

This morning, I’m breathing in, relaxing in God’s Spirit, and enjoying His presence. The Holy Spirit is the breath of true life and love. That’s been the beautiful lesson this week. The Greek word for Spirit is the same word used for wind and breath. I have taken in deep breaths this week as both I and this beautiful home have come to new life.

Life and love without the Spirit is like being on life support. Life and love with the Holy Spirit is breathing in God. Christ’s precious love enables me to be one with Him, with God, and with the Holy Spirit so I can love as He loves and live the life He has planned. It isn’t about being independent; it is about stopping my struggle, relaxing in His love, and allowing His Spirit’s indwelling to be as natural as breathing.

There is no way to show someone how to breath. There are methods that improve lung and heart capacity, but breathing is an involuntary function closely tied to the heart. The same is true when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Love changes, and there is a new freedom. I no longer need a respirator! I can breath in God’s own Spirit thanks to Christ.

It has been a week of transition for me, and I finally understand the importance of breathing in His love. The best way to describe the lessons this week would be to say I feel as though I’ve come off the respirator and am breathing on my own. Breathing in God’s Spirit is a choice, and I’m the only one who can decide to pull the plug on trusting any other form of life support other than His love.

Sweet Susan’s passing yesterday was a big part of the lessons this week. As I watched her loved ones care tenderly for her at home as she wished, my heart saw love expressed in an amazing way. They allowed her to let go and breathe in God’s Spirit in the most powerful way possible. Breathing her last breath here surrounded by those she loved made the transition to her new and final home a beautiful one.

It’s been a week of amazing lessons in breathing, living, and loving; I thank God for loving me enough to send His only Son so I can breathe in His Spirit and live a life filled with His precious love. Breathing is about living, and living is about loving. Christ helps me live a life worth living forever where love is as natural as breathing:)

Power Pointing:)

John 1:1-5 amazes me as I think of God’s Word becoming flesh. Jesus took God’s Word and fulfilled it in a way that changed everything. Hear the amazing scripture:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” NASB

Powerful words indeed! The whole of my salvation rests in the first verse, and the last verse describes Christ perfectly. I’m humbled by the notion that darkness didn’t and still doesn’t comprehend the Light. I find myself stumbling in the dark holding on to my little match when there is a flood light at my disposal.

Why God puts up with me is the first question I plan to ask Him. I already know the answer because Jesus made it crystal clear. He loves me, and that love brings life where there is death, love where there is hatred, light where there is darkness, and hope where there is hopelessness. God does not force His Light or Love upon me. He doesn’t put me in a chair, aim a blinding light at my face, and interrogate me to the breaking point. He simply shines and invites me to come.

Christ is the Light, the Life, the Way, the Truth, the Love, and God’s Word made flesh. He gives me the choice of accepting or rejecting Him. I often try to do things on my own, and that little match of mine burns the dickens out of my fingers! I’m learning to let go of my match and point to His Light. It’s better to bask in His love than worry about burned fingers. I don’t have to provide the light or be the light, I just have to turn toward it, reflect it, and help others do the same.

Once I bask in His sweet Light, nothing else will satisfy my heart or soul. The Light creates a desire to tell others about Him.  Verses 6-8 go on to say:

“There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.” NASB

John the Baptist knew who he was and who he wasn’t. He didn’t try to be the Light, he simply and powerfully pointed to the light. Witnessing is about knowing who I am and who I am not. A good witness points in a way that causes others to find His life-giving light. It’s what true love is all about, and John loved Jesus. His testimony is still bringing folks to His Light.

I cannot be the Light, but I can tell others how much I love Him and live a life that reflects His Light. It’s not only polite to point in Christ’s direction, it’s exactly what God has in mind for His witnesses. There’s power in pointing if I make sure it’s Him and not me getting the attention:)

Healed Holes

The way to find my way is to open my eyes. The way to find God’s way is to open my heart. That means hearing and having faith when I can’t see my way. Not seeing my way is a prerequisite for seeing His:) I always take the long way around when it comes to learning, and that convoluted path gets frustrating at times; but it’s worth the extra miles when I finally get it:)

On Monday evening, the sunset was the most beautiful I have ever seen. The day was a cold, dreary, and very rainy one. I had a funeral in the afternoon, and a visitation in the evening. Around 5:30, I noticed a beautiful glow and turned to look out my kitchen window. What I saw, took my breath away. I quickly turned off the lights and stood by the window to watch God. In an hour, a dense fog descended. Visibility was terrible as I made my way to the visitation. It was a difficult two-hour ordeal that left my heart aching. I know the glimpse of God was there earlier to remind me that He was with me, and I held on to that thought throughout the evening.

On Tuesday afternoon, the funeral for my sweet former student who took his own life was a time of healing. As I heard God’s Word, I felt the ragged edges of my heart begin to come together. As I found myself surrounded by so many loved ones, I felt God”s presence in a powerful way. Immanuel! God with us. What a beautiful plan! His way became clear as I let go of my grief and let Him fill those holes with His love.

Grief opens the heart as nothing else if allowed to run God’s course. God helps me feel the hurt, absorb it, and let the holes in my heart stay open. Those healed holes, as I call them, allow love to flow more freely. It’s like having an ear pierced; the hole heals, and I can put in an earring. Without God’s help, the holes in my heart remain raw and ragged and sore.

I think holiness is having healed holes that open my heart in a wonderful way. Last night, as I listened to the sweet voices of children singing songs about Christmas, I felt whole and holy indeed. I was surrounded by little ones yesterday, and God blessed as love poured in and out of my heart as it only can when I am with children. Tears are part of healing, but so is laughter:)

Grief will always be part of my life if I plan to love, and God certainly has loving at the top of His list when it comes to living. Laughter will always be part of my life because no one has a better sense of humor than God. He designed us to love, and that means both tears and laughter.  I need both, and God is always there to cry and laugh with me.  Those who truly love me do the same.

God shares my journey and shows me His way. He knows it and me by heart:) I didn’t have the presence of mind to take a picture of the sunset, but God has another sweet former student do that for me. Here’s Stacy’s photo, and it captures just what I saw on Monday evening.

Sunset

Seeking God

Seeking God is so much more than simply seeing Him; it is an endeavor to find His love and His will in my life and His world. God is love, and love has a very special quality. It connects as nothing else. When I look for and find God in those around me, I experience the beautiful connection love offers. It is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Seeking is intentional, active, and often painful, but it is well worth the effort when I find and embrace the love it brings.

Accepting God’s love allows it to flow through me.  I have several friends with whom I have a deep connection, and that blesses me as nothing else. My son and I have a sweet connection, and the love I have for him and his family connects us beautifully. If God is the center of a relationship, it will be a taste heaven. If I am separated from someone I love, it is a taste of hell. I need to feel both in order to understand God and myself more fully.

Seeking God’s kingdom seems simple enough, but it is far from easy. It requires a level of faith I am only beginning to understand and a level of honest communion that tests my trust. I know it is what God desires for me, and that gives me the courage me to keep on seeking. Courage and love walk hand-in-hand.

Finding God opens new doors but closes others. Repentance is about turning, and turning means a new direction. It isn’t easy to leave old habits, but when I realize they keep me from experiencing the joy that comes from obeying God, I can move forward and live the life God has in mind. Love is transformed and transforming as God has His way with my heart. All transformations involve demolition, and the process takes time and energy. Understanding my need for repentance is what makes seeking so difficult. The beautiful result makes me forget what I was like before, and that’s when I know I’m heading in the right direction:)