The Innkeeper’s Daughter

Lillyann brought “The Innkeeper’s Daughter” to me yesterday and wanted to hear the story. She got in my lap, and Mylah quickly followed suit. The book is beautifully written by Carol Greene, so the girls did not move a muscle as little Abigail and Meangoat terrorized the neighborhood. I could tell Lillyann was anxious about the outcome when she asked if Abigail was ever going to be nice.

Abigail changes when she finds a sweet baby in her family’s stable. Knowing she is loved changes the way she behaves. The girls loved the story, and I loved sharing it with them. Jesus’s love does make a difference and saves me from my mean self! It even changed Meangoat in the story, and Lillyann was especially thankful for that:)

I love children and envy their sense wonder. As I watched the girls sleeping yesterday, I also envied their peace-filled sleep. Last night, I ended up sleeping for ten hours straight. That isn’t the norm, but I believe my exposure to wonder, love, and the sweet peace of watching them sleep must have been part of my own peace-filled sleep last night. I was shocked when I saw light coming in the window and couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the clock.

Love makes the world a different place, and that’s what “The Innkeeper’s Daughter” is all about. God’s love came down in the form of an innocent child. Children make a beautiful difference in this world when we listen and take time to hear what they have to say. When I model the girls wide-eyed wonder and join their giggles of glee when we play, joy and love come together in a way that is appropriate for this special time of year. So, take the time to wonder and giggle today. You’ll thank God for it later:)

Petty or Peaceful Pace?

Macbeth’s indifference in regard to the death of his wife reminds me that life without God is indeed a petty pace filled with strutting and fretting on a stage. The best of intentions still pave the path to hell and keep me from spending time in God’s kingdom. The frailty of life was vividly brought home to me this week, and I was reminded that my time here is very brief. God provides a peaceful pace that takes tomorrow and yesterday out of the way.

Here’s a reminder of Shakespeare’s famous lines:

Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

A century is a mere blink in the vast expanse of eternity, so life is brief as well as fragile. God allows me chose whether my blink will be a wink, a nap, or a space filled with His love. My life can signify nothing as Macbeth bemoans. It can be played out with sound and fury or pass unnoticed. The good news is that it can also be filled with God’s love. It’s my choice. I cannot grow nearer to God and not grow nearer to those in my path. I cannot grow nearer to those in my path without changing the way I look at the world. I cannot change the way I look at the world and not change the way I live and love.

This journey is designed especially for me, and I don’t mean that in a selfish way. God gives me time and space to apply His love. What I do with His gift is up to me. I am very grateful for the lessons He gives and for the freedom to decide how I will live. Love cannot exist without choice; freedom and truth accompany true love. Trying to get others to like and love me has caused a great deal of damage to my heart. I finally understand that being a loving presence has nothing to do with winning friends and influencing people, and that’s a relief:) It’s taken a long time and a lot of help, but I get finally get it. I don’t regret the way I’ve learned or the fact that it took so long. I have no desire to fret about the slowness or strut about the understanding.

My pace has been petty for sixty years, and my mistakes have been numerous. God’s pace is always peaceful and never petty, and a life lived with Him will be the same. Tomorrow creeps into the petty pace when God isn’t in the picture. When He’s Lord of my life, then today doesn’t leave room for tomorrow or yesterday. The present literally becomes just that, a beautiful present given each morning that I get to open and decide how to spend. Worry and regret will creep in if I open the door to tomorrow or yesterday; but if I keep my focus upon God’s sweet presence, I can live life at a peaceful pace and enjoy every moment. As my dear friend would say, “That’s a life worth living forever.” I agree:)

 

Rest in Peace

God’s healing brought a new rest to my heart, unfamiliar in that restlessness is absent. He left my heart as sore as it has ever been, but it isn’t broken or aching any more. The soreness, like the rest is a new sensation that causes me to pause as I notice the absence of aching. I’m not sure how long this soreness will last, but I pray the rest will never leave. There is nothing better for the body, soul, mind, and spirit than rest. I believe it is the stillness in Psalm 46:10. I’ve tried to find that sweet stillness but have been frustrated by its fleeting nature as I have caught a moment but been unable to hold it.

This rest is more than a moment; it is a state of being unlike anything I’ve experienced before. I struggled last week as God worked out the hurt buried deep in my heart. The exhaustion of the week along with facing the choices I have made in regard to my heart one at a time, but all in one week took the last bit of stubbornness and the need to retaliate right out of me. I was as depleted as ever on Thursday evening after aerobics, and I was ready to find a secluded spot and hide away. The beauty of God’s timing is that He placed that facing in a week filled with reminders of one beautiful choice I have made when it comes to love.

My son Tyler is an amazing man, and I love him more than life itself. When he puts his arms around me and tells me he loves me, my heart is never better. God knew I would need his sweet presence as I went through the ‘surgery’ He had planned for my heart. He also knew that having those sweet girls would help put my mind and heart right where they belong. Lillyann spent the night with me last night, and I love falling asleep with her next to me. She and Mylah know just how to soothe my heart, and God has made sure they were near me all week. Gina was a beautiful bride in my path this week, and she reminded me of what God wants for me when it comes to love. I haven’t ever seen myself as a bride. God does, and I plan to see myself in His light from now on.

It’s never easy to face my mistakes, but it is especially difficult to be confronted with so many in such a short time. I suppose it’s like the surgeon saying, “while I’m in there, I plan to…..” Well, the Master Surgeon took His two-edged scalpel, and while He was already in my heart, decided to go ahead and take care of all that needed cutting away. The soreness is similar to the feeling I get when I haven’t walked or exercised in while, and I call it good soreness. I welcome it as it reminds me to be mindful and remember that it is easy to fall back into those destructive patterns if I listen to the wrong voices.

The rest since Thursday has been just what my heart needed. My mind and body haven’t minded it either:) True rest is what God promises in Isaiah 26:3, and it is what my heart desires. I love that scripture, “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.” That’s the peace and rest that allows me to be still and know that He is not only God, but He knows what He’s doing. Handing over my heart was not easy because it meant giving up my desires and embracing His. When I felt the rest that followed, I knew I had no desire to go back to the old restless aching. Just as walking in His kingdom doesn’t have to wait until I die, neither does resting in peace. I can do both now, and that’s a lesson I loved learning:)

Building Bridges Instead of Burning Them

I have burned a few bridges in my life, but I have also repaired a few which seemed  irreparable. When my injured pride comes in contact with my self defense mechanisms, bridges go up in flames. God placed vivid images in my path this week to teach me the wisdom of building bridges rather than burning them. Burning a bridge is necessary when a toxic relationship threatens my well-being or causes me to compromise on my beliefs, but I can turn from an irreparable relationship without having to set fire to a bridge. A simple dusting of my feet and moving on is more than enough.

At the root of burning a bridge is the fear that I will go back over it, not the fear that the one inflicting the hurt will come back over. I know I’m not the only one who fears returning to a bad relationship, but I was shocked by the lesson God gently taught me this week. When there is danger, a bridge needs to be burned. When at war, a bridge needs to be burned. Most other spans should be left open because connections are important to God’s work, and relationships are at the very heart of His kingdom.

Redefining relationships is much better than going to the extreme measure of burning a bridge. Burning bridges is a very old military technique that may have begun with Julius Caesar when he built two massive bridges over the Rhine in 55 BC in a show of power meant to inflict fear in the Germanic tribes nearby. He ordered both burned when those tribes didn’t react as he expected. He decided discretion might just be the better part of valor and burned those bridges to keep the peace and his property:)

I have burned three bridges in my life, but only one involved valor of any measure. I have to take a stand and burn a bridge when things are very wrong and compromise my values in a way that is unacceptable. However, a less extreme measure is as effective without the collateral damage and should be taken when possible. Jesus advised His disciples to wipe the dust from their feet, not to burn the bridge when folks did not accept the truth. There is a big difference in the two strategies, and wiping the dust off my feet and truly moving on is the most effective way to deal with a situation when a relationship is irreparable. The other two bridges were burned out of fear. Fear represents a lack of faith in God, and I realize that dusting my feet is more than enough if I believe God is who He says He is, and I have truly become who He desires for me to be. Burning bridges is an extreme measure that should be reserved for keeping peace and building relationships, not ending them. I guess we all can learn a lesson from Julius Caesar in that regard.

I saw the results of a burned bridge this week, and it hurt to watch. It is much easier to see the truth in someone else’s life than in my own, so God let me see the collateral damage of such drastic measures. Bridges may span great divides or simply stretch over a marshy area, but all offer both a way out as well as a way in. People or places may indeed need to be avoided, but to permanently cut off an individual or group is something to be carefully considered. God knows better than we how terrible that can be. Separation from God’s love is the definition of hell, so any fires there involve burning His Bridge. I’m thankful His Son built His Bridge so I can be in His presence, experience His forgiveness, and be surrounded by His love. That bridge makes me humbly mindful of all bridges and causes me to pause before lighting any torches.

Pastor John introduced me to Fisher Humphreys’ view on forgiveness, and I learned that giving up my right to retaliate and praying for those who hurt me is the way to forgive as Christ forgives. That level of forgiveness helps me build new bridges, restores bridges I’ve burned, and keeps me from burning any more. I can hold on to my stubborn pride like a torch, look down at the cold cinders, and feel smug about being safe and right if I like; but I believe God would rather have me take the path His Son took. He prefers building bridges and restoring the ones I’ve burned rather than setting any new fires:)

Loving Lathe

The two-edged sword in Hebrews 4:12 isn’t a weapon designed to kill or maim; it is a loving lathe. As a wooden bowl turned by human hands, my heart is transformed into something beautiful as God applies His Word. The scars and hurts become unique designs as the lathe cuts deeply guided by loving hands that see what I cannot♥

I have a friend who turns wood, and I am amazed each time I see the results of his turning. I thought the process was controlled more by the saw than his hands. I didn’t realize how much effort went into actually turning the wood, which is all about the hands of the one creating the work of art. That struck me and made me think of the powerful words in Hebrews. The turner sees what others cannot. Like the carver, he sees beauty that the rest of us miss. I know the same is true for artists, musicians, writers, cooks, and all who create.

When I remember that God is the ultimate Creator, our relationship becomes clearer in my heart and mind. He made me! I know how I feel when I make something. I love it and just can’t keep myself from looking at it, holding it, reading it, and sharing it with others. What God feels when He sees me as His creation is so much bigger than I can imagine. I did get a small taste of that feeling when Dr. Han put Tyler on my stomach after delivering him. I looked at the tiny, wiggling life laying on me, and my heart changed forever. He was crying, and I touched him and told him how much I loved him. His little eyes couldn’t focus, but he turned to me and stopped crying. He knew my voice and felt my love. I was as close to God as I’ve ever been in my life in that moment. I was only a very small part of the process that went into God’s creating Tyler, but that glimpse humbled and still does each time I recall it.

God applies His loving lathe to cut away all that isn’t what He wants me to be. He knows that hidden in the mess of my heart is a beautiful bowl made unique by the brokenness and scarring. Without that brokenness, the bowl would be a perfect piece, uniform and able to be mass produced. I don’t like those bowls made into matching sets for the table. Imperfections make my heart one of a kind, and God takes them and turns them into His work of art. That changes the way I see myself and my Creator.

God sees hope where I do not. He sees joy where I do not. He sees love where I do not. If I give Him free reign, He applies His loving lathe to my heart. His hands gently guide my heart as the chips come loose and fall to the floor. There is great pain in the process, but the result is well worth the hurt. I have to believe that He is God and knows what He is doing and let go what I cannot see. Only then will I find the joy, hope, peace, and love that His restoration allows. Only then will my heart become the one of a kind work of art it is meant to be. Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that I am God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus, and that amazes me even more than those beautiful wooden bowls do:)