I’m Not Letting You Go!

Yesterday, Lillyann had a meltdown after I sent her to time out for taking a toy away from Mylah. I had seen her pitch a fit before, but this was a big step above a fit. I didn’t want to grab her or use force to sit her on the couch, so I decided to just hold her until she stopped fighting. It wasn’t easy because she was determined to get out of my arms. I told her I loved her and was not going to let her go until she stopped struggling. I don’t want Lillyann to obey me because she’s afraid of me. That’s what corporal punishment does; grabbing and jerking are the same as spanking and are all about proving who’s stronger. Obedience that comes as the result of fear doesn’t work for long. Children learn to fight and bully others when those tactics are used on them.

When Lillyann finally got tired of wiggling, she relaxed in my arms and cried out her frustration. I continued to hold her and tell her I loved her. I thought of Job and the word used to describe his repentance. Obedience and repentance go hand in hand. Both are about realizing God knows what’s best for me. Lillyann stopped crying and told Mylah and me she was sorry. She gave me the sweetest hug ever, and my heart just melted. I know from parenting and teaching that I can force children to do what I want, but that accomplishes one thing. I prove I’m in charge. It makes me feel better but does very little to help the child.

It would have been easy to scare Lillyann into doing what I wanted her to do, but  I wanted her to learn a different lesson. If I let her storm and stop and scream around the room, the tantrum would have gotten louder and gone on for much longer. It hurt me physically to hold on to her, but when she stopped struggling, it was worth all the effort. God could make everyone do exactly what He wants, but He knows that isn’t what love is all about.

Repentance simply means to turn. Like Lillyann, I struggle when I’m frustrated and don’t want to obey God. I fight and squirm in God’s arms all the time, but He won’t let me go until I relax in His arms. Pastor John explained the word “nacham,” as it is used in Job,  to me when I was struggling with God. He told me the best way to describe the Hebrew term was to think of a child wrestling to get out of his father’s arms. The father holds on until the child stops struggling. The sigh of surrender that comes when they finally stop fighting is nacham. That image continues to help me understand that repentance is not about guilt or God proving He’s stronger. It’s not about being bullied into behaving. It is about coming to a place of peace and accepting the comfort God’s arms always offer. It’s about obeying because I love Him, not because I’m scared of Him.

I want Lillyann and Mylah to understand that God’s arms are always around us. When we struggle, they are uncomfortable; but when we let go and trust Him, there is nothing more comforting in this world. I’m so glad that God says to us, “I’m not letting you go because I love you and always will no matter how hard you wiggle!!”

I'm not letting you go!
I’m not letting you go!

“Highway to Heaven”

I’ve heard many messages about repentance and John the Baptist, but few have been comforting ones. When I heard “Highway to Heaven,” I saw repentance in a new light. It is about coming home to open, loving arms. That beautiful truth makes much more sense than the fearful messages of my past.

Here’s the message by Dr. John Alden Tagliarini Highway to Heaven

You can listen to this and other messages by Dr. John Alden Tagliarini at FBCBC Podcasts

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

Simple Worship

I love First Tuesday Communion and Prayer because it is a perfect example of simple worship. The first worship services involved sharing the Lord’s Supper and pausing to remember the mystery of Christ’s gift of salvation. We get further and further away from that sweet simplicity in our worship services. The intimacy of the First Tuesday meal touches my very soul, and I told a friend yesterday that I wished all our worship was as simple and beautiful.

I look at the church publications and get dizzy with all the plans. Plans for this, plans for that, plans for this month, plans for next month, and plans for six months down the road. I get overwhelmed as dates run together.  It is important to have opportunities for fellowship, and I enjoy being part of many of those activities, but the message on Wednesday night reminded me that we are here to proclaim the good news.

Perhaps it’s a sign I’m getting old, but I found myself wishing this week that worship was less complicated. As we sang “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”  Wednesday evening, I felt a sweet sense of His Holy Spirit as our hearts and attention turned away from all the busyness and bustle for a moment. God often only ends up with a moment here and a moment there. I wonder at His love and patience and pray that I will let the things of earth take their proper place.

Worship gets to be work and arranging and planning when it should be stillness and turning. Repentance allows the turning, and turning enables connection. Obedience opens the door to both peace and joy when I stop listening to the squawking noises of those determined to distract and let the still, small voice have center stage. As long as people gather together, there will be a battle for attention. Jesus didn’t need accolades or attention so He didn’t seek a favored spot on the stage. He turned His attention to God, and that’s what simple worship is all about:)

When I Cease, God Brings Peace

Yesterday while I listened to Mylah sleeping, I noticed my headache was gone. I rarely have a headache, but this one had persisted for almost three days. My heart goes out to those who suffer from migraines; I can’t imagine. I had a simple sinus headache, and it was getting to me. I love it when I notice an annoying pain is gone. I’m sure it is never the exact moment when it stops, but it is a sweet moment that gives a new appreciation for being pain free. Again, I know many whose pain never ceases, and that humbles me and breaks my heart.

The dogs, Lilly, and Mylah were all asleep, and I soaked in the sleepy sounds that surrounded me. I was thanking God for the sweet girls that fill my heart as nothing else when I realized my head wasn’t hurting any more. I know the headache was not only my sinuses. The tension brought on by the fear and the tears earlier in the week started the twisting that left me wrung out and exhausted. The girls unwound me and allowed the tension to break. My nose began to run, but my head and heart relaxed for the first time in three days.

As I sat in the sweet stillness, I noticed my fear was also gone. That was icing on the cake, and I smiled at how God used all for my good. I thought about going home and resting rather than heading to church; but after a visit to the new house with the girls, I wanted to sing and pray and hear God’s message.  Between the girls and the worship, God changed my direction. My sinuses are still irritated, and I look as though I’ve been in a boxing match; but my mind and heart are at peace:)

The lessons this week were painful ones, literally and figuratively! I wasn’t surprised when the message last night was about repentance. Metanoia means “to change one’s mind, repent, from; a transformative change of heart.” That has been, is, and will continue to be the goal on this journey. Change is ongoing, and I pray that I will get more flexible as God transforms my mind and my heart to be more in line with His. The twisting is much less painful when I relax:)

The word for repent used at the end of the book of Job is a word that describes the sigh of release that someone who is being held gives when they stop fighting. When I cease, God brings peace. That is what repentance is all about, and it surely does transform my heart and change my mind in ways I cannot describe. Thanks be to God:)