Ruts and Loops

 

In a RutLoops and ruts make traveling easier because they force me to go where others have gone or cause me to spin mindlessly in a tight circles. God’s message this morning was that ruts and loops keep my heart from experiencing the freedom He has in mind.

Ruts are safe, and loops are a lot of fun. I’ve spent most of my journey in one or the other; as a result, I’ve found myself stuck in places and relationships that are not good for my heart. Hearts are made to spiral upward not spin in a circle or ride in a rut.

When automobiles made their way into the American lifestyle, ruts were important because they kept travelers from becoming lost in unknown territory. Roads were muddy, and ruts brought order. It’s what a rut is designed to do.

When I manage to get out of a rut, it’s difficult to get back in. I’m on my own. The same thing happens when leaving a loop. I find myself being flung away from the crowd. Fear of being alone keeps me fused to ruts and loops, and that’s exactly where God does not want me.

God doesn’t do ruts or loops even though we do our very best to get Him into ours. He will not be contained, and my heart is designed to be the same way. It isn’t supposed to ride in a rut and whirl in a loop. Hearts are made for freedom, and love is the most freeing force in existence. Christ proved that on the cross.

As folks were making plans for Thanksgiving yesterday, I felt left out because I wasn’t included in any of them. That happens a lot since my daughter-in-law’s family resides in another state. I understand the predicament, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. I went to bed feeling out of the loop and sorry for myself, once again. My thoughts dig a deep rut in my heart if I’m not careful with them. They are a lot like a plow out of control!

I decided to give my thoughts to God before I went to bed last night.  I slept peacefully and woke feeling wonderful and smiling at the humor of the situation. God assured me this morning that being out of the loop is exactly where He wants me to be. If I have any sense at all, it’s also where I should want to be.

Holidays are the worst time for ruts and loops. Hearts get hurt, and folks are left out of or overwhelmed by the crowd. Self differentiation is the key to living and loving as God desires. He wants me to stay connected  and love in ways that allow my heart and the hearts of those I love to be free.

God held my thoughts last night and changed my mind with His images of cars in ruts and kids on coasters. Both helped me nudge a little nearer to where I need to be.

roller-coaster

Starting Point

The starting point is more important than the final destination because it defines my journey. If I’m stuck in the past, I’m never able to catch up to myself. If I keep a foot in the future, I hobble along at a pitiful pace. I do both and end up stuck or stalled as a result. If I start where I am by making peace with my present, the journey will be as God intends. I rehash my past, rehearse my future, and miss my present.

Ice and snow have made for treacherous travel this week; when I finally did get out of the house, I found myself driving around with no destination in mind. It was wonderful to be moving after being sick and stuck indoors. Then, I sat in the sun and did nothing for a very long time. It was healing to soak in the sunshine and simply be. The best traveling is done when sitting still. It’s what allows my heart and soul to spiral upward, and that’s the destination I most desire.

Culture says be productive, go places, take charge of your own future, and never look back unless you need an excuse for your troubles. In Psalm 46:10, God has a different view.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.” NIV

It’s silly to think stillness is the best way to move. Love is also a lot of silliness when you think about it. In fact, all of God’s ways are silly to the world. His ideas may be foolishness to some, but I learned this week that foolishness is the greatest wisdom of all. I plan to love when it makes no sense and be still when I feel like running. God reminded me this week that stillness is the very best starting point for any journey.

Oz and the Tin Man

God used the tin man from The Wizard of Oz and Dewey Bunnell’s song The Tin Man to teach a powerful lesson this morning. I suppose the release of the movie this week had something to do with the vivid image and sweet song God used to teach His lesson in love. I marvel at how He uses everything in my path if I stop long enough to listen and learn.

I love The Tin Man and hearing it this morning was a blessing. The melody caught me and lifted me up beautifully. Rising up was the image Dewey Bunnell had when writing those lyrics. God’s used the image of spiraling upward a great deal during the past year, so I smiled when I read the author’s comments about his song, ‘Spinning round, round, round, smoke glass stain bright colors…’–that’s all just purely kaleidoscopic imagery. The melody definitely dictated those words, because it was a swirling, rising thing.” Sounds like spiraling upward to me.

Take a moment to read the words and listen to the song written by Dewey Bunnell

The Tin Man

Sometimes late when things are real

And people share the gift of gab between themselves

Some are quick to take the bait

And catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves

But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man

That he didn’t, didn’t already have

And Cause never was the reason for the evening

Or the tropic of Sir Galahad.

So please believe in me

When I say I’m spinning round, round, round, round

Smoke glass stain bright color

Image going down, down, down, down

Soapsuds green like bubbles.

The beauty of poetry, especially when set to music, is that it takes on different meaning depending upon the heart of the individual listening. The same is true when it comes to God. I can relate to the tin man because I’ve spent a lifetime searching for my heart. God reminded me this morning that it’s right where it’s always been, inside of me. God doesn’t give me anything I don’t already have. Christ brings His sweet Spirit into my life so I can see who He created me to be. My heart’s journey has been a difficult one, but I’ve finally come to a place of spinning upward. Those old images are going down, down, down as my heart spirals up, up, up. Like Sir Galahad searching for the Holy Grail, it isn’t about the Cause; it’s about the result.

As long as I am in this world, my heart will continue to be broken. It’s what happens to hearts when they love. The tin man was strong on the outside and had a perpetual smile. I’ve been there myself, but I’m glad God cracked opened that hard shell and exposed the soft, pliable heart that has always been inside. The tin man’s famous line, “If I only had a heart” is replaced with “I only have a heart.” The lesson for me this morning was that it’s all I’ve ever needed, and I’ve had it all along. That heavy tin is on the ground where it belongs, and it feels great to finally be rid of it!

This is my 361st post, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence 🙂 Coming full circle takes on a new meaning as I begin to spin upward.

What If?

Do you ever catch yourself wondering how your life might have been different if you had made different decisions. I found myself doing just that as I reconnected with a dear friend this morning. I heard once that the biggest mistake we can make when it comes to the past is thinking it could have turned out any differently. It destroys the present when I wander into my past or future with a wondering attitude. It’s best to thank God for all the beautiful experiences He’s placed in my path, is placing in my path, and will continue to place in my path. That way, I can enjoy the beautiful present He gives me each day.

Movies about slipping back in time or fast forwarding to the future all have the same theme-enjoy the present! I allowed myself to pine for a while today, but my thoughts quickly turned to my son and his beautiful family. I am so grateful to be able to share this special time of connection with them. The lessons over the past eight months have been about loving and living together, and I thank God for each and every one of them.

It’s was wonderful to go back to a very special time in my life, and I’m grateful for the sweet memories God brought to the surface today. My heart needed the nudge. While special moments can never be recreated, they can be revisited in a way that renews and revives the spirit. Renewing past connections is as important as making new ones. As my friend reminded me today, we are all connected. We just don’t always know it:)

We are all one, and it was nice to feel that sweet oneness today. Christ said, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one;” John 17:22 (NASB) 

I’m learning that being connected is what life is all about. It is what Christ wanted, wants, and will always want for us. I was reminded today of a time when I was as close to God as I ever remember being. I veered off the path for a very long time after that, but I found my way back. I’ve always taken the circuitous route, but that works out well because I come full circle a lot. The trick, as another friend told me, is to spiral upward with each of those circles. I did that today, and it felt wonderful!

Spiraling Upward :)

Learning Turn

Learning often involves a curve, but this week it involved a turn. Learning rarely, if ever, comes in a straight line for me. That bothers some folks, but that’s okay. The quality of learning which most intrigues me is that it never stops. I thank God for my desire to learn and for my creative spirit. I’ve hidden it at times because it has gotten me into trouble, especially in school settings (as both a student and a teacher:) I learned to conform as a child, but not when it came to my teaching. A dear friend reminded me several years ago that a sacred imagination is a great thing. I see the same spirit in the girls, and I hope to help them see it as a beautiful gift.

Learning should be fun. I had a lot of fun learning alongside my amazing students for thirty-three years. I loved learning from them as much as I loved helping them learn. Children are the very best teachers, and my sweet granddaughters have taken teaching to a whole new level. They teach me something new every day and remind me that delight should always accompany learning.

Mylah is almost two and listening to her learn to talk has been an especially sweet blessing lately. She shocked me yesterday. When I picked her up and gave her a big hug, she said clearly and seriously, “Is it done raining for now?!” I laughed and told her that I certainly hoped so. We’ve had the wettest summer ever, and I’m as ready as she is for some sunshine! She gets a sheepish grin when she is speaking and realizes her words aren’t coming out the way she wants, but she just loves it when the words come out clearly as they did yesterday. There’s nothing better than watching her and Lillyann grow and learn on a daily basis; I thank God for my little live-in tutors:)

Learning can be painful at times, so it helps to have those in the path who are learning the same tough lessons and understand my heart. I am here to hear the stories of others and learn from them, and I’m also here to allow others into my own story. It is what witness is all about. That was the beautiful lesson God taught me this week. When the service at church this morning involved the elders sharing their stories with the congregation, I had to grin at God’s timing. He’s definitely the Master Teacher. My learning took an important turn upward this week, and I found myself a little closer to God and to those in my path because of it.

Further Than Following

Walking in God’s Spirit is a choice that has to be made at least once a day. Being led by God’s Spirit is about giving up the need to lead or even choosing to follow. The passiveness that comes from being led is going a step further than following. Following still has a hint of ego, and it’s that pesky ego that has to be monitored every day to keep flesh in check.  Living in the flesh isn’t just about the tug of my body; it’s about the need to be in charge, the “me, my, I” attitude.

I’ve been in Galatians for five weeks, and the lessons have been just what I needed. The powerful truth in Galatians 5:16-17 brought home the lessons God had for me last week.But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” NASB

Paul makes it clear that flesh and Spirit will always be at odds. Flesh is more about ego than body, but Spirit is all God. If I set myself up as God, Satan will gladly give me anything and help me rationalize everything. Living in God’s Spirit is an all or nothing proposition as Paul reminds those at the church in Galatia. You cannot be led by the Spirit and lead at the same time.

My heart came full circle last week, and I am very happy to say that it was a spiral upward because I decided to go with His Spirit instead of my wants. God used the image of a spoiled child who says they will die if they don’t get what they want to teach a lesson with humor. He made it clear that I will have to die every day if I am to be led by His Spirit. Dying daily isn’t possible unless I let the Holy Spirit lead. The ego doesn’t die without a fight; but I’ve finally learned Whose fight it is, and that changes everything:)

Spiraling Upward

Pastor John helped me see that the path takes an upward spiral when walking in God’s kingdom and connecting as He desires. For someone who has gone in circles most of her life, the circular part of the pattern is familiar, but spiraling upward was more difficult for me to grasp. God used the vivid image of Lillyann and Mylah navigating the stairs to help me understand His lesson. The big difference in spiraling upward is that each time I come full circle, I nudge a nearer to God. The hard part is a willingness to move on to the next step. The great news is that I’m not alone. The Holy Spirit and dear friends encourage me to move upward. The sobering lesson is that I can easily spiral downward if I allow my attention to move away from God.

The last lesson on the path to the praying life hurt me very deeply, but it gave me the courage I needed to spiral upward. I must choose if I will spiral upward or downward on this journey. Hesitating on the step last week almost caused me to fall. Little Mylah is finding the same to be true as she navigates the stairway.

Connecting and traveling on the path to the praying life is about self differentiation and love. As I become who I am truly meant to be with the help of the Holy Spirit and those dear friends with whom I have honest communion, I come full circle and nudge a little nearer to God and others. Some do not appreciate the spiral and prefer bringing me down. The Holy Spirit enabled me to break free of the need to please and reach a new place of loving and praying. With His help, I am able to pray at a new level. It’s what spiraling upward is all about. As I learn to pray as Christ, I am able to let go of hurt.

Praying for those who hurt me may never make a difference in them, but it really does make a difference in me. I don’t have to fix or persuade anyone; I just have to extend lovingkindness, and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. It was a powerful lesson, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. Satan brought out the big guns last week, and my heart suffered as I forgot Who’s in charge and tried to handle what only God can handle. Not everyone is happy with the changes that enable me to spiral upward. I was concerned when little Mylah insisted on walking up the stairs before I thought she was ready. She would not back down, and I’m so thankful she didn’t let my fear keep her from moving up:)

I marvel at how God teaches, and pray I let Him guard my heart and the hearts of those I love dearly because guarding hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit. That was clear as God prepared my heart to pray as He desires. I’m not sure where the lessons will lead next, but I know living out the lessons in loving and praying will always be a big part of this beautiful journey.

God used the image of the winding staircase at the center of our new home to help me see that the path to the praying life is one that spirals upward. Walking in God’s kingdom is better with company, and seeing Lillyann encourage Mylah to keep trying reminded me that a little lovingkindness from a friend goes a long way when it comes to getting to that next step:)

Spiraling Upward Together