What’s in a Name?

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body, she was filled with grief and frustration. She arrived at the tomb at first light, but it was empty. Jesus was gone. The others went home disappointed, but Mary lingered, longing to know what had happened to the body of her beloved Lord.

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;  and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). John 20:11-17 NASB

This passage has always tugged at my heart, but it touched me even more deeply this Lenten Season as I witnessed the power of love in a new light. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus, but that isn’t surprising. None of us see what is right before our eyes, especially if it is something we are not expecting to see.

Henry Cavil, the actor who plays Superman in the new movie, stood in Times Square under a giant advertisement for Superman vs Batman wearing a tee shirt with the Superman logo on the front. His face was in lights above him, but no one recognized him. He was responding to criticism about Superman’s trademark disguise. Critics pointed out that glasses would never be enough to hide Superman’s identity from those around him. The experiment proved superman didn’t even need glasses; he could easily hide in plain sight because people do not see what they are not expecting to see.

Mary asked the man she thought to be a gardener what he had done with the body. He simply said, “Mary!,” and suddenly her world was changed forever.  One of the most powerful moments in the Bible, for me, is when she utters, “Rabboni.” She wanted to embrace Jesus, but He bid her not to come near because He had not yet ascended to His Father. Like Mary, I am beautifully changed when someone speaks my name in love. Being known heals and makes my heart whole. No one knows that better than God, and Mary learned its power that morning at the empty tomb.

The first time my son uttered the syllables “ma ma,” my heart melted into a puddle. The first time my granddaughters called me “Gigi,” my heart went to a new level of love. The children in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class call me “Gigi” when I visit or volunteer, and that fills my heart with joy. They squeal with delight each time they see me at school or out in the community. They act as though it’s been years since they’ve seen me. That delight is what love is all about, and it never gets old.

God delights when He hears His children say His name with love, but His heart is broken when His name is used to justify violence or spread hatred. His greatest desire is to be with us, and to know that we know how much He loves us. When we say His name and the names of those around us in love, His kingdom comes, and His will is done.

A name spoken in love brings joy into the world, and that is what Easter is all about What’s in a name? Everything!!

Happy Easter 🙂

 

 

 

Desires

The truth be told,

A heart on hold

Is not what God desires.

 

He knows that love

Like that above

Is all my heart requires.

 

My will persists.

My soul insists.

So what I want transpires.

 

I get my way!

I have my say!

His voice gently retires.

 

I find myself

Upon the shelf

In a world that admires.

 

Beautiful stone

Cold and alone

Warmed by the glowing fires.

 

Suddenly real

Loving the feel

Of all my heart’s desires.

 

I start to cry

But don’t know why.

My aching heart inquires.

 

God hears my plea

And rescues me.

Beautiful change transpires.

 

Love chases fear

As He draws near

Giving me His desires.

Heartburn and Heartbreak

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I think that’s a lot of sexist nonsense; but God did manage to get to my heart through my stomach this week, so maybe there is something to the old saw.

I’ve suffered from acid reflux for three months, and it’s driven me to distraction. The nagging burn of stomach acid in my throat was becoming common place because I opted to eat what I wanted to eat, carry antacids around with me, and accept the burning as my new normal.

My father used to tell me that I was born hungry and would die hungry. I told him I planned to eat as much as I could in between. I was born prematurely and couldn’t nurse or suck a bottle, so mama cut a hole in the nipple of a bottle and let the formula flow into my mouth a few drops at a time. She was afraid I would choke, so the process took forever. According to daddy, she fed me every five minutes. He attributed her obsession with feeding with my obsession with eating. That theory made perfect sense because I turned to food when I was hurting, and I ate all the time.

Weight was never a problem when I was growing up. I was tiny in elementary school and stayed a constant 110 pounds throughout high school and college. I ate heartily, five meals most days. The first time I gained a lot of weight was when I was pregnant with my son, but most of that came off as soon as I got home. My sweet son filled a void that needed filling, so I put all my energy into loving him. In my forties, a slower metabolism and a broken heart took a terrible toll on my heart. I couldn’t keep up any more. In fact, I didn’t want to keep up any more.

My heart’s hunger has always been greater than my stomach’s desire to be filled; so when the two pains merged, food became my drug of choice. I cooked and served and pretended all was well. Mama taught me much more than how to cook. Her death left my heart in a lurch I’ve been trying to crawl out of for six years. I gained twenty-two pounds trying to recreate the comfort of her unconditional love. The more I tried, the more I failed. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I kept on doing it because I couldn’t face the truth.

Thanking God for acid reflux may sound bizarre, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing yesterday. If you’ve ever had acid reflux, you know it will not be ignored. It’s been nagging me unmercifully for three months, and I finally had enough on Tuesday.

I love researching, so I took to the internet to find answers. I was tired of hurting and ready to change my ways. I found a list of foods that cured and a list of foods that caused acid reflux and decided to give it a try. On Wednesday, I ate only foods that cured and avoided all foods that caused. I couldn’t believe the difference and kicked myself for waiting so long to do the right thing.

God used my relief to remind me that my heart needed relief as well. It had been broken for a very long time and it was affecting my health and my happiness. I took a hard look at my heart habits and realized I had some changes to make. No one knows my heart better than God, so I turned to Him for answers.

It isn’t easy to give up what I want. I missed having coffee, chocolate, and cheese on Wednesday, but I did not miss the terrible burning that came with their consumption. It is human nature to want what isn’t good for me, but God showed me that what He wants for me is so much better than what I want for myself. His lists for living aren’t designed to punish or deny; they are designed with a full heart in mind.

My heart and belly have been full of good things for the past two days, and I’ve lost a pound in the process. I wasn’t thinking about my weight on Wednesday. I simply wanted the pain to stop. God showed me that doing the right thing is the simple solution for both heartburn and heartbreak.

I had to laugh when I thought of Paul in Romans 7:19 last night. I decided to eat a little chocolate before heading to bed, and I immediately regretted that decision.

“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”

Maybe writing that little verse a few hundred times will help me remember to stick to the good list when it comes to my tummy and my heart 🙂

 

 

 

 

Like Ruby Slippers

As I prayed last night, God showed me that I have always had the power to change the direction of my heart. Like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, my heart will take me home. I’ve wandered down many yellow brick roads searching for something I had all along. It boils down to trust, and I didn’t trust my heart. Neither did Dorothy. She wandered in Oz when she could have been home with those she loved. I’ve done the same.

God reminded me that I didn’t trust Him or His promises. He didn’t put on a fancy show or perform magic tricks like the Wizard. He did something much more spectacular. He waited while I wandered, and never stopped loving me. He knew I would eventually find the truth that would transform my heart and bring me home.

I’ve been the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion on this journey, but I think Dorothy best exemplifies my search for love. When she looked down at those ruby slippers, she knew what she wanted. When I looked into my heart and saw the beautiful truth that had always been there, I knew the same.

Oz didn’t give Dorothy or her friends anything they didn’t already have. He simply saw in them what they could not see in themselves. That is the transforming power of  love. When I feel it and know it is within my own heart, my journey changes in a powerful way. I can go home. I can love and be loved as I never imagined, and I can be who God created me to be. That’s as transforming as it gets.

There's No Place Like Home
There’s No Place Like Home

 

I’m Not My Own

When I read the first two verses of Romans 12, I think of Chris Tomlin’s song “Lay Me Down.” The lyrics remind me that I am not my own, and that makes it easier to give my body to God. I am giving back what already belongs to Him.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 NLT)

Old Testament sacrifices involved killing live offerings. Jesus turns sacrifice on its head by giving life to that which is dead. Metanoia involves a change of life resulting in a spiritual transformation. It is associated with repentance or penitence, but it is simply a change of mind that leads to a change of heart that shows up in the way I live my life.

I can’t know God’s will for me until I let go of the world’s notion of who I am and embrace His vision of who I am. Transformation occurs over a lifetime and isn’t complete until I am in His presence. It begins the moment I put myself into His loving hands and let Him begin His will in my life. I must be willing to lay me down before He can pick me up. The song says that much better than I can.

With this heart open wide
From the depths from the heights
I will bring a sacrifice
With these hands lifted high
Here my song here my cry
I will bring a sacrifice
I will bring a sacrifice

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh, hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down

Letting go of my pride
Giving up all my rights
Take this life and let it shine, shine, shine
Take this life and let it shine

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down
Oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down

It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way, always

It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way
It will be my joy to say
Your will, your way, always

I lay me down
I’m not my own
I belong to you alone
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Hand on my heart
This much is true
There’s no life apart from you
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down, oh oh oh
Lay me down
Lay me down

The Potter

Clay

Muddy

Messy

Sinking

Trapping

Self

Lust

Love

God

Lifting

Transforming

Gracious

Beloved

Potter

Still, God, you are our Father.
 We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
 All of us are what you made us.”

Isaiah 64:17-18 (The Message)

Advent begins this week with a beautiful message of hope from Isaiah. The image of God, the Potter, is one that gives me great hope. My heart, on its own, is a muddy mess; but in the hands of my loving God, it becomes a vessel designed to hold and share His Son’s precious love. God never forces His transformation. He waits for me to relax in obedience and let His embrace create a new heart in me.

Psalm 51:10 goes perfectly with Isaiah’s beautiful image.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
 and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV)

Isaiah 64

 

Seasons of the Heart

Fall is my favorite time of year. I’m an October girl by birth and by choice. There is nothing more beautiful than the leaves of a maple leaning against an October blue sky in the mountains. I have a dear friend who grew up in New England, and she tells me I haven’t seen anything that compares to the colors of a New Hampshire fall. I put seeing one with her on my bucket list because God is never nearer to my heart than when I witness fall’s transformation. As the saying goes, “I can hear God in every season, but I can see Him in the fall!”

October is about change. Transition is part of transformation, and that rarely comes without suffering. Fall has always signaled change in my life, and often that change has been painful. This year, change involved learning to let go. Just as falling leaves make way for new ones, letting go allows my heart to make room for  the love God has in mind. When I have trouble letting go, God does the pruning for me. He knows what needs to go, but He also knows that timing is important when it comes to trimming.

I have the tendency to foster unhealthy relationships and have trouble severing ties which are not good for me. No one understands the importance of pruning better than God. This definition of synaptic pruning applies beautifully to any area of growth, and I think God would agree that it captures the essence of the important process.

Synaptic pruning eliminates weaker synaptic contacts; stronger connections are strengthened. Experience determines which connections are pruned and the ones that have been activated most frequently are preserved. Ineffective or weak connections are “pruned” in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, creating the desired shape.” Source: klubpsychology.blogspot.com/…

God is the Creator, and I am His creation. The process of creating His desired shape for my heart takes a lifetime. That isn’t because God needs a lifetime; I do. He could make me perfect from birth, but then I would never experience the seasons of life and love that teach and transform my heart. Beauty comes from dying to self, and that is never more obvious than on a beautiful fall day.

Love goes through seasons, and each has its own beauty. The vibrant colors of fall become the clear etchings of winter, and the soft greens of spring melt into a lavish tropical display in summer. The heat of summer invites me to soak up the sun and play in the water; but fall  bids my heart to rest and grow.

I find hope in the fall, rest in the winter, awakening in the spring, and play in the summer. The seasons of my heart are very like the seasons of the year. I love the mountains of western North Carolina because we have four distinct seasons that bring beautiful growth to my world and my heart.

Fall 2007

Looking Back in Love

Looking back is difficult while trying to go forward, so I stopped for a moment this week and let God show me where I’ve been. I took a long, loving look back at my journey and remembered with love and gratitude the events, people and places that shaped my past. I’m reading “Becoming Myself Embracing God’s Dream of You” by Stasi Eldredge, and it’s giving me a new perspective on the influence my past has on my present.

I’ve looked back before, but never in love. Fear filled my glimpses back with shame, hurt, anger, and bitterness. As a result, I’ve tripped, stumbled, and fallen flat on my heart each time I’ve dared to delve into the past. Looking back was frightening, so I learned to let it go, forget about it, and pick up my pace so I could get as far away from it as possible! What a blessing to go from looking over my shoulder in fear to revisiting memories in God’s loving presence.

Letting go is important, but looking back honestly and with love is transforming. Knowing where my journey began and the importance of those sharing it is necessary for complete healing. In her book, Stasi Eldredge tells of a missionary from Ethiopia who works with young girls rescued from human trafficking. He told her that the extent to which the girls are able to tell their stories determines the extent to which they will heal. I cried as I read that powerful truth.

Telling my story is important, but telling it truthfully with love is essential if I am to heal as God desires. I felt His transforming healing this week when I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I am a traveler. I didn’t determine my direction as a child, so the path wasn’t really mine. I was caught up in my parent’s journey, and they were doing what they believed was best for me and for themselves. I learned to make decisions that reflected theirs, and that kept me stuck in the past.

God helped me see that choices are mine now, and letting Him help with those choices is making a big difference in my journey. He always has been and will always be with me. That gives me the courage to go where He leads.

This picture was taken in October, 2007. I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway with a friend who delighted in showing me God’s handiwork. It’s wonderful to have loving companions who hear my heart because they make the journey a joy.  A friend once told me that people come into my heart for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I’m beginning to understand that truth, and it’s causing me to love in a new way. Love is about the freedom to be who I am and the courage to allow others to be the same. That understanding allows me travel with or without company. I know God will be always there to help me see the love and beauty around me. He will also help me look back in love and forward with sweet anticipation of what He has in store.

Fall 2007

September Sunset

September Sunset

 

The sunsets of late have been spectacular as September makes her exit in style. Her departure comes as God bids me to end my old testament. It’s human nature to want to stay in the familiar, albeit painful, past; but staying there keeps me from writing my new story.

The lesson this week has been for me to put away the old songs and stories that no longer apply to my heart. I’ve been mired in the muddy mess of my childhood for over five decades, and God is ready for me to move on. He brought cleansing tears that opened my eyes and cleared my heart last night. I saw myself in the role a victim and began sinking into that muddy water that almost drowned me as a child.

My old story is my old story. It explains and enlightens, but it isn’t who I am anymore. Satan continues to dredge up past hurt, and I continue to find those in my path who will repeat old patterns. God made it clear that the difference between my old and new story is the fact that I had no choice as a child. I do have a choice now. I must make the conscious decision to learn from and leave my past behind me.

September has always been an important month in my life. School started in September, and I loved going to school. The summer before my first September in school, I almost drowned in the muddy water in Lake Hickory, and I’ve been struggling to get out ever since. My journey almost ended that summer, but school offered an escape. I still remember the thrill of walking home from school with my sister Linda my first week of school. I was only five and small for my age, so my teachers made quite a fuss over me. My sister and I had matching red plaid kilts, and I still remember how much I loved wearing mine. I was a big girl, and I was going to school! I also remember wearing the kilt my sister wore six years later in seventh grade.  I’m still wearing a kilt woven five decades ago, and it’s even more inappropriate than the hand-me-down one I wore in seventh grade. I’m ready for a change!

Kilt or no kilt, that same feeling of excitement accompanied me to school every fall for fifty years. A big part of my decision to go into teaching was my love for school and for fall. I got a new beginning every year, and I could escape the outside world within the walls of my safe haven. School was always place of escape for me, and September has been a time of endings and beginnings. It’s fitting for God to use this month as a backdrop for the change He has in mind for my heart.

Fall is a time of dying, and death accompanies both endings and beginnings. The victim in me died last night, and I know God will use her death as an important transition to His transformation. It’s time for a new story, one that is rooted in the past but routed in Christ’s precious love.