A Chance for Change

Change is a difficult challenge as I have to choose whether or not to embrace God’s will and let go of mine. Change is necessary to manifest His will, but I must trust God and give Him the chance to change me. Security, my need to control, and pride keep me from changing as God desires. When I am ready to surrender, the Holy Spirit begins a transformation only He can accomplish.

Security is linked to safety, and I cling to what I know in a desperate attempt to remain safe. The irony is that my tendency to stick to the known threatens the very safety I try to protect. I settle for the way things are and convince others I know what I’m doing. The problem comes when trying to convince myself or God.

The chance for change requires leaving my comfort zone and stepping into the unknown. That puts me in a prayerful state of mind and requires faith that God is who He says He is. It’s precisely where I need to be, but exactly where I don’t want to be. Like the Israelites, I complain and ask God why I have to change. I prefer rearranging to real change which requires more reflection than I care to do.

Moving away from the known is extremely difficult, even when I know it is for the best. I stay in terrible situations simply because I worry that I may end up in a worse place if I step out, which shows a lack of faith on my part. I also have to admit I am wrong, and that bruises my pride. Christ was willing to leave heaven and God’s presence to make the single most powerful change this world has ever experienced. If He can do that, surely I can make the simple changes He is asking of me.

Change asks me to surrender and have faith in God. I have to let go of my need to control, and admitting I need God is the first step in that surrender. When I finally let go, God always shows me how pleasant it is to have someone who knows the way take me where I need to go. I would never step off a plane in a foreign country, signal for a taxi, and tell the driver to move over, but I am guilty of doing just that when it comes to God.

Several years ago, I was in San Francisco on a business trip. It was during Chinese New Year. My colleagues and I decided to go to China Town for the festivities. I’ve never seen so many people in one place and soon found myself caught up in a group of revelers dressed in a large red dragon costume. They were setting off firecrackers in front of each store to bring good luck to the owner in the coming year. I started to panic as the fireworks got closer and my colleagues got further away. I was lost in a sea of foreign faces and filled with fear.

When faced with danger, I look for help. When in a ditch, I’m open to suggestions. The challenge of change is having the same attitude without the danger or the ditch. Successful people know the importance of change and are willing to take the risks involved. Like a child in the backseat, I tend to bombard God with questions. When will I get there? How much longer? Where am I? I’m hungry! Can I have a drink? My father responded to those questions with the threat of pulling off the road. God is much gentler, but He makes it clear that I free to go my own way if that’s what I want. God’s patient love lets me wait until I am ready for the changes He has in mind for me.

God could easily take control, but that goes against the nature of love. He loves me too much to force His will on me. Besides, He knows it’s an ineffective method for true change. If I see the second ‘c’ in chance as my need to control, change it to a ‘g’ for God, and give control to Him, I’ll find the joy that comes when I trust and obey Him. Pride and fear keep me from giving God the chance to change me. Pride doesn’t go before the fall when it comes to change; it keeps me from falling back into my faith in God. Falling in faith is a lot like falling in love. I have to just let go and trust God to catch my heart. As I looked at this amazing sunset this evening, I wondered how I could possibly not trust God.

Sunset 10-12-13

Loving & Swimming Lessons:)

We opened the pool on Monday when we celebrated Memorial Day. I was, and have been, very nervous about having the girls around the water. My fear of water is deep within my heart, and I was afraid of passing along that fear to the girls. I steered clear of the pool when they were in the water, but today was a beautiful turning point for my heart as God used the pool to give me loving and swimming lessons at the same time.

This morning was a turning point for my heart as I decided to accept and embrace the love God placed in my path, and I did so with a true non anxious loving presence. My heart was light and as full as it has ever been. I relaxed, let go, and “simply and bravely” loved. That was the title of the baccalaureate message Pastor John delivered to the graduates last Sunday; and while I was getting the message into pamphlet form this morning, I realized the title aptly described the lessons God had for me this week.

Lillyann swam on her own for the first time Monday, but she truly got it this afternoon. She just wouldn’t quit swimming back and forth across the pool. She had her water wings on, but she let mama let go and took off on her own.  Mama’s lessons finally clicked for her, and God’s lessons in loving and swimming finally clicked for me too. We both simply, and bravely, let go:)

After lunch, I decided to swim in the pool while the girls were napping. I prayed that I would not relay my fear of the water to the girls and asked God to please help me. An amazing thing happened when I got into the water. I started swimming, floating, and playing with abandon. There was no floundering, flailing, or thrashing about. I swam and played until the girls got up, and then I played for another hour and a half with them. They saw my excitement, and it was contagious! They especially loved it when I swam under the water and tickled their toes:)

God took away the fear I so worried would be passed along to my sweet little grandbabies and replaced it with delight. I am still in awe and don’t understand exactly what happened today, but God used Lillyann’s letting go and delighting in her new found freedom to get across His lessons for me. My heart has had on its water wings (the Holy Spirit), and my body had all the right motions for swimming. I knew what to do, but knowing and doing are two different things. Today, I loved and swam with abandon as I let go of my fears. I was as close to God as I ever have been in the process.

I shared Lillyann’s delight in a beautiful way because I knew exactly how she was feeling. That’s the way it is with love, as well. We laughed and loved each other as we played in the water, and we shared a very special moment. She kept telling me that I was her best friend while we were swimming together, and that was icing on an already amazing cake today. Love is like swimming; God waited for me to let go of the fears that were keeping me from loving as He desires. Just as mommy and I delighted when little Lillyann took off across the pool, I could imagine God doing the same when He saw that His swimming and loving lessons had finally paid off:) 

Molded by the Mess

I thought about God’s messages over the past month as I went to sleep last night. Sometimes, I want to flee the mess and hide from this world, but God reminds me that my heart is in the mess in a way that bids me to stay and love as He desires. As I talked to Tyler when he came in very late after a grueling day at work, I knew I was were I needed to be. His sweet thank you for supper lifted my spirit and warmed my heart as only a loving child can. The smallest gestures mean the very most in the midst of the mess. I had allowed my heart to get off track, but Tyler helped my heart regain its balance.

Like the little weed pot from yesterday, my heart must be put to the lathe before it can be molded as God desires. The cutting away is painful, but the mess does an even better job than that sharp lathe if I give my mess to God. He uses it to cut away and create the me His love sees and so wants me to become. I had the image of a wood turner trying to shape a vase while it was wiggling, worrying, and wondering what was going on. I had to giggle at the notion of a piece of wood arguing and questioning the turner:) I’m glad God giggles when I wiggle and worry because if He didn’t, I’d be a pile of sawdust on the floor. He patiently holds me to the mess and whispers calming words through His scriptures.

When I turn to His Word, He uses the mess to turn and mold and make me into His creation. Like that block of wood, I can’t see what the turner sees. I have to trust that God knows what He is doing before I can stop my wiggling and worrying. I get buried by the mess at times, but God is faithful to dust me off and start turning again when I let the Holy Spirit put me back into His hands and be still while He does what He does best. God’s love tempers the turmoil in my heart and allows me to surrender to the turning. Repentance is turning, and it is only in the mess of this world that I can recognize my own sin and let Christ’s precious love turn me around so I can molded by the mess instead of being buried by it.

Breathing in God’s Presence

Lessons on the path to the praying life have been simple ones that left me changed in a powerful way. God stripped me down to my bare bones and took me to the very core of my heart in a way that left me empty and exposed as never before. In the bareness, I’ve found simplicity and felt like hitting my forehead with my open palm the way the folks on those vegetable juice commercials do:) I suppose I was thinking I would get to some higher level of praying, fall into lengthy, more complicated patterns of prayer, or master centering prayer or Lectio Divina, but the exact opposite occurred. Praying became second nature, and prayers became simple moments with God.

The point of all the lessons is that praying and living are one and the same. Praying is breathing God’s presence into my spirit as often as I breathe air into my lungs. I’ve found that praying is more necessary for living than breathing. Praying simple prayers constantly is walking in God’s kingdom as a barefoot child walking a familiar path. It is a sweet state of being that brings light in the darkness and cool water in the desert. Praying is holding God’s hand, riding on His shoulders, or resting in His arms as He shows me His world; it’s a wonderful way to travel. I don’t have to find the way or forge the path. His Son did that, and His Holy Spirit waits patiently for me to quit striving and worrying so I can delight in all God has to show me.

When prayer becomes an involuntary act of love as natural as breathing, the praying life begins. Like a newborn baby taking in her first breath, I was worn out and scared to death from the process of entering into a new way of praying. It becomes more relaxed and natural with each prayer, and now I can’t imagine praying any other way. It’s nice to know I don’t have to worry about how or when to pray anymore, and if I feel a stuffy heart coming on, I know the Holy Spirit will quickly open my prayer way if I call on Him for help. He usually prescribes a good dose of scripture because there is nothing better for prayer than God’s Word taken under the care of the Great Physician:)

Author! Author!

Hebrews 12:2 says much about faith that I tend to forget. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”NASB

Author is an interesting word. The origin of the word is autor “father,” from Old French auctor, acteor. It is a word I associate with God. There may be no original thoughts, as some say, but there is an Originator who has all authority. I have been thinking recently about authorship. There is much debate on the subject when it comes to the Bible, and there is a desire to understand the origin of various texts. I read an interesting article this week by Richard L. Schultz from Wheaton College called “Intertextuality, Canon, and ‘Undecidability’ Understanding Isaiah’s ‘New Heavens and New Earth’ (Isaiah 65: 17-25) ” Schultz says it best with “Our goal in identifying and considering intertextuality is not primarily to achieve a more accurate but rather a richer interpretation,” We argue over accuracy of a text too often when a richer interpretation should be the goal of delving into the beautiful scriptures of God’s Word.

The thing I love best about God’s Word is the life it takes on when read with an open heart. There is nothing like it in all of literature. I can read the same passage a thousand times and never hear it the same way. Those who would cement and fix or pick and peck at particular passages miss the beauty of seeing the whole beautiful message. Jesus is the author and perfecter of my faith. Romans 10:17 makes a beautiful connection with “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” NASB Faith isn’t something I can find by by searching diligently or get by working harder. It is something I hear and take into my heart so I can move closer to God. Jesus fulfilled God’s Word in a way no one expected, and He is still fulfilling it in the same way.

The religious leaders of Christ’s day would have preferred for Him to prove them right because that’s human nature. Jesus was fully human, but He had God’s nature which isn’t anything at all like ours. He saw the joy before Him, so He could get past the present suffering He knew He would have to endure. I have to do the same when it comes to faith. Jesus is the author and the model when it comes to trusting God when I cannot see the outcome. I have a blurred vision or an inking of what is going on when it comes to God’s plan for me, but I will not have clarity and complete understanding until I am with Him. A dear friend reminded me this week that watching is as important as listening in that regard. Jesus knew the seat beside His Father was waiting for Him, and He had complete trust in the Author of His faith. That encourages me to hear God’s Word with a new heart that  opens His Word and lets His Holy Spirit help me find my faith.

Fog and Faith

The fog today was as thick as any I’ve ever seen. I missed seeing the beautiful mountains in the distance, but there is a soft lesson hidden in the white mist that touched my heart. It reminded me that faith is believing without seeing, and that was a lesson I needed today. I like knowing what’s ahead when it comes to finding my way, and that’s exactly what God is trying to get me to change. Not being able to see ahead is unnerving, and uncertainty about where He is leading is even worse. The praying life is about love, but it also requires a level of faith I do not yet have. I suppose that’s the point of the lessons:)

I don’t know if it’s human nature or just me, but I say I trust and then offer a list of questions up to God in an effort to find out what’s coming. Even with all those lessons in love about being present and staying in the moment, I still find myself with one foot in the future. The world says to get a foot in the door, but God says to keep both feet in the present and leave the future to Him. Perhaps one day I’ll learn to do that without having to be reminded.

Lillyann is like me when it comes to wondering and worrying about what’s coming, and I love that about her. If I ever get weary with her worrying, I just remember that I am the same way with God. He is patient and loving, and I ask Him to help me be the same. Lillyann is surrounded by those who love and care for her, and I thank God the love He placed in each of their lives and in mine. Knowing you’re loved is at the heart of faith, and God’s love is the most powerful force on earth and in heaven. How can I not have faith when I know who He is and how He loves.

Fog is part of living in the mountains, and I love watching it settle in the valleys. When it comes too close to home, I don’t like it. Today was a vivid reminder to have faith in Him when I can’t see or don’t understand what’s next on the path. The fog is lifting, and the temperature is dropping. I see the mountains, and I see the beautiful white fluffy snow clouds coming from the west. The girls are excited, and so am I:) The beauty of a spring snow is that you know warmer temperatures are just around the corner. Looking forward to the snow and also the sixties this weekend.

My faith is getting stronger, but I have a long way to go. The girls don’t worry about whether or not mommy and daddy will take care of them. They play happily as all children should. They have reminded me today to do the same when it comes to my Father:)

The Foolishness of Fighting Alone

When I try to do things on my own, I end up in a terrible mess. That is never more true than when I think I can handle my sin without help. I set myself up for a fall if I think I can do what only Christ is able to do. Bravado leads to destruction, and courage kills any chance I have at righteous living if I attempt to battle Satan alone.

Ephesians 6:12 is a vivid reminder that should be memorized by those who like to do things for themselves or think they can save someone else.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” NASB

Being saved does not make me God, and that becomes painfully clear when I attempt to do what only He can do. When faced with evil, my job is to swallow my pride and cry out to God. He hears my cries and brings peace. If I start a fight I cannot finish, I am in for a bad bruising or worse.  Pride comes before my fall when it makes me think I can handle everything on my own.

Matthew 11:30 is another verse to keep in my heart.

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”NASB

When I allow God to be God, my burdens become light as He takes then and turns them into lessons that nudge me a little closer to Him and to those in my path. Before I can give him those burdens, I have to deal with my pride. With pride out of the way, humility has room to take root in my heart. Then, I can truly walk in God’s kingdom and not stomp all over it!

What’s Wrong With Worrying?

Worry seems harmless enough. Doesn’t it show that I’m staying on top of things? Isn’t it a sign of maturity and responsibility? Shouldn’t I be thinking ahead and solving problems? Isn’t it important to ponder past mistakes? The answer, according to Matthew 6:25-33, is a clear no!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” NASB

The scriptures from Matthew’s gospel make it perfectly clear that God does not want me to worry. I’ve learned to see worry as a measure of my faith. Fretting shows a lack of faith, and worry is a sin. That keeps worry at a distance. If I believe God is who He says He is, worry has no place in my life. That’s very easy to say, but I’m afraid it isn’t as easy to live out. Seeking God’s kingdom and remembering Christ’s righteousness help me hang out with the Holy Spirit and tell worry to take a hike:)

My stubborn need to be in control and know what is coming are the seeds at the center of my worry wart. God promises to be with me always, and that is more than enough to calm my fear. Fear flees in His presence. Living in the moment is sometimes very unpleasant, but knowing that God shares the hurt reminds me of another beautiful promise.

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30 NASB

There are many more examples of such reassurance in God’s Word.  Joel 2:21-27 tells me He is in with me, and He is my God.  I still fall prey to fear and let worry take up space in my heart and mind, but I’m learning to look to His Word and let it surround me. It embraces and stills as nothing else. Keeping God’s Word near my heart and in my head is the best way to learn from and find joy in this amazing journey:)