Monkeying Around =]

When I came home from small group last night, the kids were coming downstairs. Tyler was underneath the stairs swinging from one of the steps and laughing. Lillyann’s reaction was to hurry down and do the same. I joined in the joy and told them I didn’t realize we had monkey bars in the house!! Mylah giggled and wanted to try. She couldn’t reach the step she wanted, so I pointed to a lower step and told her to watch her head. She did bump her head as she imitated daddy and La La, but she was still laughing and pointing to her head because she was part of the action. Walking in God’s kingdom is about being part of God’s plan, and like little Mylah, I am happy to be part of something I don’t have to understand or get right to enjoy. I know love when I feel it, and God’s kingdom is all about love:)

Tyler looked at me and said, “If we buy this house, we could put a chin bar right here:)” Mommy told us that only children would be chinning on the stairway:) Sometimes a little monkeying around is necessary; it keeps me from falling into the sin of taking myself too seriously. Jesus bids me to be as a child when I enter His kingdom. That means following, trusting, and being filled with wonder. I wondered last night why I hadn’t thought of swinging on those stairs, and I’m sure Lillyann was thinking the same thing! It was wonderful to see my son swinging from them, and even better to watch Lillyann grab on and enjoy:) Jesus says it best in Matthew 19:14

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” NASB 

It’s a beautiful blessing to share the journey with others, but it is also humbling to remember that there are little monkeys watching what I do. I pray I will love as God desires so Lillyann and Mylah will see Christ’s precious love in me and want the same. I pray the same for all those in my path. Walking in God’s kingdom is a journey filled with love, hope, peace, and joy. There are sweet moments of joy, and there are times of sorrow. Knowing I am not alone makes the joy sweeter and the sorrow bearable. Sharing love is what the journey is all about. The way I share it is my witness to God’s world. May I glorify Him as I share the love He has so bountifully given me!!

I Want Somebody to Carry Me

This morning as the girls were heading upstairs, Lillyann stopped halfway and said, “I want somebody to carry me.” She didn’t scream or fuss; she just wanted somebody to pick her up. I am the same way myself at times and could sympathize with her. Mommy encouraged her to come on up; I did the same and went down to my room. She waited for a little while, but went on up when she heard the sounds of mommy fixing breakfast and Mylah calling, “La La?” Getting stuck in the middle is not the same as finding the center:) Lillyann forgot all about being stuck when she heard the love up above. God’s sweet voice has the same effect upon me when I find myself in between and wanting Him to carry me.

The middle child knows all too well what being stuck in the middle means, and the middle-school student knows it even more clearly. As a middle child who taught middle school for thirty-three years, it is a feeling that I have to make sure doesn’t define me. The center represents balance, but the middle means in between. They are so alike, but so very different!! Middle children, myself included, have the tendency to mediate. Older and younger children might call it meddling:)

Like Lillyann on the stairs this morning, I want to be carried when I find myself stuck in between where I’ve been and where I’m going. Walking in God’s kingdom is a spiraling upward process, and there are times when I need a nudge. There are other times when fear forces me to stop and cry out. Christ will carry me when I cannot go on alone. If Lillyann had truly needed to be carried, both Gina and I would have come running; but we both know better than to help when she needs to go on her own. Christ knows the same about me. If we are carried all the time, we would lose the ability to walk at all. Good intentions often cripple those we think we are helping. God knows I must find His way before I can move nearer to Him and to those in my path. He provides the Holy Spirit and Christ’s precious love as guides on my journey and gives me just what I need just when I need it. I love that about Him.

Lillyann scooted quickly up the steps this morning when we left her alone, and the sweet sounds of playing together soon filled my heart. There’s nothing I enjoy more! God feels the same way when He sees His children moving forward and finding fellowship with one another. The sound of love is the sweetest sound in this world, and I know it is just a tiny taste of the love I’ll hear in heaven. As those sounds upstairs spurred Lillyann upward, so do the sounds of heaven spur me on when I find myself stuck. Walking in God’s kingdom is about learning, and the most powerful lessons are those I learn when stuck on the stairs:)

Joy Comes in the Morning:)

Weeping may last for the night,
 But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (NASB)

Psalm 30:5 reminds me that God knows what’s best for me and will watch me pitch a fit or sniff sadly when I don’t get my way, but He will not give me what I want when I want it. I needed the reminder last night as Lillyann pitched a wailing fit for mommy in the middle of the night. I was frustrated by my inability to console her, and poor little Mylah just watched quietly.

God promises to be with me always, but He doesn’t promise to give me what I want. I’m sure it hurts Him to see me suffer, but He sees the joy that’s coming and knows the hurt will be greater if He succumbs to my wails. The shout of joy that comes from obedience is filled with thanksgiving when I come through the tough times and understand the lesson He has for me.  I always get something much better that what I wanted.

The problem with getting what I want is that it is never enough. If God gave in to my every whim and want, I would only find something else I had to have:) He’s a patient, loving parent who is willing to listen to my weeping and whining because He hears the shout of joy coming in the morning if I will trust and obey Him. Storms, like tantrums, come when two fronts collide. The worst storm fades and is soon forgotten as I look at the light and breathe in the fresh air after a storm. I love Psalm 30:5, and I find hope in the joy God promises in the middle of a stormy night of weeping.

Joy and God’s peace are far better than happiness and easy peace. God knows that better than anyone; He lived it out as His Son walked in His kingdom here. Christ cried out to Him on the cross, but God could see the joy that was coming on the morning of His resurrection. Christ chose to be obedient to the point of death, and the shout of joy when He rose is still being heard around the world:) I am eternally grateful and look to His example when it comes to obeying.

There is someone who delights in spoiling me. Satan tells me what I want to hear, gives me just what I want, and constantly tells me I’m right. That brings easy peace, but never satisfaction. The spoiled child will always yearn for the joy and satisfaction they will never find without obedience. It is a sad, unfulfilled life. Unlike earthly parents, God is able to give me everything I want, but He loves me far too much to do that.

I’ve learned to pray for His desires to become mine and for God to please not give me what I want! It is the cry behind the screams of every spoiled child. We are all working together to help Lillyann and Mylah learn to share and understand they cannot always have what they want. It’s not easy or popular, but we want them to have the joy that will come in the morning:)

How About a Be Bee?

I decided to listen to the Romper Room Do Bee Song because God’s message this morning is about being a be bee rather than a do bee. Yesterday, the girls and I were very aware of the bees all around us as we spent as much of the day as possible outside. The buzzing insects fascinated little Mylah but had Lilly a little concerned. I loved watching the big bumble bees surrounding the beautiful weeping cherry trees in the yard, but I was nervous as we passed the yellow jackets buzzing in the juniper. I am surrounded by bees as I walk in this world, and sometimes the do bees get to me.

As I heard the words to the little song that was drilled into my head as a child, I had to smile as I thought how little do bees turn into big pharisees:)

 The words “I always do what’s right. I never do anything wrong struck me.” Unfortunately, do bees still have the same mantra. Do bees have a tough life, and one that causes great disappointment when the those great expectations are not met. Unrealistic expectations are bad enough when imposed on ourselves, but they are even worse when extended to others. The do and don’t bees are absolutes, and in God’s kingdom there is only one absolute. God is God. I am not. God is perfect, and I am not. The need to be perfect before walking in His kingdom is the biggest obstacle when it comes to walking in God’s kingdom. When I exclude others if they don’t meet my standards, I’m in very dangerous waters. His kingdom is about learning to love and drawing nearer to Him and others in the process.

Knowing Who God is and understanding that I don’t have to be Him opens the door to His beautiful kingdom and allows me to be who He created me to be. God simply asks me to be, so I decided a be bee is best in His kingdom. Being present in a loving way does more good than all the little do bees put together. In fact, those do bees end up making others do what the girls and I did when we passed those yellow jackets-get as far away as possible!

Many Christians have a do bee mentality, and that only sets us up for the fall that inevitably comes when the do bees realize they will never be perfect. That’s when those little do bee fingers come out and point at other bees and say, “I may do this, but I don’t do that…” Do bees become judge bees, and the stingers come out. Those painful stings leave the world in worse shape than ever. Be bees share God’s love and all they have in a way that nudges the world a little closer to God’s kingdom. I told the girls yesterday that we were going to play and not worry about the bees until they caused a problem. I could have told them that we were not going to play or walk or ride in the wagon because there were bees out there. I could have caused fear, but I knew that would leave us inside looking out when we needed to be outside in God’s world.

Do bees cause many to stay away from God’s house and His work, and that breaks God’s heart. We are here to love and connect as God desires, and that leaves a beautiful mark on His world. The do bee stings hurt long after the pain and swelling leave, and they cause folks to run away when they realize they cannot live up to the unattainable expectations that come from always having to be right.

I plan to tell the girls that the bees are singing, and we should do the same as we walk in God’s kingdom. There was a noticeable difference in the tune and the tone of the bees. The little honey bees had a soft, sweet sound. The bumble bees sang loudly in those cherry trees, but the yellow jackets stuck together and buzzed a fearful warning to those coming near. Each be bee has a special song of praise for the Creator, and He loves it when His be bees sing in sweet harmony:)

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

Obeying, Not Just Saying

God’s Word in our greatest defense against the forces of evil in this world. And when it comes to that defense, it has to be obeying, not just saying His Word. The scriptures this week take us to the wilderness where Jesus comes face to face with those temptations. A forty-day fast left him famished, so the first temptation, as is often the same for me after an hour or so, is to eat! Jesus teaches me a beautiful lesson as He was filled with the Holy Spirit, followed His lead, and obeyed His Father’s Words. Hear the Word of God.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’and, On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time. NASB

I need to be mindful as I travel in the dangerous territory of the wilderness that Satan knows God’s Word better than I do. He uses God’s Word to his advantage, but the big beautiful difference between Jesus and Satan when it comes to God’s Word is that Satan is just saying, and Christ is obeying. It isn’t enough to memorize and quote scriptures to others along the way, and knowing His Word does not ensure safety along the path.

Obedience is our only defense against temptation. The Word of God is the only offensive weapon mentioned in that set of armor in Ephesians, and it must be wielded as Christ wielded it. Gently in obedience. I tried to do battle on my own yesterday as Satan convinced me to run. He had me believing it was best for me and for those I love dearly. I was worn and torn by the time I got home from morning worship because I had been doing God’s job instead of my own. Winning the battle is what Jesus did on the cross, so I don’t have to fight that battle each time I’m tempted. Thanks be to God!

I do have to hide God’s Word in my heart and let it be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105-112 reminds me of the importance of obedience. I often don’t go past 105, but I should. Hear again the Word of God.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it,
 That I will keep Your righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted;
 Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
 And teach me Your ordinances. My life is continually in my hand,
 Yet I do not forget Your law The wicked have laid a snare for me,
 Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts. I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
 For they are the joy of my heart. I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end. NASB

Remembering that God’s precepts are indeed the joy of my heart puts obedience in its proper light. I obey to get to joy not out of obligation. I hide His Words in my heart, not in rote memorization like a concealed weapon, but in order to protect me from my own sin which opens the door to Satan. I obey God’s Word because in that obedience, I find His joy and sweet peace. I slept like a baby last night after a twenty-four hour bout with the tempter. God reminded me when I was face down on the mat in tears that I don’t have to fight His battles for Him. He also reminded me that He wasn’t going to force me to obey. Obedience, like love, has to be a choice. Both lead me to a beautiful place of peace that opens the path to the praying life a little wider and makes this journey a walk in His kingdom:)

Transparency Makes Me Vulnerable

The vulnerability honesty creates is humbling, but the freedom that results can only come from the humility true honesty and love make possible. It’s the kind of honesty and love God desires and opens me in ways I am only just learning to appreciate. Honesty and love have always gone together. When I love honestly, I become transparent and open to those I love. People are not always going to accept that love, and transparency isn’t for everyone. But it’s worth the risk of not being loved to find the kind of love that comes when you find someone who hears and understands your heart. The beauty of loving God is that He has always loved me and is simply waiting for me to accept that love. His love is deeper than my heart can understand on its own, but Christ bridges that gap and allows me to experience God’s love and walk in His kingdom now.

To prepare me for the level of love He desires, God first shows me the deepest part of my own heart and allows me to see what He sees. That includes all that is keeping me from loving Him and others as He desires as well as all that He created me to be. Seeing and understanding His love for me fills me with hope and grounds my heart so I am able to experience the fullness and the cleansing that creates the transparency that comes when I let go of myself and praise Him. That praise releases my spirit and allows it to flow with His.

The plate God fashions in my heart is clean and clear and ready to hold His fare and not my own. The transparent nature of love lets me, God, and others see me more clearly. It’s what being known is all about, and I must come to that place before I am able to truly know God. Knowing He is God is the point of the journey because when I know Him, I cannot help but love Him. The same is true as I come to truly know myself and others through honest communion which makes walking in His kingdom possible now. I am perfected by His love as He becomes closer than my very breath and understands me as none other.

The beauty of God is that He knows me completely and still loves me completely. The same is true of friends with whom I share honest communion and transparent love. I can relax in His presence and in theirs. Why God, the Creator, would care whether or not I love Him is the biggest mystery of this journey. I know He does, and that changes everything. Can I even begin to walk in God’s kingdom in the presence of such love. Of course I can’t, not alone. The amazing news is that I can walk in it with the help of the Holy Spirit. God’s love for me, Christ’s amazing grace, and the Spirit’s loving presence enable me to not only live and walk in God’s kingdom now, but to also love in it.

I wish I could say that I stay on the right path all the time, but I can’t. I fall victim to fear’s tight clasp far too often, and worries fuel fear’s fires and leave me consumed at times. I can say honesty that I’m getting better at recognizing that fear is fake and of my own design while God is real and causes fear to flee. In the presence of God’s love, it has no choice but to do so. Christ purchased my inheritance at a very high price, and it cannot be taken from me. I can, however, forget that I have it.

I cannot get where God desires for me to be as long as I fall victim to fear and allow my insecurity to block the path. I must remember that I’m not alone on this journey. Christ is always waiting with arms extended and ready to love honestly and help me do the same. Transparency makes me vulnerable, but it brings me near to One who transforms vulnerability into the openness that gives God free reign with my heart.