It’s Fitting!!

I took care of my two granddaughters while my daughter-in-law was on a mission trip to Costa Rica. I loved having the opportunity to spend quality time with them and my son. Keeping up with two very energetic little girls wasn’t easy, but it was a lot of fun. I felt ten years younger after ten days and noticed my clothes were fitting differently.

There’s nothing better than clothes that fit well, and that is especially true for me because I absolutely hate wearing them!! Little Mylah is the same way, so getting her ready to go somewhere is like moderating a political debate. She won’t wear anything that doesn’t fit perfectly, and she’s a diva when it comes to the way she looks. I learned to just leave her alone, let her go through the painful process, and pick up all the clothes on the floor afterward.

God used the girls to teach many lessons last week, and one was about the importance of a proper fit. I’ve gained twelve pounds in the past two and a half years because I turned to food to fill a space that food cannot fill. The result was a closet full of uncomfortably tight clothing. I wore yoga pants and comfortable shirts while watching the girls because I had a lot to manage and didn’t want to have to worry about clothes.

When I got home and had time to breathe, I stepped on the scales and couldn’t believe I had lost four pounds. I got the tape measure out to make sure my scales were not broken and was even more surprised to learn that I had lost seven inches!!

Clothing was not the only thing not fitting lately, so God used the girls to teach a fitting lesson. I’ve struggled throughout my adult life with corporate worship. Some places were too tight, and some were too loose. Nothing seemed to suit or fit my spiritual needs. Trying to find the right fit left me frustrated and ready to quit.

A perfect fit is virtually impossible to find when it comes to clothes, but I do have outfits that feel wonderful and look great. I feel great when I wear them, so I can relate to Mylah’s struggle with clothing. Only God knows the perfect fit for my heart, and He showed me how it felt this week. On Tuesday, I shared communion with dear friends and knew I was right where I needed to be. It was a feeling far better than finding that perfect outfit.

Walking in God’s kingdom is about being where He wants me to be. He knows His kingdom is the perfect fit for my heart; and  He knows that once I feel its fit, I won’t settle for anything less.

Philippians 2:1-2 is a beautiful scripture that describes the perfect fit God has in mind. I think I’ll put it on my closet door 🙂

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (NASB)

It's Fitting

Idol Lies

Exodus 20:4-6 is about more than golden calves. It’s about not allowing anyone or anything to take God’s place.

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” (NLT)

I don’t know anyone who worships a graven image, but I know many, including myself, who allow things and people to get in the way of worship. Food, money, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, beauty, relationships, the quest for fame or fun, and so much more draw attention away from God or take His place.

I used to worry about the sins of the parents being laid upon the children for four generations. I saw it as further proof that God was out to get me. He was not only going to get me; He was going to get my great, great, grandchildren too! I’ve since learned to see God in the light of Christ’s precious love. That enables me to see scripture in a new light, as well. God is a loving Father who knows idol lies will hurt me deeply and keep me from His love.

Idols take the best from those at their feet. Like all shiny objects, they tempt and promise much, but they never deliver on those promises. Idol worship is a one-sided relationship that sucks life from the body, love from the heart, and peace from the soul. Idol lies appear to be truth because the master of deceit is behind them. I can’t discern the truth without the help of the Holy Spirit. That means listening and obeying God’s commandments and understanding they are forged in love and designed for my good.

Good parents and teachers know the importance of boundaries when it comes to safety and learning. It isn’t easy to be a loving parent who cares enough to make sure their children understand the importance of loving obedience. I’ve seen far too many fall into the trap of wanting to be liked. I’ve fallen into it myself.

God doesn’t want to be popular; He simply wants me to know how very much He loves me. That means trusting and obeying even when I don’t understand. Idols weave lies into a beautiful nets that cover and capture all at one time or another. Many stay trapped in those nets because they believe there is no hope of getting out. God doesn’t forget His children when they are caught up in the traps of idols. It breaks His heart to watch His beloved struggle in the net of idol lies, but He knows they won’t truly be free until they are ready to hear the truth.

Idol lies drown out the still, small voice of God because He will not compete with idols. He knows how tempting it is to fall into the trap of an idol. It is why He sent His only Son to break the hold of those traps. His love and truth shed light on idol lies, exposing them for what they are. I can listen to His love, or I can listen to a lot of bull. The choice is, and always will be, mine.

Golden bull sclupture on grey glass

The Face of Jesus

The glory of God can be seen in the face of Jesus, and God makes His Son’s light shines in our hearts so we could know His glory. I love the image Paul paints in his letter to the church at Corinth.

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 4:3-6 NLT)

Having the light of Christ’s love in my heart changes the way I view the world, but it doesn’t necessarily change the way the world views me. If I keep His love hidden behind a veil, others will not see His love in my life. The message may be framed by my story, but I cannot be the story. Jesus is the story, and He always will be. My story is meant to point to God’s glory, and Christ’s love allows me to do that.

Christ’s reflects the glory of God. If I get away from that beautiful truth, His story will be hidden as mine takes the stage. The light God places in my heart is not meant to be hidden, but it also is not meant to be a spotlight for my own story. My witness should be about God’s grace and Christ’s love. Like a witness called to the stand, I need to give testimony that brings a greater understanding of God’s glory. Witnesses who focus upon their stories cloud and cover the true issues. The same is true of those who witness to Christ’s love and God’s glory.

The veil comes off when focus is fixed upon Christ’s face. God’s glory is there, and it connects to the light He placed in my heart when I turn to take in the love that allows me to see God’s glory. Like the moon reflecting the sun’s rays, I can’t look away when faced with His glory. When I see someone looking into God’s glory with love, I find myself stopping and staring too. Looking at God’s glory together is what worship is all about. If we do that as we should, others will find themselves unable to look away. When the face of Jesus is the focus, words about me fade into the background.

Photo Credit: dailymail.com
Photo Credit: dailymail.com

Kissing God

The message yesterday was about the difference between forms of worship and worship itself. Pastor Jeff used the vivid image of kissing to describe our response to God’s love. He explained that giving his wife a kiss every evening is one way to let her know he loves her. He went on to describe how worship can become a routine little kiss if it is only about the kiss. Worship comes in many forms, and love is expressed in a variety of ways. The point of the message was the heart behind the kiss makes all the difference, and the same is true as I worship God. The message opened up a flood gate in my heart that reminded me of the kisses I’ve received and how they reflect the way I’ve worshipped.

As a young teen, I remember my first kiss. It was at a neighborhood party when we were playing spin the bottle. If you’re too young to know that game, I’ll explain. Soft drinks came in glass bottles then, and we would take an empty bottle and place it on the floor. We sat in a circle around the bottle, and some brave soul gave the bottle it’s first spin. When the bottle stopped spinning, the person spinning it had to kiss the person the bottle was pointing to. Baron was spinning, and my heart was pounding. He was so cute, and I was praying that bottle would point to me. When it did, I got my first kiss. It was so sweet and led to a brief, but beautiful little romance. I thank God for those sweet, innocent kisses that made me want to be kissed. God wants to be kissed too, but I’m afraid I’ve not been a very good kisser when it comes to responding to His love. When I think of my very first kisses, I am reminded that sometimes my worship is all about me being kissed.

Sometimes, kissing is simply a stepping stone. I’ve had too many experiences with those kisses. Many were harsh experience that left me feeling emptied and used. Perfunctory kisses are superficial at best and apathetic at worst, and I’ve experienced what seemed a lifetime of them. I’m only kissing you because I have to in order to get what I want. Those kisses are the worst, but I’m sorry to say that I’ve kissed God the very same way. I’m enduring this because I know I have to. When I think about those years of worship, my heart sinks. I did what I had to do, and that is not what love, worship, or kisses should be about.  I’ve had kisses that were filled with passion but still simply a stepping stone. No matter what form the perfunctory kisses take, they still are all about getting what I want. Being on the receiving end of those kisses isn’t pleasant, and I’m sure God completely understands because I’ve kissed Him far too many times with what I want in mind.

The best kiss comes from two hearts filled with love, and there aren’t words to adequately describe the feeling it gives. Fairy tales try to capture the feeling of true love’s kiss, but it cannot be understood until experienced. Kisses that connect hearts heal as nothing else can and leave me wanting everyone to know the feeling. Love no longer is about me. It becomes about the other, and that is what worship is all about. God’s heart is filled with love for all, and magic happens when my heart connects with His. Kissing God is like kissing others; it can be perfunctory or it can be perfect. The choice is mine. It’s always perfect on God’s side, so I’m the one who has to change the way I kiss. When I love God with abandon and join with others to praise and worship Him, it is the ultimate kiss that makes me forget about me and focus upon God and the love He has in mind for His world. As I sat by the fire singing praise songs last night, I was kissing God with abandon. It was an exquisite feeling that left me wanting more. It’s precisely what worship is meant to do to the heart. Form may vary when it comes to worship, but love is steadfast and grows each time I praise God from the bottom of my heart.

Lilly’s Prayer:)

It was late when I finally got the girls settled into bed because they were still filled with all the excitement of mommy’s graduation. They were so adorable as they clapped enthusiastically for everything and looked around in awe. Lillyann clapped when mommy went across the stage and clapped again when she came down the steps to return to her seat. Mylah just clapped the whole time and grinned knowing she was part of something exciting:)

After I got Mylah to sleep, I turned my attention to getting Lillyann ready to go to sleep. Like me, she doesn’t shut down as easily as Mylah:) I was humbled and tickled at the same time as I listened to her pray. God knows that humor and humbling go together perfectly if I’m willing to see the lesson and laugh at myself. I bent my head and sat with my hands folded as Lillyann prayed. She lifted my head and told me to pray while she did. I smiled and began to thank God for loving us and then followed her model of thanking Him for everyone and everything I could think of:) Children’s prayers are filled with thanksgiving, and I needed to remember that.

I was deeply touched when Lillyann prayed, “Thank you for my daughters.” I heard mommy’s prayers in hers and joined in and thanked God for my granddaughters:) Praying together is important, and I was happy to be praying out loud with little Lillyann. I always suspected that she may lean toward pentecostal worship given her energy and need for movement. That’s okay because one of my favorite poems is “When Mahalia Sings.” It’s a wonderful reminder that worship is about an individual relationship with God  and can take many forms.

When Mahalia Sings by Quandra Prettyman.

 We used to gather in the high window of the holiness church and, tip-toe, look in and laugh at the dresses, too small on the ladies, and how wretched they all looked-an old garage for a church, for pews, old wooden chairs.
It seemed a lame excuse for a church. Not solemn or grand, with no real robed choir, but a loose jazz band, or so it sounded to our mocking ears.
So we responded to their hymns with jeers.

Sometimes those holiness people would dance, and this we knew sprang from deep ignorance of how to rightly worship God, who after all was pleased not by such foolish laughter but by the stiffly still hands in our church where we saw no one jump or shout or lurch or weep.
We laughed to hear those holiness rhythms making a church a song fest: we heard this music as the road to sin, down which they traveled toward that end.

I, since then, have heard the gospel singing of one who says I worship with clapping hands and my whole body, God, whom we must thank for all this richness raised from dust.
Seeing her high-thrown head reminded me of those holiness high-spirited, who like angels, like saints, worshiped as whole men with rhythm, with dance, with singing soul.
Since then, I’ve learned of my familiar God-He finds no worship alien or odd.

If you haven’t heard Mahalia sing, then you’ve missed something wonderful. Her love for God is evident, and she doesn’t contain that love but rather lets it flow beautifully from her whole body. I love Quandra Prettyman’s poem, and I love my pentecostal friends. I’m finding that worshiping with my whole body feeds my soul in a powerful way, so I’m raising my hands more and not worrying about what anyone else might think. Loving God and worshiping Him takes on many beautiful forms, and I know He loves each and every expression of love offered up to Him. Whether it’s a moment of silence in a hectic day or a high-spirited voice raised in praise, they all say the same thing. “I love you God!” The most important element of prayer and worship is love, and it can be whispered in solitude or shouted from the rooftop.

God reminded me that all worship blesses Him, and a dear friend reminded me that worship is a gift from God. The heart of God is at the heart of worship, and that’s all that matters. He wants to bless us, and He loves it when our love lifts prayers and praises to Him. Whatever its form, worship is about stopping for a moment, thanking God,  and letting Him know how very much I love Him. Lillyann started and ended her prayer with, “Thank you God,” and I believe that’s a great model to follow. Thank you God indeed!!

Lilly:) 

Words Are Not Necessary

When praying and loving, words are not necessary. In fact, the lesson yesterday was that weeping is praying and loving at a deep level. As I wept, I wasn’t consciously praying or loving, but I felt a sweet sense of relief and love. God hears my heart more clearly when my mind and mouth are still, and nothing silences them like weeping. Words are not only not necessary when loving and praying, they often get in the way. When I offer consolation, advice, or comfort, I never know what to say. When I pray, I am the same way.

The most important lessons so far in the path to the praying life have been about words. All who know me, know I love words, but I’m getting better with silence and am very thankful for God’s patience in that regard. I have practiced prolonged silence at the reflection center, but I have difficulty with silence around others. I have a need to fill the space, but I’m learning to give up that space to God and be still. There is nothing like silence to help the spirit and heart draw near to God, and there is also nothing like silence when it comes to worshipping and loving Him. I love raising my voice in praise, and I will sing as long as I have breath in me; but silence is the sweetest worship.

I sat for a long while yesterday and watched the beautiful horizon. After a week of crying and a morning of weeping, my heart lifted in God’s presence. The sounds from above blessed my spirit and I thanked God for Mylah and Lillyann’s healing. They have a way to go before they are up and running, but they are on the mend. While they are sick, only mommy will do, so I know Gina is worn thin. I’ve thought of God as I’ve seen the girls cling and even fight over mommy’s lap. I am the same way when I’m hurting; I want God, and nothing or no one else will do. That was the message this week. The only way to survive grief here is to have God at the center of my heart and life. Only His Holy Spirit can offer hope when I am hurting. Nothing or no one else will do.

I may have a tough day today as two little girls go through mommy withdrawal. I’m hoping they are well enough to play and eat, so I can fill in for her while she’s away at school. I’m sure mommy will have Mylah and Lilly withdrawal as well because I’m ready for some little girl time myself:)

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:)