All I Ever Need to Know (April 9, 2013)
I can walk in His kingdom now if I am willing to die daily and follow Christ. Following Christ is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. I first learned that I could walk in God’s kingdom while still walking in the world four years ago, but I only recently embraced and applied that learning. I’ve walked in a lot of kingdoms and my own queendom, but nothing compares to living, loving, and connecting in God’s kingdom. Like Mylah on the stairs, I’m slowly getting my kingdom legs. Unlike walking in earthly kingdoms, where independence is the key to balance, walking in God’s kingdom requires that I die to self, acknowledge my need for God’s help, and let the Holy Spirit keep me centered in Christ’s precious love.
Getting my kingdom heart has been a very painful process and has taken longer than I imagined, but God’s lessons in love have given me the confidence I needed to keep going when I didn’t think I would ever be able to love as God desires. The lessons in prayer have brought stillness that steadied my heart and my legs:) All the lessons helped me differentiate and become my truest self. I had to find that self before I could die to it:)
I know who God is, and I know who I am. I want what God wants, and the lessons last week brought perspective and closure in a way that brought me nearer to Him and to those in my path. God has been patiently waiting for me to understand and let go of my fear and trust Him. He knows exactly what I needed and provides it as only He can. I have the tendency to learn the hard way, but I’m hoping to do better as I listen more carefully to God and worry less about those who take on His role.
It is so sweet when a very long wait is over, and I begin this next leg of the journey filled with joy knowing that the plans God has are much better than anything I can imagine. I have no idea what He has in store, and that is exactly what walking in His kingdom entails. I don’t have a map or an itinerary so please don’t ask me for one. All I know is that I am walking in God’s kingdom now, and that’s all that I ever need to know:)
What About a Be Bee? (April 10, 2013)
God used the Romper Room Do Bee Song from my childhood to teach a lesson in being a “be bee” rather than a “do bee.” The girls and I were very aware of the bees all around us yesterday as we spent as much of the day as possible outside. All the bees fascinated little Mylah, but Lillyann was a little unnerved thinking about those stingers. I loved watching the bumble bees surrounding the beautiful weeping cherry trees in the yard, but I was very 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 are a few absolutes. God is God. I am not. God is perfect. I am not. God loves me anyway:) 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 think I can exclude others if they don’t meet my standards, I’m in very dangerous waters. His kingdom is about recognizing that all fall short and all are loved.
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, run as fast and 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 or queen 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. Those “do bee” stings hurt long after the pain and swelling leave, and they cause folks to run and hide when they realize they cannot live up to the unattainable expectations that come from always having to be right.
I told the girls that the bees were 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 high up 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:)
On the Way Home
On the way home last night, the breathtaking sunset made it difficult for me to drive. The sun was huge and the most brilliant orange I have ever seen. I like to pray when I drive, so I turned off the music and soaked in the silence and the scene God placed before me. I was stilled by His presence and had the sweet feeling I always have when I’m heading home. I had been visiting a friend in the hospital and was in great spirits because his spirits were soaring as his pain was gone. I thanked God for the successful surgery and decided to sing for a while. I love to sing to God when I drive for the same reason I love to sing to Mylah when I rock her to sleep; they both love me and care more about the love expressed than the correct key:)
The sweet message God had for me was that walking in His kingdom is simply coming home. I never thought of it in that way. In fact, I’ve always considered it to be more about leaving home and giving up the security home represents. God made it very clear that home is where my heart is, and my heart is with Him as never before. It has taken me a very long time to come to this place of peace, and I thank God, dear friends, and my family for helping me get here.
Repentance is about turning away from that which takes me away from God and turning toward Him. Turning is the key to walking in God’s kingdom and getting started on the way home. When I come to the place of understanding that I have to choose which way I will go, then I can begin the journey home. Home is where my heart is, and I have found it with my son’s sweet family. I thank God for the amazing home He’s given us and for the Holy Spirit’s help in seeing this journey in a new and beautiful light. The western horizon was on fire with a glorious display last night, and I could hear God bidding me to come home.
Heaven is pie in the sky for many, and I’ve been guilty of thinking of it that way myself. How wonderful to see this journey as a trip home. There’s nothing better than heading home, and that’s true even if I’m returning from a wonderful vacation. There’s something inside me that shifts gears as I turn and go toward the love I know is waiting for me. I love the feeling I get when I’m about four miles from home and know I’m only minutes away.
It’s a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual feeling all in one, and I had it more powerfully last night than ever before in my life as God assured me I was heading in the right direction. The Lord made an amazing day for me yesterday, just as He does every day, but I enjoyed it more because I let go of my plans and went with His. When I caught myself planning, worrying, or getting off track, I quickly got my heart back where it belongs.
I smiled at each stumble and thought, “I’m on my way home!!” God kept me very busy yesterday in ways I didn’t expect, but it was a beautiful busy that involved playing with the girls, enjoying the beauty around me, and some special visits He had in mind. He even included my plans in His, but He saved them for last and wowed me with more than I could have imagined on my own.
There was lot of healing in my path yesterday, but the best part was knowing my heart is in good hands and I’m on my way home. I don’t know if the journey home will take forty minutes or forty years, but I plan to trust God and rejoice and be glad in each day. I feel His presence as never before, and that’s much better than that four mile marker when I’m driving home:)
Folds & Flocks
God placed the beautiful image of a flock of sheep grazing in green pastures in my path this morning, and He also showed me the difference between a flock and a fold. He knows I’m a visual leaner, and the images He provided were just what I needed to round out His lessons this week. A sheepfold is a pen or an enclosure for sheep, but the flock comes together to graze on the hillside. Christ makes it clear in John 10:16 that He has many folds which belong to the same flock. He is the good shepherd who laid down His life to bring His folds together.
God is about oneness, and Jesus is one with God. Pens are necessary for sheep just as churches are necessary for Christians. It’s important to gather together and have sweet Christian fellowship with one another, but the point must always be to glorify God. Being one glorifies God, and Jesus came that we might be one with Him just as He is one with God. How does His message on unity cause division? It did then, and it does now. We are one flock with one shepherd, and we must move from thinking in terms of a fold to loving in terms of a flock.
Jesus says it beautifully in John 10:14-20
I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?”NASB
This beautiful scripture is a wonderful example of irony. Christ’s attempt to get the folds to be one flock and embrace the oneness of God causes division. I would laugh if it weren’t so very sad. Heaven is oneness in its purest form, and walking in God’s kingdom here must involve the same oneness. I’m finding that some folks cling to the fold and don’t like it when I don’t do the same. I thank God that there are many more who welcome the notion of oneness even if it is unfamiliar. As God is calling me to leave one fold and join another, I am challenged to maintain my relationships while making new ones. The lessons of late have been tough as I navigate the unknown, but God continues to give me His peace and place passages such as John 10 in my path to encourage me to stay the course He’s set before me. I know there will be challenges along the way because the world loves division
Unity must come to my own heart first, and that is a process that will continue as long as I am in this world. Atonement is, as Oswald Chambers says, at-one-ment. I have to be one with God through His Son and Spirit before I can be one with His flock. I also must see the fold for what it is and not get it confused with the flock. There is one Shepherd and many wonderful messengers who bring His Word to His flock. I am blessed to know and love so many faithful messengers who are feeding His sheep in beautifully different ways. Folds are not to be in competition with one another, but they are to come together as one wonderful flock. When that happens, God’s kingdom will come, and His will be done in a way that will send Satan running to find shelter. I pray I will hold on to the sweet image God gave me this morning of a beautiful flock of sheep grazing together on His beautiful Word.
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 was 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.
God’s peace and joy are far better than the world’s happiness and easy peace. God knows that better than anyone; He lived it out as His Son walked in His kingdom while living in His world. 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 see the joy that will come in the morning:)
From Hunger to Hope
One of the best benefits of living with my son and his sweet family is feeding the girls. They love to eat and delight in food as we all should. The sounds coming from their little table feed my soul and encourage me to keep on cooking. The same should be true when we go to worship. God’s messengers take His Word and prepare a message much in the same way a cook prepares a meal. The raw material is all from God, just as the food is from the grocery store. What is done with it makes the message and the meal a delight or a miserable experience. I know His messengers must feel the joy I feel when the message is received in the same way those sweet little girls eat the meals I prepare for them:)
I am fortunate to have many friends who serve God’s Word faithfully each and every week. What a blessing to be surrounded by such love. Both messages and meals must start with love as their main ingredient. I know that’s why the girls giggle and make sweet sounds of delight as they eat, and I know it is why I am so blessed by the messages God places in my path. If I prepared the exact same meals and forced them eat every bite, I don’t think I’d hear the same sounds:) The same is true for those messages. In my lifetime, I’ve heard some messages that left me feeling overstuffed or empty, but I am fortunate to be well fed when it comes to messages now. I’m eating in God’s kingdom in a wonderful way! The challenge in preparing and delivering a message or a meal is in making sure those you serve are filled and feeling better when they get up from the table.
God’s table is like all tables, and messages delivered by faithful servants sate my appetite for God’s Word and make me want even more. I could go to the restaurant of a world famous chef and write down all the ingredients for a famous dish, but I doubt I could come up with the same wonderful presentation. It isn’t about trying to be like a chef or minister I enjoy. It is about being inspired. When I come away from a powerful message, it makes me want to go to God’s Word and dig in myself. When I eat an amazing meal, I want to go to my own kitchen and experiment. It’s the feeling I pray we all take with us as we come away from a Sunday morning message. A good message, like a good meal, leaves me with the desire for more.
“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah,do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” KJV
Jesus tells Peter to feed His sheep, and that is what we all must do. If I only ate on Wednesdays and Sundays, I couldn’t make it through the week. The same is true when it comes to God’s Word. His messengers prepare special meals for me every week, and I thank God for all of them. I worship with fellow believers on Sunday, discuss the message in small group, and listen to podcasts. More importantly, I’m inspired to get my Bible off the shelf and feed on God’s Word myself. I love worshipping with others for the same reason I love eating with others. I love others:) I also like to have alone time with God and feed upon His Word with Him. A dinner for two is also very important to schedule!
Enjoy God’s Word today and everyday and make sure that you spend time listening to God’s messengers with fellow believers by your side. Take what is offered in love with love, and you will be beautifully filled. Come like a food critic to analyze and find fault, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and complain because it isn’t what you wanted, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and focus on the music playing or church décor, and you will miss eating in His kingdom now. Come and leave because someone is there with whom you will not eat, and you’ll miss eating in His kingdom now. Come eagerly anticipating what’s coming and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come thankful to see others there and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come and let the music complement the message and enjoy eating in His kingdom now! Come wondering how the beautiful Word of God will be served today and enjoy eating in His kingdom now!
How we come to the table makes all the difference in His Word. I can’t wait to see all God has in store for me today and everyday. His Word is the finest fare in His world, and I know He delights as His faithful messengers serve it up in ways that glorify Him and feed His sheep. The world is starving for His Word, so I thank all those who spend the week preparing their hearts to serve His Word in a way that turns the world’s hunger in hope.
Following the Voice of Love (April 15, 2013)
The world gets very loud and can make discerning difficult. But even in a noisy din, the voice of a loved one is clear. My heart helps me hear my loved ones when the world gets in the way. I have felt the fear of being separated from a loved one and the joy hearing their voice brings. “Hear” is a big part of the word heart, and hearing is at the heart of love. It is also at the heart of John 10:27-30.
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” NASB
The point of hearing the shepherd’s voice is following the shepherd’s heart. Jesus says that His sheep know His voice and they follow Him. He adds that those sheep were given to Him by His Father, and no one is able to take them from Him. Jesus is talking about connectedness, and it gets Jesus into trouble as He makes it clear that He is One with God. That isn’t what the crowd wants to hear.
The voice of my sweet Savior bids me to follow and love as He loves. It calms my heart and stills my soul in the same way mama’s voice always did. Christ’s voice gives me the courage to follow Him even when I don’t know where He’s leading me. I don’t have to know; I just have to believe that He is Who He says He is. Jesus makes that very clear as He challenges those who would stone Him to death.
“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” John 20:37-38 NASB
Jesus challenges me in the same way. If I believe He is who He says He is, then I need to hear His voice and follow Him. Walking in God’s kingdom means following His Son. I have to let Jesus go before me, and that means being patient and not having to know where I’m going. I only have to know Who I’m following. Walking in God’s kingdom doesn’t make sense to the world, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense to me either. That’s where trust comes in. I know my Shepherd’s voice, and I rest assured in His promise that no one can snatch me out of His hands. His is a voice of love, hope, and peace that allows me to be one with Him and with God.
Today would be mama’s 97th birthday. Her voice of love still sings in my heart, and I still feel the love and safety of her embrace. I thank God for mama and know she will be celebrating with Him today as she does every day:)
From Premises to Promises
Premises is only a letter away from promises, but there is a world of difference between the two. A few definitions for premises are:
“land and buildings; a piece of land and the buildings on it; part or all of building; a building or part of a building, especially when used for commercial purposes; matters previously mentioned; matters previously stated or referred to in a legal document such as a deed.”
I’ve depended upon premises far more than promises in my life, but I’m learning that God’s promises pave the path in His kingdom. Walking in God’s kingdom is walking on those sweet promises in a way that changes everything. God’s promises are the heart of His Word, and here are a few favorites that bless me:
2 Peter 1:4 (NASB)
“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
Matthew 11:28-29 (NASB)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Isaiah 40:29-31 (NASB)
“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles,They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.”
Philippians 4:19 (NASB)
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:37-39 (NASB)
“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Proverbs 1:33 (NASB)
“But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
John 14:27 (NASB)
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”
Romans 10:9 (NASB)
“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
Romans 6:23 (NASB)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
There are many more promises in God’s Word, and they each give me the strength and courage to walk in His kingdom with a new vigor knowing that the road upon which I walk has been paved and sealed with Christ’s precious love. His love fulfills God’s promises in a way that allows me to enter His kingdom and walk with the assurance that His promises never fail.
I can stray from the path or turn around if I chose; but if I follow Christ’s voice of love and stay on the path He’s prepared, God will take me where I cannot go alone. He does not promise that the path will be easy, but He does promise that it will lead to joy if I obey and keep on walking even when I can’t see or don’t understand where He’s taking me. He gives me a great Guide in the Holy Spirit and faithful friends to hear my heart and share the journey:)
God’s kingdom now isn’t a field of flowers or a lush tropical paradise. God’s kingdom is a beautiful field ripe and ready to be harvested. When I’m ripe and ready myself, I can begin to walk in a way that helps with His harvest.
“And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Luke 10:2 NASB
Lord! Help My Time!!
There are many definitions for the verb help, but the words of Jesus in Acts 20:34-36 offer a beautiful explanation.
“You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.” NASB
Webster defines help as: “to give assistance or support to, to make more pleasant or bearable, to be of use to, to further the advancement of, to change for the better, to refrain from, to keep from occurring, to restrain (oneself) from doing something, to serve with food or drink, to appropriate something for oneself, give assistance or support, to be of use or benefit.” God placed the word in my path today and reminded that there are many ways to help as I walk in His kingdom.
Help can mean refraining from or restraining myself from doing something that will hurt me or others. It’s easier to jump in and save someone than to restrain myself when frustrated. It’s easier to give advice than refrain from talking and simply listen. It’s easier to appropriate something for myself rather than give it to others. I blame Satan when I just can’t help myself. The devil made me do it covers a multitude of sins:)
Mama used to say, “Lord! Help my time!!” when she was frustrated. She knew she needed help in restraining and refraining, so she said that instead of the more colorful expressions daddy used. I only heard mama curse once, and we all burst out laughing as she told a rude lady what she thought of the way she was behaving. It was a beautiful example of alliterating the letter b:)
“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”Psalm 46:1 NASB This a favorite verse, so I had pens made for my eighth-grade classroom with the verse inscribed on them. I figured if the students were going to steal my pens, I’d put a helpful verse on them. The students didn’t steal a single one, but I did give them all away:) I learned a great lesson in helping from those pens. God’s ways are much higher than mine.
Sometimes, helping is cleaning up messes I don’t want to clean up, and I thought of mama today when the girls and I went upstairs for lunch. Cookie had gotten into the garbage and spread it around the living room. If the girls hadn’t with me, I would have used some of daddy’s expressions when I saw the chewed up dirty diaper. I went with, “Lord!! Help my time!!” instead. The lesson today was that others are watching when I help, so I need to do help with love. Living with dogs in the house is a challenge I know God will use to teach me, but I’m not sure what those lessons might be. I did learn that loving, giving, and helping sometimes involve doing things that are not pleasant or comfortable, and it’s never fun to clean up messes, especially when I didn’t make them in the first place:)
Whether it’s restraining, refraining, not helping myself to what isn’t mine, or loving and giving to others as He desires, God is faithful to teach me how to help as He desires. I’m learning to listen and not question; but when Cookie started barking and woke Lillyann from her nap, I’m afraid I did whisper one of daddy’s words when I went up to tell him to be quiet. I never said I was a saint:)
All I can say is that Cookie better be glad he’s so adorable:)
Love Shared is Love Squared:) (April 18, 2013)
My son Tyler was born thirty-three years ago today. My students at Alarka Elementary were giving me a baby shower when I realized Tyler was on his way. He wasn’t due for another two weeks, but God had different plans. Emily Harris was the school nurse, and she told me that I was in labor. Shirley Loftis began timing my contractions; She was whispering ‘Jesus’ after each one, and I smiled because I knew each whisper was a prayer:) I continued to party with my students and ignored the worried looks from my colleagues.
I learned an important lesson in cockiness that day as I told those around me that my pain was barely noticeable, and I was sure it was going to be an easy delivery. Around ten o’clock, Mrs. Harris was told me I should get to the hospital. Shirley told me the contractions were coming every five minutes, so I went to tell my principal that I needed to leave. He agreed wholeheartedly and urged me to leave immediately. My friend Lawana took me to my doctor’s office, and the wait began.
Dr. Han was calm and said he wanted to keep me at his office as long as possible. At noon, my water broke, so we all went to the hospital. My contractions were one minute apart and very intense. I knew it would be over soon so I just kept on breathing. Billy and I had gone through Lamaze classes, so we knew the drill and prepared to get this baby into the world. He told me when the contractions were coming, and I did the breathing exercises as prescribed. I also learned a powerful lesson in knowing what to do and actually doing it; that always applies beautifully to walking in God’s kingdom:)
Tyler was a big, strong baby who weighed an ounce shy of nine pounds. He was anxious to get here, so he pushed up and over the birth canal. His was out of position and struggled to no avail to get free. Dr. Han reached in and repositioned him just as God repositions me when I get ahead of myself:) At eight o’clock, Dr. Han convinced me to have an epidural for the pain, and at 10:10 pm on Friday, April 18, 1980, Tyler Proctor joined my journey. He was screaming loudly when he arrived, but he stopped immediately when he heard my voice. It was humbling to watch his little eyes try to focus as he recognized my voice and looked toward me. I think of that moment when I know God is there but have trouble seeing Him. I am reassured by His voice and His presence as Tyler was with mine. Dr. Han placed Tyler on my stomach, and he stared and listened intently as I cooed sweet words of love to him. I think of God when I recall that sweet moment because it is when I began to truly understand His love for me. I was taking part in God’s creation, and He used my precious son to take love to a new level.
I thank God every day for my sweet son and the girls he loves so dearly. I share my journey with his daughters in mind, so it’s important to let them know how their daddy came into this world. Last night, as I watched him and Gina playing and squealing with the little girls they both adore, my heart just melted. Mama told me once there was nothing better than a grandchild. I told her there was no way I could love anyone more than Tyler, but she grinned and told me to just wait. She was right, as usual, and I love Lillyann and Mylah more than I thought possible. My love for Tyler grows as I watch him love his beautiful girls and watch them love him right back. Gina is a daughter to me; I love her dearly and refer to her as my daughter-in-love. They all surround me with love and have taught me that love shared is love squared:)
Surrendered and Surrounded:)(April 19, 2013)
Before heading to dinner last night, I decided to take some photos since it was a special occasion. I told the girls I wanted to hold them one at a time for a picture with Gigi. Of course, they both wanted up at the same time. Tyler and Gina can handle both at once, but I’m not quite there. I was holding Lillyann, and little Mylah wanted in on the action too. I told Gina to hand her to me quickly and not get very far away as Tyler took the picture. The girls giggled, and I strained; but their sweet hugs gave me strength. Love enables me to do what I don’t believe possible:) God is love, and He makes all things possible. The love I give and receive changes me in powerful ways. Walking in God’s kingdom is walking in love, and I’m finding that allows me to do the impossible.
Philippians 4:13 is a favorite verse of mine, and God placed it in my path this morning as I thought of how I’ve changed over the past two months. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) I refer to that verse when I fear I won’t be able to what God is asking me to do, but I am beginning to see it as a call to accept the love and help He offers through Christ and the Holy Spirit. God’s love manifests through His Son and His Spirit, and I have access to its power when I accept the love He offers and let Him surround me. Love is the key to walking in God’s kingdom, and His love allows me to walk without having to understand, to trust without having doubts, and to find the sweet joy that comes from surrendering completely to His will.
When I surrender to His will, His love surrounds me in the most beautiful way. I love it when Lilly and Mylah hug me at the same time. They are a big part of the beautiful love God has placed in my life as I walk in His kingdom and love as He desires. It’s been a tough time of transition for me as I’ve come out of my comfort zone, let go of my desires, and embraced His will; but the joy I’ve found has been worth it. God won’t surround me with His love until I surrender and trust Him completely. God used the girls as a sweet reminder that all things are possible when I allow Christ’s precious love to surround me. It a simply magical feeling, and I love every moment:)
An Out of Body Experience:)
Walking in God’s kingdom is an out of body experience that requires the faith to go when I do not see and do what I do not understand. 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 says it powerfully.
“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight—we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” NASB
My body gets me into trouble when I get too comfortable in it. These verses and the ones that follow were at the heart of the message at Jack Lyday’s funeral yesterday. He was a believer with tremendous faith. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 addresses such faith.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”NASB
I lose heart if I focus upon this temporary vessel, but I can experience beautiful glory beyond all comparison if I gaze at my beautiful Savior and remember that it’s His temple and not my own. Walking in God’s kingdom requires faith, and I cannot get out of this body without it. I found yesterday that I couldn’t think of Jack without grinning, and I know he would appreciate that. In fact, I could see his amazing smile as I heard God’s sweet Word read. Pastor John reminded me that Jack told everyone he met that he was a believer, and he always said it with a glorious grin. He walked his life in God’s kingdom and trusted God with powerful faith that others saw clearly. If I do the same, I can smile as Jack always did, especially when I talk about my beloved Savior.
Being absent from the body isn’t easy, and I slip back into it often. Like a favorite shirt or pair of shoes, it bids me to relax and stop this out of body nonsense. My body isn’t the only one who feels more comfortable when I stay in it. Some insist that I stop my folly and get back where I belong! Staying in the body is easy and makes everyone comfortable. Well, everyone but God, and He’s the only one I want to please. I love being present with Him. God’s presence trumps any pleasure or escape I get from staying in this body. I think I’ll just keep on listening to Him and walk in His kingdom with the grin full of the glory God’s presence gives me now and will give me even more when I am one with Him in heaven. I know God and Dot had a glory-filled grin when Jack joined them. I look forward to seeing God’s grin myself one day. Until then, I plan to stay out of this body as much as possible and focus upon pleasing God and God alone.
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 someone 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 would probably 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 know better than to help when she needs to go on her own. Christ knows the same about me. If I am carried all the time, I lose the ability to walk. Good intentions cripple those I think I am 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 always gives me just what I need just when I need it. I love that about Him even when I don’t understand what He’s doing:)
Lillyann scooted quickly up the steps this morning after we left her alone, and the sweet sounds of playing together soon filled my heart. There’s nothing I enjoy hearing more! God feels the same way when He sees His children moving forward, finding fellowship, and playing nicely 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 when I reach heaven. Just as those sounds from 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:)
You Aren’t Going to Keep That, Are You??
I never tire of watching Lillyann and Mylah interact. God showed me last night that I often share with Him the same way they share with one another. They are still learning, and so am I, the difference between giving away and lending. Mylah and I were watching “The Jungle Book” while Lillyann visited with Mere. She would hold out a little Cheerio for me and then quickly put it in her mouth if I tried to eat it. It’s a little game to her, but it’s a little game that taught an important lesson. Sometimes, if I’m quick enough, I can get that little Cheerio before she has time to snatch it back. She doesn’t like it at all when I do that and sometimes gets very upset. I’m the same way with God.
When I give something to God, I find myself saying, “You aren’t going to keep that, are you?” I’m ashamed to say that I’ve let go as little Mylah and reacted with the same frustration when He does keep something I want to keep for myself. Giving things to God involves truly letting go. Mylah will offer and offer and even push a Cheerio in my mouth if I shake my head and say, “No thank you!” She wants me to want it so she can snatch it away, put it in her own mouth, and then giggle. It’s all part of her game, and I am afraid I’m guilty of sharing with God in the same manner.
I want to give all to God, but I don’t expect Him to keep it. It’s easy to give away what I don’t want or need but harder when it’s something I feel I must have. God often gives back what I have given Him, but it is not the same. He gives my space and stuff a new dimension and does the same for me. His ways are higher than I can imagine, and I’m slowly learning to truly let go and not push my Cheerios into God’s mouth when He isn’t playing the way I want to play:)
Lillyann came home last night loaded down with goodies from her day with Mere, and she handed Mylah some things she had gotten for her. When Mylah wanted Lillyann’s precious flashlight, the atmosphere took a turn for the worse. Mere and I had to convince Lillyann that Mylah was just going to play with it for a little while. She relaxed a bit, but I could tell that she wanted to make sure she was going to get it back. Again, I saw myself in her trepidation. All worked out well when I put the little light back where it stays, and we all settled in to finish the movie and “share” our Cheerios:)
If God offered me the opportunity to go back to Ash Wednesday, I wouldn’t change a thing. The space and stuff I’ve given Him have made room in my heart for what He has in mind. The lessons have been hard ones, and the hurt is still healing. Learning to trust God and walk in His kingdom in a way that glorifies Him has been, is, and will continue to be, worth the hurt that came, comes, and always will come when I share as He desires.
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 so sweet 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!!
Following the Leader?
As the girls were going upstairs this morning, I heard Lillyann telling Mylah, “That’s right little unicorn; follow the leader.” Lillyann was, of course, the leader. God used the girls to remind me that I wasn’t truly following Jesus, only inviting Him to come along with me. I have the tendency to imagine Jesus right behind me and try to behave accordingly. It’s exactly what Lillyann loves for all of us to do:) I am thankful God has a sense of humor and loves me even more than I love Lillyann. He patiently allows me to show Him all I’m doing and learning. I am eternally grateful that He smiles, encourages, and waits for me to stop showing Him and start following Him:)
I take Jesus with me wherever I go, and I thought I was doing the right thing. My intentions have been very good, but the path was less about walking in God’s kingdom and more about improving my path. Good intentions still pave the road to a very different place, and I had a very sobering reminder of that from God’s Word this morning.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14 NASB
I was humbled by those powerful words and the ones which follow in verses 21-23.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you” NASB
Following Jesus isn’t easy, and I pray I will remember that as I step aside and allow Jesus to lead the way. I listen and obey to the point of seeing the direction, and then I take off like Forrest Gump. It’s only when I find myself past the end zone that I turn around and remember that Jesus should be the one out in front. Again, I’m thankful for His patience and His grace. His love goes without saying because if it weren’t for that love, I would be completely lost and alone.
Following the leader was never my favorite game when the kids in my neighborhood got together. I was one of the younger ones, so I wasn’t the leader often. When I was, I was too busy wondering what those behind me were doing to do a good job of leading. Following Jesus is so much easier than inviting Him to walk along while looking back constantly to make sure He’s still there:) That was the clear lesson this week. I have to choose whether or not to hang on to my wants or let Him fulfill my needs. I allowed my path to move away from God once before in my life, and I do not want to ever be without Him again.
Holiness simply means mature, ripe, and ready. I am closer to understanding just what that means after the vivid lessons He had for me this week. Lillyann’s sweet order to Mylah was a call for me, as well. Jesus is also saying to me, “Follow me.” His voice is just as sweet and reassuring as Lillyann’s was this morning as she bid little Mylah to do the same:)
God placed the image of a spinning top in my path this morning to help me understand the importance of movement when finding the balance He desires. The physics behind a spinning top offers a powerful lesson in walking in God’s kingdom. According to eHow, “the potential energy within the top is released, changing to kinetic energy, the energy of movement and motion.” Allowing God to change my potential energy into movement and motion is what walking in His kingdom is all about. The axis upon which my heart must spin is the center of the cross where God’s love came into His world. The Holy Spirit puts my heart into motion.The explanation continues with, “The spinning top rotates around an unseen principal axis. If the top were perfect in every way — perfectly balanced and weighted — and the floor was perfectly level as well, the top would rotate pretty much indefinitely. But most tops aren’t perfect and will begin to lose their momentum.”
Humans are imperfect; so I wobble and lose my momentum and end up spinning in God’s kingdom. Wobbling is part of walking; it humbles and reminds me that I need God every step of the way. There is nothing more fascinating than a spinning top, and children love spinning and watching tops as much today as they always have. Jesus is perfect and so is heaven, so His love spins eternally as a perfect example of what God’s love does to the human walk. I can never be perfect, but when I am with God in heaven, I will be able to join in celebrating God’s love in a way that I believe is similar to that perfect spinning top. Little Mylah turns around in circles when she’s dancing or happy, and I thought of her spinning this morning. She wobbles and usually falls to the floor, but she smiles and gets right back up. I do the same as I attempt to praise God. There’s nothing I love more than watching her little dance of joy, and I know God feels the same way about my attempts to love and praise Him:)
When a top is perfectly balanced, it appears to be standing still. God’s love gave Jesus the perfect peace He needed to be still in a world spinning out of control. Christ’s love for all in this world projects from the beautiful center of His being and out into His Father’s world. I must allow His love to project from my own heart in all directions if I am to walk in His kingdom.
Being in the midst of a crowd can be unnerving, and I was a little unnerved as I found myself in the midst of a large crowd of screaming fans at a rock concert on Saturday evening. It was a good lesson in closeness:) The lead singer broke the tension a bit when he asked everyone to look to the right and then to the left. He then asked that we smile, shake hands, or give a high five to the folks all around us. That reminded me that those invading my space were individuals, and I was invading their space too. It’s important to remember there are people in a crowd, especially when that crowd begins to feel like a mob:)
Extending love in all directions is what walking in God’s kingdom is all about. Love adds dimension, and the Holy Spirit takes the potential love in my heart and makes it kinetic. Love is meant for motion just as tops are meant for spinning. When I allow God’s Holy Spirit to spin my heart and put me down where He wants me, the movement is much better than my wobbly attempts to spin on my own. Sometimes, I let the wobbling get me down. I don’t want to get back up, but God gently reminds me that I need His love to go on.
When I look at a beautiful top, I see a cross with love extending from its center in all directions. I can envision God putting His loving hand on my heart and giving it a spin knowing that I’m not perfect and neither is His world. He knows, and I’m learning, that His Spirit will always be there to bring balance and help me love as He desires.
Going to the City:)
Lillyann ran ahead of Mylah this morning, and she was out of breath and talking a mile a minute when she arrived in my room. Luckily, I was on my second cup of coffee and fully awake so I could enjoy her excitement. When mommy and Mylah came in, Lillyann told mommy that Mylah was going to Mere’s, and she was going to the city!! If you aren’t familiar with Bryson City, you may not appreciate her remark. Our little town is beautiful, but it is very tiny. Gina and I smiled and enjoyed her joy:) I love the perspective children bring to life, and I love the effect the girls have had on me over the past year as I’ve had the privilege of keeping them while mommy was in school. I’ve learned so very much as I’ve gotten closer to them.
Witness is about loving, and children love as God desires. They are wonderful witnesses. Christ loves that about children and asks us to be more like them. They love simply and find joy in little things. I pray my witness will be as enthusiastic as Lillyann’s was this morning as she talked about going to the city. She made me want to go to, and that’s what witness is all about. Matthew 19:14 says it simply and beautifully,
“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
The world says to grow up, be serious, stop daydreaming, and straighten up! Jesus said the kingdom is more like children than adults. I pray I will see life through the same lens Lillyann sees it now, and I hope she never stops getting excited about going to the city.
As I look at our beautiful town, I see why Lillyann is so excited. Folks come from all over the world to visit Bryson City, NC. I am very blessed to live and love here:)
Oh, Look At This!!
As Lillyann and I visited the shops in town today, she tickled me and those we visited with her enthusiasm. She loved everything and kept saying, “Oh! Look at this!!” A very sweet lady gave her a beautiful little frog as she admired a display in one store. I told Lillyann to pick out a little gift for Mylah, and I would buy it for her. She picked a cute little ladybug because Mylah is crazy about them. The lady said she wanted Lillyann to have it to give to her sister.. Lillyann and I were touched by her love, and she just couldn’t stop talking about it on the way home. Mylah squealed with delight when she saw the sweet little gift.
I could hear God saying, “Oh! Look at this!” as the kind woman went out of her way to share Lillyann’s joy. She extended love and told Lillyann that she was a big sister too. The look on Lillyann’s face when we got into the car was priceless. The little gift was literally priceless, and that was what made it so very special. I saw God in a sweet and powerful way today. I’m glad it was the last shop we visited because the glow of the woman’s lovingkindness followed us home and grew as we told Mere and mommy all about the kind lady in the city. I’m still smiling:)
God’s lessons this week have been simple ones about walking and witnessing in His kingdom. He doesn’t need fancy programs or filled agendas; He just wants me to be willing to give a frog away occasionally:)
God placed the image of a very familiar dead end street in my heart this morning. I haven’t thought about Mrs. Norton in a very long time, but God reminded me of the strange little woman who lived near my childhood home. Mrs. Norton captured my imagination as I watched her walk up and down our street each day, talking to herself and ignoring all of us. There were many rumors about her, and I was shocked to learn that she had once been a school teacher. Her husband was dead, and she lived in an old Victorian home that was in a little glen at the end of a dead end street near my home.
Mrs. Norton had long toenails that curled upward, and her cheeks were covered with rouge. Her hair was a mess and her clothing disheveled. Anytime I asked about Mrs. Norton, my mother would warn me not to talk to her. She also told me, in no uncertain terms, that I was never to go anywhere near her home. One day, my sister Edie and I threw caution to the wind and decided we were going to see the inside of her home. Curiosity got the best of us, and we ignored mama’s warnings and headed down that dead end street.
The house had been grand at one point in time, but that point was long gone. There were rumors that she had once been a very wealthy woman. Her house had the appearance of the classic haunted house, and my knees were knocking as we walked up the rickety steps to knock on the door. I’m sure Mrs. Norton was used to kids knocking on the door and running away. The windows of her home were broken, so I suppose some threw rocks to prove their courage. Our curiosity was stronger than our common sense, so we waited for her to come to the door.
She did come to the door and even asked us to come in. I thought about Hansel and Gretel and mama’s warnings as we ventured in. She was kind and told us to stay near her because the floor was filled with holes and there was stuff everywhere. I remember the books; there were thousands of them! It was dark and musty inside, and cobwebs clung to everything. She brushed them aside as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, but I did not want them sticking to me! I don’t remember much about that visit, but I do remember that she gave us books. We ran home excited about our adventure and our treasures.
Mama was not happy when she found out where we had gotten those books. She never did spank me and rarely raised her voice, but she put Edie and me in the tub and scrubbed us until we were pink all over. She was especially attentive to our hair, and I suppose she was concerned about lice. The books went straight into the garbage can, our clothes were put on the back porch, and we were banished to our room. Edie and I never went back to Mrs. Norton’s, but we had a grand adventure that we shared with the kids in the neighborhood. We both decided it wasn’t worth another one of mama’s scrubbings to revisit her. Besides, she said she would tell daddy if we ever did it again!
Mrs. Norton lived on a dead end street in more ways than one, and I’ve been on too many of those dead end roads myself. God reminded me that a dead end is a wonderful place to hide my heart, and it can even be a happy trail. However, it doesn’t go anywhere. I’m learning that walking in God’s kingdom is much better than happy trails or dead ends. Joy comes from obeying and trusting God, and I love enjoying what God so graciously gives. He requires everything for a reason. If I don’t give all to Him, I’ll never be able to get off those dead end streets. Mrs. Norton was stuck in the past and could not move forward. I may not have her appearance, but I have shared her desire to hold on to what I have lost. I see now that I miss all God has for me in His present and presence if I dwell on those dead end streets.
There are many folks in this world like Mrs. Norton who have given up or shut themselves away from the world. It’s not easy to move on when love is lost; separation from God’s love is the definition of hell. I wish I knew more about her story because I’m sure it would be interesting, and it might even explain her odd appearance and behavior. I pray remembering her will make me more mindful of those in my path who are on dead end streets and need a little love.
Like a Little Weed Pot:)
God used a little weed pot carved by a dear friend to teach a lesson in walking in His kingdom. He knows my heart better than anyone, and He bid me to not lose heart when the path presses in on me uncomfortably.
I was feeling lonely after having the girls all weekend and then finding myself alone in my room last night. I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed when the kids got in from Atlanta, but then loneliness got the best of me. I found myself wondering if I was on the right path. I prayed for guidance and decided to trust God with my heart and my hurt. He is always faithful to give me just what I need when I ask, and this morning I awoke to the image of my little weed pot and its very narrow opening. I immediately felt God’s reassurance as I thought of the open space beyond the tiny neck of the vase.
God’s kingdom also has a very narrow opening. Matthew 7:14 says, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASB
Sometimes, I get caught in that narrow opening and wonder if I will ever be able to get through to the beautiful space I know awaits; but God reminds me that squeezing is part of the process, and hurt prepares my heart for open space. When I find myself scared, alone, or frustrated, I remember the cross where Jesus carved an opening with His love that forged the way for me to walk in God’s kingdom. It cost Him everything. Christ asks that I be willing to let go of my stuff and my need to know what’s next so I can follow Him through that narrow gate.
There is comfort in small paths when I know I am heading in the right direction and realize that there is no room for trepidation to tread alongside. When I leave fear behind, the path is the perfect size. I decided to do just that this morning, and I’m very thankful for the breathing room God gave as I let go and let Him lead the way.
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. I talked to Tyler when he came in very late after a grueling day at work, and 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 brought back 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 reduced to 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.
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 love that about them.
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 she might 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 was evident in her voice and her body. She didn’t contain her love but let it flow beautifully from her whole body. I love Quandra Prettyman’s poem, and I love my pentecostal friends. 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 unspoken,whispered in solitude, or shouted from the rooftop.
God reminded me this week 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.” Thank you God indeed!!
Chocolate Lessons (May 11, 2013)
The most important element in any occasion is the spirit. I learned a powerful lesson I spirit this week, and I thank God for the restoration taking place in my spirit lately. As I gathered with the ladies at church last night for the annual Ladies’ Chocolate Night, I felt the sweet spirit of kindred hearts enjoying not only the delicious treats, but also one another’s company. There was a sense of unity and love that left me full and sweetly satisfied as I settled in to sleep. I didn’t imagine I would get any sleep because I don’t do caffeine, and I had a lion’s share of it along with loads of sugar with all the chocolates I enjoyed. I didn’t care if I slept or not; the loss of sleep was well worth the time of connectedness.
I got into bed and began to thank God and figured I would, at least, get in a lot of prayer:) I started to pray, and the next thing I knew was sunlight coming in the room. I smiled and marveled at how God works. My body may have been full of caffeine, but my spirit was full of love and peace. It was a wonderful night by all accounts, and I thank God for placing me at the gathering. I even won a contest because I could name the most chocolate treats without hesitating. That was icing on a cake that already had plenty of icing on it!
God bid me to step back this week and take a good look at the connectedness in my life. I was blessed to see the connections I have made and look forward to making new ones. God showed me clearly that spirit is what makes connectedness powerful. I saw healthy and holy connections in His light and knew that I was where He wanted me to be. I love the way God uses all to teach and help me stay on the path He has in mind for me.
Walking in God’s kingdom is about making and maintaining positive connections. It is also about letting go of that which I know isn’t what He desires. The best way to determine what is and isn’t pleasing to Him is the presence or absence of His Holy Spirit. There is unity with His Spirit, and that’s just what I felt in the midst of the gathering last night.
For the Love of Mamas (Mother’s Day 2013)
I shudder to think what would happen to this world without mamas. God knows there is nothing better that a mama’s love, and there is no greater privilege than being a mama. I was blessed with a sweet mama, and being a mom blesses me more than anything else in this world. I thank God for the loving mommy He gave my granddaughters and delight in hearing them loving one another. A mama’s love is a taste of God’s love, and I run to Him, as I ran to mama, with my arms and heart wide open when I need some love.
God loves openly with the love of a mama who sees the good when we cannot. I am learning to let go of the dysfunction that results from disconnection. I’ve had enough dysfunction to last a lifetime, and I’m tired of being disconnected or partially connected. My heart’s anchor was yanked loose when I lost mama four years ago, and it was a good thing for my heart. My heart was out of balance, and my anchor needed to be yanked up out of the mud. I got a taste of bitter discord this week, and it left a terrible taste in my heart; but I also felt a lavish display of love that left me filled to overflowing. I have a choice when it comes to love, and I choose to love with my whole heart and leave the rest to God.
I have always loved my son with abandon, and I always will. I don’t think about loving Him, and I never worry about whether or not he loves me. Tyler took love to a new dimension when he entered my life thirty-three years ago, and his beautiful daughters and wife have taken it to an even higher plain. Lillyann just came running down to my room to show me the paper cut she got while she, mommy, and Mylah were reading bedtime stories. My heart just melted as she showed me her boo boo and then ran back down to her room. What a blessing to be able to be part of this sweet little family and share those little boo boos. I told Lillyann that there was nothing that made a boo boo feel better than mommy’s love, and she agreed. Thank you God for the love of mamas and for letting me experience it on so many levels and in so many amazing ways:)
Giving up the need to judge isn’t a noble gesture but rather a natural response to understanding that judging others is taking God’s place. That humbles and sobers in a way that makes me drop my gavel, get on my knees, and beg for mercy. Judgment seems harmless enough if I listen to Satan. He encourages judgment on all levels. Being a non anxious loving presence is impossible with a gavel in my hand. I found myself doing a lot of judging yesterday, and I didn’t like what I heard from my heart.
God’s message this morning is that judgment is a full time job, and jury duty is eternal if I choose to go that route. It’s a life that reflects bitterness that comes from a lack of control, and there is nothing in this world that quenches God’s Holy Spirit more. Judging is about the need to control, know, or explain everything, and God bids me to wipe the dust off my feet and move away from it. God showed me the frustrations of a hung jury yesterday. It opened my eyes and heart to see the effect such frustrations can have on His work. He made it clear that He prefers for me to leave judgment in His capable loving hands and not get caught up in the futility of eternal jury duty.
There’s nothing worse than being on a jury that cannot come to a consensus, and Christians are the worst when it comes to hung juries and hanging judges. Being right means someone has to be wrong, and Shakespeare would say “therein lies the rub.” It’s a rub that rubs raw and brings past hurts to the surface. It’s a rub that creates friction and pain. The only way to avoid the rub is to let God do the judging and excuse myself from feeling the need or the duty to judge or serve on a jury. There’s a place for juries on this earth, and I’ve served on my share. I dread the call because I know it’s going to be a difficult process that will take time I would prefer to use elsewhere. Time is precious and should be used to love instead of judge those in my path.
Walking in God’s kingdom means leaving the judging to God, forgetting the juries, and loving as He desires. It’s a much better use of the time He so graciously gives me to worship Him and love others. My role is one of a witness, and my only concern is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with love; the rest is up to God. There are no juries in God’s kingdom and only one Judge. Christ’s cross settled all accounts, so I won’t be needing my gavel anymore:)
Traveling Companions (5/13/2013)
I had a wonderful eight mile walk with a dear friend this morning. Actually, Rita is more than a friend; she’s family. We both agreed that we would not have ventured up the mountainside alone in the near freezing weather, but we also agreed that it was great to be walking. The lesson was clear as I came down the mountain feeling great and ready for whatever God had in store. Walking in God’s kingdom is best with company because fellowship is an essential part of the journey. I’ve learned over the past few years to let down my guard and let others hear my heart, and I’ve found some great traveling companions in the process.
Traveling companions are special because traveling together requires a level of trust and friendship that goes well beyond a casual acquaintance. I must be willing to let others be a part of my life and be part of theirs. Kingdom relationships involve listening, loving deeply, and spending lots of time together. Living and loving together requires commitment, and that’s just the word Rita used this morning. She said, “We’re committed, and she’s right.” We walk about twenty miles a week, but it isn’t about exercising or clocking time and distance. It’s about taking the time to be together in a powerful way. We love one another, and that makes the journey a joy. Two hours pass quickly as we talk and enjoy the beauty around us. On Friday morning, we came upon a young deer. It stood for a long while gazing at us curiously. It would have stayed longer if a jogger hadn’t broken the sweet silence.
Kingdom living is about being committed and taking time for God and one another. It means hearing the hurt, sharing the joy, and trusting God and each other. It’s about non judgment, being my truest self, and allowing others to be the same. Love doesn’t judge or fix, and love is all I need to pack for the journey that leads me to His kingdom. Deciding not to judge is dying to self and allowing God to be God, and it’s a daily decision. Some days, I do a wonderful job and get in a beautiful walk in His kingdom; but some days, I worry, fret. and fuss and get stuck in my muddy mess. As long as I’m on earth, I will have to die in order to walk in God’s kingdom. Dying to self isn’t easy, but I’m finding that it’s much easier than striving, struggling, and digging out of the mud.
Walking in God’s kingdom is a witness walk, not a judgment trudge. Like my morning hikes with Rita, a walk in God’s kingdom is a beautiful commitment to travel together in a way that draws us nearer to God and one another. It also helps that we make sure not to fall into the sin of seriousness along the way =]
Mere & Gigi:)