Motivation, Application, Wisdom & Joy

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”   ~Galatians 1:10

Why do we do what we do? 

Simple question….lengthy answers? Or could it be a simple answer? 

Crossroad

During one of my life’s most difficult seasons, my Pastor Reg’s response to my gauntlet of a whirlwind of questions was, “Ask yourself with each decision… What is the wise thing? What is the right thing… what is the wise thing, what is the right thing?” 

What is the wise thing? 

What is the right thing? 

Since then, I cannot tell you the countless times I whisper this question over and over as I face the next thing.

So, why do we do what we do? 

Pride? Ego? People pleasing? Fear of failure? 

Serving myself?  Serving other’s whims and pressures?

Two things that I have pondered ever since that conversation with my Pastor… 

  1. I won’t know what the wise thing is unless I actively seek the giver of wisdom. 

That Bible that sits on my nightstand…  It contains the words from my Father. Why is it so much easier to seek every other source in the world when I face decisions, than to go immediately to the source in prayer?  Am I daily learning more about God, and His ways?  Are my roots growing deeper?  Do I intentionally seek?

You don’t gain knowledge about math without listening to instruction, studying, applying and working it out.  You don’t increase in ability at your sport, or musical instrument, or workplace without listening to instruction, studying, applying, and working it out… See where I’m going with this?  🙂

2.   I often know the wise thing, or the right thing… but I choose otherwise. 

Entertain my silliness for a moment, but when I ask myself, “What is the wise thing..?”  before I decide to eat that huge piece of cheesecake for lunch… well, I do kinda know the answer.  However, I eat it anyway.. and an hour later I feel sluggish, heavy, and I haven’t fed my body the proper fuel for my day to be the best in productivity.  Now, I may make that decision again because that cheesecake is so yummy!  Lol.  But, at least I need to own the consequences.

There are some decisions that carry much more severe weight, and consequences.. and owning our unwise choices is not silly, or trite, but vital for our life and those we love around us.  We grow when we face our wrong decisions square in the face, and work it out with God’s ways accordingly.  One wrong decision doesn’t have to turn into a snowball of more, and more and more wrong decisions.  I did you wrong?  I need to face it, apologize and change my behavior.. But, when my ugly pride and me sits on that throne… I ignore the question of what is right (or talk myself into a solution that isn’t godly) and instead of making it right, I cling to the wrong one, justify it, and continue to walk serving someone other than God.

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I don’t know about you, but when I’m carrying my load wrong, I get tired. The absence of God in my decisions and thought processes makes me feel burdened, confused at times, and alone. But, the presence of God is my fullness of joy. And joy is my strength. See how that works out? “He will make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV). He’s a good Father – He’s not going to keep the wise thing or the right thing a secret from you… seek Him today with your every question. 

And may our motivation for what we do be all about Him, through Him, and because of Him. 

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New Year’s Resolutions

To ring in the new year of 2017, late in the month of January, my mom, my four sisters, myself and some of my nieces met together for a brunch.  This was a first for us, and it was a very meaningful time.  It was a needed time.

So, why am I writing on this now?  Ha.  We are half-way through the year!  Let me explain.

One of the activities we did that day was writing our “New Year’s Resolutions” on 3×5 notecards, and then if we wanted, sharing with the group.  It was such a great idea, it truly helped me to slow down and be intentional about what my priorities really were for the year.  Afterwards, I placed my little cards in my Bible as bookmarks and needed reminders for my daily life.  Here we are in July, and halfway through the year and I smiled this morning as this particular resolution marked my Psalm this morning.  Rest.  True Rest.  Did I even know what that meant when I wrote it?  I certainly didn’t know what all my year would hold… that’s certain.  But, I smiled because I thought the definition of rest has taken on a new shape, and new meaning for me in so many ways the past few years.

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Rest.  True rest.

That’s what she said in January – beginning 2017.  Here we are in July.

I like to visualize rest thinking about our cat Thomas.  Now that fellow knows how to rest!  He has a little routine every day.  And it all revolves around rest, I’m pretty sure (well, that and eating..).  He has his morning stretches, his breakfast, his nap on Paul’s top bunk, snacktime, naptime on Wesley’s bed, snacktime, naptime on couch, snacktime, aggravate our other cat Romo time, snacktime, and then relax-time on back of couch or in our laps to complete his evening before bed time.

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The only time he doesn’t rest is when his food bowl is empty.  Not only does he not rest,  WE can’t rest.  Because he paces, stares, and even gives a little bite (if it comes to that!) to remind us “MY BOWL IS EMPTY.”

Kinda like me.  I can rest when things are all nice and tidy… all my ducks swimming pretty in a row (and for the record, I can’t even remember when it was that way for me.  I am thinking they are not even ducks at this point… maybe chinchillas?).

But, oh God where is the rest when things aren’t the way I want them?

Not when things are hard and confusing.

Or, when I have needs that I feel aren’t met.

Not when I feel I’m wronged or shorted from what I deserve.  (Ouch).

Or, how can I rest when the storms are big and unexpected… and the lights seem to flicker on and off.

Where are you?

And, He reminds me.  The wind and waves know my name.  You can rest.

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Throughout the years, lack of sleep has become my nemesis.  I’ve learned some practical ways that help.  Sleep association patterns:  Reading before bed, journaling my “to-do” list for the next day, calming playlist, lavender scents, relaxing a wee bit on my caffeine intake :), less screen time, good hydration, etc.  All great aids!  Definitely have proven to help me greatly!

But, maybe you will agree with me… there seems sometimes to be no cure for an anxious heart.  When you toss and turn on your bed, and sleep seems so far away.  Your pillow may be the only one you trust with your tears, but God sees.

What was the Psalm that my resolution from January had randomly marked?

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
 When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.”

Psalm 94:18-19

What’s the true rest I want to practice?  Trusting Him.  Allowing His words to console the deepest corners of my soul.  Letting go of what others think, giving Him all the heavy things I carry, fully embracing His forgiveness and grace, trusting that He is at work in all areas… even the ones that may be difficult to understand.  Entrusting each step to His wisdom and ways.  Reaching for His word when I want to ruminate on issues.  Committing myself to pray, even when there aren’t words, or when all I want to do is complain or worry. Looking for faithful friends who can listen, pray for me, and share needed perspective and truth to my ears. Settling my mind to know I am not the “fixer” of anything, I’m just a girl who has the opportunity to love others, as I have been loved. Loving is easy, when you spend time with the One who loves you.

Sleepless nights will still find us.  Anxious moments will come.  That’s for sure.  But even in those moments, we can have the gift of true rest.

2017 –  A year of rest.  The gift of rest that we can all embrace.

 

 

Two Kingdoms & Hope For A Weary Heart

img_8382Straddling two kingdoms. Some days I feel my legs stretching into the splits as the crevice between the two grows farther and farther apart in my heart. Looking down and wondering about a free fall. The tears flowing down my face from the pains of this one, while I gaze into the bliss of the other. When will there be no more dying, no more pain, no more ugly… and oh God, I cry out… where is the justice? The windshield wipers clicked back and forth in the rain… I wish I had one for my eyes too. Where is the justice? For children who suffer abuse around our world, for those suffering mental health that are judged and criticized while they are suffocating, for the hurting and the rejected. For the kids who hear whispers behind their back about their clothing, hanging their head in shame.. Don’t you think they wish they had nikes?? Or clean clothes? Don’t you think that they see the differences? Don’t we understand that no matter how tough the exterior is everyone would love a comfy bed like yours or a hot shower in the morning to be a norm? Don’t we know that every soul on this earth is struggling along every day just wanting to know true love… just like me and you?

But, oh the screaming and labeling. The shouting and the angry voices. The fear… the insecurities.

And so where is it that my heart lives? In this struggling, fighting, insecure world? Or does my Saviour invite me to look elsewhere?

Seek His kingdom now. We are in this world… not of this world. My heart is breaking for us as we straddle the two, but oh that we might more and more gain sight of the kingdom He offers!

We must awake all our senses to this gift. Take a deep breath, and inhale the fragrance of His grace. What we don’t deserve, but so freely given. My pastor this past week in his sermon said, “free, not cheap.” No, not cheap – this costly, precious exchange of His life to give us ours with feet set firmly in a new kingdom! May we stretch out our arms and let it flow… We have the opportunity to be the healing hands of Jesus.

For those struggling with mental health who need to be carried!

img_8386For the poor and rejected!

img_8385For the neglected and forgotten!

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For those without a voice!

Aren’t these the ones that Jesus reached out to? Didn’t He come to seek and save the lost.. the broken.. we that are in need?

img_8310Because the kingdom that He invites us to seek.. Oh, my friends! This is the kingdom of a radical Saviour who sees the value of a soul!

It’s a kingdom of hope!

It’s a kingdom of peace!

It’s a kingdom of joy!

It’s a kingdom of love… love that is patient and kind. Love that isn’t selfish or rude, or seeking its own interest. Love that isn’t boastful or conceited. Love that doesn’t get excited over wrongdoing… running in corners to whisper or delight over tragedy. We know the passage.. but do we really sink into the passage? Do we see how God pours out that passage lavishly all over our own lives?

Oh God, Your kingdom, come..

What will your heart given to the complete trust and reign of God look like? Take a minute to ponder that… Seek His kingdom first, Christ says. And all will be added. So, we look at the line we straddle, we lift our eyes up to Him, take a deep breath… and free fall into His love. His kingdom. Every choice, every thought, every talent.. all His. What’s in your life that you can place to use in His kingdom? Why, simply your all. All. All. How shall we walk in one kingdom, and live in another? That’s the miracle He offers us. Seek His heart today. Openly look to Him with eyes afresh and clean…not clogged up by the media, fear, or our own understanding. Lean in; freefall in His love. God will guide you as you navigate this messy world with a pure heart to fight in His kingdom for the news of this love.

For meditation: 1 Cor 13, Proverbs 3:5-6, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 John 4:18-19, Matthew 6:33-34

Emotions, Memes, and Three Treasures of Joy

screemI’m perusing Facebook, when BAM! There it is.  A cleverly worded meme, complete with lovely background image, and 782 previous shares telling us of its validity.  “You choose happiness today! You have no one to blame but yourself! Happiness is a daily choice!” You’ve probably seen them too, maybe even shared them, or created them in a loving attempt to encourage and recreate your journey to help others. But I’d like to share a perspective from my heart, and I hope it speaks to yours.

First, a thought on happiness.  Happiness is an emotion. A feeling. An instinctive God-given gift to us as a result of thinking patterns, hormones, core beliefs, and experiences.

Emotion is defined by Webster’s in this way: /əˈmōSH(ə)n/ “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate or the like is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.”  

This tells me:

Emotions are real.  

Emotions are necessary.

Emotions are a natural response.

We can work to control our thoughts and help guide our emotions, but we cannot control our emotions themselves. They are a response, like pain receptors in our physical body that tell us when we touch the curling iron, “Watch out! That’s hot! It will burn you!” Our emotions work the same way. Anger, used in a good way, can help us allocate justice when things aren’t fair. Sadness helps us grieve when we’re lost in this tired, difficult world. Happiness helps us celebrate the good, wonderful things in our lives. Like it or not, all of our emotions are gifts that work for us. God gave us this marvelous way to guide us in our soul journeys.FullSizeRender (60)-001

Personally, when I see cleverly worded memes that tell me to “Choose Happy Today,” I’m brought back to some of my
darkest hours. Days that were rugged and broken, when legitimately sad things were happening. Days when, on top of the emotions I was experiencing, I added on shame. Shame that told me I wasn’t a good enough person, or that something was wrong when I couldn’t shake the sad feelings and trade them for the happy. I wore a smile, and tried to ignore the looming sadness. But I needed the sadness. I needed to allow myself to wash and splash some of the pain and loss down my face with cleansing tears. I needed the sadness to help me process the sad things I was experiencing so I could move forward. Through the support of loved ones, and God’s grace-filled guidance, that happened for me during those days.

Maybe today you’re in that place. Life can be such a struggle. Emotions surge high and crash low, and sometimes, if we battle against them instead of leaning into them, they seem to overtake us. And maybe like me, you’ve found yourself overwhelmed in the storm of struggle. As we identify and acknowledge the need to sort through our feelings, we can begin to look at what’s at the core. And yes, vulnerability and being real with oneself can take courage, but the freedom is glorious as we lay bare before our Father, sharing our deepest pains, our greatest fears, and even our happiest moments. We are created to “bear one another’s burdens,” (Galatians 6:2) so please reach out, my friend. You were not made to walk alone. Sometimes this process will show you the need for help from friends, family, counseling, mentoring, loving groups, and maybe medical professionals. Please don’t be ashamed! Support is one thing we all can share with one another. One of the most freeing things ever spoken to me was, “Just take the next right step. That’s all you need to do.”

sunsetcaymanHappiness is an emotion that is so pleasant to have. I mean, who doesn’t like good things felt and experienced? But even on days when I’m feeling the loss, fear, or hurt that some experiences afford, and happiness is far away, precious joy is always there. I’m so grateful that I can trade my shiney, “perfect” mask for vulnerable, honest, real me resting in each step found in my Saviour’s care.  Not me choosing to be happy…. Joy finding me.  Joy that helps me see these emotions as gifts, and offer them up to God to discover how I can grow as I acknowledge His design in emotions for me.  

Three special ways that joy has impacted me through my journeys:

1) Joy has given me tranquility.

A contentedness that sings to my soul, “All is well.” Storms come and go, that is assured, but His love is always with me. Where He has me today, I can be assured His grace is with me. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:11-13)

The waves can’t drown me, for He is holding me.  Even when I can’t feel it, He is there.

2) Joy has given me freedom from guilt and shame.

I fail, and I grow weak. Physically, emotionally, and mentally I can’t be all things at all times, and I have loads of limitations. And that’s ok.  Because, “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

Praise God, I don’t rely on me; my hope is in Him.

3) Joy has given me deep, deep delight, and pleasure indescribable.

The more I see His love for me, the more I rest in Him, and the more I experience His love in the most secret places of my heart, the more deeply I delight in every moment I have to know Him.  The darkest days are easier to face as I feel the close presence of my Saviour.  “And though you have not seen him, you love him, and though you do not see him now, but believe in him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:8-9)

I can’t explain it all, but my heart knows well His Love.steppingstones

Friend, you are on my heart today.  Don’t let the weight of those cleverly worded memes, or your own fears keep you from reaching out and working through your experiences today.  Emotions are a gift, and a signal that attention is needed. Find the precious joy of steadfast tranquility, freedom from guilt, and deep, powerful pleasure as you embrace this journey.

 

All you have to do in this moment is take the next right step.  

If you are reading this, and need help right now, or have had thoughts of complete hopelessness, please reach out. Call a loved one, or one of the confidential contacts listed below. You are loved, and there are many who want to share your burdens, just as many of us have had our burdens shared.

To Write Love on Her Arms

https://twloha.com/

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

National Child Abuse Hotline

1 (800) 442-4453

National Domestic Abuse Hotline

1 (800)799-7233

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

1 (800)656-HOPE

the fruit – post 2

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I contemplated for awhile how to share with you my heart of true joy, and where for me it lies.  Happiness is a beautiful gift that is present in my life for moments, but the gift of joy, as a contrast for me, can run deep and steady — breathing peaceful reminders of hope when the days are dark, and sharing a smile of fathomless praise during moments of goodness to celebrate.  I found it hard to find the words to share with you, and then this morning I thought of the lyrics to this favorite hymn.  If you have the time today, read each line slowly, and take a moment to let the lyrics penetrate your heart.  You might be sitting on a mountaintop, feeling the sun on your face, or you might be in a valley alone looking for light and direction.

My friend, joy is here.

“Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our father, Christ our brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us sunward
In the triumph song of life.”

-Henry J. Van Dyke