Understood…and Held

Today I am meeting God in His word, and He is engraving Himself upon my soul. I am passionately overwhelmed and excited by the Truth He brings in His word, that we share much of His heart. Deep down, you and I share the stamp of His image upon our soul.

Have you ever pondered the heart of God? Have you ever wondered how, with our impossible imperfections, we can be created in His image? How is it possible that we are like God–similar to the One who is so much bigger and holier than us?

To me, it is usually quite apparent how different I am from Him. There are ways we are not like Him at all, and the grace of His Son and His love covers those gaps. However, being created in His image is a Truth we can count on. We are aligned by His grace to the very heart of the LORD. Like with like. Me. You. Him. In some ways, we are so much the same.

The other day, I had mined the news headlines, perused my newsfeed with my usual down-arrow-held skimming, and held prayer requests texted and e-mailed in my heart. I became a little overwhelmed with grief on behalf of others, whose lives held unexpected and unwanted sorrow.

In general, I have a spirit that is positive, aware of the joy that surrounds me—tiny WP_20160804_005successes in nature and living that cry out God’s holiness and victory over the world’s soiled existence. But some days, I am pressed with reminders that at the exact same moment I am experiencing the joyful gratitude of God’s Yeses to my prayers, others are crushed with frustration or despair, or sudden mourning. I scan headlines or prayer lists, or read a blog from the trenches of suffering, and my heart breaks. I see their hurt, or can imagine their mourning, or wonder at the depth of sadness they must feel that I have never experienced. It’s a helpless feeling. The only possible role for me here is to offer broken-hearted prayer, and in this, join them in mourning and hope-seeking.

From this place, as I drew close to God, He prompted me to seek His heart a little more. To understand Him even better. To increasingly love and trust Him.

Don’t we all have corners inside our hearts that beat slow and heavy, laden with the

 

agony of disappointment and grief?  Like you, in places, my heart is quite wrecked. For me, there is a corner that is darkened with the sorrow of loved ones living away from the grace of God, with sadness for a mom whose brain is just plain worn out and doesn’t think straight, and a long list of beloved friends who struggle. I ache for the damage in the world.

Do you ever have a heart that bows in sorrow? Have you ever grieved over the wreck someone else made of something you valued? Long ago, it may have been a piece of crayoned artwork, given with sticky, but love-intended hands that was found later, tossed underfoot. What you had hoped, and believed, was that it warranted the tender acceptance and care of a Rembrandt.

Has something precious to you become broken by the carelessness of others? Perhaps a relationship you invested in deeply has been upended, or your children have hit a snag that most definitely wasn’t part of your parenting plan.

I believe that in this way, when we suffer grief of the undesired that is an unwelcome guest to our plans, we are united with God’s heart, and bear His image.

One spring, during the early stages of our marriage, my handyman husband, intent on major renovations of the house we hoped to flip, trampled on my heart just a little bit. This was before flipping real estate was trendy, just before the market tanked and our house became a money pit (which is a cautionary tale and journey for another day). It was also at the point in our relationship that he hadn’t a clue about how hard-wired my heart is into needing nature and beautiful places. I say this to let you know my wonderful partner did not upset me intentionally. This was one of those accidental, we-are-wired-so-differently kind of steps in the marital adventure. However, the wound felt shocking and my heart grieved.

On the side of our driveway, over the edge of the dilapidated stone wall, lay a beautiful ground cover of periwinkle. Well, actually, it was just a long area of low, green plants that had yet to bloom. But I knew their potential. In the spring, for a short season, sweet violet-colored flowers would blossom in the bed, brightening up what was otherwise a non-descript area of bramble.

I came home from work one day, to discover my guy had made great progress in scraping off the layers of paint on the house siding. Hurrah for him! (That’s genuine, by the way. He truly is an impressive workhorse.) At some point, probably days later, I discovered he had dumped all the paint chips just over the little stone wall, on top of the myrtle bed. If you garden, you’ll get my reaction. If you don’t, just roll your eyes and skip down a few paragraphs. I’ll understand (but I won’t let you near my flower beds.)  Upon viewing the periwinkle, suffocating underneath a layer of non-biodegradable (and probably lead-laden) paint chips, crying out for mercy, my heart broke. I knew what this carpet of ground-covering could become. I was looking forward to its unfurling. More importantly, I valued its beauty. Distraught, I began to imagine picking out individual paint chips for hours during the rescue, in order to reclaim the beauty. I imagined the poison of paint leaching down into the soil as a forever-heritage.

The point of all this is not to garner sympathy for my Crazy Gardener heart. In a world of social and spiritual strife, this event is small and unimportant. When I remember that moment, though, I am in touch with the holy image-sharing soul God placed in me, in each of us. The point is, I valued something. I saw its potential. I eagerly anticipated its fullness. Even if no one else would view the myrtle bed in the same way, its damage cut me, for no other reason than I deemed it precious. To me, that unkempt, non-descript area of wild was important. The fact that my husband (and probably most of you) would never see its importance, did not lessen the impact its destruction had on me.

Such a trivial example of a wonderful, greater truth.

   Is this not like our LORD and Father? He sees value in His creation. He sees potential in His work. He deems every human as precious. He eagerly anticipates the unfurling of His plans. No one else views His beloved in quite the same way. He grieves when something wounds what He loves. Who He loves. Even as He sees the train wreck happening.

Isn’t it exciting, and well, a huge relief that our holy LORD shares this ache of our hearts? When words fail, He is already there, like-hearted. Understanding.

God is the LORD of all. He gets to place value on what and who He chooses.  He says that Mankind, all of His creation, is very good. (Genesis 1:31)

But…

  The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.  The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. Genesis 1:5,6

In the RSV, it says: “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”

Jesus wept over Jerusalem. There is a great example of grievous disappointment in potential unachieved.

  In our sorrows, whether small and short-lived, important only to us or life-changing, our hearts cry out for understanding and comfort. The wonderful truth is, we can trust that the LORD is exactly who we need to provide that–more than an earthly friend, or spouse, even. While no one else can walk in our footsteps, and get inside our grieving hearts, He can. When we don’t have the words to articulate how we feel for an empathic listener, or even to Him, He grasps them from our heart. He understands when our plans are wrecked. His own plans have received near-fatal wounds and intentions have been bent and misshapen. When our dreams are broken or trodden upon, His Holy Spirit searches our hearts (Romans 8:27) and intercedes with holy, comforting, understanding companionship. Sometimes we don’t need “fixing” in our sorrow, but what we crave is to be held in good company, and understood. He who knew us first, even before we were born is the Perfect One to provide what we need.

What about you? What are you grieving over? What do you value that’s been torn in two? Maybe a friendship, a marriage? Is it the health of a loved one, or yourself? The dementia-confused mind of a parent? Perhaps it’s a project or act of service you spent hours planning that imploded upon execution, or worse yet, didn’t meet your expectations? Maybe it’s been carefully orchestrated family gatherings or holidays? A career? Dreams for your child? Dreams of a child? Maybe this season of your life is totally not what you anticipated, or hoped, and your heart is broken over the loss.

  “Shout for joy, you heavens;1001170729
    rejoice, you earth;
    burst into song, you mountains!
For the Lord comforts his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” Isaiah 49:13

Today, SHOUT FOR JOY with me! In your grief, may your heart burst into song because the LORD shares your heart. It is He who can completely understand you and walk with you.

Be blessed, my friends. He is ours.

Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal. Isaiah 26:4

    Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrew 2:17

  And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:27

  I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

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Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, Grief and Suffering, Jesus, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Forgetting…and Remembering

Today the whispers of memory are cloaking my heart. As I release tangible things to other people by donating, toss others into the trash, and prepare my home for new owners and memory-makers, there is a reluctance and sadness hovering.

It’s less difficult to unclench my heart’s fingers from the actual items, than the memories they hold. I am urgently trying to collect all the Last Times—the last time hosting anyone’s sleepy heads in our bedrooms, the last time clanging the pots and pans around and rolling out the dough for guests in the kitchen that has rung with those happy sounds for 30 years…the last time loving and laughing around the family table on the screen porch, the last time skimming my fingers along the ivories of the piano, the last time hearing that creak of the rocker as Scott puts on his shoes…sigh…

Today I am just letting myself feel it. Being grateful for it. Checking the memories’ engraving on my heart. 101_0742

When you have one parent whose mind succumbed to the memory-robbing disease of Alzheimer’s, and another whose last years are being spent with only fragments of recollection and a great deal of dementia-clouded confusion, it makes those soul-fingers want to feverishly grip all the things that are connected to memory, as if those tangible objects are the memories’ containers, rather than the heart and mind.

What I’ve come to realize is that I am afraid of forgetting–forgetting why I am who I am, and how I’ve become. Forgetting what are all the sweet (and bitter) drops that have been the kneading of the Potter’s hands. All those small moments and large ones that are the foundation for maintaining who I am, the relationships I’ve built, and the support for going forward.

I ask God to help me remember.

It has me thinking of how precious God’s Reminders are…Nature cries out a reminder of His glory, displayed in creative artistry beyond human ability to replicate, though we try in paint, in cloth, in photography. Ocean’s rhythmic slapping against the shore and moonlit nights remind us of His steadfastness. The cycle of seasons reminds us of His faithfulness, and His timing. The joy-filled, struggles-laden life of children and families remind us of His grace and love—His shaping of our journeys for our benefit. His preserved Words remind of the work He has done, and does, deep into the hearts of His people, and all humanity over oceans of time.

This fear I have has me wandering over His word, looking for reassurance. Remembering is important to our heavenly Father! Over and over again He calls us to remember His faithfulness.

Sometimes it is something physical that reminds us of what has shaped us. Once hearts had been returned to God and His people had been rescued once again by Him, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” 1 Samuel  7:12

Without making every object my personal Ebenezer, or giving the objects themselves power, I am reassured that it is okay to select a few to remind me of God’s blessings on this life journey so far. (“A few” is the one of the hardest parts…)

What provision God lavishes on us, in sending us Reminders! We all have them, though maybe not all of them, but we are all graced with some: preachers who tirelessly sift through God’s words and remind us of the Promise-keeper God is…mothers and fathers who remind us of the value they’ve never doubted is there in our hearts, even when buried under layers of callous…friends who cover us with giggles or drape us with loving arms, and help us see past Satan’s barriers of doubt and negativity.

The Holy Spirit is our greatest Keeper of Memories, and most important Truths.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

Peter was a Reminder. He knew hearts would falter. God knew, and graced him with words of encouragement that would endure, and keep those hearts supported. In relationship, it was he who was the Ebenezer.

“So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” 2 Peter 1:12

These sweet words calm my heart and call me to ask God to help me to remember. They also exhort me to BE a Reminder to others. I am called to be one who speaks joy, encouragement, and a calling to mind of how I see God has worked and is working in the lives of others. When there are things too difficult to explain (who, after all, knows the mind of God?), I can be the Ebenezer that reassures that God is faithful, even in fearful and despairing circumstances. Going forward, I have new energy to make every effort to help others remember God’s faithfulness in His promises, the evidences of His work, the hope in His love.

So, grab a stone or two (or a faded photo or chipped plate) and remember the blessings. Then, stand tall and help others gather theirs. Ask yourself, “Am I a Reminder?” 101_0743

Be blessed. Be a blessing. (And, if you would, help me when I forget, and help me unclench, and instead open my fingers to God’s remembrances…)

Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, Gratitude, Memorial Day, One Another, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Starting Small

In the midst of packing and purging our home, and trying to create the illusion of perpetual tidiness for the next set of dwellers, I find myself staring at my spice cabinet. Well, actually, it’s more like a spice shelf, crowded and totally inefficient. There are no alphabetized rows here, just “most-used in front”, “less-used” in the middle, and “those purchased for some exotic recipe I never actually made” in the back. Also in the back are those wildly outdated containers that used to come with purchased spice racks, pre-filled with recipe ingredients that the average cook will never need. At one point, I threw most of them out. However, I did keep the one labeled “Mustard Seed.” Not for cooking purposes, because, seriously, when was the last time anyone actually cooked with mustard seed? If you know the Word of God, you know why I kept that 1980s bottle filled to the brim with tiny seeds…as a reminder of small things. Small things which lead to big things. 

In Isaiah 58:6,7 when God speaks of sacrifice, He speaks of unyoking the bonds of oppression and feeding the hungry.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” (NIV)

… and then becoming like a watered garden.

“The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.” (NIV)

Those seem like really Big Things to me.

It seems like a lot to tackle the Big Things.

Here’s what that expired bottle of seed reminds me: Jesus says that Starting Small is our job, and Growing Big is His. 101_0745

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.  Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31,32 (NIV)

Ann Voskamp began a new chapter of her own journey tossing a whole day full of small things upon her hometown without knowing where it would lead. “…this birthday spent gift-blitzing the whole town seemed ridiculously small and insignificant. Beginnings always are, I suppose. First steps always seem like not enough, but they are the bravest and they start the journey to where you’re meant to go. It takes great trust to believe in the smallness of beginnings.” The Broken Way, p. 75, Zondervan 2016

Now that has me thinking of the mustard seed beginning, the smallest acts of faith, through which God’s mighty Spirit broke through and grew His whole Church. His whole Church. That is bigger than any disciple could have possibly envisioned– before steamships transported crowds from continent to continent, before they even knew of the other lands so far away! Huge.

Here I am, tucked way over in a tiny New England state of an enormous country, an ocean away from the place upon which there was a plot of soul-soil planted with the tiniest of seeds. The mightiest of seeds. Of faith. And grace. I am part of that “Whole Church!” Isn’t that astounding?!

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

So small.

Somedays I feel so small. Each act seems so small. In God’s eyes, in His hands, small is His beginning of something Big. 101_0748

Today I did a reflective check to look for my So Small that God could grow into His Big. Strawberry picking with a young woman. Praying over a broken family. Writing scripture for vacation Bible school signs. Removing mounds of sodden trash out of the driveway of a weary and overwhelmed family. Giving my extra pots and pans away.

Maybe those so small mustard seeds will grow into something big. Our human desire to have impact in a big way can cause us to overlook the thousands of small ways God would have us join Him in His work. If we’re not careful, we will miss it all, and strangle His holy potential lived through us. If we focus on trying to be, or find, a large branch of His plan, we will miss the seed where it all begins.

Here’s to the casting out of our small seeds!

Posted in Sharing Jesus, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Creating Space and Picking Up the Threads

When you neglect a muscle for so long, not only is it difficult to reawaken it, the work is harder, the doubt is deeper, the commitment is harder to muster.

There have been matters both of passion and calling that I have laid aside over the years, largely due to an ever-demanding schedule on the limited minutes granted in each day, and a lack of conviction that their season should continue. 101_0726

Do you ever find yourself longing to rekindle something? To pick up where you left off, to move forward in a direction or dream whose timing seemed “off” or forced long ago? Maybe it was an interest you felt flickering. Maybe it was a healthy habit that you felt your body calling you to practice. Maybe it was a ministry or relationship or life-changing position.

In all that we choose to invite into our lives, it can be difficult to discern what has holy purposes, and what are selfish ambitions or satisfactions. What needs to be picked up, what needs to be laid down. This has been my struggle.

What I have discovered, over time, or perhaps been lovingly nudged to realize, deep down in the spiritual places where God works silently and powerfully, is that you often have to deliberately create space in your life so you can receive God’s best work and guidance, and discern the holy picking up and laying down. Otherwise, He is left to call loudly over the clamor of other demands and interests, and compete with either their allure, or their entrapment.

God does not always choose to shout, however.

Sometimes, He just waits. Sometimes He pauses a season and then weaves it back in when His timing is ripe. He waits for us to make room. To desire to make room.

The challenge for me, for us as His children, is to discern which threads to take back up again. Which are from His hand, and which are left from a season that is over, or one that He intends should remain paused?

I take God very seriously when He encourages us through Paul to “whatever (we) do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him.” Colossians 3:17

and

“…there are different kinds of working, but in all of them, and in everyone, it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:6,7

Do everything. With whatever He gives you.

So, alrighty then. (Deep breath. Fluttering heart.)

Here I am, finally, after a very long pause, and after having deliberately created an enormous space in which I have determined will be a place of listening and following God’s sovereign lead. There is a longing that won’t quit.There are words that keep spilling out. Words written. Words spoken. There is, also, a desire that both the longing and the words will be shaped by the LORD into something beautiful of His design, for His purposes. For the common good. For building up. For leading a life worthy of His calling.

That’s what He keeps giving me, so in the yawning space that retirement and relocation will create, I’ll pick up these threads He’s handed to me and see where He leads. Together with my life partner, I have cleared room so I can actually see the threads and follow them.

What about you? Have you created space yet? No, I am not advising you to pull the plug on your income and move across country, severing proximity to much that is comfortable and valued! (I know, we’re crazy over here in this household! It’s a journey of trust and faith we have joined.)
But…is there something that needs unplugging or uprooting or laid down in your life so you can receive God’s guidance and be attentive to His nudging? What about this week, or this day? Is there a passion with hidden holy purposes God is waiting for you to discover (or rediscover) with His help?

Keep me posted. It’s good to have company on this journey.

 

Things to bring to your own Farmer’s Porch Sit with our LORD:

Lest I leave you with an uncertainty about passions and gifts that have no obvious link to an observable giving of glory to God, let’s ponder something together for a minute. I certainly need wrestle with this.

What about art for art’s sake? Or music for the sheer joy? Or the hiking of tall peaks? Or gathering of history? Or the developing of athletic prowess? The click of a camera? Or dirty hands covered with the earth’s rich soil? Or the magical deliciousness that comes from exploring the melding of varied flavors as we cook? Or… you name whatever it is that tugs at your heart.

We cannot spend any time in God’s word without seeing what are expressions of His sovereign character. In Him there is joy…creativity…passion..strength. He IS these things, and their Creator. The wonderful truth is, we are made in His image, which includes these traits, to reflect His glory. Can it not be true then, that in all things that are true and right and beautiful, we can be used to shout out His name to a broken world, or whisper it into its hurting corners? Used wisely, they are merely the ways in which His character is known. Sometimes these beautiful opportunities build us up and draw our hearts closer to Him, if we seek to discern their holy purpose.

 

“I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…and his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4

Blessings on your journey, today and always. Thanks for coming to the porch.

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Relief Sometimes Arrives in the Dark

After the long days waiting, long past the verdant suppleness of promise that bloomed in spring, beyond the brown and dusty dryness of our summer, when each frond despaired of relief, it comes steady. In the dark before dawn, the blessing starts to trickle by ones and twos, then moves into a steady, wet rhythm, washing down the grateful stalks.101_0127

Sometime good things are a long time in coming. Sometimes relief comes after the curling up of souls, and the browning of hope.

And sometimes it begins while it’s still dark.

There is grief in our dry places. Questioning, when our deserts swallow us whole. Hemmed in as we are, by our human time-keeping, relief is always thought best received Now.

“Why then?…If only…”

Numbers 20:2-4

Rest assured, Dear Ones, if we seek to hurry God, He may bend His plan in mercy. But it would be wise to prepare our hearts to live through the learning.

The water spilled forth in abundance from that dry and hardened stone, gushing relief over clamoring hearts.

But with relief, in the mercy of adjusted Plans, often comes the necessity of training our hearts.

“Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” V. 12

He calls us to treat Him as holy, and His plans as such–

To trust His wise and loving unfolding of our stories.

You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy.

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;
You greatly enrich it;
The stream of God is full of water;
You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.
You water its furrows abundantly,
You settle its ridges,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.

Psalm 65:8-10

Let us encourage each other to hold fast in the deserts,
and trust His heart of abundant provision.

Be blessed today and always.

Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This Morning is for Stretching

The air is damp, the crickets’ song steady, and the rooster is happy as usual while the grey veil of night lingers before day.

It is in this quiet spot, I am leaning toward my Maker, seeking to affirm His presence, seeking to discern His will.

100_8981

I borrow the words of David,

Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!

He is, indeed faithful. I know this because He has proven Himself over and over again. Therefore

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all Your doings;
I muse on the work of Your hands.

 I stretch out my hands to You;
My soul longs for You, as a parched land.

This morning is for stretching.

I stretch out my hands to You, Oh, LORD, my God, and feel You meet them. Here on this porch, You take my hands and quiet my heart. This moment is not for knowing. It is not for figuring out this life season’s mission. I must lay down this striving, this forcing of fruit to be born.

This moment is for dwelling in your holy Presence, acknowledging and receiving Your love. Feeding my trust in You.

In the battle against Distraction, the frustration of never reclaiming ground is draining. My back is braced, my feet dug in, I strive against the rock, and the surrounding arrows that flame up and draw my eyes away.

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.
Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
I take refuge in You. 100_8955

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

 And if my Enemy be my own self, deliver me still.

Help me receive Your teaching.

For I am Your servant.

Thank You, dear LORD, for this moments, for merciful patience, and Your trustworthy wisdom.

Be blessed, Dear Ones, as you stretch today. Remember He has your hands in His.

All verses selected from Psalm 143 (NIV)

Posted in Deflecting the Weapon of Discouragement, Distraction, Spiritual Drought, Spiritual Transformation, The Walk, Trials, Uncategorized, Worship | Leave a comment

Turning the Desert into Pools of Water and the Parched Ground into Springs

Good Morning, Everyone!

I’m back here on The Journey, forcing my feet to return to the path leading to victory over spiritual distraction. How ironic. And perfect. 100_9892

I have confessed the need to settle my mind, root my soul, and eliminate the pull of distractions.  Of course, the past few days have been full of distractions. In repose, this morning the LORD helped remind me of the discipline of setting small goals, and boundaries for them. I could sit here on the Praying Porch for hours, and ponder all that is glorious and beautiful about our God, as expressed in His creation.

“The poor and needy search for water,
    but there is none;
    their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert
    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
    may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
    that the Holy One of Israel has created it.”  Isaiah 41:17-20

Oh, yes.

I could dig into His precious word and write my soul’s response, for the entire day.  I could also jump up at least 30 times in as many minutes to ‘take care of’ something that catches my eye or my mind.

This is going to be a very long and difficult battle.

I am determined, however to set my mind on things above. (Colossians 3:1,2)

And “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (Paul, again, it astounds me the way the LORD placed these words in you!) 2 Cor. 10:5.

So, yeah, this is a major spiritual battle of mine, which I’ve recognized for a long time, but have been too distracted to do anything about (stop rolling your eyes, please, I realize how ironic that is!)

Today I set the alarm for 30 minutes. That’s all I got. 30 focused, not-getting-up-for-anything, not-paying-attention-to-Facebook notification chimes minutes. To mediate on and pray my way through this journey whose goal is to remove Distraction’s power from my life, as it renders me essentially ineffective and splintered. When I do not engage in this, as though in warfare,  my mind focuses on the wheel-spinning overwhelm of all that I haven’t, all the needs, all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘maybes’. Then time slips away, and with it, opportunity and blessings.

Our Savior speaks peace in the battle: “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” Matthew 6:34

So, here is Day Two’s Action Against Distraction:

Determine a reasonable goal for success and give it boundaries. Perhaps set a timer. Pray against the temptation to go beyond that, or to interrupt it. Praise God for success and company in that time.

I chose to return to the discipline of studying and writing, because it is a tool that has proven to be empowering for me. That power does not come, in any way, shape, or form, from myself, but from the LORD. It’s one of the ways He works in me. Writing helps me hold onto His promises and work through the challenges. Allow God to find for you your own meeting place and avenue of growth. How does He gather you close? How does He work to spill that closeness over to others He loves? Set a reasonable, God-centered goal and embrace that time. Protect that time with prayer.

In sharing my journeys, I have chosen to live transparent, and call on you to help me keep walking. A listening community provides accountability (ugh, I’m not really comfortable with that, but realize it’s like medicine—good for me, even if it’s tough to swallow.) I am really, really hoping some of you out there, if you happen to pop in, have your own “Distraction Journey” successes and struggles you can share so we can lift each other along.

I am praying for you, and me, that we remain singularly focused on living in the world, but not of the world. I pray that we recognize the weaknesses of our own bodies and minds as exactly the spots targeted by Satan who loves to lie about what’s important and needful. I am confident, that as we draw near to the throne of grace, God will grant us victory, and work powerfully in our lives for His glory.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 (Don’t forget the good part just before this: we have a high priest in Christ who can sympathize with our weaknesses!)101_0135

I’ll be back later. The timer has gone off. I feel strong, joyous, and grateful for these 30 minutes of success!

Blessings be on you and your day as you, too, wrestle with whatever distracts you from God’s quiet whispers of love and strength.

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