"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ---John 14:6
Friday, April 29, 2005
Does anyone else out there still miss Karen Carpenter?
I remembered her lately because Tom bought a box of record albums at an estate sale and inside was a tan album simply titled, Carpenters. I moved my record player up to my Dream Room so I could feel 17 again in the pink light, and oh my, Karen spins me back to those years, or rather, to the remembered-magic of being 17.
There was a magic to being 17--you just had to brush away all the emotional stuff to find it. Some kids never discovered it, but I did, and it all returns when Karen sings:
Long ago, and oh so far away--
I fell in love with you
Before the second show.
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear,
But you're not really here,
It's just the radio...**
And yet the bittersweetness gets in the way. The sadness of Karen's life, well, I hear it all over her voice and then I remember the movie of her life and all the articles I've read since her death. Yes, the sadness gets in the way and sometimes I walk over and lift up the arm of the record player and let it rest.
And in the silence I return to being 46 and a little stiff in my joints and so far away from being 17 years old in my family's house. But happy because of who God has become to me and our history together.
And slowly the ache fades--all the useless wishes that Karen had had a happy life, also. I wish I could play her songs and feel pure joy, but there's always that ache in her voice and in my memories of her.
I wish I could thank her for leaving us her music.
I wish I could thank her for helping me realize that it doesn't matter what people say, it's vital only what God says. That it's my world with Him on the inside that matters most. When He and I are in harmony, then there's a calm to my days--not always circumstance-wise, of course--but a harmony heart-wise.
Long ago and oh so far away--
Someday I will be long ago and far away and I pray that God will bring smiles, not sadness, not a bittersweetness to those of you who will remember me.
**Bits of Karen's Superstar and other songs can be heard here. Scroll down the page.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
The first fourteen years Tom and I were married we moved every two years or so. No particular reason--we weren't running from The Law or anything--we just moved a lot. And in the nightmare of moving all our heavy possessions, there was one very good thing.
We kept releasing stuff we no longer loved.
After all, who wants to carry, heave and lug junk you no longer like to a brand new home?
Fast-forward to our move here in 1993. Twelve years later, still, we're living in the same house that welcomed us. A house with three levels and lots of deep, dark cupboards in which to keep shoving more junk. It's wonderful we've lived in one home so long and yet? Oh, how simple to keep everything!
What is this unholy grasp, this preoccupation we have with our stuff?
But then one day Grace told me it was time to pull everything I owned out of every cupboard, closet and drawer. She asked me to hold each thing in my hand and ask if I still loved it or if it was still useful. Not either? Release it, she said.
Well, it took about a month, but I did it. Not as thoroughly as Grace would have liked, (I'm thinking), but I did get rid of much.
Afterward? I felt positively refreshed.
Well, guess what Grace once again asked me? Yes, to sort through, again, every cupboard, closet and drawer.
Oh dear. But I do love Grace. I need her. I appreciate Grace because only she can release my ungodly hand-squeeze upon things and stuff.
And that is just what I need.
Some far-off day I'll have to let go of all of it--every book, painting, cool chair, every bit of clothing. That will be a happy day. Yet I keep getting the feeling it will be a joyful day, also, when I can let go of half of it early. Before the Big Day.
Because it will remind me that my truest treasures aren't on this planet, anyway.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Where do you get your soul validation?
For years I attempted to get mine from friends and family and anyone else who'd look at me. It's as though I constantly asked these silent questions:
Am I ok?
Am I important?
Am I important to you?
Do you need me?
Do I make this world a better place?
Is your life better for having known me?
--to the point of making myself a needy, affirmation-gasping mess on the inside.
What has changed? I go to God for soul validation now.
What a difference! For one thing, He's never on vacation, out walking the dog or visit His other friends. Well, He does visit His other friends, but He can visit with me simultaneously.
But always, He's there for me. Always.
He also tells me this world is a better place for my having been here because of the times I've let Him speak or act through me. He makes this world better through me-- and that thrills my heart. It's not all about what I do--it's about who He is in me and what He does.
Years ago, God convinced me I'm important to Him,so why do I need to hear it from a bunch of other people? He says He needs the friendship I offer Him and that He loves to spend time with me.
Incredible. Blows my mind.
Everything changed when I started running to God for validation. I have inner peace now since I stopped racing around, forcing it from others and what I do. Instead, I've found peace because of who I am--in God and with Him.
"You will seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity..." Jeremiah 29:13,14
Saturday, April 16, 2005
Spring Cleaning In Mayberry
Many women in my town still do a big spring cleaning.
You drive past their old two or three-story homes and spy them standing in their yards in their aqua dusters with their hair wrapped in scarves. They beat rugs, hang wet laundry, sweep sidewalks and repaint the porch furniture. You can drive by my house and see me adding to the local color, also, for I like to do my share in keeping the old ways alive.
Lately I'm carrying boxes from my old office in our basement all the way up to the second floor where I spend my days now in my two new, Naomi-less rooms. While watching The Andy Griffith Show or The Dick Van Dyke Show, I sit on the floor picking through those boxes, sorting through junk and old memories.
And too, I've spent hours tearing pages from decorating magazines, keeping only the pictures of cozy rooms I love. Then I slip those into plastic sleeves, place them in three-ring binders then out on my porch for the hours I loll around out there.
I love Spring cleaning after a long winter. The air holds so much promise of good times and weather for the year's remainder. The promise is so thick, in fact, that it carries me along until the job is finished.
I like the old ways, well, many of them, Spring Cleaning being one. Where's the burden in caring for what God has given me? I mean, who comes up with this stuff?--
So, like, what? It's the sign of a well-spent life to live in a dirty house?
I think not.
There is a balance to life. If only we would all find it.
Some people say the Good Old Days are gone. Well, it's still the Good Old Days around my house. No one can take them away from me--unless I give them away.
Friday, April 15, 2005
What Do We Have to Offer?
When people drop by my home, I know I'm supposed to offer them something to drink, but man, I forget. Many times I've remembered only as they go home (maybe because I didn't offer them anything to drink?).
But when I meet people out in Real Life or here in Blogland, I am offering them (you) something without even realizing it. It's like I'm handing you a drink without consciously knowing I'm doing so.
It matters what we offer the people in our lives because no one arrives there by accident.
God gives us a river in which to paddle upstream, against the current, and along the way, it's as though, poof! There's someone next to us in a little boat who's tired of just floating downstream--someone who's ready to face the upstream direction. Someone who needs a towline to get them started--and a drink of water. Someone who needs what we have to offer.
But it's good to ask ourselves, "What do I have to offer?"
It shouldn't be what the weighted-down, Down Streamers offer--things like sadness, depression, complaining, confusion, discontent, irritability and a lack of inner peace and joy.
Everyone already has plenty of that.
Yet sometimes I see many Up Streamers with boats full of Down Streamer stuff. Sometimes my own boat has grown heavy beneath that junk.
God has something better! Ways to lighten our load while we're paddling upstream. But it takes emptying our little boats of things we bought into at the Down Streamers Shops along the shore. Dark, heavy burdens which we bought because everyone else stuffed theirs into boats.
May I keep my own little ship, lightweight. It's easier to paddle upstream with a boat free from heavy junk and I must paddle upstream, against the current--that's the way to God's Place.
It's upriver--just ahead. In the light.
"Jesus said...I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Tom and I had this verse engraved on our wedding invitations many moons ago:
"There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yes, four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid." Proverbs 30:17-19
The writer didn't even try to express his opinions about these things--he left them alone just to ponder their worth.
Some things are too wonderful for me to understand, too. Not wonderful as in wonder-filled or beautiful or intoxicating. No, wonderful as in too overwhelming. And those are the things, the ideas, the current events I try to keep my mouth shut about.
Why? Because I believe it's wisdom to not speak about things I don't understand...things God has not spoken to me about first.
And trust me--from experience, I've watched myself get into loads of trouble by expressing my opinions about subjects I had no business approaching.
It was a monumental day when I finally realized God is not interested in my opinions--and neither are most people. No, what God cares about is that I listen to what He is thinking... and it takes a whole lot of listening to hear that still small voice. It's pretty still and pretty small. And what matters to Him is that I come away from those times ready to share what He said--or--ready to just keep quiet until the time is right to speak them aloud.
And what matters to Him, too, is that I believe what His written word says--you know, His words which even a child can understand--remember those? It's we adults who complicate that whole book.
There is a blog I love to read, especially when its author shares clear, concise thoughts and memories--I am so there with that person at those times. And yet, many of their posts, well, out of perhaps 30 sentences, I only understand two. It's a very weird feeling to read your own native language and yet not understand it! As for the other 28 sentences,they make me a little dizzy and I just pick up the gist that this person is feeling sad.
And often I so want to comment on the two sentences I understood... or I want to plead with this person to please, please wake up and see that brain overload always appears to take them to the Land of Pain. But almost always I leave no comment at all. Why? Because I'd only end up speaking about something I do not understand. And again, that leads to trouble.
I love God's thoughts best. I can understand those because He deciphers them for me. He knows my limited brain can't comprehend anything complicated and wordy, so He condenses it all for me and uses words I know to express concepts I do not know.
His words bring peace to my mind. And if getting peace in my own head means letting complication alone and staying far away from it--I'll do that. To me, peace is always worth the price of staying away from the Land of Complication--even when whole groups of friends are having a good time over there on the beach.
But as for me and my head--we will not try to figure everything out.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
The Courage To Go Couchless
Last year we gave away our couch. We had no intention of replacing it, either.
Did you know it is legal to not have a couch in your living room? No C.P's (Couch Police) come to your door and write you a ticket. Even though every other house in the United States has a couch, you are breaking no laws if your house doesn't have one.
But sometimes your friends and neighbors say things about your couchlessness. And that's the test--can you stay couchless by choice or will you give into must-have-a-couch pressure?
We are still couchless. And we are still happy that way. Tom has his recliner for watching movies and two feet away I have my 1960's pink comfy chair designed for one-and-a-half people. I lay across its wide arms, with my feet upon the side table and my afghan over me--and am content.
Maybe our going couchless wasn't just because a couch takes up too much room in our sunroom... Maybe it was our way of rebelling against the accepted norm. Maybe the fact that our sunroom is actually what we use as a living room--although it's just half its size--well, maybe that's our way of rebelling, too.
Or maybe it's one of those little things God has us do now and then to loosen our white-knuckled grip upon The World. A little reminder that this world is not our home, not really, so we don't need to be acting like it is by blending in and having what everyone else has. And by being what everyone else is.
Some revolutions are good. They just might jerk us out of ruts we dug for ourselves--ruts we dug because everyone else had a shovel in their hand and were digging ruts of their own.
"Our Lord begins to bring us into the place where we can have communion with Him, and we groan and say--'Oh Lord, let me be like other people!'" ... Oswald Chambers
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
When Your Encouragers Are Out to Lunch
The only bad thing about keeping a blog is that I get tested on just about everything I write.
Like today... awhile after I wrote that piece about emotions, Naomi came home to get more of her boxes to take over to her apartment. Things started out well, then they collapsed into the one thing Naomi does which pushes all my buttons and makes steam come from my ears. She once again insinuated that I know nothing about Real Life...that somehow, somewhere, my brains fell out...that although she is half my age, she has somehow had twice my experience.
And I'd been having such a lovely morning, too. Sigh...
Well, I partly passed the Naomi Test. I didn't sink to her level and say a bunch of stuff in retaliation. I only gently said a couple things to defend myself. For me, that's big. And then I went back into my dream room--my peaceful place of escape at the top of the stairs, and quietly closed the door. In the old days I would have shut it hard. Ok, I would have slammed it.
So far, so good. But then, as I sat back on my floor and continued sorting through my magazines in the sunlight, I came very close to crying. All right, all right... I cried a little. But then I remembered what I'd written this morning and how this was most likely a test to see if I really believed those words. I did. And then God was there sitting beside me--He even nudged my shoulder like a friend and said, "Come on. You're doing fine. You know she's young and still has so much to learn. Cheer up."
And that reminded me of Encouragement 101. The best thing I learned in that class?
"But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord" ...I Sam. 30:6
Very often, you can't wait for a truckload of Christians to come along and peel you off the Highway of Life. Sometimes you just have to ask God to do it. You have to let Him be The Great Encourager when all your regular encouragers are out to lunch... When they've not picked up the signals--spoken or otherwise--relaying the fact that you need some kind, uplifting words.
Sometimes, in fact, God purposely scrambles those signals in hopes that we will come to Him for encouragement. In that case, it does no good to get upset with the people who failed to race to us when we needed them. So often it's more a matter of God wanting us to run to the Throne, instead of the phone in times of need. (I am stealing that statement, I'll confess.)
I am so thankful for Encouragement 101. Kind, healing words from other people--really, they're wonderful! But sometimes even the best encouragers fail us, for whatever reasons.
There is only one Encourager who never, ever fails.
"Emotions are the believer's number one enemy." ... Watchman Nee
God University has an extremely controversial class called Emotions 301. You can only take this class when you've been in school a few years--the younger students can't handle this one.
In fact, the older students barely survive this one.
You should hear all the arguing which takes place in that classroom. People stand up at their desks and hotly defend their right to feel miserable--to go wherever their emotions take them. To go up when their emotions are up and down when they are down. To be jerked, yanked and dragged by their feelings any day of the week--that is what many students fight for.
I pitied the Teacher of that class. And when I became a student teacher of that class, I pitied myself.
Following our emotions is like following a treasure map on which the directions and roads keep changing. The treasure remains in the same place, but the lines to it move around constantly.
Emotions are like the lights of sunrise. You know, when you run to get your camera to take a picture of the pink sunrise, but by the time you return, the sun has gone orange. And as the light in the sky keeps changing moment by moment throughout the day, so do our emotions change.
Our spouse or a friend says something stupid to us, so Life turns grey.
They tell us something wonderful, so Life gleams.
We accomplish our work so we feel terrific about ourselves.
We don't accomplish our work so we feel horrible about ourselves.
Our friends keep in contact with us, so we love them and Life is great.
Our friends neglect us, so we resent them and Life is sad.
Our circumstances are going well so we feel happy and healthy.
Our circumstances are going all wrong so we feel upset and sick.
In Emotions 301 we learned that there is something more sure, more unchanging, more steady than our emotions. And that is the Spirit of God. He so wants to put our feet on steady ground, to lead us from strength to strength and from glory to glory.
He longs to make us into examples of someone held up by His steady hand. Someone who recognizes why emotions were created in the first place--so that we can express the very emotions of God in any situation, illustrate how we feel inside, we, and the spirit inside which God made alive.
And that's what I'm aiming for, to express joy when God does. To show anger when God does. To allow only a godly discontent in my spirit to move me--not my own gotta-do-something-different discontent.
To recognize the difference between my emotions and God's and the difference between my soul and my spirit.
But most of all-- to be led by His Spirit. He who is like a map on which the roads change not--but always lead to Heaven and "Well done..."
Emotions 301 is a course which lasts for years and years--it's impossible for me to sum it all up in a simple blog post. So please keep in mind I've left so much unsaid.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." ... Hebrews 4:12
Monday, April 11, 2005
At God University, after Instant Obedience 201, you usually take the extension course, Timing 202.
That's the class where you learn that timing really is everything. You discover that when God says, "Do it Now," He means do it Now.
Not in two hours. Not next Thursday.
Not when you feel like it.
Not when you believe tomorrow would be a better, wiser time.
Now is when He's giving you His anointing. Now is when another person's heart is ready to receive what God is speaking through yours. Now is when His power and Grace are at the gate, waiting to be released, like water from a canal wall.
And that's the class where you learn if you wait past Now, it usually means you've blown it. Sometimes God gives you a second chance, but often He doesn't. It's humbling to discover God thinks our own bright ideas are just a huge waste of time. That's all part of the pop quizzes. The goal of Timing 202 is to show us that only what is done for--and by--God will last. Only when we listen and obey His terrific ideas will there be lasting fruit.
But you also learn to Wait when God says Wait. That's just as hard sometimes, because sometimes He gives you the words to say before He wants you to say them. Before the timing is His. That's all part of the pop quizzes, too. Will we zoom out ahead of God and leave His anointing, His timing in our dust? Will we skip blithely ahead with God's words, but our own timing, our own ways, our own ideas--all of which will, more than likely, lead us to a big, fat mess?
Will we race ahead before God is ready or before we are or before others' hearts are ready, too?
Timing 202...Vital, vital stuff. Trust me, at the beginning of that class I was like a wild, untamed horse just chomping at the bit, kicking at the gate and wanting to be released to what I thought was freedom. It took a few catastrophes, though, to learn that real freedom is when God can trust you with the gift He gave you.
And at the end of my thrashing and loud insistence upon rights and running around putting out fires I began myself.....when exhaustion had to bring me to the place of giving up and doing things exactly God's way... Well, it was like the end of the movie, The Miracle Worker. Remember that? The blind, deaf and mute Helen Keller, after years of no discipline and following weeks of physically and emotionally fighting her teacher, Annie Sullivan--Helen finally, finally understood that Annie was giving her a way out of the darkness. And that evening, in the silence, after what had been weeks of wild, rebellious storms, Helen stepped quietly into Annie's darkening room and sat upon her lap in a rocking chair. And, together, they rocked slowly in the blessed peace of acceptance--and true freedom.
Well, it was like that.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
A Better Way
Yesterday Tom and I went to an estate sale,then picked up lunch at Taco Bell to eat at home. For the first time this year, we sat at the white table on our front porch. The air was still chilly in the shade, but just right in bright light.
We read our mail and listened to our happy neighbors in their yards. Everywhere we'd gone that morning we'd seen people just standing in their yards looking upward, simply enjoying the arrival of what appears to be Spring-Come-To-Stay. It blessed me to drive past so many 20-somethings, especially, standing alone on their lawns, just soaking up the bright, perfumed silence.
But back on our porch--I sat there with a heart full of memories of my life here. I wouldn't have missed these 12 years Back East for anything! And I looked at Tom across the table and Taco Bell wrappers from me--I wouldn't have missed marriage to him for anything, either.
Long ago we found something better, more lasting than marriage counseling (here is my controversial twist). We discovered that if both husband and wife allow God to change and remake them, then everything in the marriage miraculously rights itself.
If I let God destroy my selfishness, my need to have the last word and my pride--well, then I'll become an easy person to live with. And if God is meeting my deepest needs, I'll not be suffocating Tom with a whiny clingingness. I'll not nag him about having his own life because I'll not be lonely while he partakes of what he enjoys.
If I let God reduce me to love on all levels and with all people, then my 'marriage level' will certainly be affected. If I am 'dying daily' (as the Apostle Paul would say), then daily I'm becoming more like Jesus--and if that doesn't affect a marriage, what will?
Tom and I have been married 26 years and have found that there is something greater than following marriage advice, techniques, programs, hints, traditions, or systems from counselors, books or seminars. For us, we've found that letting God break us into smithereens and then, piece by piece, remaking us His way--well, that's the best harmony-maker.
These two recent empty-nesters are on their second honeymoon and are more crazy in love than befits 40-somethings. Each day grows sweeter and the glow in our home burns brighter, come rain or sun.
Post Script: Ah yes! Regarding the commitment factor as commented upon by Tina and Saija. Just nights before Tom and I were married, (in 1978--the Dark Ages), we sat in my living room and told each other that we were going to stay married no matter what. Whether we had a happy marriage or a miserable one--the choice would be ours--but we were staying married forever. Of course we were just babies at the time (19 and 21), but that one decision has kept us from ever using the dreaded D Word all these years. The question has never been, "Will we stay together?" but rather, "Will we be happy or miserable in this thing?"
"Heaven may be in a sordid slum or a palace, and I can make My Home in the humblest heart." ... From the book, God Calling
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Of God University and Umbrellas
Meg asked which classes I have taken at God University... Here is another one.
(It will help if you remember that 10 years ago I was the shyest woman on Earth.)
Soon after Coming When Called 101, I took Instant Obedience 201. In that class you learn how reasoning can talk you out of obeying the simple, clear voice of God.
An example: One misty day while I strolled through a local national park, I saw a small family walking toward me. The two children looked happy, but the father did not because his wife appeared to be complaining about walking in the rain without an umbrella. She looked pretty unhappy about getting her nice clothes and hair damp.
Quickly they were approaching me and then I heard a voice within me say, "Hand your umbrella to the mother."
Oh my... They were walking toward me so fast and the reasoning began. "But Lord! What if she tells me she doesn't want it?" I thought to myself. "What if she says 'No thank-you' and I look silly? And besides, won't I have to cut my walk short and go home? This is the only umbrella I have. And what if I'm just imagining that you want me to do this, yet it's just me? What if they don't speak English?" (People from foreign countries visit here often.) "What if I frighten them, or something? "
Oh good grief.
Well, in the time it took to for me to ask those questions, the family walked past me and immediately I felt the stab of disobedience. I knew I had reasoned away a blessing and I felt dreadful. I told God, "You should have told me sooner so I could've gotten used to the idea!"
He said, "No, you should have just obeyed me sooner."
Don't you just hate it when God is right? Well, anyway, I asked Him to give me another chance to bring up the grade I had received on that test. He never did give me another opportunity to give away my umbrella--that would have been too easy, I suppose. But He's given me hundreds of chances since then for instant obedience to that still, small voice.
The tests get easier when you understand what's going on. They get more exciting, too, after you've tasted the joy of obedience and seen the President of your university use you to do courageous things you never, ever could have done without Him.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
This post will shake some of you up, but hang in there with me, ok?
There's one thing I know for sure: If I want radical changes in my life, I will have to do some radical things in order to get them. It's downright foolish of me to keep doing the same old thing and expect different results.
Years ago, God told me in order to make room for more of Him inside me, I would have to let go of anything which was taking the place reserved only for Him. It was like He would come to the theater of my heart, walk down the aisle to His reserved seat, and then find other people sitting there.
He doesn't like it when that happens.
So because I told God I was willing to do whatever it took to become empty of me and full of Him, He put me through a sort of spiritual boot camp. We started with a class named Coming When Called 101. It didn't sound hard. All I had to do was come away with God whenever that still, small voice called me.
Well, it would have been easy if He only called me when nothing else was going on. But instead, I'd hear that voice call me right before my friends were going to go out for coffee. Or during the time my favorite tv show aired or even--gasp--right before a Sunday night church service. He even asked me to stop writing letters to some of my friends, even though they probably would not understand why.
Oh my... It didn't make sense back then, but it certainly does now. I was so addicted to friendship, that God had to yank my fingers from their death-grip upon it. He had to wake me to the need of obedience even in small areas like tv viewing. And the first time He had me stay home from a church service (no one went to church more than me, except perhaps the pastor--but maybe not even him) He showed me how I'd used such legalistic standards while judging others about their own church attendance (or lack thereof). And of course, since letters had been my lifeline, He had to tie that lifeline off--for a season.
I could go on and on. Coming When Called 101 was no easy A--trust me. It required sacrifice because let's face it--it is never easy to die. It is never easy to do what almost no one else thinks you should do.
And yet...and yet sooner than you would have guessed, it became more of an un-sacrifice. Something which appeared harder to my friends and others who didn't understand than it was in actuality to me. When God tells you to do something, He usually forgets to tell your friends about it. He means to do that--it's all part of the course. It's on every test.
Coming When Called 101 became a joy, because there is nothing sweeter on Earth than spending time with the God who made you for Himself. There is nothing more wonder-filled than His presence.
Like I said, my death-grip had been on friendship and seeking approval. What is yours on?
It took radical obedience for me to be set free from my various addictions. I took Coming When Called 101 eleven years ago and I'm still going through God University. I've taken lots of courses since then and still have never found an easy one I can recommend to you.
But I will recommend this: Don't try to skip courses or cut class. Don't expect to sail through any course God puts you through in a measly week or two. All changes take time. But you can expect help from Grace. She doesn't hand out cheat sheets, or anything, but she will help you with your homework.
What We Think We Want
It's funny how you can spend years wanting what is wrong while believing what you want is right. Well, it's not funny, if by chasing wrong dreams you end up in a place God never intended you to be.
That happened to me--and not just once, either. My dreams were to have more friends and to make the ones I had appreciate me more. I would lounge on my front porch on summer days with my nose behind a Victoria magazine appearing to be reading it. But to be honest, I was just waiting for the mailman to bring me letters from the friends I'd left back Out West. Problem was, I couldn't be honest. I couldn't admit that each note I received was like a message telling me I was ok. Accepted in the Friendship Realm. Valuable.
I had dreams to become well-known for either my writing or for being the best wife, mother, or friend (as if someone would hand me a gold plaque for those things). Sometimes I toyed with the idea of doing something Guiness Book of World Records worthy (like writing the most letters in a year). Or finding a way to make money so I'd have enough for the extras I thought I needed. Or being the best-dressed or the best-looking 35-year-old around.
But the thing was, each time I'd go after those dreams, it was as though God came along and frustrated each one. I'd get no letters, no extra money, no awards. Except that back then, I believed it was Satan who was the rain-maker on my parades, the ants at my picnics, the spoiler of all my plans. I thought he was the one who caused my dreams to die early deaths and never come to fruition.
No, eleven years later I realize it was good old God, Himself, who burned my dreams to ashes. Why would He do such a thing? Because my motivation was all wrong. I wanted to be the Best Whatever so that I would receive the praise of people. I wanted to look good in other peoples' eyes. I was seeking the approval of man and basing how I felt about myself according to the way people felt about me.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Like, don't do that.
As the song says, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. Oh, they were never seedy, big-time-sinfully-obvious places. Most were even Christian places. But you can be off just a few degrees in Life and end up in a very sad land. A land where Selfish Ambition reigns and drags you around by the neck--somehow without you even realizing what's really happening. A place where you search fruitlessly for the kind of love you'll find only in Jesus.
Now I thank God that He did not give me what I thought I wanted. I didn't know it back then, but what I really, truly, deep-in-my-heart wanted was Him.
His love and acceptance and appreciation of me is the answer to all my dreams. I am important to Him so now I no longer careen around trying to become important to everyone else. And now Life has gone simple. I try to stay empty of what I want so that I can stay full of what He wants for me. And when I do that, all those good things spill out all over the place. I cannot contain such wonder.
They even spill out all over this blog, that is, when I'm careful to stay empty of me.
"Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." Galations 1:10
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." Philippians 2:3
Monday, April 04, 2005
Let It Burn!
I had a feeling while writing my last post that someone would ask just how do you keep the fire burning? How do you keep your passion for Jesus alive?
So for Meg and others who keep me on my toes (and that is so good for me)....
Basically, you just do whatever it takes to keep your friendship with Jesus the most vital thing in your life. You stay needy for Him--as needy as you are for air, itself.
You come when He calls and stay until He releases you. You leave condemnation behind because it's like avoiding your best friend because you feel so guilty. It makes things only worse.
You listen a lot to that still, small voice throughout the day. You find a good, solid Bible teacher--someone who will not coddle you. You move when God moves. You stop when God stops. As in a dance, you let Him lead.
If you find yourself craving your way more than His, you choose His way--even if it feels like the hardest thing in the world. You become acquainted with Grace and lean on her for the hard tasks.
Basically, you just keep dying to what you want, what you think, and what you feel.
If He tells you to leave the world's things alone, you leave them alone. You do what He gives you permission to do--and you always, sometimes later--discover what He chose for you was best.
You stop trying to change yourself. You cooperate with God and let Him do what He does best--the changing of a heart.
Basically you just die. You die to yourself bit by bit.
And the more you die to you, the more alive you will become in Him. He will change everything on the inside. And because He created something new in you, He will look and see that it is good.
And the fire will keep burning.
Candle Love vs. Blazing Love
For years I just had Candle Love for God. You know, like the little flame you see upon the wick of a simple candle. A flame, yes, but a little, flickering flame.
I would read those verses which say we are to love God more than everybody else and I'd always feel so guilty. When I could get honest with myself, I'd realize: I loved just about everybody else more than I loved God.
Those verses worried me. And I worried, too, about Heaven. I mean, I knew I'd be going there someday, but I secretly hoped we'd all be able to play a lot of tennis or something--I just couldn't get excited about standing around and praising God in my new heavenly body. I covertly wished for something different.
And like I said, I felt guilty about all that.
But then Blazing Love came along.
I read somewhere that it takes God to love God. Eleven years ago Blazing Love got a hold of me. It was not anything I drummed-up or whipped-up myself. It has never let me go. No, but I always have sensed if there was any letting go to be done, it would have to be done by me.
I would be the one who would have to walk away. God was going nowhere.
I would be the one who would have to stop feeding the flame.
I would have to be the one who would stop the growth process which also began at that same time.
If anyone was going to mess up, it would always be me. God could never mess up--never make one mistake. I had to stop all inklings of thoughts that He could error or step away from me or stay mad at me or base His love for me upon my performance.
There was so much to learn--and unlearn. But Blazing Love kept--keeps--me going deeper into the only love which has ever satisfied my thirsty heart.
We have not because we ask not. Blazing Love is available to anyone--but it comes only from God, Himself. What a relief. All that's left for me to do is to stay hungry. To do whatever it takes to keep Blazing Love burning bright. To set aside time to soak in God's presence each day--and then to face the world, changed by Love.
The old Candle Love is gone. It's been swallowed up, forever, by a Blaze which is like the sun. Blazing Love even changed my eyesight--everything looks different now. Old things have become new.
And if I never play tennis in Heaven, that will be just fine by me.
"...the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Romans 5:5
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Heaven On The Second Floor
I'd forgotten what having your very own room felt like. When we first moved here I used to have my own downstairs room, but years later I had to give it to our cats. They were holding wild parties at night and flying into my china, splattering it all over the floor. So my room became theirs at night--they didn't mind--some evenings they even go to bed early on their own accord.
But now that our little bird has flown the coop I have my own room, my own nest, high up in our house. It's peaceful there--I walk up the steps to spend time in my room and it's like walking up Jacob's Ladder to reach Heaven. Well, ok... to me it feels that way. This summer I may even crawl out the windows and sit on the roof just outside so that I'll feel even closer to Heaven. That is, if I can still fit through the windows. Last time I was out there I was thinner than I now am. Hmm...
If I was going to publicly campaign for anything, I would probably campaign for the right of every person on Earth to have their own room. That is how much I love mine.
I run up to my room when I feel the need to run to God--and I'm noticing that is often. I walk up that Jacob's Ladder when I need extra peace. When I've watched disturbing news on TV and seen the scary direction this world is going. When I'm tired, warm and need the cool mist of God.
He is my hiding place. My refuge from a world gone wrong. And I'm thankful for the physical place He's given me to represent just how much I do need Him every single day. He makes all things beautiful, even my life in that little room with the cast-off furniture.
Friday, April 01, 2005
A Blogger No More
Well, it looks like
I'll no longer be blogging
due to very personal reasons.
You can read about them
Did I getcha?
(It's hard to write this
so that the punch line
doesn't stand out
But anyway, my silly little joke brings up a good point. I am learning to hold all my God-given gifts, talents and opportunities in an open hand.
They are not mine to cling to. My writing or teaching or giving are not for me to hold onto for dear life, as though I cannot live without them.
I am not to garner self-worth and affirmation and self-confidence from my gifts and ministries.
My gifts are to help other people--they're not designed to help me. My gifts are meant to make you feel good, not me.
My help is to come directly from God, Himself, or from the gifts He shares through you. My security and worthiness and confidence are all to come from God--and who He is--and who I am in Him. Not by what I do for Him.
Not from the way He touches people through me.
Some people will disagree, I know. That's ok. But I have found these to be truths--truths which keep me pliable so that God doesn't get frustrated when He can't move my affirmation-sucking ego to the next place of ministry. Truths which have released heavy, heavy burdens from my shoulders.
It feels so good to feel free.
And I do thank each of you who have shared your gifts with me. I feel so blessed by each one.
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