Monday, August 31, 2015

More Mercy

Lord, forgive me. Forgive my selfish ways and rid me of them.
Could it be anything but pride that rises up in me 
insisting on my own way?
Offenses come too easily for this Princess!
I yearn to be more like my Father, creative and loving.
When criticism takes control of my tongue and lashes out words that don’t resemble love in any way, 
sorrow and anguish squeeze my heart
and every soul it encroaches upon.
You live in me, O Lord! If the colors I spill out into my world fall through the facets of the stained glass windows of my soul, clean them - so that only Your love shines through 
the uniqueness You designed into me.
With Your healing hand and the Balm of Gilead, through the life-giving power of the Blood of Jesus, wash me and make me new; again.
Rejoicing with gratefulness, I thank You; again.
Taking in Your mercy, let’s unfold today, together; again.

Day One……

“…We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” – Daniel 9:18 (NIV)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sacred Space

 The other day I got together with a few friends, and the notion of protecting our sacred space came up. We didn’t really talk about it, it was just a thought to ponder on. I know, crazy, right? A handful of women, a great topic like that and no chatter about it, who would think it could happen?

What is our sacred space and why does it need protecting? I suppose I could come at this from several different points of view. Of course, my first thought was a question; protect it from what?

Should we be protecting that sacred space from negative outside influence? Or just respecting it as our own space to be shared with only God? Or should we be opening it up and welcoming others into it? Should our lives become that space? From a ponderer’s perspective, these are all valid points to ponder.

I want to hear what you think, as well. Personally, I’ve drawn the conclusion that yes, this sacred space needs our protection. And, I’ll admit that I thought differently, at the start of this. 

My reasons for feeling this way are completely based on the definitions I found for the word sacred; you can journey to right here, if you’d like. That’s where I found my revelation. I also looked up the word, consecrated

An adjective, the very first line of definition starts us off: “devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated.” Clearly this space we’re talking about is, by definition, already devoted or dedicated, and not for the general public. The second line of definition includes “holy”. If we invited everyone to our sacred spaces, the holiness would quickly be trampled upon. Though one demands respect, it’s not always given.

I found a smile crawl across my face as I made my way down to the sixth line of definition: “secured against violation….” Clearly, making no bones about it, this space is to be protected and revered, consecrated, set apart for spiritual purposes!

Now, what about that “space”? My favorite and closest dictionary choice tells me it’s: “the unlimited…three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.” Line two of the definition draws that down for us: “the portion or extent of this in a given instance…”

So, if my sacred space is defined as that holy portion of the unlimited three-dimensional realm I’m living in, then yes, I need to keep it holy and protected, an intimate place where I meet with God to grow our relationship!

Yet, while enjoying that intimacy with the Creator of everything, and holding my sacred space dear, what I’m exposed to there should permeate every other part in my life, making me whole; and it should impact every person I meet, whether I share words with them or not.

Love is what grows in that sacred space, and love isn’t love if it isn’t shared generously.

“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” – John 4:23 (KJV)


“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” – John 4:14 (KJV)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Peace Like No Other

The other night, well past midnight, I roamed my house. In yet another battle with sleeplessness, though thoroughly tired, I paced. Of course, in the quiet of night it’s a great time to listen and to pray. Admittedly, I’d rather be sleeping.

As I sat in the rocking chair in the front room, I closed my eyes. I was praying for my son. Sometimes the words to pray don’t come easily, those are times when I depend on the groaning of the Spirit of God, whether audible or not. Those are the times I yield myself to how He wants to pray, through me. Those are generally the most passionate and emotion-filled prayers.

With a flutter of my eyelids, I melted as the front porch light, creeping through the slats in the blinds, illuminated our American flag waving in the breeze.

When our children are young, we presume we can, or are at least supposed to meet most of their needs. We love them and teach them, we nurture them while watching them teach us so much more. We hold them. I miss holding them most.

My heart aches for the hearts of my children. Their grown up struggles are so much harder than that to which their childish concerns could ever amount. Perhaps because with age comes wisdom I didn’t have as a young mom, and I realize that it’s not my job to pave their way through life. I can’t show them their purpose or their path. They need to discover that on their own. Something given to us is sometimes less appreciated than something we work for ourselves.

Our children see our flaws more often than anyone else, perhaps even better than our spouse. They see when we don’t even realize they’re watching. And of course, they’re observing our shortcomings through the innocent eyes of a child, I’m quite sure that adds facets to who we are to them that we don’t even know about.

No matter what I’ve done or how they see me, they’re all grown up now. I’ve done my part is messing with their view of reality.

Now, they struggle within their own hearts. Life is between them and God and their reality of God. It was always their own journey. My hope is that someday the struggles end and they’re at peace and can share their peace through just being who they are.

I can’t pray my will over theirs, I can’t pray for the path I want them to choose – that may not be the road God has planned to take them down.

I can only pray God’s perfect will over them and trust Him to complete the good work He’s begun in them.

That beautiful flag waving on the front porch may be part of the reason my son is on the other side of the world. But, my heart has to trust that it’s all part of a greater plan, the plan of God Himself.

Do I get all choked up and cry? Absolutely. But, praise God for His peace, which passes all my human understanding and teaches me to hope and stirs up supernatural patience and trust within me.

I’m so blessed and glad and honored to serve the Almighty God of the universe and to know that I know that I know that He’s in control. There’s no greater joy than to know God and trust Him completely. Anxiety comes from feeling the need to do life on my own or worse yet, from trying to control the destiny of another.

Thank You, Jesus for Your sweet, bountiful peace. Thank You for Your unconditional, never-ending love. Hallelujah!

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Full, Half-full or Empty?

That cup we’re always hearing about that’s either half-full or half-empty; what’s it’s filled with anyways?

In the Old Testament (Jeremiah 18) we read the story of the potter and his clay. Whenever I ponder that story, I envision a potter’s hands on a wet mound of clay gently pressing inward as his wheel turns. Behind him, I see other vessels he’s made, awaiting the kiln – where they’ll be tried by fire. I see tall, thin vessels – perhaps beautiful vases; I see shorter, fat bowls – perhaps casserole dishes; I even see one that looks like it could be a bedpan.

In the vast array of his work, I see the plans for his pottery unfold in his mind as he creates each one. When he shapes one like a bedpan, he probably doesn’t get excited about the flowers that wait to fill it. Yet, when he shapes the tall slender vases, he probably doesn’t smile at the aroma of a baking casserole that might enter his senses as he molds the clay for the baking dish. His mind will cause his fingers to shape the clay in just the right way to embrace the untold beauty of the bouquets that will all but cause the vase to vanish from sight completely.

As I ponder the potter’s trophies, I trust that the Master Potter had a perfect plan for me when He created this vessel. What did He originally plan to pour into me? If I’m having a rough day, no doubt my mind wanders to the bedpan and laughs, “that’s you – right there!” Yeah. I’m still working on that. But, praise God – I’m making progress by leaps and bounds.

Fortunately, His Word tells me exactly what He planned to fill me with, and He pours into me with great abundance. In 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 we read: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (KJV)
His original intent was, and still is, to fill us with His Spirit, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, which He revealed to us through Jesus Christ. The glory is in that incredible power, not in the construction of the vessel it fills.

I may notice a lovely vase, but once it’s filled with the beauty of a bouquet, the vase almost seems to fade away, by comparison. It’s kind of like the word “is” in the middle of a sentence; who notices it when we’re busy taking in the meaning of the word combinations?

I recently heard Dr. Matthew Thomas speak on joy. He just wears it all over his face, there’s no mistaking it there. He used the illustration of pouring water from a large pitcher into a smaller glass. Once he filled it to the rim, he asked if there was room in the glass for anything else. He surmised that, if we are filled with the joy of the Lord, there could be no room for worry or anxiety, doubt or fear, complaining or offenses. His point lodged in my mind.

Psalm 139:14 beautifully points out that I am (we are all) fearfully and wonderfully made. But, an empty vessel just collects dust. Our Potter created us with specific purpose and phenomenal plans in mind.

It’s time for a fresh refilling of His Spirit, a topping off. Remind yourself Who you belong to, Who keeps you and loves you always and forever. No - matter - what! There’s no reason to be half-full or half-empty when He’s willing and wanting to fill us to overflowing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Expanding NEBAI

Eons ago, in 2001, actually, I wrote a prayer that revealed my need to slow down, even if it was just the few relaxing moments I spent in the bathtub.

Today I filled the tub, plopped in a fizzy ball and sank into the hot water, relaxing inch by inch, as I submerged myself. “Sermons in the Tub” came to mind with full gusto, again.

“Lord I always seem to hear You….
when I’m listening….
when I’m listening to what You want to say to me…
I never seem hear You at all 
when I’m listening for what I want You to say,
the way I want You to say it.
I hear You when there’s very little 
if anything else at all that I can be doing.
You increase Your Word, only when I’m using it, not when I need it, 
not when I want it; but only when I’m using it.
When the widow fed Elijah, it was Your Word, Lord, that sustained her, only when she relented 
and gave up what she could do to sustain herself.
When Your disciples fed the multitudes from a basket of a few fishes and a loaf of bread, did they grow tired of feeding before all were fed, or did their level of excitement overwhelm their weariness –
because they saw the increase of Your Word…as it was used?
Today is a great day, without it of course, tomorrow would not come.
Today is a day of release, of letting go...of using Your Word,
so that You can cause the increase as I need it.
If I don’t let go of what I no longer need,
where will You give me what You want me to have now?
If I don’t let go to death, where will You give life.
If I’m listening for only what I want to hear You say,
where will You speak, that I would listen?”

I need to listen more and talk less. I get that. I also need to do better at being honest with myself.

 Using dietary illustrations again, there have been occasions when I’ve eaten something sugary or fatty and felt horrible afterward, and not just from conviction or guilt over eating it. I felt bloated, lazy, sleepy, queasy, sometimes even nauseous. (Then add to that, being mad at myself for consciously putting that poison in my mouth.) Those are not the words I want to use when describing how I feel. Yet, the time comes when I’m tempted to eat those very same things again – simply because my taste buds crave them or I’m feeling lonely or frustrated. If I were honest with myself when contemplating what I should do, I’d admit that those foods won’t comfort me, they’ll make me feel worse than I may already feel.

I know how those foods will make me feel. But, when I’m too busy for my own good and my focus is all over the map, not only do I not listen to what God wants to say to me, I don’t even listen to what I have to say to myself.

(by Eleanor Craig)
If you look at my life from an outsider’s point of view, you’d never guess I’m too busy. Even as I survey what I get done in a day, it’s not really all that much, most of the time. So, it’s not that I’m too busy doing things; my mind is too busy.

So, not only when I find myself being tempted to eat something that won’t be good for my body, but also when I catch my mind rushing around in pointless circles, I’m going to try to incorporate my NEBAI practice. (See my last blog post here for more on that.)

The catchy part will be noticing when my mind is evading me. Ha-ha!

Okay, Lord – I’m listening. For now.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I’m thankful that God is so patient with me, working everything together for my good and His glory. I think it’s His very good pleasure to work in us; with us, fulfilling His promises in our lives.

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, 
as some men count slackness; 
but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, 
but that all should come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9 (KJV)


Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Plan of Action: NEBAI

This cocoon is getting a little tight and I’m getting a little restless. I need to stop being so hard on myself, I’m not a caterpillar permanently trapped in preparation mode. Though I’m anxious to break out, maybe I need “one more minute”.

I’ve been feeling a little anxious lately. Upcoming situations beg me to come up with doable plans to deal with it. However, I don’t see myself as a planner; I’m a pantzer (one who flies by the seat of their pants)!

Clearly, information may lead to transformation, but information itself isn’t transformation. Hence, no matter how much information I’ve crammed into my pretty little head, it won’t do a thing for me just rattling around in there, I have to implement it into my daily life.

 Today I’m looking at some of the things that make me anxious. I know God doesn’t want me dwelling in anxiety. His Word tells me to be anxious for nothing. (Philippians 4:6) His Word also tells me that in this world I’ll have tribulations. Tribulations can bring anxieties along with them. (John 16:33)

I’m drawn back to being mindful. Though I regularly think of myself as ditzy or scatterbrained, I’m not. Those are just adjectives that catapult me into a negative mindset, or attempt to excuse me from being present and in the moment.

I’ve gleaned many tools to help be become a healthier person at the Metabolic Research Center, where I check in regularly. One of those useful tools is a behavior called “pattern interrupt”. Simply put, interrupting a pattern of destructive behavior, or even those that are just not good for me – such as temptations to eat something unhealthy. Anyone with an addiction can benefit by interrupting his or her addictive behaviors.

Interrupt it with what? A different behavior.

 If it’s my habit to stop at Starbucks on my way home, I need to adopt a new routine. But, if it’s an impulse that suddenly strikes me, I can interrupt it by doing something else. As I sit here, now thinking about a Java Chip Frappuccino, a craving could easily mount. I could abandon my laptop and head over to Starbucks, perhaps justifying it by walking over there instead of driving. Yes, it’s that close. If instead, I choose to interrupt that temptation and pick up my weighted hula-hoop and go at it for ten minutes, by then the craving should pass.

I need to have a ready selection of viable options at my disposal. A list of things I can do instead of give in to the impulse. By viable, I mean things I will actually do. I need to find options I can do anywhere. Yes, here at home, I can grab my hula-hoop. But, if I’m driving down the road – what then? Your list will be different from mine, but we can interrupt a temptation easily, if we’re prepared for them and if we notice when they hit us.

For me, dietary temptations generally hit in the late afternoon. This is common. I may be able to avoid them altogether if I have a prepared or readily available snack with me. Maybe not.

Oftentimes, temptations seem to hit us unexpectedly. They’re most likely emotionally triggered, though. Perhaps emotional triggers cause our sugar to drop, or maybe our sugar dropping creates the emotional trigger. We’ll let scientists sort that out.

Again, with the mindfulness; I need to pay attention. I need to notice what’s going on around me and inside of me when irresistible temptations attempt to consume me. I’m in charge, not the temptations.

Here’s my plan.

NOTICE when I’m anxious. I’ve seen that temptations quickly follow.
(Does my sugar dropping create part of that anxiety?)

EXAMINE what I’m feeling – briefly. Allowing my mind to wallow in something stressful won’t do me any good at all; I’d probably end up eating something sugary while I stew over what’s bothering me.

BREATHE. While looking at what has me falling prey to a temptation, I’ll focus on my breathing for a minute or two; breathing deeply and purposefully. That always calms me down noticeably.

ALLOW the pieces to fall in place. Many of life’s stressors are out of our control. Nevertheless, our response is always within our control. The old Serenity Prayer comes into play here.

For me, this will mean confronting thoughts that pull me down and taking ownership of them, choosing whether I allow them to dominate my mind. Mindfully following the instructions in Philippians 4:8: thinking on the good things, will give me power.

When I confront my own thoughts, I need to do it in love or I can wind up mentally beating myself up again for thinking them. Self-love is not selfish.

Lastly, IMPLEMENT my alternative activity. I need to get busy on that list and keep a copy in my phone!

Hmmmm. NEBAI. I need an acronym to remember my plan! Is that even a word? I looked it up. How cool is this? According to several Hebrew dictionaries, nebai means fruitful! So, I greatly anticipate that my strategy will be fruitful. And I’ll pronounce it however I like. The “i” will be silent and I’ll make it rhyme with Reba, my favorite country singer.

Sounds easy enough, want to try it with me?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made know to God…” – Philippians 4:6 (NKJV)

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me [Jesus] you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NKJV)