Thursday, January 30, 2014

Solitary Places

Papa hasn't moved onto a new topic with me yet.

Many mornings I have woken up with a particular verse playing in my head and because I am a bit slow on the uptake at times, it has replayed for me numerous times throughout my day.
Then I would stumble across it while reading one thing or another.  There it was, as if Someone had used a highlighter pen. 
I think that Papa might have been getting ready to resort to writing on the walls!
It wouldn't be the first time He has been found doing that, yet I am glad it didn't come to that!

What is this verse which wanted my attention?
It is found in the Gospel of Luke, Fifth chapter, Sixteenth verse.
"But Jesus often withdrew to solitary places and prayed."
Often when this verse would appear I would think that I, too, should do more of this and would fully intend to do just that....

However, we live in a very distracting time.

For many years I had no trouble withdrawing to a quiet place to enjoy some sweet one-on-one with my beautiful Savior.
That was before computers with their email; i-Pads and i-Phones with their texting, Face Book connections and, let us not forget, Words with Friends!

Each morning for years I would rise, put on the water to boil and boot up my computer.
As I sat down with my tea I would  check my email for the latest prayer requests and devotionals.
Sounds spiritual enough, don't you think?

It wasn't a problem at first, but I think it was the first step in drawing me away from where my heart and mind needed to be focused.
I have read that for many of us our attention span has been reduced dramatically by technology.
We can multitask as never before!
But I wonder just how much of great value is accomplished?

As I checked those emails I would discover one reminding me of a bill that needed paying or another that needed a response from me.  They always take my mind down a rabbit hole and those holes do not allow much Light in!

So here I was with that verse rumbling around in my mind and heart and growing louder with time.  I began to feel unsettled and really restless.
Oh, I took time with Papa, of course, but not the leisure time that had been my habit.

The struggle was how to fit in more time to enjoy sweet fellowship with my loving God?

Then the other night I recommended a book to a friend.  A book that I had worked my way through a couple of years ago and had thoroughly enjoyed.  I had shared my adventure with it pretty extensively here.  The Artist's Way by Julie Cameron.

The book's goal is to help the reader find their inner, creative child and it did do that for me.
Trouble is that I have been neglecting that child quite a bit as of late.
All in the name of being responsible!

Well, after mentioning this book it wouldn't leave me. 
So I gave it some thought.

One of the activities that I engaged in was the writing of morning pages.  The idea is that you do this first thing every morning before anything can distract you or influence your thinking.
I loved it.

For many years I have been journaling and this was simply an extension of that.

Last night I felt prompted to begin this once more. 
That meant no turning on the computer or any other technology until I had written for half an hour.

Let me tell you that Papa and I had a lovely conversation!
 What a gift!

Know what?  Everything else seemed to fall into place after that.
He ordered my day and showed me where to focus my attention.

 Oh, Papa God, how wonderful and faithful You are!
Thank You for drawing me back into that solitary place with you!


Friday, January 24, 2014

Shut the Door!

We have all had days when we would like to just go into our room and shut the door in an attempt to shut the whole world out.
I was tempted to do just that the other day.
If I had, you have found a sign hanging on my door that read,
"And I am not coming out again for a very long time!!"
The problem would have been that I was in the room and often it is me who I am trying to get away from!

Oh yes, it would appear to me that it is the stress and strain of relationships that wear on me, but truthfully it is what goes on in my head in response or really reaction to all of it.

I am involved with a ministry which is experiencing some growing pains though not all of the pain is really necessary.  Personalities with agendas added to the mix make it much more challenging.  Throw in a few who are adverse to addressing issues and you have a mess in the making.
Not Papa's way of handling things.

All of this came to my attention this week and I suddenly felt as if I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.  My heart grew heavy.

Then I received a text from one of my girls, who is doing so well with her recovery.  She just celebrated a year of being clean and sober, is in a new relationship with someone who has a good bit of sobriety and is ready to move out of the sober house and live on her own.
She has been making good choices!
Just one little snag....She finds that she is pregnant.
A little more just landed on my shoulders and my heart grew heavier...

Oh, then there is the friend who dropped the ball and never followed through by responding to another one of my girls, who was looking for help getting to meetings.

Let's toss in one more.
I encountered a religious spirit in someone who is dear to me.
I have a strong aversion to that particular spirit!

Bent, burdened shoulders....heavy, heavy heart....

What was wrong with this picture?

I was trying to carry these burdens.

Finally I did go into my room, but before I could get into a good pout I encountered Someone else in there with me...
You know  :)

First, I found Him in the pages of His Book.

        "Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. 
        From the end of the earth I call to You,
        when my heart is faint;
        lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
        For You have been a refuge for me,
        a tower of strength against the enemy.
        Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
        let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. 
        For You have heard my vows, O God;
        You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your Name.
        You will prolong the king's life;
        his years will be as many generations.
        He will abide before God forever;
        appoint lovingkindness and truth,
        that they may preserve him.
        So I will sing praise to Your Name forever
        that I may pay my vows day by day."

As I read the words of Psalm Sixty-One my heart calmed and I was enveloped in His peace.

He is the Burden Bearer.
He hears the cries of my heart and responds with the assurance that He is able to handle it all.  After all He is the "Rock that is higher than I and the "Tower of Strength"!

The enemy will always be stirring up trouble and throwing obstacles in our way, but the LORD God is Higher and Greater than him or anyone else!

I was reminded that I have an inheritance that will outlast all the troubles and disappointments.

How can I but sing praise to His Name forever?!

Papa, may I be quicker to shut the door so I am shut in with You!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Sheltered at All Times!

As usual, I opened up the email and began to read the latest offering from Moody's "Today in the Word."
Often I gain something from the reading, but this day I was simply doing what I usual do with no expectations.

There is extra joy in receiving a gift when it is unexpected.
Yes, it is especially delightful to receive a lovely surprise.

That is what Papa had waiting for me!
Joy and delight!
A gift from Him which filled my heart and soul to overflowing with gratitude and a holy awe!

The devotions from Moody this month are all around the theme of God's faithfulness.  They used a particular story to illustrate this truth.
"A story was told by rescuers following the earthquake in Sichuan, China.  While searching the rubble, the body of a woman was found.  She was crouched in a kneeling position, almost as if praying.  The house had fallen on her back and killed her.  Kneeling down to reach the body, they spotted a three month old baby wrapped in a blanket tucked under his mother's lifeless body.  Inside the blanket, they found a cell phone with a message still on the screen.  It read, "If you can survive, you must remember that I love you."
As I read this account the picture that flooded my mind was of my God and the great sacrifice which He made for me.
He took the brunt of all the brokenness and sin that marked my life.
For all time!

Verses Thirteen and Fourteen of the First chapter of Colossians comes to mind,
"For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Papa's gift didn't stop there, but took me "further up and further in", as C. S. Lewis put it!

In my spirit I was reminded that He continues to bear my burdens, to watch over me; to protect me.
I actually felt enveloped in this amazing love.
There I was sheltered under His protection and thus so very safe and secure.

Then came the thought that this is my position at all times!
With it came the sweet thought that He wants me to remember that He loves me!

Ah, now Papa help me to remember this all the time!!


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Not Much Black and White

Most of us have used some version of the phrase
"Two steps forward, one step back"
when asked how we are doing in some area or other.

If we are feeling particularly disheartened we increase the amount of backward steps so they outnumber the forward ones.
No matter the proportions, all those steps in reverse are meant to be viewed negatively.

Papa has a different perspective.

I am coming to realize, contrary to popular opinion, that He does not view life in black and white/good and bad.

He sees all the little nuances that we can tend to overlook in our striving to put everything in neat little categories.

Let me illustrate.

Each spring many of us eagerly plop ourselves down with trowel in hand and begin to play in the dirt
After the soil is prepared we begin planting.  We may begin with seeds.  Yet, whether seeds or small plants, we know we must wait.
Digging up those seeds or plants to see what is happening or relocating them, in hopes of faster results, would not be wise or productive.

So we wait.
We water and then feed as appropriate.

And we wait......hoping that they are good seeds and plants.
Some will prove disappointing.
Others will produce a little, while others a great abundance.
Jesus spoke of this aspect in the Parable of the Sower, but that is not where I am going today.

It isn't the direction Papa has been taking me.

Some things take longer to germinate; some take a long time to grow into anything worthy of note.

Life and growth are in the process.

I believe Papa loves that process.
Of course, He has an advantage over us.
He sees that little seed softening and then opening up to the moisture and soil.
He watches as a tiny little shoot forms within that seed and then slowly breaks its way out of the covering.
It isn't until it breaks through the earth that we get to see the progress, but He sees every bit of that tiny life and it is beautiful to Him.

Translate that into our lives and the lives of those around us.

The Omniscient One see the tiny seed begin to germinate in hearts working its way through all the cracks and hard places long before we have any clue.
He sees the beauty and life.
Though it may be buried very deeply.

My dear Papa is teaching me to look for the hints of beauty and life that are buried in each and every life and event.

I spent some time with two who are very dear to me.
In the past I had a hard time getting past the amount of alcohol that was consumed by both of them.
By applying some thing I have learned from ALANON I found myself in a place where I could see beyond the obvious.

What is this lesson that I could apply in this situation?
The Three C's, which is: I did not Cause the alcoholism, nor can I Control it and certainly can not Cure it.
This thinking really is applicable to all kinds of situations!

In the past I would view the whole thing as dark and hopeless.  This kind of thinking kept me weighed down and blind to any good that I might have found.

Once I was settled into this new, healthful way of thinking I was delighted to discover that there were definitely good, beautiful aspects to discover in these precious lives.

The two of them are still in love after over twenty years of marriage.
Now that is something beautiful!

They now have a new home which has brought out the creativity of one of them and brought a greater degree of contentment to the other.

Spending time with them I caught glimpses of some of what is going on in their hearts, longings, fears, hopes peeked out hear and there.  All because I was relaxed and accepting.

As these truths opened up for me I realized how much I miss when I fall back into my black and white world.  Truth be told, to fall into the "white" category it must be perfect, which explains why I spent so much time feeling gloomy and hopeless, as well as heavy laden!

Papa looks upon all of us with eyes of love.  He looks for every hint of life and growth and nurtures it.
May I see with His eyes and following His example be a nurturer of life!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Settling in

At the start of every new year I select the devotional books I will use on a regular basis for the next three hundred and sixty-five or so days.

This year will include some regulars, such as "Today in the Word", which is published by Moody, "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young and a book by Richard Rohr entitled "Falling Upward".
Papa made an addition to the list today, "Reflections for Ragamuffins" by Brennan Manning.  Many a year, I have included this one.  It is an all-time favorite of mine, yet I thought maybe I would wait another year to pick it up again.  One can overdo how much is being read and end up on overload, which does not lend itself to setting the stage for much devotional thought!

There are times when I discover that I haven't heard as clearly as I thought.  Papa always clears things up.  :)
As He did today with "Ragamuffins".

It took a few hours for me to actually pull out the book and read Brennan's thoughts for January first, but once I did, it seemed as if I were reading the words that I found there for the first time ever.
Words put there, seemingly, just for me.

I think they are intended for you too, my dear reader.

Here's why.

A number of days ago I had highlighted a few of my journal entries to share here.

It was the day after Christmas and I was feeling unsettled.
A few issues were rumbling around in my head and heart.

My husband's condition was one of those issues.
He does better when he can stick to his routine.  His routine seems to keep him distracted from a degree of the pain he lives with every day.  When it is disrupted, which is usually due to a social situation, then the pain becomes more prominent.
I am finally understanding this dynamic, which I wish I had figured out sooner.

Alongside that I had found myself in a situation that made me uncomfortable, yet I remained in it without speaking up. The conversation was not one that I felt should have been happening in my presence, but I still sat there.
I wasn't being true to who I am, so who else would?

Then there were my sons.  Three were here for Christmas.  Two are very close with one another, the third is out of the loop.  As a mother I want to see all of them enjoying a close relationship with one another.
I tried to help.
Actually, I tried to manipulate.

I wasn't liking myself a whole lot at the moment and wasn't feeling like I was very lovable either.

Our gracious, all-wise God is good at settling us back down and sorting out all the jumble we (I) tend to make in our lives.

How He did this was by reminding me of His love, which is totally unconditional.  This means that it is not contingent upon my behavior.
Though His love is constant, not decreasing, nor increasing at any point He knows there are times when I need it amplified.
He used Sarah Young's words to do this.  So often I read something that seems tailored to my heart alone.
"Absolutely nothing in heaven or on earth can cause me to stop loving you."
"When you are dissatisfied with your behavior, you tend to feel unworthy of My Love."
Then I was directed to His Words in First John,
"And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us."
Then Papa drew me closer with these words found in Deuteronomy,
"The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms."
 I settled down in those arms!

You would think that I would stay settled for a good long time, but not so.

Today held a to do list that had many items that needed to be checked off. We are traveling to West Virginia tomorrow, which means extra details to tend.  I also, had plans to have lunch with a special young woman and did not want to miss it.  It made for a jam packed day.
As the day unfolded, I grew weary and, as I have said before, being tired doesn't lend itself to positive thoughts and attitudes!

Enter Mr. Manning.

He opens the year with these words,
"God's love is based on nothing, and the fact that it is based on nothing makes us secure.  Were it based on anything we do, and that "anything" were to collapse, then God's love would crumble as well."
He speaks of weary Atlases who need to put the world down and dance on it instead of trying to carry it.
He closes his thoughts with a paraphrase of the verse found in Matthew Eleven that first brought me to Jesus.
"Come to Me, all you Atlases who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you."

Then he closes with verse Three of Jeremiah Thirty-One,
"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving kindness.'"
Why don't we all just settle into that everlasting love.
His Arms are wide open!