Monday, July 28, 2014

Living Life Upside Up

Lately, I find myself procrastinating...........A LoT! It's like I've picked up a procrastination virus and it's infected my soul. I could pray for a cure. I could ask God to give me a motivation-shot.  However, like most viruses that attack us, there's really nothing you can do to magically treat this illness, other than a personal dose of "just-do-it" (whatever "it" is). A gulping swallow of self-control will also help  alleviate the symptoms. Praying for God to suddenly inspire me is a lot like asking God to make me more loving. Both require action. When it comes to love, I find the "feeling" comes once I start to do the loving thing. Same is undoubtedly true for motivation. I'll discover motivation when I make the choice to begin, to dig in my heels, to get after it...  Sigh. I think I am not alone in wishing for a magical pill...

Perhaps this whole issue is why I seem to be collecting quotes in my journal about self-control (aka: self discipline). These all seem to center around doing now to prevent tomorrow's regrets. Here's one of those: "Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most." Another seems to repeat what I've just said, "The best way to GAIN self-control is to practice it."  There's even a Dr. Seuss quote that has resonated with me (you know this one, as well as I): "You have brains in your head and feet in your shoes; you can steer yourself any direction you choose." Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.

The worst part of this war on procrastination is this realistic realization: there is a lazy and slothful spirit in my heart. The only way to win the war is to accumulate the proper ammunition, which is what some of those quotes become. Here's the best "bullet" of all from Romans 12:11: Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord...  God has his ways of pointing out just what we need, when we need it.

Then.......this. Yesterday I went for my usual morning walk. It does seem like when I'm out, in the clear morning air, my "spidey" senses are extra alert, and I hear the Lord a little more clearly. Anyway, I found a penny on the ground, upside down. Normally, I wouldn't waste the energy on a penny. Seriously. Not only is a penny not worth the effort it takes to bend down; it's definitely not worth stirring up my vertigo-scarred-brain. However, for some reason, I picked it up. There it was head-down in the dirt. As I stood up, turning the coin over, this thought crossed my mind. Now, before I give it to you, I want to clarify. I don't know if this was just a me-thought, or a God-thought, but either way, it doesn't really matter. Wherever it came from, it was worth reflecting and processing.

OK, here's what passed from one side of the brain to the other: Most people choose to live upside-down when they could be living upside-up.

What does that mean to me? By choice, I often opt to live a defeated life, head-down. Instead, I can choose to live right side up. For me that looks like making a choice to walk circumspectly and wisely; to follow after my Savior, to apply the truths of God's word that are proven; and to take steps that bring me closer to the Lord's heart... Living upside-up means I live with no regrets; I embrace life head on (even including the trials that come my way); and, I choose to enjoy the blessings that tend to be overshadowed by the negative.  Living upside-up means I hug my grand-treasures a little tighter; look for Kingdom opportunities in little minutes; smile brighter; give thanks more often; and choose boldness in spite of fear. Living upside-up makes room for what's important, what's healthy, what's right, and what's loving. Living upside-up prioritizes, simplifies, and magnifies Jesus. Living upside-up means there is no room for procrastination...

Oh, may I never be found
heads down...
May I always choose
to live
upside up! Amen.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Time Away with God...Always a Good Idea.

Retreats. Any kind. I relish them. I always know that when there's intentionality, God will show up. I was reminded of that in mid-May and, again, this past week.

There is a little island in the middle of Lake Pleasant, situated in the Adirondacks near Speculator, NY. It's owned by Camp of the Woods, but separate from the main camp. Each week of the summer season 72 girls, between the ages of nine and seventeen, sign up to attend. They have no cell phones, no internet, no outside "contact" for one whole week, other than speakers who are brought in and the food that is delivered via pontoon. A huge percentage of girls return every year. Another large percentage return to be counselors. I have lost count of how many times I have returned to camp to speak to these young ladies. I have not lost track of how it feels to step foot on the island. The minute my feet touch solid ground, there is a definite Presence. Amidst the squeals and giggles of girls having fun, there is that special "something"...correction, there is that special "Someone." I can't see Him, but I know He's there! As the girls are corraled outside of the chapel for their evening "vespers," they know it, too. I've never seen young women quiet so quickly, nor burst into sweet, sincere prayer as they begin to sing before entering the building, "Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true..." They enter ready!  So, it's no wonder, that when moms and dads pick their girls up at 9:15 PM on Friday night, they comment on the difference they see in their daughters: always a better version of themselves! I find this to be true of any collective retreat, where the focus is on Jesus, His Words, and our application.

However, personally, I prefer the retreats where it's mostly me and Jesus. I need these times, deliberately set apart to meet with my Jesus, as well. When I get them, not as the speaker, but as the listener, God's Spirit always shows up and meets me...EVERY TIME. In May, I went with a friend on a "journaling retreat." While we debriefed together in the evenings, for the most part, we both individually took time that was alone with God.  I've enjoyed times like this before. It might be for a half day alone with the Lord; it might be for a whole day; it might be for several days. No matter the amount of time, I need them regularly. They are life-giving, life-changing, and spiritually renewing. By the end, I'm so filled up, I'm overflowing. Then, I get back into my normal routine, and I find myself wanting more. I have often wondered if that's just a taste of what Moses felt on the mountain when he and Jehovah met, God spoke, and Moses' face glowed so brightly he had to cover it with a veil. After a while, the glow diminished, and Moses longed for more quality God-time. Truth be told, my physical face has never glowed, but the face of my spirit has when I've been with Jesus. Or as the disciples on the road to Emmaus put it, "Didn't our hearts burn within us?" My heart has "glowed" with the burning of God's Presence speaking directly to me. Then, it diminishes...and I long for more.  Certainly, I get daily time with the Spirit of God in my quiet times. Certainly, He is faithful to speak to my soul. Yes, I am renewed on a regular morning-to-morning basis; BUT, there is NOTHING that compares to the retreating with purpose.

I love it when I hear God calling me by name, and whispering in my ear:

“Arise, my darling; My beautiful one, come away with me (SS 2:10)!"

May I encourage you to listen for His voice. He longs for you to get away, too, and hear his intimate voice speaking into your story...right where you are! He does for me; He will for you. You are Your beloved's, and His desire is FOR YOU (SS 7:10).  Time away with your Sweet, Sweet Savior....It is ALWAYS a GOOD IDEA!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Puddle of Love

While I was in Africa last October, I started reading this book of "ancient prayers," which belonged to a friend and had been passed down from generation to generation.  The original copy was written in 1897. I fell in love with so many of the prayers, simply because they spoke to my heart with words that I found difficult to form as an offering up to God. I took pictures with my phone of several that I wanted to re-read, because I figured there was no way I'd EVER find that book. Yet we live in a remarkable age, where the technology makes possible so much. Wouldn't you know it, a simple search of Amazon and I found a copy...not an "original" print, but a bound photo duplicate of the original.

This week, as I began to summarize my study of what love looks like, and how it needs to be applied to me, I found this short prayer (see above picture) a fitting way to bring some closure. Please read, and possibly re-read several times. I especially loved this line: Melt me with Thy love, that I may be all love...

In my journal, as I wrote that line by hand, and prayed it back to The Lord, I wrote this: Indeed, Lord, melt me with your love until I am just a puddle of Jesus-love. Immediately this picture from recent days came to mind...little grandsons stomping through mud puddles, splashing dirty water all over their clothes, staining them permanently. What a picture...mud puddles are so desirable to little boys. I've never met a mud puddle that's not instantaneously befriended a little boy; and, my wee men even go out of their way to make the path of the puddle their path. Yep, the puddle may get stomped on, but I've never heard one complain. In fact, there seems to be great joy in the resulting splash. If puddles could giggle, I imagine they might with every single stomp. Certainly, the boys do.

Being a puddle of love might be a little risky; it might mean a little stomping over/through; but what fun it could be to splash a little Jesus-love, staining the recipient permanently. Yep, that's a thought! in spite of the risks, that leave me giggling on the could be pretty fun to be a puddle of Jesus love!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Freedom is Fragile...So Don't Be Surprised!

I'm so thankful for this country!  I may not always agree with the direction I see our government headed, but I am so appreciative of the freedoms I enjoy.  This past weekend, as it was for all Americans, was a time to truly enjoy our families and our freedom. How blessed I feel...

There was one little incident over the fourth. It was just a little thing, but it brought some big reflection. All my family came home. For this mama, there is no greater joy. I love it when they are under my roof, spread out all over the floors, the screen door slamming as they run in and out, and watching quantities of food get devoured. It is the stuff that family is made of. The night of the fifth (after the parade, the carnival, the arts and crafts fair, and the awesome Pagosa fireworks), we pulled out the SAM's Club version of sparklers and pop-its, gave the kids some ground rules, and let them celebrate again in front of the house. However, before the rules; before the boundaries were laid; the 12 grand-children that were present were already a little difficult to contain. Several had already opened their pop-its and before we knew it, shots were ringing across the ground. Military son, Adam, still a little fresh from the battlefield, might have retrieved his heart from the next county over. Somehow it all caught him off guard, and laughingly said, "Whoa...wait a minute, let's get some rules here, Uncle Adam's PTSD is kicking in..."

Adam was joking, of course. However, I wondered, as those little shots rang out, just what memories of his deployments came flooding into his mind. He has fought for freedom. As he eloquently told us in a poem he wrote long ago, about Iraq, he fought "there" to protect us "here." He understands the cost of freedom. Adam knows what war looks like, and how past and present converge to keep this country great...

Freedom is fragile, and I know that. There are no guarantees that the "there" won't happen "here".  So, I don't want to take it all for granted. I want to celebrate some facts of freedom, while we still have time. Facts like the following:
Free speech..
Free enterprise...
The ability to bear arms
To know I am innocent until declared guilty
I can worship as I please when I please
What I read and listen to are not filtered through a government controlled outlet
I can travel where I want, when I want, how I want
Food gets stocked and re-stocked regularly on grocery shelves
Gas is available (at a cost, of course) when my car is empty
Medical attention is available
I am unthreatened, live with security, and peace
My grand-children can be educated (all of them)

Of course, there is a "but" to follow... The apostle Peter warns us, with these words, and they seem to be appropriate, not just as individuals, but as a country:

Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes among though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12)...

As I read that this morning, I'm reminded again, that yes, freedom is always fragile. We have no guarantees that the "there" won't happen "here."  Let's not be surprised. Let's not be caught off guard. Let's be prepared to be loving light, Jesus-followers, hope-givers, and gospel-speaking-truth-tellers. Let's learn to love like there's no tomorrow today. Let's find our security in Jesus and not in a government. Let's exercise the rights our freedom has earned us for the sake of our families! Let's celebrate what we have...and by all means, let freedom ring til our last breath!