Get Rid Of Your Clutter

Every December I read Ann Voskamp’s book The Greatest Gift. It really helps me focus on Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. (I highly recommend it!) I read the same words every year, but this time, the words I am about to share with you, became what I knew God wanted me to do in 2021. “There is no need to produce or perform or perfect—simply become a place for God. That is all.” Voskamp

Just be a place for God. Sounds simple doesn’t it—or does it? What has to happen in order for me to do that? If I am going to make more room for God in my life, what must I do to make that happen? 

Every January, when I take down the Christmas decorations, I like to use this time to start to declutter the rooms in my house. I like to go room by room and get rid of things that I no longer use. I get rid of things to make space and get organized. I have to release those things in order to clean out the clutter. This is a visual representation of what we have to do to make space for God. We need to release the things that are cluttering our lives. 

Letting things go and releasing can bring so much relief and joy. Let me share some words from John Eldredge. “And so it follows that if we can receive help for restoring and renewing our weary, besieged souls, we’ll enjoy the fruits (which are many and wonderful) of happy souls and also be able to receive more of God (which is even more wonderful). We’ll find the vibrancy and resiliency we crave as human beings, living water welling up from deep within. And then—we’ll get our lives back!”

Jesus was a great releaser. He modeled the ability to leave situations and release them to HIs Heavenly Father. Mark 1:35-37 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and sent off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

“Jesus models a freedom of heart I think every one of us would love to have. His ability to disengage Himself from His world is so alluring.” Eldredge 

I have always taken on way too much for my soul to be able to bear. I haven’t been good at disengagement or release. I have looked at Jesus and said to myself, “How can He just walk away? How is He able to do that?” My answer finally came to me while reading the book Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge.  

“Repeated exposure to enmeshed relationships can prevent the developing child from becoming aware of and knowing herself physically as well as emotionally. The lines between empathizing (identifying with and understanding another person’s feelings or difficulties), and over identifying (becoming enmeshed with another person) vanish.” Ann Chanler 

I cried after I read those words because I knew that person was me! I spent my childhood over identifying and becoming enmeshed with my parents and siblings. I took on the problems that were in my family and tried to be the answer to them by performing and pleasing. I not only did that with my family, but also with my friends. I took on so many burdens that I had no business taking on. It was what I thought I was supposed to do. I had no concept of how to be healthy. The words detach, disentangle and release were completely foreign to me. 

I think that was why I was so eager to find Jesus. I knew deep inside that I needed a Savior. I was desperate to find someone to help me deal with so many issues and burdens that I had taken on. But even with Jesus in my life, I struggled with releasing things to Him. I was so enmeshed in so many problems, that I had a hard time letting them go!

“Jesus invites us into a way of living where we are genuinely comfortable turning things over to Him.” Eldredge  I can say that I am finally able to do that! I have this friend who inspires me every time I am with her. She is always saying, “God’s got this! He is in control and He is all over this situation.” Her words remind me that He is perfectly capable of taking care of every need, worry, concern, burden or problem that I have. He wants me to release them to Him so He can take care of them. 

For those of you, who are like me and take burdens on, I want to help you be aware of something that I didn’t realize was a problem until recently. “We are far more entangled with the world than we know. And the thing is, people and causes have a way of entangling themselves with you too.” I find myself struggling so much in this area. I see my mom in lock down at her assisted living and I take on that burden. I see what the virus is doing to so many people and I take on that burden. I see what is happening in our country and I take on that burden. You get where I am going with this. Before I know it, I am completely loaded up with burdens! This is not healthy! 

Instead of doing that, I am learning to say, “I can’t do anything about ______________ , but You can Lord. So, I release it/them to You.”  I can’t. But God can! This is the healthy way to live!!

I took on some very bad habits when I was younger because I thought I could save my family. I thought I could make things better. I was wrong. I am not God. No matter what I did, it was never enough. I was not meant to be the Savior of my family. I carried those bad habits into adulthood. They have been very detrimental to me. They have put me in a position that God never intended me to be in. I see that now. I can’t save anyone! Only HE can! That’s what releasing does. It gives me freedom, relief and joy to know that I am giving my burdens to the only One who can do something! 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

There are many more verses in the Bible that tell us the same thing. God wants us to release, detach and disentangle ourselves from the world we live in. We aren’t made to handle everything. I wasn’t made to take on everyone else’s burdens. God is the only one who is able to take everything on! And let me add that He doesn’t want us living our lives burdened down. He is telling us to come to Him because He has a far better way for us to live. We simply have to do this because He tells us to. 

I know this isn’t easy. I have spent my life doing it wrong. No more! I am changing the way I do things. I have been practicing releasing for a few weeks now. I can honestly say that I have more joy! My circumstances haven’t changed, but I have because I am releasing. Sometimes I have to release the same thing over and over, but I am going to keep doing it. I want to make as much room for God as I possibly can. 

When I first started this post, I mentioned that I wanted to be a place for God in 2021. That was before I started reading Get Your Life Back by John Eldredge. (God always puts things in front of me at just the right time!) I started reading about releasing, detaching, disentangling and being enmeshed. I felt like the words were directed at me. I couldn’t believe it when my eyes came across these words. “As you practice release, what you’re doing is creating soul space; you are literally carving out the intellectual and emotional space for God to come in.” 

I stopped reading and had to put the book down. I picked it back up and read those words again. I started crying. (My normal reaction to when God does things for me.) Do you see what He did for me? I told Him that I wanted to be a place for Him this year. I really wasn’t sure what that meant at the time. Then He leads me to read this book and then shows me how to do it!

People– He is alive and working in our lives. He is there! No doubt about it. I pray 2021 will be a year that draws all of us closer to God. I pray we will lean on Him, learn from Him and lay our burdens at His feet so He can give us rest. 

Until next time….. 

*Remember these words: God’s got this! He is in control and He is all over our situations!

My Battle With COVID-19

In my last post I talked about waging war on fear. Little did I know that I was going to be attacked by something that brought my fears to the surface. I did think to myself that I better get ready, because the attack will come. And boy oh boy did it come in the form of COVID-19!

At first, my symptoms were tolerable. I was still able to function and move around. I didn’t feel good, but I honestly thought I was just tired and needed to slow down and take it easy. Then the body aches came with the chills and a fever. Now, I was concerned. So, I got tested. By the time I got my results back, I had lost taste and smell, so I knew that I was positive. When I saw that I was positive, I still couldn’t believe it! Even though my body was screaming at me that I was sick, I didn’t want to believe that I had this virus. 

I was scared. There were people all around me that were in the hospital or dying from it. I think this virus does so much more to you than make you sick. It does a lot of mental and emotional damage as well because of the fear. So, that is what I want to talk to you about. I am going to be completely honest about the way I felt. 

There were days that I wanted to die. There were days that I thought I might die. I felt helpless and hopeless. I was trying to be strong for my family because I saw how worried my daughters were. I didn’t want to tell them how bad I really felt, but they knew. They wanted me to go to the hospital, but I fought that. I wanted to stay home because I had control at home.  

When I am sick, I find it hard to think rationally. You might feel that way too. I really had to dig deep in my arsenal of verses and stories from the Bible to help me. My mind kept going to the story of Jairus in Luke 8:40-56 (I recommend taking some time to read it.) Jairus came to find Jesus because his daughter was very sick. And while he was with Jesus, someone came to tell Jairus that his daughter was dead. Jesus responds in verse 50, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” 

This story is what I clung to. I prayed that my fear would go away, that I would believe and be healed. I went through this story over and over again in my mind and prayed fervently for healing. I knew that my healing could go either way. I knew that He might heal me on earth and I also knew that my healing might come in death. Either way, I would be healed. I told him I preferred the healing on earth. Ha Ha! 

There is another important fact from the story of Jairus that I have overlooked for years. Max Lucado opened my eyes to this part of the story in his book “Fearless.” Luke 8:51-54 “When Jesus went the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Now all wept and mourned for her; but He said, “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping. And they ridiculed Him, knowing that she was dead. But He put them all outside.”

I have never noticed before that Jesus made the people that were ridiculing Him leave the building. “He commanded doubt to depart and permitted only faith and hope to stay.” Lucado So, that is what I tried to do. While I was praying to be healed, I verbally commanded doubt to depart. I had to tell despair to take a flying leap over and over again. I wasn’t sure what Jesus was going to do, but I had to do my part and pray and look to Him to help me. 

The really great thing about my story is the fact that God lead me to the book “Fearless” by Max Lucado a few weeks before I got sick. The story of Jairus stuck with me and now I know why. That story is what got me through the worst of being sick. God knew I was going to need it!

Lucado points out this verse in his book. Hebrews 5:7 “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of Hie reverent submission.” Why is it so hard to admit your fears and then say them out loud over and over again? I guess it is pride. I want to change so much and I feel like a failure because my fears just won’t go away! But God always uses them to teach me. I am definitely learning a lot right now!

Can I just tell you that this virus traumatized me! I have been shaking inside since I got it. Some days I shake more than others. My doctor said that some people have reacted this way to the virus. I just need to give it time and it will eventually go away. It’s definitely not a fun way to feel, but I am trying to stop and pray when I feel that way. I am giving it to Him.  

The greatest take away from having this virus is the fact that I need to be like Jesus and cry out to God. I need to follow His example in Hebrews 5:7. I want to be more fervent in prayer and believe that God will work in my life and in others. And what a great time of year to focus on Jesus more than anything else in life. There is no other way for me to live. His truth is what keeps me going. 

I know this Christmas season looks different for most of us. But maybe those things that we normally focus on or normally do, need to take a back seat this year. Maybe we need to focus more on the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe we need to focus on Jesus. Focus on His word. Cry out to Him! Praise Him! Look at Him with fresh eyes. Focus on who He is! 

Did you know that He is the Resurrection and the Life? He is the King of Kings. He is the Light of the World. He is the Messiah. He is the Word of God. He is the Truth. He is the Lion of Judah. He is the Holy One of God. He is the Lord of Lords. He is the Great High Priest. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the True Vine. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Bread of Life. He is the Good Shepherd. He is Immanuel—God With Us. He is the Son of Man. He was a Man of Sorrows. He is the Lamb of God. 

After I listed all the things that Jesus is, I just said, “WOW!” I think sometimes we forget who He is because we get so bogged down with life. He really is quite impressive! Maybe we need to remember all the things He is this Christmas. And frankly, every day throughout the year. 

I just had this thought. (Sometimes it takes me awhile to have them. HAHA!) Every December we talk about Jesus. We celebrate His birth. What if we used every December to reset our  minds on who He is and then take each name and focus on it every month for the next year! For example, I would focus on how He is the Resurrection and the Life during the month of January. February would be Kind of Kings, etc…Now there are 19 names of Jesus, so some months you could double up. I don’t know about you, but this excites me. Who doesn’t need a lot more of Jesus in their life?

So, how about it? Are you up for focusing on Jesus and who He is throughout the year? Let’s see what we can learn and how our focus changes! I’m pretty excited about it! I didn’t expect for this to happen when I started writing this post. The Holy Spirit just took over on this one! So, I am definitely going to follow His lead! We can do Advent all year long! 

Jesus is the reason for living! I know I need more of Him in my life and I figure you do too! I am glad I am here to share with you. I am happy God decided to heal me so I can write blog posts, learn, love and live for Him. I don’t know if I will get another post in this year, so if I don’t, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!

I want to personally thank you for reading! Until next time my dear friends….

Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Waging War On Fear

So, I guess you could say there has been a lot going on in the world lately. COVID numbers are rising. The elderly are more isolated. Election results are being contested. People rioting or not rioting. Lots of unrest in our government. Does the media tell the truth or lie? Who do we believe? Who can we trust? These issues have become so overwhelming and a bit frightening. They make you want to hide, eat, drink, take drugs, fight or say hurtful things because of everything going on. People are confused and upset to say the least. 

I decided last week, that regardless of what is going on, I am going to have to wage war on an issue that I have struggled with most of my life. This issue has plagued me more than any other issue. And that issue is fear. I am sick and tired of it and maybe you are too. I am sick and tired of what it does to me and what it does to others. I see it controlling me and so many other people right now. Any decision… any one makes… based on fear… is never a good decision. Read that statement again. NEVER MAKE A DECISION BASED ON FEAR! 

We all need to make good, sound decisions based on facts and what God says is true. Our decisions need to come from truth. Our lives need to be based on truth. And the only person in this whole wide world that tells the complete truth is God. So, I have made my mind up that I am going to wage war and ask the Lord to help me find His truth in my life. This is going to take time, prayer and whole lot of help from the Holy Spirit. I am ready for a change. How about you? 

Let me start out with a scripture that we can cling to in this battle. “The Lord is indeed going before you—He will be with you; He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid.” Deuteronomy 31:8  

The Lord is going before me and you. He is with us. He will not fail us or abandon us. We shouldn’t be afraid. Some of you might be thinking, “Easier said than done.” I get that. Sometimes it is almost impossible to not be afraid. That’s when the truth must overcome the fear. That’s when you say a verse like this over and over again until you start to believe it. That’s when you turn to God and say, “Help me with my unbelief!” (I have had to do that many, many times.) 

No matter what is happening right now or what evil you see or what is plaguing you, God is working and in control of what is going on. I have had to stop watching and listening to the news. I have to realize that the news isn’t always telling the truth. (I know. SHOCKER!) The news can’t be our truth. Social media can’t either. We are all flawed and sinful people. So, when you are filling your mind with news from flawed and sinful people, you are asking for trouble. I am not saying don’t be informed, but ultimately we have to live by truth. And I think when we base our lives on what we are hearing and seeing instead of God, we tend to leave Him out of the equation. I know I do. We start belittling what He can do and what He is able to do. 

My mom, who is isolated in assisted living, reminded me the other day. We must walk by faith and not by sight. Wise words to remember. I am finding that I must increase my faith so I can do that. I am reading and studying like never before. I am bound and determined to base my life on the truth that comes from God’s word. 

I read these words by Craig Groeschel the other day. “Because of who you are—my God, my King, my Savior, I trust you. Because you are sovereign over the universe, I surrender my will to you, every part of me.” Let me share with you the meaning of sovereign. Supreme, absolute, unlimited, unrestricted, unrestrained, unbounded, boundless, infinite, ultimate, predominant. That’s who God is. God is all those things! He is more than able to handle everything that is going on. I need to remember that and maybe you do too! 

Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. Fear makes me forget what He has done in my life and how good He is. “When fear shapes our lives, safety becomes our god. When safety becomes our god, we worship the risk-free life.” Lucado That statement hit me in the gut. I hate to admit it, but I pray a lot to be kept safe. Now I know that isn’t a bad thing to pray, but if it becomes a god to me, then it is bad. Because I was abused for so long, I have craved safety. I like feeling safe. Again, not a bad thing, but I can’t let that be more important than doing God’s will. 

Jesus says these three words more than any other statement in the Bible—“Don’t be afraid.” There must be a reason why he says it so many times. Let me share a few verses with you.

“So don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31 

“Take courage. I am here.” Matthew 14:27

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.” Matthew 24:6

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me…I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” John 14:1.3

I am clinging to these verses right now…especially, Matthew 24:6. My courage has to come from God. My mind has to focus on who God is and what He is capable of doing. I can’t look at the world and the way it is. Satan is being let loose right now. He is wreaking havoc and pain. But, I must remember that God is in control of even that. There is a plan and a purpose in all of this. I have to admit that I am ready for God to kick Satan’s butt! I am ready for God to show His glory! Can I get an AMEN???!!! (AND BELIEVE ME…HE WILL!)

Here is something to think about. “Jesus doesn’t condemn legitimate concern for responsibilities but rather the continuous mind-set that dismisses God’s presence. Destructive anxiety subtracts God from the future, faces uncertainties with no faith, tallies up the challenges of the day without entering God into the equation. Worry is the darkroom where negatives become glossy prints.” Lucado 

How often do I dismiss God’s presence in everything? How often do I forget that He is in control of my future—your future? How many times have I taken my eyes off God when I watch the news or listen to people predict the outcome? That’s what we like to do—guess what God is doing and try to figure out what He is going to do. I have to quit doing this because I am driving myself crazy!! Are you doing the same thing too? We almost have to be blind to the world in order to be sane. 

“Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and in His grace find timely help.” Hebrews 4:16 Notice the phrase “timely help.” In His time. We have to wait for Him because He has the best timing in the world! I admit that waiting for Him to act can be brutal sometimes! Sometimes I scream for Him to move! I beg for Him to act! But thank heavens I can trust that He will move and act when it is the best time and not when I want Him to! 

If fear is plaguing you right now, go talk to God. Look at His word and find verses you can pray or look at throughout the day. I have given you a few already. I know things don’t look good right now. But, we do have someone who is in control of all of it. Stop trying to figure out what He is doing and focus on Him. Focus on His goodness and trust His timing. I know it is hard! I don’t like thinking someone other than God is in control of me. I don’t want the government or the news to tell me what to think. I want God to do that! 

Let’s be honest… There is a war being waged right now between good and evil. We must decide which side we are going to be on. I am going to be on God’s side. I am going to fight for my faith and what God wants in my life. Evil is more prevalent than ever before and that stirs up our fear because we sense it. We see it. We have to be warriors for God. We have to stand for truth. We have to set our differences aside and love like never before. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the strength and the courage we need. He will do that for us. We need to keep our eyes focused on Him and not the world. 

I am here to encourage you to stay strong! Let’s kick fear in the butt! Let’s count on God to do His thing and we will do ours…trust Him…rely on Him…keep our eyes on Him…read His word…count on Him to act…pray like never before…stand for truth!!!

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5

“I told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

Oh friends, how my heart aches for truth! My heart aches for God to move! I am going to claim these truths and count on God to help all of us in these trying times! Will you join me as we seek truth, fight for our faith and kick fear to the curb? I can’t wait to see what God does!

Until next time….

* The picture I used for this post is a good visual of me facing my fears. I didn’t mind climbing the tower, but when it came time to let go and go down, my fear kicked in. I was paralyzed by fear for several minutes. Thankfully, my family was there cheering me on! I was so glad when I finally reached the bottom!!!

A Beautiful Mess

Since I wrote my last post “The Rope”, I have been trying to develop two different spiritual practices in my life. One is called the Daily Office and the other is keeping the Sabbath. So far for me, it has been a lot easier to keep the Sabbath than stop during the day for the Daily Office. If you didn’t read my last post, you can go back and read it to know what I am talking about. Basically the Daily Office helps us pay attention to God throughout the day. I find it challenging to stop what I am doing and give God a few minutes of my time. Is anyone else out there struggling with this?

Since I am a professed “doing” addict… stopping is very challenging. But, I am going to continue to move forward and show myself a whole lot of grace and keep at it! It is so important for me to pay attention to God because He deserves my attention. He deserves my time. “The man who would know God must give time to Him.” Tozer 

“My way of acting should be different from the world’s way. The love of Christ must come before all else.” Scazzero This “doer” must put doing aside and spend a few minutes tending to my relationship with God. I have mentioned that I “do” because of stress and it is also my go-to coping mechanism. I am learning that because of everything that has happened to me, I have a strong urge to fix. I haven’t felt comfortable with being broken. I haven’t seen brokenness as a good thing.

I haven’t seen beauty in the broken. Frankly, I haven’t been comfortable with being a mess until now. I just have to share with you what God did for me last week. After I wrote my last post, I went back to the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Scazzero. While I was reading, I realized something profound. If I am to develop a “Rule of Life”, and if I am to put my love of Christ before anything else, then I have the possibility of being transformed into a gift to my family, friends, and anyone else I might come into contact with. Do you know how exciting that is to me? I want to be a gift! ( I am the child in class who is raising their hand frantically because they want to be picked by the teacher.)

That phrase “be the gift” made me think of Ann Voskamp’s book titled “be the gift.” I felt God prodding me to pick it up. And guess what Ann is so good at talking about? BROKENNESS Hang with me here. There is a direct correlation between the spiritual practices and brokenness. “You can’t help but acknowledge that He has allowed—even brought us—brokenness and suffering. Even if we can find gratitude for it, still we must discover how to move forward in it.” Voskamp

And how do we move forward in it? We develop a plan of action that enables us to rest in God and spend time with Him. And in doing these things, we can be used by Him to be a gift to ourselves and to others. I am learning that some things in life can’t be fixed. I accept that fact now more than I ever did. I can still pray for things to change, but it doesn’t always happen. God sometimes has a different and far better plan than I do. I have to accept His sovereignty and wisdom. (I know that is hard to do!)

I have seen years of destruction in my family. I have had a hard time moving forward in some of it. But I am not going to let that rule me any more. Seeds have to break down in order to grow. So do we. There is so much beauty when a seed produces a flower or whatever you are growing. The same thing happens to us. Picture a kernel of wheat being made into bread or a grape being crushed for wine. Gold being refined into a gorgeous piece of jewelry. They all have to go through a process of breaking down and so do we. 

“But touch the broken and the hungry and the hurting and the thirsty and the busted, and you touch a bit of Christ.” Voskamp So why are we afraid of broken things? For me, it is the pain. I don’t just hurt, I hurt deeply. I am a 2 on the enneagram. I cry a lot! I cry over so many things that most people don’t. I am very emotional. I care deeply. I don’t like feeling hurt. Those feelings remind me of my childhood. But you know what my problem is? I have been hanging on to those feelings, not knowing what to do with them. Not realizing that I need to give my brokenness to God. That’s why taking time to be with Jesus is so important. He has a way of resetting my mind and helping me see things with a fresh perspective.

“Could all brokenness meet in the mystery of Christ’s brokenness and givenness and become the miracle of abundance? Wouldn’t that be good brokenness breaking bad brokenness? What if I made a habit of every day pressing my wounds into the wounds of Christ—could my brokenness be made into a healing abundance for the brokenness of the world? A kind of communion?” Voskamp 

This is so exciting to me! Are you excited yet?? My bad brokenness (my abuse, my pain, my hurt, my sorrow) can be turned into good brokenness. Good breaking bad! Think of the seed. It has to break down to produce a flower or something else. From a broken seed, comes beauty and abundance. If I allow God to take my pain, my sorrow, my abuse and my hurt— then beauty will follow. There is beauty in the breaking. 

God led me from Peter Scazzero to Ann Voskamp because He wanted me to see something both books have in common. “The very quality of our lives holds the possibility of being transformed into a gift to our families, friends and coworkers.” Scazzero  Then Ann beautifully states, “Continuously make the ever-present Christ present.” Both talk about being a gift and making Christ present in our lives. I am blown away right now by the hand of God. 

Look, I know it is hard to take time to spend with God. I know it is a challenge. I have more time right now than I did, but I still struggle. There are so many things to do. Places to be. People to see. I get it. But, look at what we miss out on if we don’t. Everything fades in comparison to Christ. He is so important… especially now when the world is going crazy! What if a few minutes with Him is the thing that gives you the right perspective you’ve been looking for? What if those minutes give you the peace or joy you’ve been searching for? What if those minutes keep you from doing something you shouldn’t be doing?

I have failed miserably at seeing the sweetness in being broken. “Ultimately it comes down to this, that the real cause of our trouble is failure to realize our union with Christ.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones If that doesn’t hit the nail on the head! I am not alone! You are not alone! We have God with us. From this day forward, I am going to look at brokenness differently. 

There is beauty in the brokenness because God is there. There’s beauty in the mess because Jesus lives there. Union with Christ means there will always be delight in watching our lives become the beautiful butterfly from the fuzzy caterpillar. My perspective has been changed.

I am going to leave you with these words from Ann Voskamp. “Maybe you can live a full and beautiful life in spite of the great and terrible moments that will happen right inside of you. Actually—maybe you get to become more abundant because of those moments. God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers. We always know how things are going to go—always for our good and always for His glory.” 

Hello. My name is Laurie and I am a beautiful mess. Until next time dear friends…..

The Rope

This post is going to be a little longer than normal, so please bear with me. I know this is going to be life changing for me and I hope it is life changing for you. For a very long time, I have struggled with keeping God present in my mind throughout my day. One of the main reasons why I struggle with this problem is the fact that I am addicted to “doing”.

I have been like this most of my life. “Doing” is how I cope with stress. I cram as much as I possibly can into my to-do lists. I don’t sit down for very long. I go, go, go until my body screams at me. Then, and only then do I stop. I am pretty pathetic! 

When I was reading the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero, I came across these words. “We go through the motions of doing so many things as if there is no alternative way of spending our days. It is like being addicted—only it is not to drugs or alcohol but to tasks, to work, to doing. Any sense of rhythm in our daily, weekly, and yearly lives has been swallowed up in the blizzard of our lives.” My life has definitely been swallowed up by so many things that aren’t good for me. I know I need to change. My body will completely fall apart if I keep driving it the way I do. 

Thomas Merton states, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence . . . activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence . . . . It kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

I have experienced many forms of violence in my life. Most of the violence came from other people, but now I realize that I have been committing violence to myself by overwork. I have caved in to the demands of others by saying “yes” when I knew that I should be saying “no.” I had no idea I was doing so much damage because I thought I was being helpful and I felt like my heart was in the right place. (Or at least I thought it was.) No wonder I forget about God during my day. I am so conditioned to pushing and pleasing others that I forget about God and what He wants for me.  

Scazzero tells us in his book that, “We need a rope to lead us home. God is offering us a rope to keep us from getting lost. This rope consistently leads us back home to Him, to a place that is centered and rooted.” Oh, how I long to be centered and rooted and not run down and worn out. God is my rope and I keep forgetting to grab on to it because I am so focused on getting things done. But, there is hope for all of us if we have the desire to make a few changes in the way we live our days. 

There are two ancient practices that Peter talks about in his book. One is called the Daily Office and the other is keeping the Sabbath. I was really intrigued to learn about the Daily Office. I already knew that I should honor the Sabbath, but have struggled doing it because resting is so difficult for me. What I learned from Peter, has helped me understand why doing these practices is so very important in my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  

“The Daily Office and the Sabbath, however, offer us a rhythm powerful enough to anchor us. Whatever catastrophic blizzard may be blowing in our lives, the Daily Office and Sabbath enable us to hang onto the rope (that is, God Himself) so we can safely make our way home.  They offer us a rhythm for our lives that binds us to the living God.” Scazzero 

Sign me up! I want to be bound to God. I desperately want to pay attention to God throughout my day and not let my to-do list rule me. Did you know that one theologian argued, “at the heart of original sin is the refusal to accept God’s rhythm for us?” OUCH! I guess I have been so ingrained in my “doing” that I haven’t stopped to think that my rhythm of life is a sin. I mean for goodness sakes, God rested. Why in the world is it so hard for me to rest or take mini-breaks throughout my day and focus on the One who gives me life? Is there anyone else out there that has a problem like I do? 

So let’s get to the nitty gritty. The first practice is called the Daily Office. It isn’t a quiet time. “The root of the Daily Office is not so much a turning to God to get something but to be with Someone.” Scazzero  I like to think of it as paying attention to God. I know I need to give Him a whole lot more of my attention than I do! If you want more detail on how to apply the Daily Office, I recommend reading the book. I got mine from Amazon.

I will touch on the four elements of the Daily Office. They are: stopping, centering, silence and scripture. The first is stopping which is pretty self-explanatory. Second is centering which involves being attentive and open, sitting still, breathing slowly and closing your eyes or lowering them to the ground. If your mind wanders, start breathing in and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you up. Then, as you breathe out, exhale all that is sinful, false, and not of Him.

Third is silence. Which is accompanied by solitude. I think both of these are hard for most of us. “Silence is the practice of quieting every inner and outer voice to attend to God. Solitude is the practice of being absent from people and things to attend to God.” Willard  That phrase “attend to” made me pause. I decided to look it up in the dictionary. The definition means “to be present”. When we take the time for silence and solitude we are tending to our relationship with God by being present with Him.  

Last is scripture. Pick something that is appealing to you. I like the Psalms so I am picking to focus on a verse or verses of Psalms when I do my Daily Office. Be attentive in your heart to what God is doing inside of you. Again, there is more detail in the book. 

The point is to be with God. To focus on Him. “The purpose of the Daily Office is to remember God and commune with Him all though our days. Keep that clearly in mind as you develop structures and habits that fit you.”Scazzero You can determine how many times a day you are able to be with God. You can also determine how long you are able to be with Him. I am usually able to get a good chunk of time in the morning. My struggle is pausing throughout the day. I am attempting to start out twice a day with the hope of adding more. What makes me want to do this is my love for God and a desire to connect more with Him than I do already. 

Now, on to the Sabbath. The Sabbath means “to cease, to stop working.” It means to carve out a 24 hour time period to quit working. To rest. “On Sabbaths we imitate God by stopping our work and resting.” Why is that so hard? Did you know it is the longest and most specific of the Ten Commandments? Sabbath is a gift from God that we are supposed to receive. We imitate God when we observe it. Think about that! 

The culture we live in doesn’t really help us observe that day. I have tried in the past to take the time to observe the Sabbath, but then I go back to “doing” instead of “resting”. The bottom line is God worked. We are to work. God rested. We are to rest. “To fail to see the value of simply being with God and ‘doing nothing’ is to miss the heart of Christianity.” Doohan 

I know this is a lot! It can be overwhelming! But, I keep thinking about the way the world is today. Most of us are struggling with the way things are. We all need ropes to hang on to! We see so many people “out of sorts” right now. If we could make a few changes in our routine during the day and turn our attention towards God, what a difference that would make in us and help us deal with the stress in our lives today. The Daily Office and the Sabbath can transform us. “Our human brain, our bodies, our spirits, and our emotions become wired by God for the rhythm of work and rest in Him.”Scazzero

I want to be wired by God and not by me! I am way too destructive. I think most of us have storms in our lives that make us need a rope to grab on to. God is the rope we desperately need. He is the only way we are going to survive. We have to realize there is great value in being alone with God and doing nothing.  

I am going to leave you with this beautiful, heartfelt prayer from the book. Until next time…

    “Lord, help me grab hold of you as my rope in the blizzard today. I need you. The idea of stopping to be with you one, two, or three times a day seems overwhelming, but I know I need you. Show me the way. Teach me to be prayerfully attentive to you. This idea of Sabbath will require a lot of change in the way I am living life. Lead me, Lord, in how to take the next step with this. Help me trust you with all that will remain unfinished, to not try to run your world for you. Set me free to begin reorienting my life around you and you alone.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

* Please note that I am just beginning to do this! I know it is going to be challenging and hard. I am going to have to show myself a lot of grace. I want more of God in my life and I feel like following these practices is going to help make it happen. If you would like to join me, please let me know so I can pray for you. And, I would love for you to pray for me too! Let’s do this!