Monday, December 28, 2015

An invitation to go deeper

Today, missing Ted and needing Jesus, I did an inductive study first thing this morning. Rather than reading a chapter from the Bible, sometimes I concentrate on just a verse or a few. I will make as many observations as I can to extract the truths and better understand what I'm reading. Ted used to remind me to do this before ever consulting any notes or commentary to allow the Holy Spirit to speak directly to me.

Here's an example:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 NIV

Come – there is action required;

To me -- not just coming forward, but coming to Him.

All – Jesus is not speaking to only a few people.

You – personalized and specific. The reference to “you” and “me” means He wants relationship.

Who are – He is addressing those in a present state, going on now.

Weary – sounds more than a little tired. (Know the feeling?)

And burdened – carrying a load, something heavy maybe, something difficult.

And – the great connecting conjunction… and what? It will connect to or result in something.

I will – it's a sure thing with Jesus; He doesn't say I might.

Give you – not sell to me, not withhold from me, it's a gift with no other terms.

Rest – not money, not just words of encouragement, but the ideal solution for the circumstance. Who better to know what is the ideal solution? And it’s given freely when I come to Him.
We could continue:
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.”
Take – I must be willing to receive.

My – Jesus gives something of Himself.

Yoke – To read from Merriam-Webster added dimension for me. A yoke balances the load.

Upon you -- Jesus wants to be yoked with me so that we can carry the burden together. Being yoked to Jesus through whatever comes is abiding in Him.

And learn from me – If He is the one with the ideal solution, there is a great deal I can learn from Him. Better than having someone “fix” things for me is having someone come alongside as I learn to make improvements.

For I am gentle – as I am yoked with Jesus, I learn about Him. He doesn’t force or threaten, He invites me. I can observe and apply at my pace.

And humble in heart – again Merriam-Webster helps me see it is because He is thinking of me. His actions are coming from the heart. He loves me and wants what is best for me. 

You will find – my action of coming to Jesus means I will discover something that is there waiting for me.

Rest for your souls – an ideal solution not only for my body and mind, but my soul as well. Now that is complete!

For my yoke – Jesus’ structure – could that be as simple as carving time in my day to sit with Him in prayer, reading and reflecting?

Is easy – free from trouble, worry or pain.

And my burden – the burden is still there, but it...

Is light – not heavy, not stressful. I can handle that!

Now I can reread my notes and reflect on the whole. (After doing this on my own, I can really enhance my experience by sharing my findings with a study partner or in a small group.)

What is Jesus, by way of the Holy Spirit, trying to tell me today about God's love?

Lord, I pray that you would help me come to you consistently, regularly and faithfully, with all of my burdens. Let me receive the ideal solutions you want to give. As I learn from you, I will be growing as someone who can better help others who need your rest. Thank you for your loving invitation.

See also: Finding Rest, June 2013, where I reminisced about Ted helping me apply this passage.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Trusted Consultant

After working diligently on writing the book that has been on my heart, I have been exploring the completely new-to-me (exciting, but daunting) next steps of committing this project to print. I've consulted publishers in Nashville, TN, and Lynchburg, VA; talked with authors near and far, and networked with others who have published their projects.

This morning a revelation came to me from 2 Kings 1. King Ahaziah sent messengers to a far off land to consult another god with an important question regarding his future. But on the way, the messengers were intercepted by the word of God through the prophet Elijah, asking,

"Is it because there is no god in Israel that you are going off to consult this far off god?"

The repetition (3x) in the chapter reinforced the message for me. God, I want to be sure that I am seeking you first -- not looking to any other source or opinion, near or far!

The consulting and networking have not been wasted, of course, because I'm continually learning new things. But I realize that the "expert" is not always from out of town, as we so often are inclined to believe.

I realized, too, I have long seen my "worth" through the lenses of others -- first my family, then others significant in my life, and now I have been seeing myself through the eyes of "experts" who have critiqued my work. I have likely placed too high of value on others' affirmations to take these important steps, rather than trusting myself and relying on my inner voice.

But my worth, value, and the perspective that ultimately matters is from GOD! I am made in His image and He is the Expert on my life. Through abiding in Him, I draw on that expertise!

His is the opinion that matters high above any others. I need to trust God and take the next step in faith. I am His beloved and He will guide me. He has put brilliant resources all around me and is opening my eyes to seeing the provisions and gifts that are near -- not somewhere far off.

His expertise is within me and I can hear it when I take the time to listen.

Loving Father, you're a good, good Father, and I am loved by you. You will finish the good work you have begun. You will counsel me and show me the way to go. Thank you, Lord. Your love and provisions are all around.

What question in your life should you be bringing to God for His wisdom, rather than seeking a distant opinion?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Bridge of Trust

Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”

So beautiful, so true – that one simple verse really spoke to me.

I realized that I tend to follow the path of fear initially, but that is NOT God’s path! Why don’t I immediately recall ALL of the times God has blessed me beyond belief instead of gravitating to the “what if’s”!?

I’m so sorry, Lord. These have been sterling opportunities to trust you with my whole heart. Why do I even let fear tumble around in my mind?

I was really looking forward to closing on the sale of my duplex on Sept. 30. I would finally be out of that business, which will bring me great relief. I’ve been praying for the good of all involved – the tenants, the buyers, the realtor and myself.

Now there has been a delay and closing was moved back a couple weeks. I was disappointed but still hopeful. Then one of my tenants gave notice that he is moving out the end of this month. Being that he is the original tenant in the duplex he got to put in his own appliances, so will be taking all the kitchen appliances with him!

At this point, I cannot seek another tenant because the buyer may have plans of moving in. So, my mind explored “what if” the deal fell through… It would be quite expensive to miss a month or two of rent and have to pay to replace all the kitchen appliances. Plus, if I did need to find new renters, it would be hard to rent if the building is also for sale (been there, done that!).

But in following that train of thought, I had stepped right into the devil’s snare! He wants me to focus on the “what if’s.”

So my thoughts traveled across a new bridge. Since I had already been praying about a solution that was good for everyone, maybe this is God answering! With the tenant moving out, the new buyer would not have to ask anyone to leave; the tenant would leave by his own choice; and I would be out of the rental business. Sounds just like God, working all together for good.

Even though there are questions about what will happen in the next week, this is my opportunity to trust in Him and keep my eyes on the One who is in control. If things don’t happen as I would like, I will cross that bridge when I come to it – and not worry or fret about it before. God is good and it’s His voice I want to listen to.

Loving and gracious God, I’m keeping my eyes on you. 
You are the anchor for my soul, the only One who’s in control, so I will cast my cares on you!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Very Truly Yours

Daily, I ponder what it means to abide in Jesus. I think through being connected to Him with all my thoughts and pursuits, so that I can stay on the path He has for me. God created me and He knows how I operate best. He gave me specific gifts; He planned my potential. If I stick with Him, I’ll be on that plan.

But I am much more than a puppet on a string. Oh yes, I have the freedom to try to do it all myself, my own way! However, I am limited when I am on my own and there is no satisfaction in self-indulgent ways. I feel much more complete when I am others-focused. I need others and, most of all, I need Jesus. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the Vine, and neither will I if I am not connected to Him. (John 15:4)

It is in being connected to that Magnificent Vine, trusting Him for my nourishment and direction that I can thrive and flourish. 

So, instead of being compelled by what the world wants, I am guided by heavenly wisdom. Instead of a driving competition for my own success, I stay focused, do what He asks, encourage others along the way, and let God open the doors. Instead of trusting in my own accomplishments or my bank account to provide my worth and happiness, I am trusting in my Lord to give me what I need, as I need it. And He is faithful.

So, the more of myself I can surrender, the more of me that is in His hands to work with. God is my loving Father, who planned my potential. Why wouldn’t I want to stay close and watch His plan unfold?

Lord, today I want to be fully yours – very truly yours – surrendered to you in a way that you do the work YOU want to accomplish. Let your glory unfold in the world around me.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

We Have This Hope

It was an amazing hike, with gorgeous views of Sedona's red rock landscape all the way. Upon reaching the top of Doe Mesa, a 400-foot incline, the view in every direction was breathtaking. And there was an amazing view in the sky, as well. (See my 10/22/13 and 10/12/14 posts for the added joy behind the second photo.)

My son Zach and I took our time exploring the truly awesome views near the edge, enjoying the prickly pear cactus, yucca and agave, and the colorful lizards. We had great conversation all the way up, but the experience at the top inspired us to ponder our Creator and Eternity.

In the morning, I had read Hebrews 6:19, which says, "We have this hope as an anchor for our souls, firm and secure."

Thank you, God, for a precious reminder of that gift.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Beyond the Wall

On my drive to work this morning, I saw a pair of colorful birds fly across in front of me as I pulled up to a stoplight. My eyes followed them to a flowering tree where they lit. Orioles! A pair of them. It stirred my excitement as I watched them playfully flit from branch to branch and take off in flight again.

They landed on  tree inside the maximum-security correctional institution, which is surrounded by high stone walls. Yet, despite their surroundings, they were free to fly about as they pleased, even beyond the wall.

It made me thankful for my own freedom in Christ. Because I focus daily on abiding in him, I need not be dragged down and paralyzed by the weighty things in life. My attitude is positive; my perspective is hopeful. In a sense, I can live above my circumstances because Jesus is with me wherever I go. His counsel, His strength and His provisions are as near as I choose.

Lord, your constant love gives us confidence to be the best we can be. May we live in a way that brings hope to those who stumble in darkness. Thank you, Jesus, for the great freedom we have in you.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Special Memorial

In summer of 2012, Ted and I dug up a bunch of overgrown daffodils in our garden and separated the bulbs. Oh, how they'd multiplied!

We gave some to friends and planted the rest along the back of the yard, giving them room to grow and spread out. Not wanting to waste a single bulb, Ted tilled up more and more space and we planted for hours until all the bulbs had a home. We had the satisfaction of completing the project together and talked about how we could look forward to all those blooms in the spring.

The winter was long, and when I first saw all the daffodils sprouting, I smiled in surprise because I had forgotten about them. Besides, I had a lot on my mind with Ted having been in the hospital for weeks. I thought about how they would make a cheerful homecoming when Ted got out.

Then on May 2, 2013, Ted went home to be with the Lord, but the daffodils burst into bloom as we planned his funeral. It was bittersweet that Ted wasn't here with me to enjoy them, but they reminded me of the new life Ted was beginning.

Now, on the second anniversary of Ted's passing, the daffodils' smiling faces appeared in perfect timing. Each year, I will recall the wonderful time we had working together on this. Each year, they bring with them the hope of a new season. Life goes on, and God makes all things beautiful in His time.

At the time of the planting, we did not have a clue that Ted's cancer would take a turn and that he wouldn't be there to see them in Spring. He could not have known we were planting his memorial garden together.

God, thank you once again for the wonderful husband you gave me, and the many memories we made that I will cherish all my life. Thank you for the daffodils; they are great reminders of your unfailing love, and his.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love From My Valentine

Abiding in our Lord is so amazing. He speaks to us in so many ways -- customized for each one of us -- in the ways we can best perceive and relate. God's love is so special. Celebrate His love this Valentine's Day.

Today, February 14, has lots of sweet memories for me. I married the love of my life, and we celebrated it profoundly every year...a snowy walk to the ice caves on Lake Superior at Bayfield, a romantic walk in the woods through fresh fallen snow, and Door County weekends with dear friends also celebrating anniversaries.

I still treasure the most beautiful cards, with carefully chosen words. On our last Valentine's Day together, Ted gave me nine red roses for nine years of marriage, made me chocolate-covered strawberries and then gave me three more roses, signifying the three of us -- God, him and me -- and what it takes to make the marriage work.

Though I miss Ted all the time, it's my practice of abiding in Jesus that lifts me and fills me. Look at this beautiful reminder I found in the fresh snow this morning. The wind had swirled and carved away a perfect heart.

Lord, your love is truly amazing! Teach us all to be still, be mindful and to watch for the unlimited ways you speak to us.