A Good Life

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10b

How are you doing with living what Jesus calls an abundant life?

A life not focused on trivialities, but on substance.

A life with purpose that goes beyond what we can see.

A life of gratefulness for the pleasures we can enjoy, the beauties we can see, and the people we can love.

A life in which we truthfully can say something like, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing else I need.”

Pastor and writer John Piper talks about living with “. . . the awakening of heart capacities to soar with beauties, and the mysteries of creation and redemption, and with the revelation of God’s nature and God’s ways in Scripture.” A heart that soars – that sounds like abundant living, doesn’t it?

Notice that abundance does not mean lots of stuff, money, thrills, or entertainment. It’s a deeper level richness – abundance of the heart, of relationships, of eternal values, of appreciation. It’s a learned skill to rise above the earthly to the spiritual, but it’s so worth the effort.

Here’s a prayer that might help us get a bit closer to the abundant life we all want:

Lord teach me to play, to have fun, to enjoy this life with you at my side. Teach me to be courageous, to try new things, to risk failure. Give me the imagination to find new paths, make new friends, travel to new places, to stretch and grow and love and learn and dream. Teach me how to skip happily through life in love with you, enjoying your presence with me always.

“The transformation of the self away from a life of fear and insufficiency takes place as we fix our minds upon God as he truly is.”” – Dallas Willar

My way? His way?

As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. – 2 Samuel 22:31

If you’ve ever wondered about the way God does things, you’re not alone!

Some disciples were walking along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, depressed and discouraged (Luke 24). Jesus was the one they had counted on to rescue them from oppression. Now he was dead. There were rumors of resurrection, but who knows? Then, by the end of the chapter, they realize Jesus is alive (good news) and he’s not going to deliver Israel from the Romans (bad news). In fact, he’s leaving them (really bad news).

Even so, we find them a few weeks later praising God in the temple (v. 53). They went from sadness to joy, from confusion to worship. Jesus didn’t do things their way, but maybe they were beginning to see his way was better.

What are you praying desperately for? What do you wish God would fix for you? We pray with such limited vision! We see things only from our perspective and time.

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. They are bigger, better, bolder. They take us to a place we could never envision for ourselves. We simply don’t know what’s best for us or for someone else. We cannot know while we are in this world, living this life.

So, what do we do when, like the disciples with Jesus, we find that God’s not going to answer our prayers as we want him to? We accept and believe his way is better. We entrust him with our bodies. We rely on him for resources. We let him feed our souls and give us hope.

“Let God have your life. He can do more with it than you can.” – D. L. Moody

Smile!

“I will celebrate before the Lord,” 2 Samuel 6:21b

Did you know that walking with God is not always about being serious? There are supposed to be times of celebration, belly laughs, and seeing the lighter side.

Remember when David brought the Ark of God to Jerusalem after its long absence? He was so happy he danced in front of the Ark, and it wasn’t a carefully choreographed dance, either. It is described as dancing and leaping – a spontaneous burst of joy.

Then there’s the time when Ezra found the Book of the Law, dusty from disuse for many years. He read it to the people and they were overcome with grief to think of how many ways they had failed God. After awhile, Nehemiah stepped in, dismissed the sad meeting, and called for a party, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine . . . for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

So, how happy are your morning devotional times? Do you smile when you talk to God? Does joy sneak into your heart as you read Scripture and begin to understand the pleasure God takes in his creation and in his people?

How happy are the worship times at your church? Is it a place where singing and praise-filled people worship a joy-filled God?

How happy are you when you look at God’s artwork in the sky, the freshness of new snow, or the wiggles of puppies? The things God makes should lead us to agree with Dallas Willard who said, “God is the happiest, most joyful being in the universe.”

Shouldn’t knowing him stir up happiness in us? Let’s live joy today!

“Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it.” – C. S. Lewis

The Narrows

“Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path . . . with walls on both sides.” – Numbers 22:24

A few years ago, we traveled with some of our family to Zion National Park where we entered “The Narrows”. It’s the most confined section of the canyon where, at times, you can touch both sides of the towering rock walls as you walk through with a river underfoot. I’m not fond of closed-in spaces, so I knew that hike was not for me!

Sometimes we don’t have a choice about how narrow our lives get, and the walls can seem too confining. Some of you are feeling that now when you can’t leave your home even for work. We’re used to wide open spaces – highways, malls, meeting places, beaches, and parks. Now we are kept inside with only occasional recourse to the outside world.

No matter if we are sequestering alone or with a large family, God is waiting with us in the narrows. He offers grace for each day, mercy in our stresses, hope that the wide-open spaces will soon reappear, and joy as we step cautiously through the restricted pathways of our present lives.

To access that grace, mercy, hope, and joy, we need to do one thing: Let our hearts be soft enough to receive. These gifts are there for us. Jesus is simply asking that you recognize he is with you in the small space and acknowledge you need him. As you turn toward him, he will respond. He always does.

Let’s be open to God today! When we do, the walls will seem to disappear, and the vastness of eternity will enter.

“. . . a bench outdoors, a porch swing, a chair in the library. Such places, as much as a church pew, provide openings to grace.” – Emilie Griffin

Praying for Daylight

My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
    Yet the desires of my heart
turn night into day;
    in the face of the darkness light is near.
 – Job 17:11-12

Is sometimes the night so dark, the storm so strong, and the pain so deep that all you can do is pray for morning to come? You are not alone.

In Acts, we are told about the horrible storm Paul and Luke and many others experienced on their way to Rome. At one point, in the two-week-long nor’easter, the sailors took soundings and realized the water was getting shallower – they were approaching land. But it was the middle of the night, the ship was out of control, and they couldn’t see where they were headed. It was dark and scary and dangerous. Luke says, Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight (Acts 27:29). They did the only thing they could do – they waited and they prayed.

If you’re in a dark place right now, you can’t see what’s ahead, you are fearful and frantic, hang on. Morning will come. God promises it will. “. . . weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b). 

In the meantime, focus all your attention on him. Pray for light. Pray for comfort. Pray for the security of his arms around you. Pray for the joy that will come when the storm subsides. The one who stills the waters is in the boat with you. He’s been there before. And he has promised never to leave you alone.

“Waiting for God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon our thoughts.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Live your own life!

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. – Psalm 16:11

Whose life are you living? If you’re constantly called to commiserate with an overly reliant friend, if you’re consistently focused on another person’s decisions or actions, or if you’re preoccupied about what may happen today or tomorrow in the life of someone you love, you may be missing the life God gave you to live. 

Don’t get me wrong – I believe in empathizing with those who are struggling, helping those in need, supporting our children to adulthood and beyond, and being a true friend. But, when worries about other people’s lives dominate our thoughts, we’re surely missing what God is offering us.

Today, he wants us to experience his leading in every decision, blessings from his hand, peace beyond understanding, and love that refreshes our souls.

Today, he wants the fruit of the Spirit to grow in our hearts: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. I want that, don’t you?

So, how do we care deeply about others and still position ourselves to receive what God wants for us? 

  • Think about our blessings.
  • Acknowledge that the life God has given us is good. 
  • Cherish each day.
  • Praise God.
  • Yield to his direction.

When we live in distraction, we cannot take in all God wants for us. So, let’s live our own lives – deeply and gratefully. Then we will be able to do more than worry about or sympathize with friends or family –  we will enable them to live their own lives, too!

Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”

–Thomas Merton

Thinking of Him?

” . . .we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ”. – 2 Corinthians 10:5b

Are you sometimes unsatisfied with the quality of your life? Do you want it to be more meaningful? To be more in cync with God’s will? When I’m feeling that frustration, I remember that the less I think about me and the more I think about God, the richer and more significant my life will be. He is the only source of purpose and joy. And he responds when we turn our attention toward him.

With that in mind, I’m reposting one of my poems which I published in a blog in 2016. I’m sharing it now because it’s where my heart is and I’m thinking it may resonate with you as well.  

Thinking of Him?

When the lights grow dim
Are you thinking of Him?
Or is your mind too cluttered
With thoughts un-uttered
And words unspoken
And promises broken?

When the day is at end
Do you talk with your Friend?
Or are you doing the dishes
And pondering wishes
And things yet to do
E’re the evening is through?

When you woke in your bed
Was it His name you said?
Or were you thinking of rights
And yesterday’s fights
And battles to win
When the sun comes again?

Our mind is the measure
Of what we most treasure.
It shows us what holds us
And constantly molds us.
If we’re centered on Jesus
And how He does please us,

The thoughts that disturb us
And tend to perturb us
Will crumble and cower
And lose all their power.
Then when the lights grow dim,
We’ll be thinking of Him.

“I am trying to be utterly free from everybody, free from my own self, but completely enslaved to the will of God every moment of this day.” – Frank Laubauch

Break for Blessings

“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” – Psalm 33:21-22

Sometimes when we pray or read the Bible, we think we’re doing God a favor. Don’t get me wrong, he loves it when we spend time with him – he wants to be the focus of our attention. But I’ve found he always gives me so much more than I give him!

Then throughout the day, when I stop to think about God, offer a short prayer, or remember a verse or phrase from the Bible, it’s as if I’ve opened up a pipeline to heaven through which he sends blessings. The most common one, for me, is joy. But there are others:

  • a sense of his presence
  • peace, knowing he has everything under control, even when I don’t
  • a new idea for a problem I’ve been wrestling with
  • or reassurance of his desire to be working for my good

He’s waiting to do all that for you, too. I think you already know that!

Our Father in heaven wants to be in daily, hourly relationship with us. He is always there, always ready. Stopping to engage with him is our responsibility. When we do, he responds. And our needs are met, sometimes needs we didn’t even know we had. Those moments become sparks of joy that brighten our entire day.

So, no matter how busy we are, let’s pause often to remember the one who waits for us to turn to him. His smile will be worth the pause!

“When I remember to pause, blessings appear. I break for blessings.” – Macrina Wiederkehr

 

#blessings

Because I love you . . .

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

Do you ever go through those times when you think, “Why does God even bother with me? I’ve let him down again. I keep failing to overcome some of the issues that haunt me. I don’t know why he doesn’t just give up on me.”

Listen. Really listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit inside you as you sit in his presence, as you pray, as you read the Bible. You are likely to hear something like this:

I love you even when you feel unlovable. And because I love you, I

  • answer your prayers
  • guide your steps
  • teach you through my Word
  • protect you from the evil one
  • draw you closer to me
  • will take you someday to a place where we can be together forever.

I love you just because. You’re going to have to get used to that!

Can you believe that? Really believe it? It’s true, you know. God loves each of us unconditionally. Once we grasp the reality of that truth, we will never be the same. Our worthiness is not even a small part of the reason God loves us. He loves us because he created us. He loves us because it is part of his eternal nature to love us – no matter what. How can we help responding with joy to such unconditional, unchanging love? Believe it. Live in it. To God, you are always lovable. And always loved!

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning

 

Shall we dance?

“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” – Jeremiah 31:13

I have a dear friend who loves Jesus a lot. She shared something with me she had told no one else and now she’s given me permission to share it with you: She dances with Jesus.

“We slow dance (to the music of) certain songs or hymns we sing at church. I close my eyes and I can feel His shoulder, and His cheek against my hair, and we move to the music.  It’s so dear. And in those brief moments I feel He loves me so much.”

Her message awakened my soul! It spoke of slowing down, of giving Jesus my time and full attention, of feeling at my core how much he wants to be close to me.

Sometimes we use our sanctified imagination to be able to feel his nearness. Music enhances that sense. Movement makes it part of our very being. Dancing may be the God-ordained way to soothe our souls, energize our bodies, and connect our hearts with our heavenly Lover.

The Bible clearly endorses dancing as an expression of our heart toward God:

“Let them praise his name with dancing . . .” – Psalm 149:3a
“You turned my wailing into dancing . . .” – Psalm 30:11a

“Praise him with tambourine and dancing.” – Psalm 150:4a

Maybe for you it’s a joy that requires you to move in energetic expression. For others, it may be sensing God’s love, as shown in a slow, meditative movement. Don’t be afraid to dance your way into God’s presence. I think he loves it when we do that!

“Dance is meditation in movement, a walking into silence where every movement becomes prayer.” – Bernhard Wosien

 

#dancingwithjesus