Captivated!

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” – Proverbs 4:23

One Christmas, our young grandchild threw himself into the joy of the day.  When he opened a gift, he exclaimed, “Just what I always wanted!” The next gift received exactly the same level of excitement and expression. One gift after another, we smiled, then laughed, at his enthusiastic, “Just what I always wanted!”

That constant excitement is charming in a child, but not  in adults when it comes to our engagement in things around us. There should be varying levels of emotional response in our lives. If we are equally reactive to sporting events, politics, finances, work dramas, parenting, and social conflicts, there is no energy left for meaningful connection with God. We are simply too drained to love and respond to Him.

I’ve found it helpful to separate myself from involvements that are distracting or draining. I don’t spend much time with the news because, when I do, I am distressed. I try to take relationship conflicts to God immediately, instead of stewing about the situation for days or weeks. I daily commit my family members to God and His care so the concerns about them can fade into the distance. I do react emotionally to life around me, but I want every reponse to be appropriate to the situation.

The goal: To have God be the main focus of my emotional energy. To be mesmerized by Him, captivated by His love, curious about His Word, and longing for His presence. If I am going to say “Just what I always wanted!” about anything, I want it to be about Him! You, too?

“The more people rejoice over something outside God, the less intense will be their joy in God.” – St. John of the Cross

 

Feeling anxious?

 

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” – Psalm 94:19

Entering the stillness,
My folded hands
Remind me to slow.

Much to lay down.
Soiled garments of worry
one by one
worn too long.
Leave them.

Distractions of life
unwelcome intruders,
cluttering noise.
Turn them away.

A few deep breaths,
Air into the lungs, out of the mouth.
Refreshment coming in.
All that hinders going out.
The holy enters.
The mundane leaves.

The stillness begins to come.
Quieted mind,
Slowed body,
Ready just to be where He is.

After the stillness,
Cleaner, lighter, purer, quieter.

Distractions return one by one.
I recognize them for what they are and
Know I will need to return to the stillness;
To the One who meets me there.
Soon.

“Collect yourself in His presence with the one purpose and intent of loving Him. . . Rest in love and come to Him in . . . faith, coming for no specific claim, request, or desire.” – Molinos

“Real prayer is nothing more than loving God.” – Fenelon

Self-Improvement Plan?

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20a

God lives inside us. It is His goal that we simply believe and act on that fact. It is not a “someday”, it is now: He indwells those who have accepted His invitation to follow Him. He is bigger, stronger, and smarter than we are, desiring to overrule our bad decisions and live the God-life through us. If we really believed that, how might things be different?

  • We would recognize Satan’s lies (e.g. worry means love).
  • We wouldn’t be anxious about things that are far in the future.
  • We would be more discerning about people, able to see through to their hearts.
  • We would love more.
  • We would rejoice every time truth triumphs over lies.
  • We would have an eternal perspective.
  • We would serve others with wisdom and grace.
  • Our concerns about appearances would fall away.
  • We would trust Christ’s lordship of this world, doing our part, but  leaving the rest in His hands.
  • We would entrust our children to God, knowing He has a plan for each of them that includes us, but does not center on us.
  • We would learn to listen to our bodies, giving them what they need (e.g. food, exercise, and rest).
  • We would give generously.

We don’t have to adopt another self-improvement plan. We just need to yield to the Christ living within us, intentionally giving up our wills for His and letting His love, power, truth, and peace flow through us. When He lives in us, we become better people and the world becomes a better place!

“God is ready to assume full responsibility for the life fully yielded to Him.” – Andrew Murray

 

 

 

Even When It’s Hard

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“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:8b-10

Every morning I pray that the Holy Spirit would help me, for that day, to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus. That is, after all, what Jesus requires of His true followers.

But what does it actually look like to “deny myself”? I have come to realize that it doesn’t mean to deny who I am, but, instead, to deny what I want. I have my likes and dislikes. I have my desires and preferences, too. But what I’m figuring out is that when those likes or preferences bump up against what Christ has planned for me that day, my desires have to take a back seat to His.

So, now I have another prayer that simply has to go with the first one:

“I want to want what You want.
But, if I don’t want what You want, I’ll do what You want anyway.”

I think that’s what it means to deny myself – to subordinate my pleasures, my comfort, and my routines to His will. To do what He wants even when it is scary or hard or confusing. Or even if I just don’t want to. No wonder it requires a cross!

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” – G. K. Chesterton

How’s Your Day Going?

Israel Trip Deb (378)

“Praise be to His glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory.” – Psalm 72:19

Early one morning I asked God, “How is Your day going?” Here’s what I thought He might be saying:

“Oh, Bev, I am so sad at the unrest on Earth. These problems (killings, racial conflict, riots, wars, poverty, deceit, sickness, death) are all a result of generations of sinfulness. The centuries-long threads of mistakes, unforgiveness, and attitudes are weaving together a tapestry that becomes darker and uglier as time goes by. Someday I will untangle it all and recreate the picture as it was meant to be, but not yet.

“In other ways, it’s a great day. The sun is shining, the rivers are flowing, the oceans are waving, and trees are growing. And that’s only the Earth. There is a huge universe you don’t even know of. I can’t tell you about it in ways you would understand, so someday I will show it to you!”

Did you ever wonder how God’s day is going? It’s OK to ask Him. He loves to share His heart with us Earthlings!

“If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.” – A. W. Tozer

Change Me

“Be the penetrating light which illumines my intellect,

the gentle motion which attracts and directs my will,

Breckenridge (24)

“. . . a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

the supernatural power which gives energy to my body.

Complete in me Your work of sanctification and love. Make me

pure
transparent
simple
true
free
peaceful
gentle
calm
and burning with charity toward God and my neighbor.

Amen.”

This prayer (written by a woman known simply as Sr. Carmela of the Holy Spirit) touched me because it describes so much that I, too, want to pray.

Look at those words of peace, freedom, and calm, resulting, at the end, in loving God and others. Do they resonate with you, too? If so, I invite you to join with me in praying this borrowed plea often and sincerely. Only God can make the changes in us that we so desperately need.

He’s First

Do you ever wish God would just write His will across the sky so you can understand it clearly? Something like that happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it wasn’t the sky He wrote on, it was a mountain.

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“My soul yearns for You in the night; in the morning, my spirit longs for You.” – Isaiah 26:9a

I got up, started the coffee in preparation for my early morning time with God, and began a conversation with Him as the coffee began to brew. As I waited, I looked out the kitchen window toward the mountains to the southwest. A prominent snowfield was visible on one of them and had melted into the shape of a giant “1”. I looked again thinking I must be seeing it wrong. But, no, it was really a “1”. God had written His will on the side of a mountain for me to see: He wants to be first in my life!

As I prayed, I realized He wants to be the first one I think of when I wake up in the morning, the first one I turn to when I need help, the first one I recognize when something good happens in my life, and the only one I ever worship.

The snowy “1” remained there for the rest of our stay in the mountains and was a many-times-a-day reminder of God’s perfect will for me – and for all of us who are His children. When we make Him first, we are less afraid, worried, and frustrated and more often filled with love, joy, and peace. It’s the best way to live!

“Every happening, great and small, is a parable whereby God speaks to us, and the art of life is to get the message.” ~Malcolm Muggeridge