THE ENERGY REQUIRED TO BE STILL

I’m currently in the midst of a messy middle in my life. Here’s what I mean by that: I’m not at the beginning of a hard situation, but I am not at the end either. You know that feeling of wanting to be “through” something, of wanting to just know how it’s all going to reconcile, how it’s all going to look on the other side?

And what I’ve been reflecting on lately is that sometimes being right where we are is the hardest work. Sometimes it takes more energy to *be still* than to spring into frantic action. Being “present” is all the rage, a buzz word even, but we don’t always acknowledge the spiritual, emotional, mental, physical discipline required to stay present, especially when the present is uncertain or unresolved. For me currently, being right where I am, today, this week, is the invitation, instead of trying to figure a way out.

But, let me be clear, I don’t like this. I don’t like it one bit. Because it takes so much energy to stop, surrender, let go. More than expected, even.

Whatever “middle” you’re in today, I understand the urgent temptation to want to push through the process, grasp for control and certainty, and resist the invitation (maybe even the mandate) to be still. It doesn’t matter if the messy middle is financial or relational or professional or physical, the interminable-ness is exhausting and makes us edgy.

So here’s what’s helping me:

— Taking life in 12 hour increments.

— Welcoming all the crazy feelings. I cannot say enough about this. Instead of driving away all my frantic thoughts and insane solutions, instead of judging myself for being so out of control and adolescent, I make a point to welcome it all. That doesn’t mean I act on any of it. I just acknowledge all the ways that I want to jump forward, which seems to relieve some of the pressure.

— Resisting the urge to make anything urgent. So much of what I think must be decided and figured out, doesn’t. It needs to unfold.

— Remembering to be good to myself, like I would a friend. Understanding. Empathetic. Patient.

— Beginning again. If I get too far ahead of myself, I recommit to the present. This moment. Now. Over and over again. This is what it means to give myself grace.

Here’s another bit of gold: Your issues are not your identity. THANK GOD. Something runs deeper in us than any circumstance. So WHERE you are right now, WHERE I am right now, is not WHO we are. Isn’t that everything. Our messy middles don’t define us. And maybe if we can remember that truth, we can hang in a bit longer, commit to being still for another three seconds. And then another. And then another.

I lit a candle this morning, a reminder to myself to be still long enough to let God sit by me. Right here in my messy middle.

Love you all,

Leeana

 

Having Peace in Hard Times

by Georgia Phipps

Recently I have had to deal with sexual harassment at school from 2 fellow class mates. After I confronted the 2 individuals, they acted like I was one who had done something wrong. One responded, by asking why I was so offended, and the other was angry.

The second person then continued to be very rude-constantly criticizing everything I did. He made comments about why I didn’t want to spend time with the class after school, and acting as though I owed HIM something. I will be honest, it has been difficult to deal with him in a loving Christian way, and he still is being impossible to deal with.

Screen Shot 2017-10-12 at 9.16.47 AM

I was very nervous to talk to the two young men at my school. I was afraid of the backlash from the class, afraid of the rest of my schooling being very hard. I was afraid that no one was on my side. It turned out that another girl in my class felt the same way, and we talked to the two boys together.

I have always found encouragement in my parents. My mother sent me a text saying that she was praying for me and told me to stay strong and make a difference. She sent the text just an hour or so before the incident occurred.

After the 2 boys said some awful things to me, I thought back on that text my mom hadbsent. I was thankful for that encouragement.

There is a bible verse that has put my mind at ease. Numbers 4:24-26. It talks about giving peace, and that the Lord blesses me and is gracious to me. That His face and countenance are on me. A great passage for hard times.

I first thought, how is the Lord blessing me?

It gave me a chance to stand up for my values and beliefs, which before hand I hadn’t had the opportunity.

It reminded me that Jesus is always on my side, and I am never alone.

 

Waking Up

by Anne de Martimprey

witless-bay-suites

I had a dream that I was with an instructor trying to have a voice lesson at my home, while simultaneously watching my three young sons. Every timeI began to get into the songs to practice or rehearse, one of my kids would run up to me and need something. They wanted breakfast, and there was hardly any cereal left in the cupboard so I was mixing cracker crumbs with the last of some shredded mini wheats in large plastic cups, and told my oldest son to pour the milk as I went back to my lesson. I had hardly sat down again when I heard water running. I followed the sound to the bathroom where I saw the tub faucet had been left on full blast, I tried to shut off the valve and instead the shower head came off half drenching me, and when I quickly tried again to shut off the valve a second time the whole knob fell off in my hand and water began shooting straight from the faucet handle. Meanwhile the boys called me away to some other problem, so I closed the shower curtain, left the water running and rushed to the next need straight past the voice instructor who sat staring with slightly raised eyebrows as I dashed past…thank goodness I woke up before anything else went wrong.

The dream imprinted a familiar feeling on my morning emotions; A tense mixture of run down, exasperated, and desperate irritation. “That’s how it is isn’t it” I told myself, “You want to make something beautiful, you want life to be a pretty song, and instead the day is always turning into utter chaos, slipping through your fingers like water out of the tub faucet.” I kept thinking. I kept turning the images over and over in my mind. Perhaps the problem is that I expect beauty in the wrong places and at the wrong times, and it’s not the right kind of beauty to begin with? Perhaps the real beauty, the beauty that Christ wants in my life emerges only in this constant process of immersing into the messiness of life. As a mother of young children that means figuring out needs, feeding hunger, addressing complaints, cleaning up messes, comforting fears, judging disputes, listening to words, leading activities, teaching everything, washing clothes, scrubbing little bodies and then doing the whole routine over again the next day.

I want beauty in my life, and somehow that’s tied to the idea of order. I want peace in my life and somehow that’s tied to the idea of silence. But if I want real beauty and peace in my life it’s not my own ideas that should guide my thoughts. I must continually take my own ideas captive and fill my mind instead with the truths found in the word of God. Beauty is the perseverance, kindness and gentleness that God wants to grow in my heart when all order seems to have been stripped away and my heart is exposed in full view. Peace is God’s peace, and it passes all understanding. It pervades even the noisiest, craziest, most chaotic situations. So will I choose to get up out of bed, and walk into chaos every morning believing that He can make it beautiful even if I don’t always see or feel it happening? I know the times when I do, he blesses it.

 

Digging for Treasure

by Julia Farren

Treasure

Not having grown up in a Christian family, when I first started regularly attending church I had a sort of “fish out of water” experience. In my mind I (falsely) believed that everyone belonged there except me. I didn’t know the stories of the Bible. I didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian; to live the Christian life. I felt that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Somehow, I just didn’t belong.

God has amazing ways that He works things out in our lives. Sometimes, He has quite the sense of humor. When I look back at those beginnings for me, those little baby steps that I took during that time, I can see how He very purposefully laid out a path for my growth

I had only just begun to attend Grace Community Church, and at that time, every Sunday morning you would be handed a program as you walked in. I remember that there was an announcement that appeared week after week asking for someone to fill the toddler Sunday school teaching position. Well, of course, I felt the least qualified. But the announcement continued to appear each week. Finally, it changed and in exasperation read that if no one would come forward to fill this position, the class would no longer exist in a Sunday school format, but would simply be “babysitting”. At that point, I figured, “I guess I’m better than ‘nobody’!” So I offered to teach. What a joke! Here I was with very little biblical knowledge, and I was supposed to teach?

Through my experience teaching those little kids, God was teaching me. From all those little flannel graph stories, I learned. As my children graduated up to higher grades, I went along with them. I taught Sunday school for many years, and I learned a lot!

See, God fulfilled in me what was lacking. What a great gift! Those years were so formative in my life, and I will never forget how God just lovingly walked me through them. The Bible became the foundation of my walk with Him. I just couldn’t get enough of His word. He placed in my an eager desire to learn. I would sit in the front row during the service soaking in every word from the Pastor. I opened my Bible to the beginning and just started reading. It was like food for me and boy, was I hungry!

I remember teaching a lesson to the Sunday school kids about the high value of the Bible. I hid little pretend coins all over the classroom. I told the kids that there were coins hidden and they had to go search for them. When they had found them all, I explained to them that the Bible is full of treasure, but we need to “dig” for it. I still believe that truth. There is no greater treasure that you can find than the treasure of God’s kingdom. That treasure is revealed to you in God’s word. It is there for the taking. So get out your shovel and start digging! Wonderful, valuable, shiny trinkets of treasure await!!

Of Castles, Princesses and Make Believe Life …that’s what little girl (big girl) dreams are made of…

by Deborah Garner

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 4.12.48 PM

Do you know any little girls with an imagination that encompasses everything princess? They daydream of pink castles, white horse drawn carriages and living happily ever after? They probably love to dress up in ballroom gowns and add sparkly glitter and tiaras to their hair.

My middle granddaughter can name every Disney princess; describe their dress in detail and explain what takes place in their story. She makes up imaginary conversations between the princess, the forest animals and the handsome prince. She plots heroic rescues and happy endings. Elaborate make-believe weddings delight her and in her versions, the bride and groom always “live happily ever after.”

As to what the vague concept of living happily ever after means to her young mind, it might be something like a castle with a swimming pool, lots of pet dogs and cats, perfect long hair that never tangles and a banquet size table of luscious desserts.

Our family is fond of saying, “What a gifted imagination she has.”  But humans are all gifted with wonderful imaginations. It is a God-given function of our minds that allows us to daydream or visualize things of the present, the future, or to clearly picture possibilities that others dismiss.

Music, art and literature are created by imagination. Without it, Michelangelo would not have painted the Sistine Chapel; we wouldn’t have our souls stirred by Handel’s “Messiah” or recognize a drama called “Hamlet.”

Scientific research is jump started by creative thinking. We have electricity, the Internet, cellphones and fast cars because someone first imagined them.

Imagination can invent something profoundly useful or simply bring pleasure to the senses.

As to my imagination, I’m rather prone to using it to plot and plan solutions to my most pressing problems. I just know that if A would happen, then B would follow and C would be the perfect outcome. So after a sleepless night pondering all of my heavy thoughts, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to trade in my life for a life of a princess.

This new life would mean having a continuously self-cleaning house, fresh sheets on the bed every night but without the need to do laundry and never a dirty dish to wash after the delightful gourmet meals of food without calories.

And because I could magically fix all of their problems, all of my loved ones would be healthy and happy.

Oh well…reality check, but for a little while it can be fun to daydream about a life without worries, stress or redundant chores.

However, I know in my heart that my Creator made my mind and every one else’s for so much more.

As a flash back into the princess world, I have to consider what a little girl’s idea of a pink castles would look like in a big girl’s world.

If the richest person on this earth offered me a room in their mansion, I probably couldn’t describe what I would expect to find or even what the bed would feel like because I haven’t ever experienced that kind of luxury.

In Matthew 7, Jesus talks of a good father not giving his child a rock when he asks for bread or a serpent in place of a fish. If people, who are far from good, have the heart to give good gifts to their children, then I can believe that the gifts that my Heavenly Father has promised are indescribable.

The Lord knows who I am and what I desire. He has the hairs on my head counted and He knows every thought in my mind

So when I read in His word that Jesus is going to prepare a place for each one of us in His Father’s heavenly house, I just can’t wait to see my own room! I think there will be times when the scent of pine trees or ocean breezes will waft through, but other times it might fill with the fragrance of a very fond memory (like the scent of baby powder or of the roses my husband brought me on our anniversary)

The room will be awash with the brilliance of light from the Lord’s glory but it will still be a place of peaceful serenity for me.

Riding in a carriage pulled by prancing horses is a princess daydream that usually denotes royalty. In heaven, I believe we will be honored as the daughters of the King. Revelation 22:4 says we will carry His name on our foreheads-it will be our tiara. In 2:17 it says that all will be given a new name that is engraved on a white stone. I think that name may describe a spiritual dimension that only the Lord sees in us. Much like the new names the Lord gave to Abram, Sarai and Jacob to foretell their future blessing.

And as to our clothing? It will be bridal white with an aura of purity because the sin stains will be gone.

Then there’s the happily ever after part. To me, that is probably one of the most amazing concepts of all. I will be in the Presence of the Lord and witness a love so pure; it will take my breath away. No more pain, or grief in this heavenly place. No more cancer, birth defects or mental illness. I won’t know what anger or regret feels like and my only unmet goal will be to further know my Lord.

To imagine a compassionate God that loves humans so much, He sent His only son, Jesus, to die a tortured death to keep us obtuse, sinful individuals from Hell, is difficult. And Jesus, the obedient Son, willing to go to the cross for all of us, knowing how many would reject Him is heartbreaking to me.

A scene from a violent Sci-Fi movie would be nothing compared to a world without God’s love and the Holy Spirit dwelling within it. The earth would be controlled by the disciples of Satan, filled with utter chaos, hatred, and every vile activity an evil man could think up. That world without the Will of the Creator holding it together would soon self-destruct.

So leaving that awful vision aside, even while knowing that our world is growing more Godless by the day, perhaps the inspiration of my granddaughter can bring me to focus on joyful thoughts.

As we share time together, I want to encourage her to appreciate the extra measure of imagination she has been given. I want her to know that others enjoy her entertaining stories. But she also needs to know that God will hold her responsible for how she uses her wonderful thought processes. She should know that she may find it a temptation to daydream away her time, longing for material things or creating fictional escapes from life’s problems. But always my prayer will be that she will use her imagination to purposefully pursue all things lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, the very things of God as the Bible says. And in this way He might use her obedience and cheerful character to affect others for the Kingdom.

Understanding this is a choice that all believers must make, I will attempt to follow my own advice and continuously fill my mind with excellent thoughts, letting go of the worrisome things of the world and losing the need to escape into a make-believe dimension.

 

 

No Automatic Sprinklers

by Anne de Martimpreyice-bucket-challenge

We have a grapevine in the front of our yard, and no irrigation runs to it. The isolated plant independently struggles along for most of the year, but during the summer months when I see the leaves begin to curl, and the stems sag I take pity on it and haul a heavy 100 foot hose out to give the vines a drink.

Recently as I stood holding the hose, spraying down the parched earth, I thought to myself, “I don’t have time for this…how long do I have to stand here in the baking sun for it to be enough water? We really need an irrigation system on a timer.”

And as I stood there watching the life giving water stream out of the hose, new thoughts began to sprinkle into my mind.

How impatient I am that standing for 10 minutes to water a plant seems irritating? What of generations of women who hauled water on their backs from streams and wells to water their gardens. They felt their muscles ache, and wore blisters into their hands trying to sustain and nourish the plants they tended. The work was constant. The need always there. I wonder to myself if this practice, this way of life gave them an advantage in character that I lack?

We live in a day and age where everything can be automated and simplified. All our landscaping and gardening can be watered by irrigated sprinkler systems complete with digital timing mechanisms that can be tailored to any length or amount of watering we desire. Once it’s set up, it can be forgotten. Greenery and beauty can spring up like magic around us. Does our culture of ease and automation effect our loving?

I thought of love as water. My children need watering every day. Do I ever treat my children with the same impatience I had just dealt the grapevine?

The word of God trickled into my mind… “love is patient.”

The dictionary definition of patient is — able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. Our culture does not train us for patience nor encourage long suffering attributes, but God showers us with patient love, and desires that we also patiently love those around us. Loving like this might sometimes make our muscles ache and wear blisters on our hands, but that is as it should be. There are no automatic sprinklers for love.

The Beauty of Grace

by Julie Farren

grace2Grace is the greatest gift we can ever receive. It is unearned, undeserved. Because of God’s pure unconditional love for us, we receive so much blessing, both temporal and eternal. As I ponder the grace of God to me, I am overwhelmed by a love so dear, personal and intimate, but also all encompassing, absolute and complete. It is the macro and the micro of His love entwined together. He who is Creator of all that is good, is also Accepter of the flawed individual. The Perfect and Holy Creator of the universe bends low and bestows His favor on us who are undeserving. My question is this: are we exhibiting the same grace to others that we enjoy?

I make mistakes. Many mistakes. Sometimes, I make the same mistakes over and over, seemingly never getting past them. I hang my head in shame as I confess them to the Lord, apologizing once again for coming up short. In that moment, I need to be reminded that His love is agape, unconditional. His grace, sufficient. I am invited to come boldly before Him; to embrace that truth which enlivens the joy within me and dissolves the shame. I may be insignificant, flawed and slow to learn, but I am deeply loved, cherished and always invited to come into His presence. This identity in Christ never changes. It isn’t based on what I do or my ability to please, but emanates from His character. He IS love. And His love is agape. In Christ, we are accepted as we are. What joy! I fall on my knees in gratitude over this knowledge. It never gets tiresome, never grows old; it forever sustains and strengthens. So I accept His grace with gratitude.

But do I also offer, with outstretched hands, that same grace? Giving that unearned acceptance to those in my reach, in my circle of influence? Am I keeping a list, perhaps mentally, of wrongs suffered and hurts inflicted? Am I holding on to them, allowing bitterness to take root in my heart? Or am I quick to forgive? I’m not saying it’s easy, far from it. But we can make progress.  Scripture transforms our thinking and through our thinking, our actions and attitudes. We are meant to reflect the love of Christ.

Consider Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” When my kids used to spill their milk all over the table, so much so that it poured off the sides of the table in streams soaking into the carpet and pooling on the seat of the chair, I had a choice in that moment how I would react. But if I paused for second I could recall my own clumsy hands and the many times I had made messes in my hurriedness. Or when I had broken things because I did not take care to be more careful with my surroundings. This enabled me to extend grace and reassure them that it was okay. It was no big deal and easily cleaned up, made right again. But there were times I remember, times when frustration overwhelmed me. When they did something that evoked anger in me, I could lash out in that anger, an anger which surprised even me, bitterly griping and complaining about the extra work that I didn’t have time for. Those are times I regret. Now that my children are grown up and moved on to their own families, I cannot go back and correct my lack of grace.

There are times in our lives when a friend will speak unkind words that wounds our hearts. We may feel unfairly judged, not given the benefit of the doubt. The temptation to close up our heart, so as not to be hurt again may be too hard to resist. We may be tempted to decide she doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But isn’t this just the place where grace shines the brightest? When it is so completely undeserved that it is a blessing and a balm that binds two together again. Whether it is within your family or amongst your friends, when we choose to give back grace for hurts or trade kindness for anger, we reflect God’s loving heart.

The prodigal son did not deserve mercy, yet his father ran to him. Picked up his robe and RAN! He showed undignified mercy and grace: a love that exceeds what is right and acceptable in man’s eyes. God’s love is not like that of the world. It is forgiving, kind, patient, and an endless source of acceptance. And that is God’s love to us. It never exhausts itself, never runs dry. Always there is more and more grace.

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking salvation here, we’re talking sanctification, that process by which we become more and more like Jesus Himself. Here’s why: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us,” Titus 3:5a. In other words we are saved by grace alone. God’s work, though, is not finished in us by His redemptive act on the cross. We are being renewed and transformed day by day: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2. Your salvation is not based on your obedience, but your rewards may be. Sanctification is a day by day work of God in our lives, a yielding to His Holy Spirit to obey. And part of that Holy Spirit’s work in us is to teach us to give grace when it is needed, even when it is difficult and may seem impossible to give. But He will strengten us to do so. It will bring us good and will bring Him glory.

Yes, “grace” has got to be the most beautiful word in the human language.

We will bury my Aunt this week. She lived 95 long years on this earth. That is a long time in human terms, but merely a moment in God’s. Each one of us will come to the end of our days on earth. Life is too short to waste on harsh words, demanding one’s own way, keeping lists that should be stamped “paid in full”. If God can hold us in high esteem who fail to keep his laws, how can we hold one iota against anyone else? Give and it will be given to you. What measure will we choose? Give grace every chance you get – you won’t regret it! How will I be remembered? How will you be remembered? Choose well. Give grace.