Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Soil Surrender

I love to dig in the dirt and get my hands in the soil.  To watch as one, tiny plant becomes part of the Father’s landscape is a feast of wonder.  More amazement comes from beholding a portrait of an entire garden and realizing it is an artwork, not only of an earthly gardener, but also of the master Creator.
My journey with Jesus shares much with the love and labor a gardener places into her soil.  I often have to dig to prepare my heart so that I can grow into stillness or rejoice with illumination.  It takes precious investment of time and requires work, as I surrender to the Father and allow His holy hands to tend the soil of my soul.  His tending is a humbling experience, and it provokes a change in my personal lifestyle, which is only lived by God’s gift of grace.

After walking with Jesus for a number of years, I am finding, more and more, that with the Trinity, quality is much more important than quantity.  Spending hours with Jesus is good, but so much more important is soil surrender - giving my whole self to the hands of my Gardener.  Being relinquished to him.

I'll never forget the time I first heard the word "relinquishment."  I was a young wife and mother and often grew disillusioned with my role as a pastor's wife and as a mother.
According to The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/relinquishment, relinquishment means to give up or abandon; to let go; to surrender; and, my favorite, to cease holding.

Relinquishment is the key to walking with Jesus.  It is the path to the Lord's path.  The more I give up of myself, the more I experience peace, hope, faith, love, and all the enduring qualities only he can give.  Relinquishment is abandonment of my own and reception of God's own.

Father, help me to listen with intention, to give less of my voice and hear more of yours; to be less focused on doing and more focused on being; to let you lead me to your word, rather than allowing the selfish desire for knowledge to rule me.   
As a teen, I had an inspirational poster on the wall of my soft pink bedroom.  The poster had a lovely picture of a large, ravishing tree, with the following scripture from Colossians 2.7:
Just as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so go on living in him—in simple faith. Grow out of him as a plant grows out of the soil it is planted in, becoming more and more sure of the faith as you were taught it, and your lives will overflow with joy and thankfulness.
Those words from Colossians became the anchor of my young soul.  I meditated on them daily and have never forgotten them, and they are yet my mainstay because of their prolific truth.  I often find myself telling my Gardener, as Simon Peter did long ago, “Where in the world could I go but to you, Jesus?  You are the only One Who has anything worthy to offer me.  You are the only way to eternal life” (John 6.68, my paraphrase).
Father and Creator of life, place your hands into the soil of my soul and create in me a well, wherein my roots will run deep.  Lord, give me grace to yield to your tender care so that real peace will reign in me and real life flow from me.
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” Psalm 42.7, NIV.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mama, Me, & Stretching





...I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.


~ 2 Corinthians 12.7-10, The Message


“Oh, Andrea, I can’t; I can’t; it hurts.….”  My mama’s call not only struck chords in my ears, but also bore holes in my heart.”  She was in severe pain, suffering the agony of a broken hip.  I squeezed her hand and told her she could. That she had to.  She had to do as the physical therapists told her or she would not get well.  


Later that day, I spent moments in reflection.  I thought of how my fingers had brushed through Mama's white hair, my lips bent to her ears, and my hand grasped hers so tightly and Mama’s grasped back.  


Progressively, my thoughts journeyed to the season of her fair hands brushing my hair for church and school.  How they touched my forehead with tenderness when my body was fevered.  How she took me to the doctor.  How she made biscuits every morning and took me to piano lessons.  I thought of how she told me I could….


In the stretching days of my youth, Mama was there to hold me. 


In the stretching days of her senior season, I was there to hold her.


The power of holding and helping my own mother created an immense well within me.  Tears easily find their way past that well and into my eyes and down my cheeks. 


As I now sit, touching the computer keys, she is in rehabilitation at a nursing facility.


I am in her house with my husband.  We are in her home.  Alone.  Without Mama.


She has many stretching days ahead of her before she returns to this sweet, small rancher that is surrounded by nature and quiet.  When Mama returns, she will not be the same.  Her separation and stretching will mold her anew, as she adjusts to living alone again.


I am like my mother.  I cry when I’m in pain.  I ache when I am stretched.  I scream when I think it’s just too much for me to handle, when I think, “I can’t.” 


I suppose we are all a bit the same.  In the frailty of our flesh, we cry and resist, whether we are being stretched in the physical or being stretched in the spiritual. 


Physical stretching is felt in the body.  Spiritual stretching is known in the soul and felt in the natural.

 
I truly do not know a time in my life when I was not being stretched by my Father.  And, so many seasons of stretching have included cries of doubt.  “I can’t, Lord God.”  “It’s just too much.”  “Please stop the suffering.  Stifle the pain.  Cease the Season.” 


And, into the depths of my comfort zone, He then breathes into my ear and soul, “You can “and reminds me of the Spirit-inspired words of the Apostle Paul, that God's strength is perfected in our weakness.


In one of the loveliest pieces of scripture given to us by God, Paul tells the truth about stretching and the key to surviving its agony.  Paul shared deep, godly truth that is hard to hear.  His response to his own stretching, “thorn in the flesh,” was one that challenges me today.  “I will most gladly rejoice in my infirmities….

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


"Ears" Are For Listening



"His hearing's fine.  All the tests are normal."  Our perplexity must have quickly shown on our faces.  The wise pediatrician looked at Jeff and me and replied before we questioned.  "Your son has selective hearing.  He's choosing what he wants to hear and doesn't want to hear." 

Yes.  We understood the kind doctor's words.  Our five year old son, Chris, had discovered an escape from unwanted words.  "Pick up your toys."  "Brush your teeth."  "Look at us."  Our imperative clauses were being ignored, not really unheard.

The visit to the doctor was revealing and healing.  Five year old Christopher understood he had been effective in the short term, but unwise in the long term.  A loving, short talk after leaving the pediatrician's office resolved the problem.  Our future imperatives were no longer ignored.  Chris chose to listen.


How's my hearing, Lord?

A still, small voice echoed through my soul in morning's soft light before I even pushed away warm, fuzzy blankets.  My momentary listening was soon smothered by daily demands.  The to-do's were not minimal:

Read the word with focus. 
Prepare my house for the market.
Do the church bulletin.
Fold yesterday's laundry.
Continue my 7th Year journey.
Study my Sunday school lesson.
Balance the checkbook.
Pay bills.
Care for my granddaughters.
Schedule doctors appointments.
And so on.

My lists are always written in black on the back of an index card.  Plain paper is very persuasive when its marks provide plans and structure for life.  These marks are good thoughts.  Words of needful things.

Needful:  what is essential, required, vital, imperative. 

We all have needful things.  Our conscious is too often overcrowded with what must be done.  Our Father, knowing our needs, equips us with wisdom, time, and gifts to fulfill all life asks of us.  Tasks that cry to us, body and soul.  Ideas that beg the lifting of hands, moving of feet, and investment of heart.

Yes, tasks cry. 

Their sounds are loud.  Boisterous.  RESOUNDING!

Beneath their boasts, lies the faint of still.  It is smothered, yet lives, and begs for listening.

How's my hearing, Lord? 

Teach me how to hear Your word though I am crowded with din of self and noise of life.  Teach me to savor Your whispers.  Teach me to select Your words, and to stop and embrace them, to hold them closely, write them down, meditate on them, and allow You to engrave their truth into my heart.

How's my listening, Lord?

Father, I ask for ears to hear beyond my temporal noise, for listening that will carry my soul into Your presence, and my own words to "Yes."
Grace, Friends,






A special thanks to Alicia Britt Chole, my friend and mentor, whose tireless work in The 7th Year is inspiring me to learn to hear.

"And the LORD came and called as before, 'Samuel! Samuel!'  And Samuel replied, 'Speak, your servant is listening.'”

1 Samuel 3:9-11

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MIGHTY JUNGLE: MIGHTER GOD


 "Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."  
~ Lamentations 3:22

FRIENDS, I AM SHARING A PIECE OF MY HEART WITH YOU.  A POST IS LONG OVERDUE.

"What did you say, Honey?"  My husband's voice could not have sounded more gentle.  Its soothing kindness humbled me.  His tender, compassionate soul captivated mine, yet, searching my fog-ridden mind for an answer was too tiring.  Response was so distant.  Too far to reach.  Words alive seconds before lay dead.

Yet, these dead words and others in my life are not dead so silent.  Their powerful influence screams with life.

They are an unyielding, haunting, scrambled voice, an unwelcomed echo that takes no notice of my desire that they be raised.

I plead.  I shout.  The dormant bundles do not hear.  They do not listen.

Doctors tell me it is "brain fog," an inability to recall words or details, a fuzzy sort of feeling in the head.  Concentration can be elusive.  And the frustration of it all is hard to reconcile in a body exasperated with pain, exhaustion, and muscle stiffness.

I look for mercy.  I hope for reprieve from the other annoyances of  reflux, dizziness, depression, tinnitus, and hair loss.

Yet, fibromyalgia has chosen to make its presence known in my life.  It must be heard.  It must be felt.

Fibromyalgia is like a choking vine.  It wraps and wraps, trying to mask the person whose life has become its ground and wall.  Its job is to suffocate, to criple, to put down.

As I write these words, my "voice" struggles through a mighty jungle.  I am impassioned.  Like one who longs to find her secret garden behind sticky thorns, sappy branches and clinging vines, I work to cut down and pull out barriers to imagination.

My strength is inefficient.  My work is lacking.  My persistence is waning. 

I gasp for air, as one being buried in woody mire.  The echoes of confinement raise to mock my insufficiency.  These echoes are clear, understood words.  They work to banish hope, to kill desire, to destroy belief.

These words mean war.

I fight for faith, reach for grace, grasp for knowledge of One Who can smother the brutal echoes, Who can with one word crumble walls and cut vines, Who has strength to bear life and lift from mire, Who has hope to restore loss, Who has grace to soothe pain.  One,...

Who waits for my stillness.

When faced with chronic pain, stillness is not the natural way for most, including me.  We want to move.  We want to search and find our own way.  We go to doctors and physical therapy.  We take medication.  We scan the web and look for help.  We go on special diets.  We visit the health food store.  We fight to have our life the way we know it should be.  The way it used to be.

Such has been my fleshly fight.

And, in the midst of this fleshly fight, I have come face to face with a greater enemy.  It is a bigger opponent than pain.

It is a war of  a weary soul.  My soul yearns for rest within.  It cries with the need to be still, the need to find deeper grace, the need to know greater personal reality with God, the need to live Paul's words that tell me to be "content in whatever situation I am in" (Philippians 4:11).

Friends, I seek healing, but I also seek something, Someone, greater than healing.

An understanding of the phrases, "Seek the Giver, not the gift; seek the Healer, not the healing," are my reality.  And,...

it is precious reality. 

Perhaps that sounds foreign to you.  But before you judge me, listen to my heart.

I am living with pain allowed by a God so loving, so compassionate, so tender, so I would seek the beauty of sufficient grace.  Grace that pours like a river into the life of one who is only and always not enough on her own.  Grace that is only found through surrender that calls loudly for more and more of me.

Grace that is not found in the pew of my church.  Grace that is not found in a perfectly well body.  Grace that is not found in pristine appearance.  Grace that is not found in serving.  Grace that is not found in a perfect life.

I seek that grace that is found on the battlefield of my insufficiency and His sufficient place.    

I weep.  I rejoice.  I huddle in pain.  I rise in praise.  I hurl in rebellion.  I crumble in surrender.  

I taste depression, yet dance with joy because He is faithful.  And, He is my God, Who loves me with everlasting love! 

Friends, the Father's grace does not compare with human best.  All the times and seasons of our lives are in His nail-scarred hands.  I cannot weigh God's goodness on human scales.  With every prayer breathed, I ask Him to be my all in all.  I pray to let go of my human need to understand, and to let go of any fleshly idea that I have a right to understand.

I work to surrender.  To flesh-out my faith.  I confess my not enough, and glory in Christ's everything in everything. 

Reality stings and sets free, for awesome victory follows surrender! 

I hope you hear my heart leaping, as my fingers press my keyboard with promise!  I pray you are rejoicing with me as you hear the Vinedresser cutting through a mighty jungle in my life! 

I'm alive, and my soul will ever live to give glory to the One and only God and Jesus Christ, my redeemer.   

As I close, I am thinking now of so many who suffer much, much more than I do.  This day, so many live with devastating words, and so many hearts break and are breaking because of pain that speaks terminal hopelessness.  Please pray for these lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Please cry out to God for those who face cancer and other severe illnesses and traumatic injuries.  Ask God for healing and hope. 

Because of His Grace, Through His Love,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

When Mountains Won't Move

Jones Valley, Huntsville, AL

A simple sharing of Psalm 24...

I am surrounded by mountains.  In the winter months, their brownish peaks tell of both dormancy and awaiting life.  In spring, their leaves of verdant hues fill in empty spaces in my horizon, creating beauty and expanding joy.   

Our city is flanked by the foothills of the Appalachians, so their blue-green peaks are ubiquitous.  One of my favorite places to tread is Jones Valley.  Just eleven years ago, when we first moved to Huntsville, it was only pastureland.  Now it is also now a vibrant, growing shopping center.  Most of my buying ambitions are satisfied there.  I love to bargain shop!  When I come out of Target or Marshall's or Ross (my best places), I am always taken back by the mountains in the distance before me.  God's creative force forces praise from my soul.  I walk to my car, humbled and thankful that He is my God and that there is no other!

Mountains are a statement of God's power!

Is that the powerful force David discussed in Psalm 24?  "Who may climb the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?"  The Psalmist continues to write that purity ushers us into God's presence.  Purity levels the mountains of separation between us flawed humans and our holy God. 

The desperate need of God's presence and power in my life compels me to seek purity.  Every day.  At morning, noon, evening, and in-between.  Each moment, I seek wholeness, so that I will be whole in His presence, so that I will "receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God" my Savior (v.5).

If I seek purity, I meet with majesty.  Yes, God's majesty awaits a sanctified heart. 

Yet, sometimes, I must admit, purity seems so far, so unachievable.  Because it is.

It is unachievable in my own strength.  Without the cross, without grace, I am hopelessly abandoned to self-will and sin. 

So, the seeking of "the mountain of the Lord" and "God's holy place" begins in determined abandonment of my own nature.  I am thinking of Mary whose great solace was taking "a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair (John 12:3).  I am thinking of Ruth, who told Naomi,  "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16).  I am thinking of Paul who wrote to the Corinthians,  "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him (2 Corinthians 11:2). 

Inspiring and urging voices lead me to purity.  Father, how I need your purity, so the glory of God will be seen in me.

I see the "holy hill" before me now.  Yes, it is a long walk and is up a hill.  On that hill stands a cross, and below that cross is ground for kneeling....   

  



Scriptures used are from the NIV Bible.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Light in the Heart of Dimness


From my heart to yours, I thank you for bearing with me as I am draw from the Well of Living Waters and seek his strength.  When I last posted in November, I did not expect to be away from blogging for so long.  I never planned a break.  I just kept clinging to the belief that each day I would feel rested and find strength to post again.  That day has not arrived; yet, I am beginning to see light flicker in dimness.

The flurry of bringing our home back together, increasing chronic pain and fatigue, along with caring for my grandchildren and keeping up with church became a bit overwhelming for me.  It is not easy to admit weakness, but I recognize pride as a dangerous enemy and a barrier that prevails against overcoming faith.  So, I appreciate your prayers, as I seek refreshment that I may again encourage you and give my life more wholly to Jesus.

Isn't God great?  Aren't you so thankful to know him and share in the gospel of Jesus Christ?  God's faithfulness and mercy astound me each day, and despite my feelings, I awake every morning with joy, knowing that He created our days and nothing surpasses his knowledge or love.  Oh, yeah!  Lamentations 3:22-24 is one of my favorite passages, and I can't go one day without it! 

"Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'”

Hold that one close to your soul, my friend!  And let the words of Jeremiah filter through your struggles.  He knew his portion.  That portion is God himself, "who was and is and is to come" (Revelation 4:8).  Never count God out!  He always shows up!  Bless his holy name!

I love you, sweet friends!  Hang with me, please!






P. S.  The pic below is from Christmas day.  My husband is always by my side, and I love him for his heart that's so huge it would hold the world and for his awesome love for the Lord.



*Bible quotes are from the NIV.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BREATHE ON PURPOSE

This season lingers with whispers of His grace.

The massive tree ten steps from my picture window has now shed most of its leaves. The tree top is green and gold. The lower part is sparse with golden, withering growth, and as I watch the wind gently blow through the oak's branches, the golds, piece by piece, fall gracefully eastward. The new fallen leaves then waltz in the cool, November air, looking to nest on our ground. They seem to seek for rest from their shady work, while they wait to be cured and carried away.

I love to watch their descent. I love to walk in the dead leaves and enjoy their crunchy texture and think of the hope they give. 

Hope?

Yes. My falling and fallen leaves speak of a forward glance. They make me think of Thanksgiving, Christmas, a new year, and even a spring to come. The death of an old season gives me pause, as I anticipate celebration with family and build expectation of new life in a season to be born.

Yes. Fall gives me pause, an intermission, a tarrying, a choice time of lingering, a restful breath, a temporal stay from past activity.

Author Eudora Welty spoke of a pause as a slowing down, "like a merry-go-round after a ride." I can relate to her metaphor. As a child, I loved a merry-go-round, and if given a chance, I would still love to step onto the huge turntable and pick my seat, hoping for a carriage, where I could sit and enjoy riding and watching.

I would hate for the ride to end, but the slowing down before its stop would pull my heart and head into balanced reality.

Balanced reality. Restful waitings. Temporary stays. Intentional breathings.

When placed together, those four phrases sound very enticing.  In imagination their ideas resonate with desire.  In reality, they are met with resistant pleas.

They are, nonetheless, part of our Father's pattern for Christian existence. 

God's word is full of intentional breathings.  Thank of Jacob's fourteen year wait for Rachel; Joseph's three year wait in prison; Jonah's three-day stay within the fish's belly; Jesus' three-day wait on Resurrection power; the disciples 120-day wait in the Upper Room, and our Father's sovereign choice to rest one day after His six days of creating the world.

Jesus spoke about the need for restful waits. His words to His disciples when they were weary from ministry anchor my soul. Listen to His authoritative, compassionate plea, as Jesus speaks of the need for pause:

"Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31, ESV).

Receive those words for your life. Not only were they spoken for Jesus' disciples over two thousand years ago, but Jesus speaks them for us now. In my mind, I can hear His compassionate, Shepherd's voice. It is so personal and caring. Its gentleness breaks my soul in pieces. To grasp His loving reach is so humbling.

Yet, I sometimes tire in my grasp. Have you ever prayed with tired arms? "Father, I know you love me. I need you. I can't live without you, but my soul is weighed down with __________________. I long to reach back, to let the power of your love soak my dryness. Help me rest and believe."


The Greek word Jesus uses for rest in Mark 6:31 is anapauo (an-ap-ow-o), which means to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; to refresh; to give one’s self rest; to keep quiet; to be calm and have patient expectation.

Some seasons of our lives feel like a movie stuck on pause. Can anyone relate?  The seeming suspension of time is frustrating and discouraging. The sense of stillness is unnatural to our flesh and makes us question our purpose and future. The craving for rest is powerful, but seems beyond reach. Isn't it ironic that the simplicity of ceasing can be such a war for us?

The craving of resting in Christ vs. the desire to find our own way is an exhausting fight, and it's a war we cannot win on our own. A lot of things may help, but only One can deliver. Only Jesus' strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Take time for breathing. Yield to Christ's call. Create a place for some restful waiting. Let Jesus' words give life and healing as you choose to be in His presence.

He speaks. He offers rest. He extends renewal.

As falling leaves prepare my tree for a new season, so God's pauses in our lives prepare our souls for fresh grace. Rest is not a delay of God's best. It is part of His best. And, friend, for spiritual wholeness, it's really not an option.

Take His hand and go with Him. By yourself. Find a quiet place and rest your soul in the strong arms of your Father.

Waiting and Expecting,