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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Worship From the Heart

Could it be that true worship is finding the depths of our hearts of living from there?

Many in the Christian world tell us to sacrifice those true desires of our heart.  To die to self.  To just focus on others, quit thinking of ourselves, and that will fix everything.  Fix our selfishness.

But what if our true selves are the greatest gift to mankind?

Does that sound like heresy?

Yes, we die to that old false self.  The one that seeks to numb our true thoughts and feelings, the one that runs after temporary things that do nothing to satisfy.

Instead of trying to pursue God, maybe the point is to quit running and let God catch us.  He is always there.

He wants to get to the deepest parts of our heart.

That used to be so scary to me.  I was terrified at what He would find.

Sure, there was sin there.  But what a relief to have that come to light and surrender it and let Him clean out my heart.

But beyond that sin is the true glory of God in us -- Christ in us.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Each one of us.  Created to glorify Him in our unique true selves.

One only needs to take a trip to an excellent aquarium or zoo.  All of the various species of water life and bird life shouts of the passion God has for beauty, individuality and uniqueness.

When I traveled to New York City almost a decade ago, I was blown away by the variety of human life.  There is no normal when it comes to human culture.  You see every color, style and lifestyle displayed (I'm excluding twisted, sinful lifestyles when I speak of this).

I want to dare to live from the depths of my heart.  To give up those things that are only there from an overblown sense of responsibility.

Can I do it?  Can I find those things hidden in the depths.

I think God's relentless pursuit of our hearts is to uncover those things.  Because He put them there.

And my old religious and try-hard mentality wants to warn me that this is dangerous -- and heretical.
But I want to dare to live this way.  To cut off all of those tentacles of should's and expectations of others and those expectations of that try-hard self.

I want to dare to live as if my truest worship is living from the depths of my heart.  Of coming in agreement with God and discover that person He truly created me to be.

And I will know it.  Things will awaken and come alive.  It will just feel right.  These things will be pure and holy -- I don't have to fear that.  But they won't be sterile and lifeless.

Give Ourselves Permission

(I wrote this before the post immediately preceding this.  It definitely repeats some similar thoughts.)

Why is it so hard to give ourselves permission to do what we really want to do?

I'm not talking about a selfish, lazy, slobby life.  

I'm talking about doing those things that we yearn to do.  The thing God has put in our souls to do?

I keep thinking I have done that.  But then, I find myself -- again -- doing a bunch of stuff that I absolutely dread, and I won't admit it to myself.

I mentioned a few months ago that I felt like I had become a complete women.  I think to me, a complete woman was like living off a buffet line of life.

Does that make sense?

In a way, life is like a buffet.  There are so many choices and things to do and try.  

But wise people, when they eat at a buffet, will choose the things they really want to eat.  If we think we need to get a taste of everything, we probably won't enjoy it nearly as much.  But choosing two or three of our favorites makes for the most enjoyable meal.  

It's been good that I have lived like that for awhile.  It helps to try some things.  Some things had to be tried to just put them to rest.  Otherwise, I will always doubt whether I should have gone down that road.

Moving to the Hill Country was one of those things.  We tried it, and now we are happily back here.  

So I have tried a lot of things.  And I have found that a lot of roads to travel were not the right ones for me.  And maybe, some paths are just not the right timing.

So my body and soul have rebelled again.  They're craving rest and nesting and domestic and creative pursuits.  They're craving quiet times with God, deep thought, and a few deep friendships.  

Living Life When Routine is Impossible

I was trying to decide whether to use the word "routine" or "control."  Thinking about it, routine is a better word.  No routine does not guarantee a lack of control.

My mind wants so hard to have a routine.  I admire -- even envy -- those who live so well on routine.  But why do I crave that so much?  Surely, it must be boring.:/  Maybe I have envied that because I was never good at it.

Yes, and I do get bored with routine.  Typical for one with ADD.

From my memory of studying about coping with ADD, routine is essential!  So say some experts.  And that's probably true in some or many instances, like when you are in college or have an 8-5 job.

But I remember reading from others, Dr. Hallowell maybe, that the key is finding what you love, what you do well.  And learning how to play.  And create.  And not spending undue time working on areas that are not your strong point.

I test heavy on the left-brain side, the logical side.  I loved algebra.  And workbooks.  And putting things in slots, like when you diagram sentences.  The left-brain side just doesn't compute that well in living my life.  I get stifled and claustrophobic.

But I have discovered a right-brain (creative) side to me that has been incompletely explored.  And a whole new world out there to live.

I also have a huge obstacle to living by a routine.  Since 1999, I have been hopeless in having a consistent sleep/wake schedule due to severe insomnia and fibromyalgia.  And that makes a routine extremely difficult.

In the last several days, I have gone to bed the following times:  4:00 a.m., 7:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 2:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., 2:00 a.m.  I've written about this before, but my body does not seem to be able to live on a 24-hour schedule.  I may go for a few weeks getting up at the same time, but then I have a crash--and I'm sick again.  If I wake and sleep according to my energy levels, I end up having approximately six days in a week rather than seven.

When I'm stronger and not having a lot of fibromyalgia symptoms, I can do the 24-hour days if absolutely necessary But now, I am going through a rough patch, and 24-days do not work.  I have to have much more than 7-8 hours of sleep.  A couple of "nights" recently, I even slept 12-14 hours.  Then sleeping that many hours requires staying up longer to feel sleepy again.

Am I making you want to tear your hair out?  I do sometimes.  I think, well if only I will do. . . .

But alas, it's so complicated, and there have been no answers so far.

And I get frustrated and even more determined to be normal.

So today, I don't have an answer to this little issue.  I'm trying to learn to surrender the problem to my Father and trust.  And be willing to do whatever I hear Him telling me to do.

Right now, I am hearing to turn lose of control.

And I still have a life to live.  It feels like most of it is going on while Jake and the rest of the world are sleeping.  Thank goodness, Jake and I do spend a lot of time together.  We just don't usually sleep at the same time.  We did have a couple of days when I was only awake while Jake was either asleep or at work.  Now that can get old.  Jake was so glad to be able to sit on the couch next to me this evening instead of sitting all by his lonesome the last couple of nights.

I started loudly serenading him with "All By Myself."

We are going to see the kids on Friday, and my most urgent goal is to be able to be awake when everyone else is on Saturday and Sunday.  I may not be full of energy, just awake.

Back to the subject of living life when routine is impossible:

Maybe routine is a substitute to walking in the Spirit.  Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit as a wind.  We don't know where it comes from and where it is going.  If I truly learn to walk in the Spirit, I can't depend on a list of activities I do everyday.  In some cases, that might impede flowing in the Spirit.  I don't know--I'm just encouraging myself.

Yes, some routine is necessary.  We had better be brushing our teeth daily, etc., etc.

I think what is important and within my control is what I actually do with the hours that I have.  I have a lot of quiet hours, with Jake sleeping with the door open (although he does run a fan to muffle some noise).

During that time, I can do Bible study, do a quiet crafting project, go to Wal-Mart.  I can work on the other blog(s) I want to set up, write, organize pictures.  I can do any kind of housework that doesn't make racket (which is a huge challenge for me).  I am just noisy (just like my dear old dad).

Maybe I can find a group that meets in the middle of the night, haha.  Or find another friend who has hours like me.

I tend to think of the nighttime hours as the relaxing hours.  Most of us do.  But for me, it can become the beginning of my work day.

The point is that my available hours are going to vary unless something drastic changes.  These hours could be anywhere from early morning until late at night depending on what my body needs.  But I can find plenty of purpose and important ways to use that time.  That's the thinking I need to adopt.

I'm spending way too much effort and brain power trying to fix something that doesn't seem to be able to be fixed.  At least for now.

* * * * * * *

I'm thinking and praying a lot about the kind of life I should be living.  I feel like God has called me up short again about attempting a lot of things that are not coming from my heart.  So this crazy schedule will actually help me do those things that are sincerely bubbling up from within.

When I started my "new life" back in September of 2016, I was more about just doing and accomplishing more.  Expanding my life in all sorts of ways and being able to check more off.  And I got a kick out of that.  It was satisfying to some extent.  But I can see now how some of that aspiration was skewed.  Like I was trying to be a little bit of everything.

I'm realizing now that less is more.  Quality rather than quantity.  There is an 80/20 principle.  Many businesses adopt this, finding the best 20 percent to expend 80 percent of the money and time pursuing.

I suspect that the most successful people spend most of their time on only two or three areas.  They passionately pursue their highest priorities.  The lesser ones are delegated out or worked out with little thought or energy.  And they are not expending all kinds of time and energy trying to impress others or even themselves.

I want to live this way.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Out of Control

Somehow, I think that life is about learning to live out of control.

When I think of times in my life where it seems that I'm back and forth, doing this, now that, it's because I'm trying to bring some type of control in this unsure life of mine.

We want to control what is coming next, don't we?   Then, we squeeze the life out of living.

The pressure of trying to have that control has been weighing on me.

God didn't design us to have that kind of control.  He causes us to reign in life, but we don't reign over all of our circumstances.

I seek for an abundance of life -- not an abundance of things.  But I think I put that type of abundance in a box.  It has to look such and such a way.

But does that give any hope to those who are housebound?  To those who have recently lost a much-loved one?  To those who have just gone through bankruptcy?  To one whose child is estranged or desperately hooked on some substance?

And do we live under the pressure that those circumstances must be fixed to "know" we have faith?

Somehow, I think it is the opposite.

It's hit me how much pressure I feel -- or put on myself -- or let others put on me -- that I must be totally well and strong and healthy.  And goodness, I want to be.

But that is out of my control.

How much of my striving to become well actually contributes to me becoming well?

I've been reading others' writings who live with chronic illness.  Some have even died.  But they seem to stress finding God and joy in the midst of their struggles.

My strong desire today is to surrender the control I have in my life -- to learn to live totally "out of control."  

It's not giving up.  It's choosing to live in abundance in spite of.  It's finding abundance in the best things, the eternal things.

And if I get well, it's just icing on the cake.

Living out of control means that we may not know what we are supposed to do tomorrow.  

But God lets me know what I am to do right now.  That one next step.

And if I don't even know that, then maybe He just wants me to stop and wait on Him.  What freedom that is!

So here is to living life out of control!

Love is About Life

The hardest thing about writing must be the ability to put into words those deep things that are coming up inside of one's self.

I woke up very late today, about 2:00 p.m., but I had a ton of awesome sleep.  It was great.

And I had been dreaming.  All kinds of nonsensical things, but somehow, they were good things.

I woke up just craving life and relationship the way it is supposed to be.

I have an event coming up that I'm wanting to hide from.  I realized that yesterday.  The event had become something that just has to be done, all the life had been squeezed from it.

I've been confused, wanting to close that part of my life forever, but willing to do whatever God wants.

Diane called me later.  And it was one of those encouraging times together where both of us were ready to go conquer the world.

Diane said the greatest Diane quote:  "Well, now I'm going to go be strong and awesome, and stuff like that."

And if you knew my friend, it is just so her.  I cracked up laughing.  I knew I had to write that down and not lose it.  She said she needed to make it a facebook post.

But in our conversation, we were talking about the scheduled event because she is actually in charge of it.  And she gave me the most amazing gift.  I can just flow with it.

The event is my teaching on marriage at our mentor group Monday night.  First of all, I don't even know how I will feel that day.

And the things bubbling up inside of me are not the normal things groups tend to teach about marriage.

One thing God has shown me about myself:  I am a pioneer and a trailblazer.  And sometimes I go places where others fear to go.

Now it's hard to even get me out of the house a lot of days.  I'm not talking about those kind of places.  I'm talking about places in the heart and in life and relationship.

And if it does not flow with life, I don't want any part of it.

I've always had the hardest time understanding how to live out of love.  Because true love gets distorted so many times.  And what can appear to be love can bring death, and vise versa.

But when you see love from the viewpoint of life -- what brings life to us -- it makes so much sense.  I know when I feel full of life.  Have you experienced that life I am talking about?  Life that bubbles up from within and explodes into joy?

Real love brings that kind of life.

Diane is one of those friends who has walked with me for decades through the biggest struggles of my life: death, illness, grief, depression.  She gets me and understands what I need.  What an awesome gift.

And she gave me such a wonderful gift today.  Monday night, I have permission to attend or not to attend.  I have permission to just go with how the Holy Spirit leads.  And so does she.

So I still don't know what I am supposed to do Monday night, but suddenly, it's okay.  We will just be dependent on God and see how He has on his agenda.

What a relief!  The pressure is off.

Let's quit putting so much pressure on ourselves.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Trap of Busyness

You know, I don't have to be ill to have permission to get off of that rowing treadmill.

I can be totally active and busy and never get back on it again.

So why do I keep returning to the same old thing?

It's sort of like I return -- but not in the same way or the same extent that I did before.

Sort of like three steps forward and one step back.

I think I am growing fast enough that I don't usually take TWO steps back.  Or I certainly hope so.

I am one of those who has most of her day open and unplanned.  Does it sound awesome?  Or maybe excruciating?

When I first hit this part of my life, I was in a crisis.  In the past, I had to go to school or to a job or raise my kids, including educating them.

I never thought about what to do when those things were over.

But there is always this pressure in my life to BE BUSY!  That is what successful people do.  If we are not busy, we must be lazy, right?

But busyness can be such a trap!

Mind you, I am always busy, it seems.  There are tons of "productive" things I can be doing.  Housework, cooking, laundry, ironing, organizing, decorating, bookkeeping, etc., etc.  And then there are diversions that constantly keep me busy if I so choose--internet, games, knitting, reading.

And I have gotten very good at keeping crisis items at bay.  I hate having those last minute emergencies to take care of; and I usually will have those done before the due date.

It's so hard to slow life down enough where we actually live with our thoughts and emotions.  In comes regret and anxiety, and who knows what all.

When I began this new journey at the time I started this blog, I wanted to see what was possible.  What I could do or learn or start.  I wanted to fill up my life with worthy things.  And good things.

And it hasn't been bad.  This has been an amazing time of my life.  But I think I keep falling back in that trap of the need to do more and more.  And I run in danger of missing the entire point.

The One Thing in my life is to know and be with God -- to want and crave and pursue that above all things.  To be a Christ pursuer.  And not just reading about what Jesus did and try to do it.  No, that gets to be a trap, too.

I mean to pursue just being with Him.  Talking with Him, soaking in His life and His Word.  Letting my life and everything I do be breathed of God.  That includes ministering to someone or cleaning the toilet or knitting a sweater or holding my grandbaby.

So to do that, I have to slow down . . . .

Slow down my thoughts, slow down my activities.  Turn off the noise.  Learn to be still and listen even when I am doing.

Now I did say that we can be busy and not be on that darn treadmill.  And we can.  If that activity is breathed of God.  

I am still learning this new way to live.  And I don't have it all figured out.  Sometimes, it's like I have to stop everything to turn off the machine.  

And sometimes, I find myself flowing in my activities the way I should.  

Do you struggle with this?  How do you learn to sail rather than row?

Living Rather Than Working

How does God transform us?

I have  a book entitled Forming: A Work of Grace.  In it, David Takle used a very useful analogy to help us understand our walk with God.

Most of us row in our lives.  But God equips us with an amazing boat, with these huge sails to capture the wind of His Spirit--to be moved as He moves.  

But it's like a complicated dance for us to learn.  We hate our awkwardness in learning to sail and go back to what we know best -- rowing.

And that voice clangs in our head like a galley chief:  "Row!  Row! Row!  Row!"

And we just keep on -- until we are exhausted, or we give up and quit on life.  Or the strongest get very good at rowing -- usually becoming self-righteous.

If we could just understand.  If we could open our spiritual sails and allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to fill us, empower us, lead us, move us.

Jesus came to give us a new yoke -- and a New Way to live.  The Way of the Spirit rather than of the Law.

The New Way is one based on relationship rather than work.  We become His.  We become filled with His Spirit.  We become One with Him.

Our thoughts are transformed from one of self-effort, self-reliance, and works to that of believing and moving and living in Christ, our hope of glory.

And we are transformed by gazing on Jesus and keeping our eyes on Him.  Somehow, our awkwardness changes to a wonder of being loved by God and knowing Him deeply.  We learn what true intimacy and transparency are.

We put off our many masks and learn to be one with God.  We are known by God, and we also know Him deeply.

And this intimacy leads to an amazing fruitfulness akin to how marital intimacy leads to children.  It is through oneness with Him and His Word that we see our heart, mind, soul, and body sprouting the beginnings of love, joy, peace, kindness, patience. . . .

Children are a proof of a type of physical intimacy.

And the fruit of the Spirit are proof of a close relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It's so much more than habits.  Habits are good in their limited way.  But to a certain extent, habits are like artificially hanging fruit on a tree like we do ornaments.

But our spiritual walk is so much more than habits, thank goodness.  We first begin to be changed in our hearts and our thoughts, and the emotions and actions follow as we walk by faith.  His Words are written on our hearts rather than on paper and just in our minds.

We don't just force ourselves to do loving acts.  We are lovers.

We don't just paste a smile on our faces.  We are joyful.

We don't have to constantly stop and do deep breathing exercises.  We are peaceful.

So simple, but oh, so difficult for us slow-to-understand humans.

As I am reminding myself of these things, I feel such a relief.  The pressure to row and row is off!  

And I think that is the main thing that causes me to become ill.  
Are you tired?  Worn out?  Burned out on religion?  Come to Me.  Get away with Me and you'll recover your life.  I'll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with Me -- watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.  I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with Me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.  Matt. 11:28-30  The Message