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Waiting

Miracle not Merit

Miracles aren’t based on merit.

Everyone has reason to hope.

These words came to me as I was pondering the number of people I know right now who are counting on a miracle. Some for health issues, others for improved finances, and more for a singular difficult life circumstance to be changed.

I am also waiting for something about which I have been praying specifically for a year and a half. I was talking to God about my request again a couple of days ago and shortly after that made a fairly poor life choice. Almost immediately I decided God will never honor my prayer because of my sin.

That’s when he struck my heart with the words above. If a miracle is based on my behavior, it really isn’t much of a miracle. Then life would always be good as long as I am good and I would be controlling everything. And although I really like having control (topic for another day), that would be a ridiculous and exhausting way to live. It also minimizes who God is and the awesomeness of supernatural intervention.

I contemplated those words and as they sunk into my very soul, the very obvious answer that I am not the recipient of a miracle based on my own merit became real to me.

Miracle as defined by dictionary.com is: 1 an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

2 such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.

Supernatural. Meaning I can’t, He can. Also meaning He doesn’t need me to make it happen. I recognize the power of prayer and the important role that so often plays in the result of miracles day after day. I’m simply saying miracles don’t hinge on my own tally of good versus bad behavior.

As with all gifts from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, miracles are given by grace alone. As was the greatest gift of all–Christ himself.

Letting that message through to my brain and heart is very freeing. It’s all in God’s hands and there is no better place for a person’s desires to be.

If you are waiting for an answer to prayer or a miraculous intervention, let these words permeate you and live in hopeful expectation.

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Wisdom from the Hammock

Lacy pattern of green leaves with deep blue sky filtering in between. That was my view recently when I lay in middle son’s hammock. Above me were branches of three different types of trees (I can name only the popple and oak). I swung quietly and studied them as though I were again a 10-year old with few cares in the world. I had forgotten to grab a blanket but found myself wrapped in the peace of just being. Stopping the noise, chaos, and cares of everyday life to become a part of the beauty surrounding me. I breathed more deeply than I have in a decade.


In that silence and dappled light, thoughts that I’ve been turning over in my head finally had a quiet space to land. Mainly thoughts of perfection and performance. I resist the label perfectionist with a wrestler’s tricks and movement, yet I can’t deny the performance-based foundation I have created for myself in so many ways.

I’m an achiever. Which makes me valuable to others in a lot of areas but also weighs very heavy on me. Nobody can perform THE BEST all the time. And trying to do so is ludicrous. Striving to meet temporary goals is exhausting and leads to disappointment and self-condemnation. It takes away from true life. And quite honestly those to whom those traits are most valuable don’t fit the category of core people in my life. Hmmm. Seems a life change is in order.

True life is that time spent deeply with those I love and who love me back with fierce commitment (the core people!). I am beyond blessed to have a husband, kids, parents, in-laws, and friends who fill that category to overflowing again and again and again. Sometimes I’m a rockstar at showing and giving back that love and time. And sometimes I get distracted because I’m so busy in another area of my life working so hard for that incredibly-best outcome.

God has pressed convictingly on my heart in 2017 about this issue. The choice is unbelievably simple. All those I love ask is that I be present. What has been an ongoing internal wrestling match is starting to become a natural choice. I now clearly see that where I felt conflict, I, in truth, have created my own conflict. 

I woke this morning a little heavy of heart. But this time, before my mind started ticking about how to positively control everything for an excellent outcome, I heard God ask me, “How would you feel right now if you weren’t immersed in A, B, and C?” And I smiled. Jesus fixed A, B, and C for me long before I took my first breath. It’s gonna be a good day. And I’m living some of it from the hammock.

Undone

I’m simply undone. The church I attend semi-regularly has a first Sunday of the month evening worship service that I say I really love but haven’t made a priority in several months. Tonight I pulled myself together 20 minutes before the start and headed out.

I asked God for an answer to a specific prayer on the 5-minute drive. It’s a prayer I’ve been asking off and on (more off than on) for the past 5+ years. I haven’t really been serious about receiving a response from Him because to get one requires something of me. And I’ve been really reluctant to know the outcome of this one. Anyway, question asked on the drive and kind of forgotten as I took my seat.

Sunday night typically has really good worship music. Tonight was no exception, but none of the music was really impacting me. In fact, I had to mentally remind myself several times about where my focus belongs. At some point during the service, I mentioned to God that if He were looking to get a hold of me tonight, the music was going to have to be something really meaningful to me. And I suggested in my heart that it should be something I really like and probably as moving as The Agnus Dei.

The night proceeded. I was touched by the readings, the prayers, the fellowship, and by the music (a little). At the close, the attendees were reminded this was the last Sunday evening service ever. And the worship team closed. With . . . The Agnus Dei.

Total heart silence on my part. Barely able to sing the words. And then I realized God was answering my 5+ year prayer. With the last song. Likely chosen by the worship team days before. On a night when I didn’t even anticipate going to church. Bam. That’s just how God is. I am not random. You are not random. We are forever in His thoughts and He loves us through words and songs and every individual way imaginable.

The answer He shared with me tonight is not one I am thrilled with. In fact, I wrestled with Him a little on the way home, lightly arguing that I meant I wanted better music and that part really wasn’t about answering my prayer. I gave up pretty quickly though. It’s not remotely arguable. He reached out and touched me without a doubt.

What’s next? A whole lot of trust. Because this step isn’t going down without my leaning on him for every footfall. It requires mental, physical, and spiritual commitment of more than I can put forth on my own. Good thing He’s God and I belong to Him. He told me so on a quiet Sunday night in a small town church during their last Sunday evening service.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgUVugjcWI

 

 

Kissing Anxiety Goodbye

Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety – Alli Worthington

Yes. That.

A-n-x-i-e-t-y: An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear over an impending or anticipated ill.

Who wants to have that? Not me. And yet I did. Do. A couple of weeks ago I realized I have been living in an ongoing state of anxiety for months. Some of it I can trace back to a heavy workload and a few twists in the road of life that have taken me by surprise. But the state of extreme anxiety in which I found myself clearly has a lot more buried beneath the surface. Basically, I’ve been wrapped in a chokehold of ever-increasing destructive thought patterns. A self-imposed prison of sorts.

One thing I had immediate conrol over is recognizing that a medication I have been on for several months could be the culprit inducing some of these false feelings. For better or worse and without consulting a medical professional (something I don’t advocate), I went off the pills cold turkey. I felt relief within a couple of days. But not complete relief. And that was a total downer because it meant I needed to face myself. Again. That’s when I went searching for the rest of the problem.

Notice the tail end of the anxiety definition above: “impending or anticipated ill.” I have no such things. I have no reason to believe there is impending or anticipated trouble of any kind and yet I have been living as though I am one tiptoe away from disaster. As I examined these tentacles of dread, I discovered they aren’t carrying truth. Just anxiety. For the sake of anxiety. And to keep me mentally and emotionally tangled up so as not to live in peace.

How to reset myself? I wrestled with that for a little bit. Then I came face to face with the same truth I’ve encountered many times. The truth I don’t like to admit. I have a problem trusting God. I know and believe His words and promises, but I continue to have trouble flat out trusting Him. Even though He has seen us through some real disasters. Time and again. Faithfully. Do I really think that one more misstep on my part is going to put me so far out of His reach that He won’t save me again? I really don’t. Yet I have been living like that is exactly what I believe. Sad. Simply sad. And unnecessary. I know better.

Enter Alli Worthington’s wise words above: Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety. So true. Again, so simple. When I look back over the last several years, there are times of crisis where I have absolutely thrived and seasons of plenty where I have choked on fear. The difference is in the approach. When my eyes are off myself and I am giving thanks and praise to the one who deserves every bit of it, life is navigable and joyful. Hopeful and peaceful.

After months of unfounded fear and a few tears, I am again choosing gratitude. It’s only been a day but that nasty elephant on my chest is gone. And my soul is quietly trusting.

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives [thank God, emphasis mine].

Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. John 14:27 (HCSB)

Sheep pasture.jpg

 

 

 

 

Of Locusts and Asian Beetles

Honestly the only downer of our late autumn warm weather is the plethora of Asian beetles that seem to spring from nowhere and everywhere all at once. Hard to enjoy a few quiet moments on the porch with them landing in the cuffs of my sweahirt and climbing on my shoes–let alone alighting in my hair.

A few Sundays ago it was another unseasonably warm day. Despite my best efforts and prevention, the spotted creatures drove me from my porch again. That particular day was the thickest I have ever seen them. Asian beetles to the left, the right, before, behind, above, and below. And all trying (and succeeding!) to gain entry to my home. I joked to one of my friends that the experience was reminiscent of the plagues of locusts and flies in Exodus.

The return of those sorry little bugs today reminded me again of the plagues. I thought about what awful experiences those must have been. Take my beetle troubles and multiply them by 10,000 and you might get the start of the picture.  As an aside, I’m fairly certain they didn’t have screens in those days.

The word “locusts” also reminds me of two other verses in the bible. Two truths that I am seeing come true in this present day:

So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.

My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied and praise the name of the Lord your God who has dealt wondrously with you and my people shall never be put to shame. Joel 2:25-26

When I started this blog in 2013 it was during a time I categorize as a great trial for me and my immediate family. I wrote through (and sometimes because of) that pain and misunderstanding and truly wondered if life would ever be the same again. 

It isn’t. A person can’t go through a tremendously difficult situation and come out the same. In the midst of it all, I struggled. And out of that struggle came shape. Not one I’m entirely comfortable with because I am warier and more suspicious. But what I gained from the experience is worth my life.

I learned to trust God. To really trust that I am not random, forgotten or uncared for. I have a purpose, a mission, and a method. And when the winds of doubt blow hard, I can think back to those really difficult days and know the truth.

Today I see and stand on the truth of Joel 2:25-26. The years the locusts have eaten are being restored day by day, moment by moment, step by step. Not all has been restored as it was, but we have plenty, we are satisfied, and we praise and glorify God for holding us steady in trial and blessing us in ways we could not have foreseen.

We are not put to shame. The restoration continues and I am awed.

  

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Come Away With Me

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life – Matthew 11:28 (The Message)

Get away. Yes. I need that. It’s not that my life is more difficult or complex than anyone else’s. I just happen to be going through a season where even the simplest task is tiring and anything requiring moderate brainpower is absolutely exhausting.

So I have those pep talks with myself. You know, the really helpful kind. Like, “What is the matter with you?” “Get a grip; everyone else seems to be managing just fine.” “You have so much to be thankful for.” I can play those tapes over and over in my head, but the self berating only exhausts and saddens me more.

Fortunately, today I stumbled across this gem from Matthew 11. I’m familiar with the verse, having previously read it in more traditional language that reads: Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s really good. The weary receive rest. Nice.

But tonight, I like The Message version better. I want more than rest. I desire to get away. I want to recover my life. I don’t want to be angry, easily irritated, and just plain bothered by the people around me. I want to show patience and love and have the energy to enjoy other people.

So what is my responsibility in this? My job is to “get away.” This doesn’t have to be a physical removal (though I’m not opposed to the idea of a vacation). In fact, I think this verse is all about getting away from the details of life that tend to overwhelm me and living life right no matter where I am, no matter what’s happening in or around me.

What I take from this verse is that rather than channel surf, nap, sigh heavily and loudly, and overwork myself to the point of fatigue, I will get away with the one who loves me. It’s as simple as that. By spending time with Him who made me and rejoices over me, everything else is restored to proper perspective and joyful living is recovered.

If you’re tired, crabby, and self-absorbed, come away with me.

And–just to be sure I’m not misunderstood–I enjoy a quality nap and a good movie as much as the next person. They are good and restorative things to do. But trust me, you’ll enjoy them all the more after you’ve gotten away.

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That it May Bear More Fruit

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Almost September, so almost time to prune the Ninebark in front of the house. I am merciless. Whack ’em down to nearly nothing so that next spring they will sprout new green life and by summer be gloriously full of lush green leaves and tiny white sprigs. It’s certainly more fun to enjoy the beauty of the benefits than to engage in the actual hacking–I mean pruning.

So why has that been so hard to figure out in my own life? I’ve got the first part of John 15:2 down pat. That is, the part about my branches that don’t bear fruit being taken away. (Honestly, Lord, sometimes the blade cuts so close it scares me.) But it wasn’t until I read this verse two nights ago that the second half of the verse struck a chord – And every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes.

I read that to mean he is focusing his pruning where I’m already bearing fruit. And that gives me tremendous hope. First because I wasn’t sure there was even a seed, let alone a trace of fruit. Second because sometimes I have so many worthless branches hanging all over me it’s a wonder he can still see me inside of that mess. But he does. And John 15:2 tells me that not only does he see me, he sees a bit of good. A bit of good that with expert trimming grows into something beautiful and worthwhile.

Budding Branch

Do You Want to be Well?

Of course I want to be well. I’m sick of being sick. I have no interest in further hosting this virus that has been kicking my hind end for 4 or 5 days and is just now beginning to relent–a little.

The origin of the question, though, is bigger than whether I want to recover from a modern day annoying virus. The scenario plays out in the Gospel of John, Chapter 5. To synopsize, Jesus is in Jerusalem. He visits the pool called Bethesda where a large number of sick, lame, and paralyzed people waited for an angel (yep, for real) to go into the pool and stir up the water. The first one into the water after the angel makes his move miraculously recovers from his/her ailment(s).

I’ve always wanted a pool. I had never thought of having a pool with a life-healing angel until today. That would be sweet. And I would be well. Always. Hmmm . . .  

Anyway, verse 5 of the John’s Gospel tells us a man had been at the pool for for thirty-eight years. Thirty. Eight. Years. 456 months. 13,870 days. You get the idea. He’s been there a long time. He’s ill. Obviously seriously ill because he has never, ever been the first one into the healing waters. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d have had the will to try again on day 13,871. 

When Jesus sees the man lying there, he asks, “Do you want to get well?” Surely the man must want to respond by saying, “You’re kidding, right? You do understand I’ve been here for 38 years . . . ” Instead the sick man answers that he has no one to put him into the pool so others always get there ahead of him. Jesus tells him, “Get up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And he does. Just like that! (snap of the fingers here)

I wish I could tell you this post is about me getting that pool or that I could theologically explain exactly what Christ is teaching by this healing. I know I’m not getting the pool, so I’ll tell you what this story means to me in my current circumstances.

Jesus knew the man had been ill for 38 years. He sees us. As we are. He knows I have been sick for 5 days. He also knows that physical illness isn’t my biggest obstacle right now. I’m being healed of my virus. Maybe it’s just tired of living in this body that gets crabbier every day it has to coexist with such a rude, unrelenting guest.

My other current unwell condition is spiritual. So when Jesus asks, “Cindy, do you want to get well?” he is waiting for me to admit I have a need to be healed. And oh do I need healing. I’ve been so busy feeling sorry for myself, I’ve neglected being joyful and counting the blessings I do have. When I haven’t been sleeping, I’ve been focusing on pastimes that require very little interaction with anyone other than myself and allow me plenty of time to focus on just how well I don’t feel. Yuck. 

I want to be well. Regardless of how my body feels, I want to claim joyfulness, choose thankfulness, and give praise and thanksgiving which are the lifeblood of all of us who believe.

If memory serves me correctly, Bethesda means House of Mercy. Praise the Lord that I don’t have to win the race to be the first one into the pool to be healed. By his mercy and grace, I am well.

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You are Loved. I am Loved. We are Loved. Fully. Wholly. Completely.

I watch this video of Ann Voskamp’s every now and again. Because it is too easy to forget. The world is worth staying awake for. I had any icky day today. Yes, icky. It’s the only word that fits the circumstances and the feelings. But I don’t have to settle into the icky-ness because there is so much more. There is something good to see, to receive, to believe if we will just open our eyes, our hearts, our arms. This.

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