Even So Come

I freed a butterfly yesterday. The poor thing was trapped in a spider’s web outside the kitchen window. Its wing had been caught at the top edge, just enough to keep it trapped but not enough to stop it altogether, so that it was more tethered than trapped. This beautiful creature would take off as if to fly away from its bonds only to struggle and flap its wings to no avail, rest a while, and then repeat the agonizing process again and again.

I couldn’t stand it. I pulled a pair of scissors out of the drawer and carefully opened the window. The butterfly continued its “take off-struggle-rest” cycle so that it was difficult to get the scissors in the right place. During a brief rest period, I was able to snip the strand of web that was keeping the butterfly stuck in the spider’s snare. In an instant, it was soaring high and fast, farther and farther away from its earthly trappings, finally free to be the creature God made it to be.

As I opened my eyes this morning, a line from Kristian Stanfill’s song, Even So Come, was singing over me and through me.

Every heart longing for her King

We sing

Even so, come

Lord Jesus, come

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from this web that is keeping me from being the woman You created me to be.

Come, Lord Jesus, and free me from the tethers that hold me to my old life, my earthly life, my selfish and sinful life… Chains that bind me to what I can’t even see, yet they keep me from soaring toward all that you have waiting for me. 

I cannot free myself. You’ve watched me struggle to break free, and You’ve seen me worn out with the trying. 

You’ve welcomed me when I came to You for rest from the fight, only to see me return to the restraints and constrictions of my own choosing. 

Come, Lord Jesus, and sever the tie. Help me to rest in Your goodness and grace, Your mercy and unfailing love. Already, I give You the praise and the glory for it. There is none like You. Amen.

Click here to listen to Even So Come from Kristian Stanfill.

What’s Different?

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. August 1st was the one-year anniversary of my retirement, which got me to thinking about the last year and how things are the same and different from then to now… About everything that has happened in the last year, and everything that hasn’t. I even made a list, which I’m prone to do, and it looks so different in writing than it does in my mind. In fact, my list for what is different, and for things that have happened since last year, is so very much longer than my list for what is the same and for things that haven’t happened.

I think this is a good thing. I’m not a person who accepts change very quickly or well. I’m a “Who moved my cheese?” kinda gal. But now that I see it in writing, I’m thinking maybe one of the biggest differences since last year is ME!! I’m healthier and stronger. I’m using my creativity and gifts more than ever. I have more and stronger relationships and friendships. And when I look at everything God has done in the last year to GET me here, I am overwhelmed by His blessing.

It’s amazing what can happen when I say YES to God. When I open myself fully to what He has in store for me. When I spend more time in His presence getting to know Him more and more. New opportunities to stretch myself with my art and music. Travel. A new church home where we are working and serving together and where we are seeing the Holy Spirit move. A new business. My new bike that gets me out there and loving life. New grandchildren!

There are a couple of things that I wish had changed in the last year, like the number on my bathroom scale or my pants size. But some things may never change. And I am eternally grateful that one of those things is that God loves me. And how God sings over me. That Jesus saves… He still does!! And that I can take anything and everything to The Lord in prayer and know without a doubt that He hears me.

The song in my head as I opened my eyes this morning was a piece of the third verse from What a Friend We Have in Jesus. 

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee.

Thou wilt find a solace there.

That’s another thing that I’m so glad will never change… I will always find solace in the arms of my Savior.

Can I get an AMEN??

I love you all.

Featured image: my lovely daughter-in-law dancing on the beach. A beautiful expression of God’s unchanging love in motion. ❤️ Photo credit: Emily Price

No substitutions.

There are some things in this life that I cannot or will not compromise on… Only the real thing works for me. No substitutes. Coffee! Must have a cup (or two) of sure enough fully leaded French roast in my cup in the morning. Butter. There is nothing like real butter in my recipes and on my toast or biscuit or corn on the cob or French toast or baked potato (you get the idea.) For some things, there just aren’t any substitutes for the genuine article… like flowers. Or smiles! And what about a real, honest-to-goodness bear hug?

There is no substitute for the love of God. When I woke up this morning, one line of lyric was singing loud and clear in my head.

Don’t think you need to settle for a substitute 

When I’m the only love that changes you

It’s from Drops in the Ocean from Hawk Nelson. I blogged about this song several months ago from a different perspective. Read it here. Sometimes, the song God sings over me is complete and lovely. But sometimes, like this morning, it’s one line and it comes in loud and clear! God’s love is the ONLY love that changes me. THERE. IS. NO. SUBSTITUTE. 

I am saddened that I had to be reminded about this hard and fast truth. So it’s got me thinking very early this morning, with the sun coming up on the fog-dampened bluegrass. What have I been substituting for God? What have I put in His place in my life? And, most importantly, what am I going to do about it? His IS the only love that changes me, frees me, makes me better. I can love others because He first loved me. No substitutions.

Thanks for the reminder, God. 

Click here to listen to Drops in the Ocean from Hawk Nelson.

Drowning

I never learned to swim properly. I mean, I can swim… Just not well. I probably look like I’m trying to swim through mud rather than water. (I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never seen myself swim!) Let’s just say it’s a struggle and leave it at that. I look pretty goofy, too, because I have to wear nose plugs, goggles, and ear plugs. Without them, I feel as though I’m trying to save myself from drowning rather than swimming and enjoying the water. Not. Pretty.

I woke up this morning with a lyric singing through my head from Casting Crowns. “Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness.” It’s got me thinking about drowning… That awful feeling I get in the water when I’m trying to swim. Panic. Fighting for air. Hyper-alertness and stressed out! See, the thing is that I only feel comfortable in the water if I have my feet on the ground and my head above water. If my feet can’t reach the ground, I want to be hanging onto the side of the pool… For dear life!!

Thank God that He doesn’t operate that way!!! If I’m going to drown in anything, I want it to be in God’s sea of forgetfulness. I want to be out in the middle of it with nothing to hold onto. In so deep that my feet could never hit bottom. Over my head, pulling me under, enveloping me in God’s everlasting love and mercy. The trouble is that most of the time, I end up just wading at the shoreline of God’s grace and forgiveness. I get my feet wet, maybe even up to my knees. I want to see it, feel it, know it’s there, but I don’t want to lose myself in it. I don’t want to let myself be swept out into the sea of His forgetfulness where I have no control and my life is in HIS hands.

Psalms 103:12 says that God has removed our sin from us “as far as the east is from the west.”

Here I am, Lord, and I’m drowning in your sea of forgetfulness

The chains of yesterday surround me

I yearn for peace and rest

I don’t want to end up where You found me

And it echoes in my mind, keeps me awake tonight

I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west

And I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned

But today I feel like I’m just one mistake away from You leaving me this way

Chorus:
Jesus can You show me just how far the east is from the west

‘Cause I can’t bear to see the man I’ve been come rising up in me again

In the arms of Your mercy I find rest

‘Cause You know just how far the east is from the west

From one scarred hand to the other

Thank you, Lord, for not letting me stay in the shallow end of your forgiveness and grace!! Thank you for Your beautiful scarred hands that draw me out into the deep end.

Click here to listen to East to West from Casting Crowns.

Going Forward

We are living in an exciting time to be a Christian! We are also living in a terrifying time to be a Christian. One of my favorite authors and teachers has written a timely and pointed blog post that I think is a must-read for anyone who calls themselves Christian. Please read Going Forward by author and teacher Beth Moore. And then go forward to church. Forward to scripture, forward to prayer, forward to loving the way Jesus loved and still does.

 

Touch The Sky

Grounded. We don’t much like that word. It brings back memories of being stuck in our room when our friends are not, privileges taken away for a week or a month depending on the offense. Flights get grounded, usually when we are desperate to get someplace fast, and we’re stuck in the airport with no place to go and no way to get there, sometimes with bad weather raging outside the windows making us feel hopeless, cut off. 

The song in my head this morning says otherwise. Touch The Sky from Hillsong UNITED was singing in my head when I woke up this morning making me feel like anything is possible! The opposite of hopeless, really.

My heart beating. My soul breathing.

I found my life when I laid it down.

Upward falling. Spirit soaring,

I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground.

If the definition of “grounded” describes a person who is sensible and has a good understanding of what is really important in life (merriam-webster.com), then please… Ground me, God!! Let my knees hit the ground regularly and often! If I find my life when I lay it down for Christ and for others, then what in the world am I waiting for??

1 John 3:16… By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

John 15:13… Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Luke 9:24… For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.

Events in our world, our country, and even right here in my tiny home town are huge red flags waving at all believers… Get grounded!! Hit your spiritual knees and call on the One True God who is able to make order out of the chaos running roughshod over us all. Then get up off your knees and put yourself aside and serve somebody else. Go lay down your life for somebody, because that’s exactly what Jesus did for you and for me.

Ok. I’m done preaching now. Please go listen to this song. Touch The Sky from Hillsong UNITED.

Featured image: I took this picture off my front porch a couple of days ago. Gorgeous day, and a great reminder to look UP!!

Sticky Notes

I have a thing for sticky notes. Fun or quirky. Bright or beautifully designed. Different shapes. Ones with quotes. Lined. No lines. Small, large, any color. The only exception is the traditional square pale yellow. None of that for me, thank you. Years of working in an office created a life-long love affair with little bits of paper. Even though I’m retired, I use them every day and get so excited when I see a new shape or color or find a funny one at a specialty or gift shop.

Staring at me now from these sticky notes at eye level on my desk….

A 3 x 3 pale purple on which I wrote, “I give myself permission to take care of ME.”

On a 3 x 3 pale pink with a tulip watermark I copied, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24”

A 2 x 2 neon orange square proclaims, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Nehemiah 6:3”

On another orange I scribbled a Jennifer Rothschild quote, “It is well with my soul even when it is not well with my circumstances.”

On a two-toned bright green one shaped like a thought balloon I jotted a Shakespeare quote, “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.”

Theres a bright yellow flower-shaped sticky note with several scripture references on it. I have used sticky notes through the years to help me memorize Bible verses.

I wish these sticky notes were stuck to my heart instead of my desk! Some of them are stuck to my brain, and I hope they’ll work their way down to my heart eventually. But I don’t think there is enough of whatever that sticky stuff is on the back of the paper to make these words stick to my heart. They keep falling off. And I mess up. Again. And I forget to take care of ME. Or I let my circumstances dictate my feelings, and I get my heart broken. Again.

And I guess that’s why I have them stuck at eye level on my desk. So that every morning, I see them again and read them again, somehow embedding them into my mind and my heart, reminding me once again that I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. To hide God’s word in my heart. To remember who I am and WHOSE I am!!!

I just added a neon pink heart-shaped sticky note. “RWYAAWYA!”

Remember who you are and WHOSE you are! Maybe this one will stick to my heart.

I love you.

I LOVE FOOD!!

Seems like I’ve been on a diet since I was born. I don’t remember a time in my life (whether it was self-imposed or brought to my attention by well-meaning others) when I wasn’t conscious of what and when I was eating, how much, counting calories or carbs or Weight Watcher points. Being super careful because something might be bad for me or make me fatter. Or eating with complete abandon in defiance of the real truth that (insert deliciousness of the day here) will ultimately kill me.

I remember doing Richard Simmons Deal-a-Meal and Sweating to the Oldies. Anybody? There was that phase where I ate no fat AT ALL but gorged on jelly beans and pasta because it had none. And then there was the polar opposite Atkins or South Beach with no carbs, but I could eat all the fat I wanted. Remember that awful cabbage soup or grapefruit diet? And please don’t even get me started on the whole exercise thing! I’ve lost and gained and lost and gained hundreds (yes, HUNDREDS) of pounds in my lifetime.

But here’s the thing. I LOVE FOOD. There. I said it. I love to eat food, and the smell of food. I love to cook. I love the way food looks on the plate and how beautiful fruits and vegetables are in their luscious-ness and colors. I love to read about food and talk about food. And, let’s face it, our whole lives revolve around food. Socially, we make food the center of family gatherings or meeting up with friends. And in the church, particularly in the South, there’s one word… Potluck!

Jesus cooked for his disciples… Fish and bread by the water. And He was known to them after His resurrection in the breaking of the bread. He ate with publicans and sinners. Food was key in so many of the Jesus stories, and all the Bible. We are designed to hunger and be fed. It all boils down to WHAT we are hungry for and being fed by. Or should I say WHOM? Because I think my struggle in life has truly been a search for that one bite of something that will satisfy the hunger in my soul… That will fill the God-shaped hole in my heart.

So today, again, I’m starting over. Matthew West’s voice woke me up this morning singing Day One. 

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve made lots of progress through the years, and generally I’m healthier and smaller than I was years ago. I’m learning to lean on God for what I need and to enjoy His gift of my love for food for what it truly is… A way to serve others. But today, again, I’m giving it all to God and trusting Him to lead me through. Because food is everywhere!!!!

Click here to listen to Day One from Matthew West.

Featured image: Cherries, acrylic on 140 lb. paper, artist trading card.

Small

I think the perfect remedy for being full of yourself is a trip to the seashore. The ocean makes me feel so small and insignificant. It pulls me out of myself and makes me see that there is so much more in this world than my little human eyes can see or my tiny human mind can imagine. How could I not be humbled by these sunsets?? And starfish. And the sheer volume of seashells washed up on the shore is incredible.

As I watch the sandpipers forage in the foam at the water’s edge, or see the pelicans soar, dive and fly away with their catch, I think of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 6:26…

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

The thing is that sometimes I don’t feel like I’m more valuable than the birds… I feel small and insignificant. Often I feel worthless and wonder what on earth I’m here for! On my own, I am nothing. If I believe the lies of the Enemy, I am nothing. If I believe all that the world throws at me, I am nothing. But God has other plans. (Don’t you love that phrase?? “But GOD!”) This morning, I bring it all to Him.

I’m feeling so small
Standing here weeping
As I’m coming clean
Of the secrets I’m keeping
I’ve caused so much pain
To the ones I love the most
And I’m falling apart
As I carry my heart to Your throne

I am completely surrendering
Finally giving You everything
You’re my redeemer, I run to the cross
Because You are more than enough
Lord complete me
Cause I’m Yours completely

The song in my head all night and still now is Completely from Among the Thirsty. Click here to listen and worship on this blessed Lord’s Day.