Receiving the Moment

It’s no secret that I am not prone to meandering. Because I tend to out walk most everyone around me when I’m moving with a crowd, I find myself pulling ahead if I do not consciously practice the art of slowing down to match the pace of others. Just yesterday, I was frustrated once again at the slowness of automatic doors. I nearly ran into them… multiple times in multiple stores. Seriously, can’t someone invent a system that can actually keep up with me? puerta-deslizante-diraglide-2000

Sadly, I seldom realize the pace at which I rush through life. Until it is pointed out, and I brake enough to give attention to it. Like the day an elderly store employee asked me if I was in a hurry. I paused long enough to look at him questioningly and responded, “No. Why?” wondering if he needed assistance with something. He just smiled and said, “Well, as fast as you were moving, I just assumed you were in a hurry.”

Apparently, my natural state of movement is hurry even when  I’m not rushing.

Which brings me to today’s question: Did Jesus ever rush anywhere? 

I doubt it. I doubt if the local fishermen called out to Him, “Hey, Jesus, what’s the rush?” as He hurried along the shoreline. I doubt He appeared frantic in His dealings with the local merchants or consistently preoccupied with His next divine appointment. In all his dealings with people, Jesus never rushed. Even when a mob threatened Him with death at cliff’s edge, He didn’t run off in haste; He simply passed through the midst of them and went His way (See Luke 4:28-30), leaving them to wonder in His wake.

No rushing. No worrying. No pause as to whether or not He would make it somewhere on time. Just moment-by moment living. Here. Among the creation He came to save.

Jesus never seemed distracted by anything. Every step was purposeful, leading more fully into Father’s will. Every touch filled with Holy Spirit wonder, even if merely a pat upon child’s head. Every moment heavy with blessing. Every spoken word revealing a greater glory than that to which mere law could lead. Every interaction filled with compassion, seeping with love to recover, redeem, and restore.

Every encounter with heaven’s Savior was resolutely weighted with grace to draw humanity toward Father’s heart.

No, I daresay Jesus never rushed. He deliberately stepped with purpose. Light of the World steadfastly obliterating the shadows of death one footfall at a time.

Noticing God. Noticing people. Overcoming darkness with moment-by-moment intent.

It’s so like Jesus to be constantly aware of others… and so unlike me.

Today I pray not only for eyes to see the people around me, but for determination to slow my pace to match theirs. To catch myself if I’m rushing though the motions instead of receiving all each moment offers. To look for God and notice Him in the dawdling little girl at play, in the tottering steps of aged saint, and in the person waiting for a kind word or smile… even if that means I have to slow down for automatic doors.

 

 

 

Every Empty-Full

So if we don’t begin with surrender, we inevitably dream with vanity, with ego, with control.
Jennie Allen, Restless

To present myself in surrender to God means I bring Him every empty, full thing.

I come to Him with hands stretched heavenward, filled with every empty placebo – every offering of a life lived for Him in the guise of my own desires and visions of my own making. Simultaneously, I bring all the longings straining to break free within while I release my grasp instead of clutch aimlessly for all I’m worth.

Funny how I cling so tightly to this filling of empty which has consistently proven to only steal my innocence and my peace.

By bringing all my empty-full, I am declaring my surrender. Presenting God with this blank canvas of a life made new in Christ, inviting Him to pen the desires of my heart. Asking Him to fill me with the beauty of His dreams which far surpass anything my finite mind could create on its own.

In this place of sweet surrender, I come to know the One whose design is the perfect masterpiece for my life. Not for yours. Not for anyone else.

Simply, perfectly designed with me in mind.

I am amazed to be a part of such abstract and colorful dabs of dreams and thoughts and gifts and opportunities extended and brought together – swirled into one breathtaking collage where His glory is both felt and revealed. Bit by bit. Moment by moment. Memory upon memory.

Even the drops which seem to bleed me out and and drain me dry burst into life and goodness at the touch of His hand swirling colors upon palette. Not one drop hits the canvas without determined purpose. There are no random smudges, no shadowing without the consuming of radiant light. All comes together, every scary unknown and every stretching of the canvas, to create a work declaring Father’s fame.

In this surrender, I am reborn to life. To love. Held secure while released into this aching world by the Builder of dreams and of wild imaginings.

Breather of Life, come and fill me with creations of Your grandest desires as I pour forth from earthen vessel yielded to Your hand. Make beauty from my every empty-full as You reveal Your glory from the inside out.

I surrender.

week8-largeAnd so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.   – Romans 12:1, NLT

When the Beautiful Seems Buried

Some days my thoughts seem tumultuous. They flit back and forth like a captive bird unexpectedly released from its cage yet uncertain as to what to do with its newfound freedom. Spinning from idea to idea, yet landing upon nothing. Circling and hovering with no intent of coming to rest anytime soon. On days like this, my best recourse is to simply stop and pray as I ask God to realign my focus and help me to pursue “one thing” instead of rushing toward any number of countless opportunities I could easily grasp at any given time.

And so I pray. I pour out my heart in letters to Father who knows and sees all that I am and all that I am yet to become. Even when I don’t.

As words tumble out one on top of the other, tripping and stumbling toward the throne of grace, I ask God to keep my heart balanced. I pray for help to dig in and push hard through those times of transition and the pain that often accompanies them. For the courage to embrace change, and chance, and risk. To press in and gather the broken when everything in me wants to turn in flight. But I also ask to have those amazing moments of brushing up against hope and birthing life, too. To find times of rest and grasp bits of beauty throughout my day so that I do not lose heart in doing good. Oh how my soul needs those times of refreshing delight in God’s presence to keep me from growing weary. (See Galatians 6:9)

Partnered with those moments of both the soul-tiring and the refreshing, I need my memory to be stirred. Challenging me to look back and memorialize those times when God seemed so very far away but, in reality, was as close as the heartbeat keeping me alive. Those out-of-the-blue experiences when God showed up in unexpected and surprising ways. Both small and large. Just to remind me He was very much aware of my every breath.

Calling attention to the fact that He was/is/always will be there.

Despite my failings. Or my feelings.

In the midst of living out my days and walking out my dreams (and sometimes my nightmares), God is ever near. So very present. Even when life is less than glamorous. Even when the beauty seems buried beneath layers and layers of the downright ugly.

He is here. Here in each inhalation and exhalation of life.

Whether I am gritting my teeth and pushing through to accomplish the next step in pursuing my purpose or coasting on the winds of the Spirit carrying me along, I want to live. To be here now with a moment-by-moment, graceful awareness of God in me and me in Him – all held tightly together by His unrelenting yet unrestricting love.

To live each day with open hands as I’m called to pour out those desires He has placed within me. Both the ones I long to fulfill and the ones which I sometimes war against. (Can I get an Amen?)

It seems that divine purposes sometimes always require a patient continuance in order to bring them to completion. So I ask that God hold me close and keep me pressing onward as I present these humble offerings. Looking to Him with faith, trusting that He will focus my gaze and steady me through it all.

Each and every moment.

Even as I grow to understand that while my life may not be glamorous… it is always beautiful.

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Open These Hands

Sometimes I clench them tightly,
bent on holding,
intent on keeping
things to myself that were never mine to possess.

Sometimes I clasp them together
with anxiousness,
deftly squeezing out any chance of
peace and calm infiltrating their locked doors.

Sometimes I play childhood games with them,
pretending they cradle people
with fleshly pews for sitting and
fingered steeple hovering over imaginary church.

When really, my hands are the Church,
an extension of Your body,
broken to cradle the sins of the earth
and spill out new life where death once reigned.

So why do my hands not shadow Your own?
Why are they slow to heal and comfort?
Why do they hesitate to reach out with love?
Why do they not scatter glory?

Why do these hands You created
for openness
so often remain clutched together,
trembling in fear of being seen?

Pry them free, Master,
and make them fit for more than
clutching and grasping
to fill themselves.

Release this heart to open hands,
and open these hands to release this heart.

IMG_2455This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday’s word prompt of “hands.” You can join us here: http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday

 

Big Stories Start Small

Zacchaeus was a wee, little man…. If you grew up attending Sunday school class, chances are you immediately finished the rest of this line with …and a wee, little man was he.

Big stories start small, and the story of Zacchaeus’ interaction with Jesus is no exception. This man of small stature could not even see the Messiah through the crowds of people flocking about Him, but in desperation to get a view of the Savior passing by, little Z. ran ahead of everyone and climbed a tree. I doubt if he expected Jesus to even notice him hidden there in the branches, but not only did Jesus notice the smallness of Zacchaeus, He invited Himself over for dinner.

Jesus invited Himself into the life of smallness with BIG plans in mind.

Jesus’ plan of salvation would radically transform the hated tax collector into a disciple of Christ. That one small seed of salvation took root and grew into a stalwart producer of righteousness. How else can we explain the heart transformation that caused Zacchaeus to repay everyone four times the amount of money that he had stolen from them?

A small decision to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus became a story big enough to be repeated through the centuries. Thousands upon thousands of children and adults alike can sing a song about Zacchaeus, a wee, little man whose life was changed by a BIG God. Today, that man known for being small is also remembered as living BIG for Christ.

Looking back through the pages of the Bible, it is easy for us to see BIG stories, but that is only because we have the perspective from history’s side of the tale. In reality, most of the BIG stories started with smallness.

A word… the universe came into being.

A babe in a basket floating down a river… the deliverer of an enslaved nation.

A shepherd boy… the king of Israel.

Five loaves and two fish… a meal for a multitude.

A mustard seed of faith… mountains move.

A babe born in a manger… salvation for all mankind.

One small, empty tomb…  the defeat of death for eternity.

In God’s kingdom, the humble are exalted. Servants reign. The last finish first.

Small becomes BIG.

Take a lesson from Zacchaeus as you go out of your way to get a glimpse of the Savior. Who knows… today may be the very day Jesus looks at you and invites Himself over to your house with BIG plans in mind.

 

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This post was written in conjunction with Five Minute Friday, a weekly challenge to write from a word prompt and link up with others over at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Join us today in writing about “small.”

Worn Out

For the soul-weary saint whose prayers continue long after the sun sets at the end of each day…

Worn Out…

…like a favorite pair of jeans, soft and form-fitting, but ready to split in all the wrong places at any second.

…like a ragtag stuffed animal dragged everywhere for the comfort it provides.

…like a tattered Bible, pages and chapters falling into lap from so much reading.

…like my mother’s denim shirt filled with the fragrance of her person and her prayers.

…like rocks in streams, rough edges smoothed from the constant flow of life.

…like husband’s knee pads, scraped from hours of toiling in their protection.

…like the eyes of an old saint, wizened from years of so much seeing.

…like gnarled limbs of sheltering tree, protecting from storm and providing a perfect climb.

…like scuffed sandals encasing feet bruised from scaling remote mountain heights to bear Your name to those who have never heard.

…like cherished dishes, cracked and chipped from holding decades of recipes prepared with servant’s heart and hands.

…like an old screen door, filled with punctures and tears from the comings and goings of a full life.

…like aged hands, wrinkled and veined, used up in loving and caring for others.

Lord, if I be worn out, may it be from Kingdom living. A life wrung dry for Your glory, each drop lived with purpose and intent.

Teach me to walk as a child of light. Daring to shine in the darkness of a world cast in shadow. May I give my life as an offering to be used up. Every breath a prayer. Every prayer a plea for your presence to come and dwell in me, to touch lives through me.

Take my life and let it be worn out only for You.

…Children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of Life.
…Yes, and even if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. (from Philippians 2:15-17)

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Believing Something Is One Thing

Believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle.

Slowing down.

Savoring the simple.

Noticing the moments compiling into memories.

Being here now.

It all stems from the belief that your something is the one thing you should be living with this very breath.

Instead of constantly searching for that ever-elusive defining moment, open your eyes to the wonder you are in. Right here and now, in this something surrounding you.

Redefine your ordinary.

Embrace the miracle playing hide-and-seek in your everyday.

Ponder the precious routine of rousing your children from slumber each morning.

Relish welcoming your husband home from work.

Enjoy sipping lemonade on a sunny summer evening or curling up with a mug of hot cocoa on a frosty winter morn.

Savor the simple and stop wishing away your days. For all too soon, they will pass and fade into the recesses of yesteryear, slipping like sand through aging fingers still reaching for the wonder.

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Today is your day to live.

Right here is your moment to shine.

Don’t wait for the significant to find you.
It. Already. Has.

Open your eyes to see it dancing before you in the form of muddied toddler hands wrapping around your legs, straining to squeeze the love out of life.

Watch it tango through the elementary school where your son’s third grade class thinks you’re awesome for bringing in those cupcakes with sprinkles.

See it waltz across the soccer field where you’ve devoted to coach that rambunctious group of middle-schoolers, all gangling arms and graceless feet.

Hear it dubstep through your house accompanying the late-night laughter of that group of teenagers who know they are welcome in your home.

Believe that every something is your one thing.

Your opportunity to impact lives. The lives surrounding you — wherever you may be.

The world needs you.

It needs your strength and gentleness. Your kind and faithful presence. Your being — being fully alive — in every second of the day. No matter how insignificant you may feel those seconds to be. No matter how much you may be longing for something more. Something bigger. Something beyond what you see in the present. For now, this is your gift and your calling. This day is your day to reach your full potential and purpose.

So step into this moment with gaping heart and arms flung wide to embrace whatever lies before you.

After all, believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle…

sand-castle-in-hand Every moment possesses its own kind of magic and what we do with it counts. It counts. (from Stargardener)

Pieced Together for Good

I’ve recently joined in the Five Minute Friday fun with a group of people who gather once a week to “just write” without worrying about getting things “just right.” After receiving the weekly prompt, we are turned loose to share our thoughts in just five minutes before posting and linking up with others at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday You’re welcome to be a part of it! Today’s thoughts are about Together.

TOGETHER

There’s a benefit to not going it alone.

Don’t believe me? Try riding a tandem bike or teeter-tottering at the park or playing ping-pong or checkers or football. And let’s not forget that it takes two to tango.

As much as there are days when I require some “alone” time, I’m thankful to be surrounded by others the majority of my moments. Because although alone can be blissful at times, it can also be, well… lonely. And hard.

Maybe that’s why the Bible encourages us to gather together so frequently. Because we need each other.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor…

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken…

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ…

For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst…

We need the working together of the whole to produce something good. I NEED IT. I need the strength of others to bear up under the burdens of this life, and sometimes I need to help do the bearing. Somedays I need a together moment just to remind me that God is present. Right here. With me. Always.

Perhaps most of all, I need the constant assurance that I am together with God. In league with the Lord Most High. A sharer in this divine gift of salvation that holds me together and gives me purpose. A receiver of the working of grace as God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose for them.

The good, the bad, the beautiful, the broken.

God takes it all.

He gathers it together, pieces the fragments of my messiness, and births the beginnings of good into a happily ever after that only He could dream up. Not without pain. Not without purpose. Not without the joys and struggles. But a constant gathering nonetheless. Every broken, ordinary, amazing, anxious, peaceful part of me.

He takes me alone, then binds me together with Him to form something beautiful. Something GOOD. Something the two of us can enjoy for eternity — together.

Pandora’s Box or Alabaster Jar?

What would happen if you declared your wants? What would happen if you let yourself line up with your true calling and purpose? (Elora Ramirez)

That statement got me to wondering. What would happen if I gave voice to my wants? Would releasing them be akin to opening the lid on Pandora’s Box, or would it more closely resemble pouring the contents from an Alabaster Jar?

Perhaps it all stems from the desire behind the opening. The reason for the wanting that stirs within my all-too-often restless heart, pacing the lengths of its confines, hoping to one day be released to explore freely. Yet terrified with the very thought of freedom. So used to the cage it calls home; so comfortable in its captivity.

What would be the consequences of pouring out the wants of my heart? What would compel me to do so?

Is it merely a curiosity like Pandora’s that moves me to lift the lid? Or is there more at stake?

pandora According to Greek mythology, when Pandora’s Box was opened, evil hastened to escape while hope hesitated. Buried beneath the weight of the awful, hope remained at the bottom of the box. Too slow to flee its confines. Or perhaps so used to bearing the weight of darkness it forgot how to spread its wings into flight when the crushing heaviness was lifted. Regardless, in her hurry to restrain the evil unleashed, Pandora closed the lid. And effectively closed off hope.

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps I don’t do the same thing with the desires and purposes God has placed within me. Oh, sometimes I may be just curious enough to crack the lid, but when what first escapes appears as the ugly painfuls, I panic. In my anxiousness to stem the flow of hurt, I slam the lid on what I have determined must certainly be contents of only selfish wants and unholy desires threatening to swallow me whole. Much the same as Pandora, I also effectively imprison the presence of hope, separating it from my life.

Separating it from the world around me.

Because I have forgotten about faith in God.

I have forgotten about the treasure He has buried within me. That precious, little gem called hope.

What would happen if I trusted God’s love enough to overcome any wrong desires I may have? What if I believed He had given me something of value that needs to be emptied into this world? Something pure? Something begging to be unleashed not merely from a piqued curiosity, but from a heart overwhelmed with gratitude?

What if the container I hold in my hands is not the dreaded Pandora’s Box of evil that I fear, but a beautiful Alabaster Jar waiting to release His glory?

Unfortunately, the common denominator of opening either Pandora’s Box or the Alabaster Jar tends to be what stays my hand from lifting the lid — the judgment that is sure to be companion to them both. Am I willing to risk the exposure? The pointing of fingers? The criticism? The misunderstandings? The taunts and ridicules that are certain to come?

And let’s not forget about the breaking itself. That cracking open of a seal that has been fused tightly for years. The shattering of all that holds and keeps my carefully constrained composure intact. Not to mention the tears which will most likely accompany this breaking as waves of regret, conviction, pain — and yes, perhaps even a bit of hope — wash over me.

Am I really willing to approach Jesus with whatever happens to be released in my moment of raw?

Am I willing to trust Him with me when I’m exposed and vulnerable to everyone?

Once the seal is broken, there’s no turning back. Once the lid is lifted, there’s no stifling the outpouring. Whether a sweet aroma or a rotting stench, there’s no stopping the fragrance from escaping… or from affecting those present.

What will it take for me to brave declaring those wants edging me toward my true purpose? To trust that there is a sweetness behind the longings, and not just the uglies of selfishness?

MaryBeth-FinalWhat will ultimately compel me to lift the lid and trust Him for the glory to be revealed, even if it has to first conquer the makings of a Pandora’s Box in me?

Will I hold out for the hope that lingers deep?

Or will I sit with hands clenching lid tightly closed, forever confining the beauty that could be?

Forfeiting the grace that could be mine…

Forfeiting the glory that could be His…

alabaster-jarWhat would happen if you let yourself line up with your true calling and purpose?

© 2013 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

When the Answer Disappoints

In my last post, I talked of the man from the Gadarenes who was miraculously delivered from a legion of demons (Luke 8:22-39). Transformed by the merciful love of Christ, this new disciple wanted nothing more than to throw in his lot with Jesus and follow Him anywhere –  regardless of where anywhere led. In fact, the Scriptures tell us he begged to go with Him.

One might think the Lord would automatically welcome the man to join in His wanderings. After all, what better way to promote a ministry than by including a walking, talking miracle as a premier?

But once again, we are reminded that the ways of God are not the ways of men.

The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with Him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, “No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.”

Clearly, this was not the answer the man was expecting. And now he had a decision to make.

Would he grumble about being refused his request? Would he sit and pout, complaining of the unfairness of being rejected? Would he continue to argue his case in hopes of getting his own way? Or would he simply do as he was directed, despite the momentary disappointment he most likely felt?

With an obedience almost as miraculous as his deliverance, the man stepped out to fulfill the Lord’s directive: So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

There’s no indication that he did anything else but obey.

What if the man would have refused to heed the Lord’s response?

What if he would have sought his own way to get to the other side of the lake where Jesus was going?

What if he would have neglected his own calling in pursuit of another’s? 

Who would have done the work that God had chosen for him to do?

Let’s face it, sometimes we do not receive the answer from God for which we were hoping.  Sometimes He says, “No.” Even when we beg Him to change His mind.

Unlike the man from the Gadarenes, I daresay most of us are not so easily content to simply respond with obedience. Instead, we may scheme to get around the answer we have received in attempt to “reason” our way into a calling that is not ours to pursue. But if we continue in the vein of responding to our disappointment with disobedience, we will never fully embrace who we have been called to be.

In the midst of our frustration, it’s hard to remember that God’s “no” answers always have a built-in “yes,” because sometimes that “yes” remains hidden from our view. Carefully tucked away in a corner of the bigger picture. In this man’s case, I’m sure all he could see was the glimpse of the disciples clambering into the boat that would sail them into a wonderful destiny with the Lord without him. And he felt abandoned. Left out. Overlooked.

Having just encountered a love so consuming it consumed his demons, he was now being asked to be separated from its Source. Can you imagine the disappointment? The fear of what might happen if Jesus left and the demons decided to make a return visit? Little did he realize the separation which Jesus was asking of him was part of a grand scheme involving the salvation of souls. This man was being called to a higher purpose, destined to live in the big picture instead of being held to a lesser responsibility. In this case, by choosing not to “go” with Jesus, the man continued walking with Him, and the gospel was taken to a new place.

In short, the great commission of God was fulfilled through his obedience as he surrendered to a higher call. How many hearts were tugged toward Jesus all because one man was content to continue on in faith… even when he was told, “No.” ?

So today,  I pose this question: Are you willing to lay aside your disappointment and respond with a willing obedience to pursue the directives of the Lord? Even if you have begged for a different answer than the one you have received?

There’s no way of knowing what will happen with the bigger picture of your life… until you are willing to step into its frame and allow the boat of another’s calling to sail away without you.

Until you surrender your disappointment into the hands of obedience… 6574_1093017126459_4336686_n

…and proclaim the great things Jesus has done for you.

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