Unforced rhythms of grace

As I drove home from a very long day at work, I listened to the end of a recorded sermon from one of my favorite pastors.

The message focused on being worried and upset. The scripture she taught from is a passage near and dear to my heart because it hits so close to home in terms of what I struggle with.

  • Luke 10:38-42 Now as they were traveling along, Jesus went into a village. A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and kept listening to what he was saying. But Martha was worrying about all the things she had to do, so she came to him and asked, “Lord, you do care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself, don’t you? Then tell her to help me.” The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. But there’s only one thing you need. Mary has chosen what is better, and it is not to be taken away from her.”

Martha, Martha, Martha.

I can relate to Martha. I am the busy one. I find it hard to even sit still and watch TV with my son without doing something else with my hands… folding laundry, flipping through my phone, sorting through the mail…you get the picture. 

In turn, I find myself holding those same expectations of others. It’s like I expect people to be busy all the time. 

As I listened to the close of her message, something captured my attention deeply.

She talked about being still, in His presence, in the unforced rhythms of grace.

Unforced… obviously means to not force something

To take that one step further, it means to be free….

Rhymth…a strong repeated pattern

Grace…the undeserved favor

When I think of it all wrapped together, it comforts and amazes me. 

And to be completely honest, convicts me.

Why?

I find it so much easier to wrestle in the unrest of anxiety and fear instead of rest at the feet of Jesus. I ask Him to please take my burdens, but I so easily take them back as I play through the game of what ifs and conjure up a multitude of circumstances.

In the famous words of Dr. Phil…. how’s that working for you?

Um, well, actually not so well. 

What if instead I chose to rest at the feet of Jesus like Mary?

How different would my life feel if I trusted in the unforced rhythms of grace?

As anxiety tugs at the deepest places within me, I ask myself those very questions.

What if I trust Jesus with my worries and fears enough to let Him keep them instead of me trying to take them back to hold onto them just a little while longer?

Could I finally find the quiet I yearn for in the unforced rhythms of His grace?

I believe I could. And you can, too.

It’s a sweet surrender…a little more dying to self. If we choose to trust Him, He promises to be right there with us.

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The Power of our Belief in Prayer

When we start believing what we pray…

When we pray seeking what God desires for our lives and stop trying to figure everything out on our own…

When we seek Him first in prayer instead of turning to worry as our immediate response…

When we pray with a surrendered spirit and a trust in God’s goodness…

Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. Mark 11:24

Prayer is our communication with God. He wants to hear from us. He desires that connection with us. Prayer takes practice. Not sure what to pray or how to pray? Ask God to reveal to you what you need to be praying about. He will. He honors a faithful heart.

Running on Empty

“Oops.” 

I looked down to see the gas gauge of my Jeep much lower than I realized. 

I took my son to school and then decided how much to press my luck before stopping for gas. I prayed that I would not run out of gas, but I also realized that it was within my power to stop before that happened. I exited the turnpike an exit earlier than normal and began to pray. 

Thankfully, I made it. My morning adventure of almost running out of gas parallels too much to my life at the moment.

You know it is a rough day when five people through the course of the day ask you if you are okay. That was the day before. Tired. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. Life feeling a bit overcommitted.

Simply stated, I had let myself run too close to empty. Like the warning light in my Jeep, the warning signs were there. I needed a time out. I needed sleep. I needed some whitespace in my life.

God always provides. He poured into me through people He has placed  in my life who care about me.

Running low on fuel often catches us off guard. We go, go, go, and wonder why we feel like collapsing.

Situations like these are great opportunities to take a time out and step back to re-evaluate what we need to surrender to God. If we are honest with ourselves, there are probably areas we are trying to control which we can’t which sets us up for running out of fuel. 

This morning, as I read from Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson….We tend to view the goal as the goal; but in God’s economy, the process is the goal. It’s not about what we’re doing at all. It’s about who we’re becoming in the process. Page 207

That means sometimes it takes a reality check of running low on fuel to step back, catch our breath, regroup, and consider the process. In our moments of weakness, He is our strength. 

Where are you running low on fuel? God is the greatest source of energy.

You’re not the same person…

You’re not the same person…Those are the words I heard a few days ago as I sat in my counselor’s office. Encouraged by a friend a few months ago, I decided to see someone to help me work through my anxiety.

I went a few weeks before Christmas and that first visit was very uncomfortable. I don’t particularly like to talk about myself. I answered his questions and listened a lot that first visit. When I left that night, I told my friend, I am never going back. The next day, I found myself using some of the ideas he had shared with me about anxiety. I decided maybe I could learn something. So, I made another appointment.

I think God wants us uncomfortable sometimes. When we are too comfortable, we can become complacent with the way things are. As uncomfortable as I felt sitting one on one with someone talking through my anxiety, I realized that I was willing to endure this uncomfortable feeling in order to move forward. Complacency with anxiety was not a place I wanted to rest and remain.

I have poured myself into the Word the past few months. The hour morning commute is a great time for prayer 1-1 with God. I listen to praise and worship music. I have committed to memorizing Scripture. Mark Hall from Casting Crowns said at the concert I attended…(paraphrased)…When you are in the middle of a storm, you are not going to recall a verse you have never read. In other words, pour yourself into the Word, so you have the words stored away.

So, I have decided to be uncomfortable and go back to my counselor. Each visit is a little easier. He has taught me several things…
1. Give yourself permission to let go of things and not rehash them over and over.

2. Rename your beliefs. When anxiety strikes, I can now call it what it is and pray my way through it. (Philippians 4:6-7)

3. Be okay with knowing I did my best.

4. Take time for me. Breaks are important. I am worth it. Breathe.

5. Quit second guessing myself​. Make a decision and be okay with it. If it ends up not being the best decision, reflect, learn from it, and move on.

So, as I sat in his office the other day as the wind gently blew in through the window of the upstairs office, I felt a sense of peace and calm which have grown to replace the intense uncomfortable feeling. 

You’re not the same person you were a few months ago. You seem more relaxed.”

Those words were a breath of fresh air to my soul. He’s right. I am not the same person. Do I still have times of anxiousness? Yes. Do I still find myself second guessing myself? Yes. But, I can work through these things. They do not have the power over me they once did just a few short months ago.

Sometimes, you may not see the progress you are making. Sometimes, it takes someone else to recognize it in you to remind you that you are a beautiful work in progress. God’s beautiful work…He is not finished with you. He is writing your story. No matter where you are in life, every story has a beginning.

Blessings in our Mistakes

It happened so suddenly. It was a simple daily task. Washing dishes. I needed music. Perhaps, I should have heeded to the warning voice that suggested that setting my cell phone in the windowsill above the sink full of soapy dishwater was possibly a recipe for potential disaster…but I didn’t. Instead, I set the phone there and listened to music as I scrubbed the sink of dirty dishes.

It slipped…I am not sure why, but my phone ended up swimming in the soapy water. I rescued it and dried it and all appeared fine. Hours later when I went to plug it in to charge it, all was not well. The phone shut off and would not hold a charge.

Life without a cellphone is….quiet.

On the way to church yesterday morning, I asked God…what good can come out of a cellphone damaged by water? All my earthly mind could think of was $$$. And being inconvenienced.

During church after the sermon, the pastor gave everyone 60 seconds of silence. (Do I see a theme in my life lately??) It was in this moment of silence that God reminded me that good things can come from a cellphone damaged by water. He cares about everyday things in our lives. In the words of one of my friends…God can fix our mistakes.

So, in what ways are my eyes being opened by a water damaged cellphone?

  • The love of my husband…no judgment, no what were you thinking…Nope, just, “Honey, it’s a cell phone. We’ll get it fixed or get it replaced. No big deal.”
  • Patience. Life can be lived without immediate gratification at our fingertips. It really can.
  • God is a jealous God. What exactly does this mean? Jeremiah 29:13 promises, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. How distracted have I been by my phone?
  •  In my desire for quiet, I can attest to this…life without a cell phone is quiet.

My phone is in a cellular repair shop awaiting a new battery. Fortunately, the repairman says it looks like my phone did not suffer water damage beyond the battery being shorted. Leaving my cellphone at the repair shop felt a bit, well, unnerving like leaving my third child behind. I know…dramatic, but it just goes to illustrate how dependent I have become on it. Yes, there are many wonderful things I can do on my cellphone including using my BibleGateway app, but it also has become a huge source of distraction, a source of mind numbing apps when my brain is tired after work, and a blockage from meaningful conversation with others. Just scan the people eating at any restaurant. I know I am not alone.

So, yes, by the end of the week, I will once again rejoin modern society with a cellphone. But, I hope the lessons I am learning from a week without a cellphone will change a few things in my life…communication, relationships, being more intentional with my time.

From Galatians 5:22-23 The Message…But what happens when we live God’s way?  He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard-things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to  marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Six months ago, I would have defined living as God’s way as doing the right thing, being obedient…all my responses driven by things I could do. Now, I see living God’s way as living a surrendered life. Not a perfect life. Not a life free from mistakes. A life that says here I am God, I am Yours, use me, shape me, grow me.

What happens when we live God’s way? He opens our eyes to the blessings in our mistakes.

blessings-in-mistakes

Sometimes, you just need carried 

Life can be just plain hard. It can be exhausting. You might feel as though you can’t go another step. Sometimes, you just need someone to carry you through the struggle.

Last night, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the unseasonably warm evening and go for a walk. I decided to take our 9 year old diabetic terrier mix who is blind. He lagged behind us, something totally new for our walk experience. We weren’t sure if he was trying to follow in our footsteps or what, but he stayed behind us. 

As we walked, the wind picked up some. Thirty minutes into our walk, the rain began to fall. My husband crossed the street thinking I was behind him. I was not. My pup in his blindness and limited ability to interpret the world around him, was in no hurry to cross the street. He was more worried about the fact he was getting wet, very wet. As the rain poured down harder and traffic came towards us, I decided I would stay on the opposite side of the street from my husband until I could cross at a more opportune time.

My pup and I walked, me picking up speed, him still lagging behind. As we crossed an intersection with a car waiting for us, my pup stopped. He took his claws and dug them into the concrete and refused to go another step. He was spent. 

He was wet. He was scared. He was tired. I leaned over and scooped him up. My twenty some pound dog needed carried. I rescued him. He nuzzled up against me. I met up with my husband, and we took turns carrying Franklin home.

Sometimes, when life is too much, you just need carried. It’s like the Footprints in the Sand poem. God carries us at our weakest moments. He promises to be with us.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms. Isaiah 40:11 NLT

Yes, sometimes like my pup last night, we just need someone to carry us.

Trust God to carry you. Truly trust Him. Then, you can rest in His peace as you walk the valleys of life. 

Let go and let God

Sometimes, I am a slow learner…like in the case of worrying…but I’m finally getting it, finally realizing that of all the things I can do, worry is probably the least productive use of my time.

Worry doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change the situation. It doesn’t move anything forward. It only adds to the anxiety, the list of what-ifs.

Let go and let God means to let go of worry and let God handle it.

My life is full of a lot of things I could worry about right now. A lot.

Yet, I am sitting here…peaceful. Wow…what a difference a year makes.

As much as I was not happy at that moment, having a friend point out to me how much I was worrying over a situation last June has been life changing.

I have learned to pray, to surrender, to release whatever is weighing me down. Let go and let God truly has meaning for me.

I have lost enough sleep. Wasted enough time fretting over things that have never happened.  Tried to figure things out on my own too many times.

Sigh…a sigh of relief. My friend, you don’t have to carry those worries any more. Pray over them and offer them to God. Trust the One who loves You so much. Let go and let God. And then breathe….God’s got this.

And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

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