being real: the “h” word

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As a former special education teacher, when I read the word “helplessness” in books about our faith, I have to shake off the definition that I long knew. For a special education student, “learned helplessness” is a dirty word. As the educator it was my job to encourage that child and facilitate the means for him or her to be self-sufficient to the best of their ability. But as a believer, a child of God, this helplessness is what we must long for.
Self-sufficiency is the serpent crawling through the garden.

As I continue on in my reading of Paul Miller’s book, he writes “my access to Him [God] in prayer comes through the reality of my desperation.” When I walk through my days with the perspective of finding Jesus in it, I’m in essence reducing myself.
I have to learn to be helpless.
I have to let go of that sinful nature that declares that “I’ve got this.”
Because there is not one speck of my life that I’ve “got”.

Bringing ourselves to this point of helplessness with God, also opens up the reality of who we are. We pray for the minute details of our lives, because we are honest with Him. We cry out, like David, for things that seem crazy to cry out to God to. But, we stop ourselves from asking because we don’t think that tiny thing really matters to God or means anything in the grand scheme of things.
But it does.
Doesn’t it say that “he clothes the birds, how much more would He love and clothe us?”
God is infinite and personal.
He is in everything and longs to be.
He longs to be in the everything of me.

Miller goes on “when I stop being myself with God I’m no longer in real conversation with Him.” Dare I jump so quickly to “your will Lord” instead of crying out “have mercy!”. When we jump over our hearts cry, we are back in the garden hiding behind a bush. The point of prayer is us being honest about what is on our hearts.

Changing our perspective; moving out from behind the bushes and letting Him clothe us is scary.
It’s against our culture. It moves against everything we hear or have been taught.
But freedom only comes, peace only moves into our hearts,
when we can view our lives through the lens of His mercy.
We can only do that when we open ourselves up to Him…
sinful, selfish, silly heart cries and all.

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the orientation of my heart

I mull over things.
If something has happened, might happen, or there is someone of a differing opinion than me.
If there is a choice I’ve made that might not reflect well.
If there is a friend who has slighted me or whatever.
I mull.
I have a horrible time letting go.

But as the Lord is continuing to vigorously pursue after my heart, I’m learning that I have to give up the mull.
When my mind drifts and I start to focus over others lives – choices, I’m choosing not to see the Shepherd.
I’m walking through the valley focusing on the darkness….
not on who is walking with me through it.

I’m reading through Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life and it is reshaping my heart.
I am seeking a radical heart change.
A radical heart focus.
A radical orientation to my life in the way that I respond and in the way that I engage.
In that I am realizing that counting gifts, this list to 1,000 (or more) that I’m slowly making, isn’t about looking for Pollyanna. It isn’t about sitting here on Mondays and recounting His gifts in the last 24 hours and then waking up tomorrow and going about my day self-sufficiently.

It is about looking for His touch daily, minute by minute. As Miller writes: “it is restoring the natural order of our dependence on God.” It is more than just a blog post once a week. It is more than just something in my schedule. I want it to be more than that.
So that when I start to mull, my focus would quickly be changed from cynicism to hope.
God is hope.
And I can analyze my life, the lives of others.
I can mull over choices and things that I don’t know.
or
I can cling to the truths that I do know.
I can cling to the Jesus moments throughout my day.

Miller tells a story about this woman who was sitting in his place of business. While he was running around frantic, running back and forth to home and trying to fix this huge problem, she continued to sit and wait. She never looked huffy. She never said anything. She just sat there for 3 1/2 hours waiting for her appointment.
Finally, when the problem was reconciled and he could help her, he blurted out and asked her “if she prayed to Jesus” to which she replied “yes, He is the most important thing to me”.
He realized then that Jesus had been sitting patiently in His office all day and he hadn’t seen him. He had gone through his problem, self-sufficient, frustrated and he was mulling over the mistake that he had made and had never seen who was really sitting in his office.
That has been my life.
I don’t want to move through another day without recording, counting, marking down the places where Jesus is sitting.

451. rain quietly falling
452. a last hug after a hard morning
453. the tug to look for Jesus through my days…not just my Mondays
454. a pursuit
455. painting with a friend on Friday
456. the spark in my children when they see that painting and want to paint one of their own
457. a handy husband
458. big favors
459. God’s continual provision for us
460. listening to my little girl read…so amazed at her
461. walking through Michael’s with my children; how excited the world of art is to them
462. lincoln logs

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the danger to compare

I visit with an old friend and in response I bring up an old enemy.
While there are days that I have wrestled greatly with fear, there are more days that I wrestle with comparison.
That old enemy of my eyes being on the lives of others which brings eyes of discontent onto my life.
And as I wrestle with my feelings, this overreaching desire to criticize her choices and her life brings me to a new place.

I drive down a highway pleading with God to remove this discontent.
I attempt to pray for this friend every time I start to mull over her.
Then I am stopped in my thoughts by this…
while comparing my life to others I am living in discontentment, yes, but
I am even more saying to God that the choices I’ve made; the choices that I know He has led me to,
are wrong.
That with each frustration over my life compared to hers;
with each jealous thought that stems when I think of what I don’t have
I am telling my Jesus that He has me on the wrong path;
I am telling my Jesus that I don’t trust Him.

So then my prayers for her turn to prayers of forgiveness for me;
for my sin and my shame.
And then I am reminded of Ann’s words:
Every breath is a battle between grudgery and gratitude.”
Every breath is a battle between
comparing and loving.

Again I remember what Ann writes it is “impossible to simultaneously give thanks and feel fear” and I add that it is impossible to keep my eyes onto the blessings, to recognize the details of God in my life and ponder the better life I think others might have.

I walk home from dropping off my children at school. It is a crisp morning, one that stirs you up, energizes and renews and I am overcome with gratitude. I am overcome with the simple act of walking my children to school. I am overcome with the healing in my body, but even more the change in my soul.

I hear the words of Zephaniah playing in my head…
The Lord your God is in your midst and living among you
He is a mighty, victorious warrior who can deliver and save
He takes great delight in you, rejoices over you with gladness.
He renews, quiets you with His love, He no longer rebukes you, His love calms your fears
He shouts for JOY over you, exults over you with singing…loud singing.

How and what could have ever brought me to the place where I think my life is so much worse than others…that the choices, places, things He has given and led me to could ever be wrong? Or that their choices are wrong?

And I look at the words I’ve started to sew and I continue the count. Knowing that every number I count is one more step, one more detail, one more way that I am emptying myself of all these things that keep me from Him.

431. opening the windows on a September morning to feel the coolness
432. stepping outside after a rain
433. the smile of my girl this early morning
434. the bearing of wounds in the heart of my son
435. twinges and pulls slightly dimished
436. an overwhelming sense of Him as I walk home
437. a raging conversation with my God as I drive down the highway
438. old relationships
439. emails that blow my mind
440. arrival of parents/grandparents after long being away
441. the joy of ice cream in the middle of the afternoon
442. a fridge so overflowing with His bounty that keeps on giving
443. worship, conversation, relationships growing
444. the reminder that, yes, He rejoices over me!
445. quiet, stillness
446. the look, swagger, walk of a husband so proud of the work he has accomplished
447. a lifting and stirring that I’ve long prayed for in him
448. the blue and green and light outside my window
449. laughter right before sleep
450. the perfection of His provision

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fmf {graceful}

Five Minute Friday

Friday’s a free writing days.
Days to write for 5 minutes on a given word.
A word provided and hosted by the gypsy mama.
Today’s word is {graceful}

GO

How many times do I open up my hands begging for grace….
yet then clutching it and never passing it on?

How many times do I sit and clench my fists and refuse to open myself up?

Grace is more than just asking and receiving it.
Being graceful is more than just being full of grace.
Graceful is passing it on. Taking that full and emptying it out.

Being graceful is swaying to the blessings that the Lord is raining down upon me.
The lovely ones and the ugly ones.

Being graceful is
grace
raining
again
calling us to
eucharisteo.

I will never be an amazing dancer,
I will never be one that walks straight with this amazing sway.
But I can be graceful in the way that I walk the life he has given.
When I count the gifts that He has blessed me with
when I pass that onto those around me
that is graceful.

Graceful is swaying and spinning and moving through this amazing life and pouring out my overflowing cup onto others.

STOP

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on repeat

The book of Deuteronomy is basically a recap of the years that the Isarealites wandered in the desert heading towards the Promised Land.

In reading just the first 3 chapters of the book this morning, you read
the Lord goes before you
the Lord will fight for you
the Lord prepared a place for you
the Lord appeared in fire by night and clouds by day to lead so as not to get lost

and yet over and again the Israelites
grumbled
complained
and often moved ahead on their own (sending spies etc).
And more often than not, even though they were getting closer and closer to the amazing thing the Lord had promised them, they kept wanting to go back.

This is life on repeat.
The Lord reminds us minute by minute of His promises to us.
He reminds us of all the times He has and is leading us.
He carries us, He opens wide the doors for us
and yet over and again we have to be reminded that
He.does.mean.what.He.says.

We cry out for rainbows and burning bushes and long for Him to make Himself known to us,
yet all along He is in the cloud and the fire right in front of our faces.
It is us that keep our eyes focused on so many other things instead of Him.

Paul Miller in his book on prayer, reminds me that unless I meet God daily,
unless I come before Him and Him alone…no multitasking, no worries about time, no worries about even words,
I’m no different than a wanderer in the desert.
I’m not going to see that burning bush, rainbow or cloud if I’m not at His feet.
Unless my eyes are trained on Him, it’s only me that I’m going to see.

I’m also reminded that prayer is persistence. Being on repeat means asking, asking, asking with faith.
I do not persist because I lack faith, or I have fear or worry that He won’t do.
I ask on repeat like a child, holding out faith that my persistence will pay off.

I come to Jesus, on repeat, with the full confidence that He will do…
in His time and in His way.

Like the persistent widow (Luke 18), like the man who badgers his friend for bread (Luke 11) , like the Roman centurion who knows that Jesus will heal his servant (Luke 7) and like the stubborn Isrealites who kept on moving despite their grumbles…

I will move my life on repeat. Listening for His still small voice in the wilderness of my heart and knowing that there is a rainbow to come.

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