Jesus has love for us to experience with Him, regardless of the part of the story we find ourselves in.
Throughout human history, there have been horrific problems and questions about how to solve them. Even Christians can't fix things without continually partnering with Jesus. The turmoil around us can lead us into a feeling of overwhelm, but if we turn we can "see" Jesus, and catch a glimpse of how He's already lovingly at work in us. It's very humbling when we're graced to see how our responses to life are never just about what's happening on the outside.
Like you, I need to regularly set aside the conclusions I start drawing from my feelings and very limited perspective and open myself to Jesus' all knowing, loving direction. I need help perceiving ...
"to become aware or conscious of; come to realize or understand."
So, let's take a breath.
Jesus can help us see when our reaction to life is coming from love or when it's coming from a fearful place of self-protection. Sometimes, it's a mixture of both. We genuinely desire to see people in the world redeemed and restored, especially the people we love. The Holy Spirit desires to comfort and counsel us, helping us perceive even when it's a little complex. We have the greatest hope in the world right at our fingertips. Do we want Christ more than we want our usual habits? Are we ready to welcome Jesus into all of this with us?
Breathe. Deeply breathe.
Recognizing when we step away from Him, grasping for control and our own answers, is critical to receiving His presence at work in us. Naming what we see inside makes us able to partner with Christ. Recognizing is hard spiritual work that takes real-life, real-time practice by applying what we know in our heads and allowing it to be at work in our hearts. Throughout Scripture, the Lord shows Himself to be the answer and teaches us continually not to depend on present circumstances, but to embrace and learn to discern His presence and His ways in the middle of it.
It's simple, but it's not easy. I find myself deeply grateful that Jesus is truly ready and willing. When a particular root gets tripped on, it triggers our woundedness. Each of us has "sensitive" areas. Instead of looking out there and blaming someone in the world for how we feel, let's look to Jesus and ask Him, "What are you bringing up to the surface for me so that I can see this truthfully?" Our openness to His transforming presence is the most important thing we need to look at right now.
Breathe. Breathe deeply.
In the details of this part of human history together, may we lean on the Holy Spirit at work in us to lead us into the “how”. Problems have always been difficult to solve. How do we draw near to our Father’s heart when so many people have heightened emotion and don’t know how to process it? May we be graced with opportunities to learn together.
Jesus, breathe life.
Prayerfully notice .... How is the state of my soul right now?
Pick a question to pray with:
When are you focusing on trusting your responses to the problems we're facing rather than on Jesus to show us the way?
Invite Jesus into that space with you remaining tender to receive His love and guidance.
Where can you see yourself inside opening to Christ's healing care? Where inside are you still a little closed off and want to handle it yourself? Invite Jesus into that space with you remaining tender to receive His love and guidance.
Practice Lectio Divina, a way to be with God through Scripture. Simply let God give Himself to you in whatever way He wants to care for you. Read, breathe and pause, read again. Reflect on what's happening in you as you do. Thank Jesus for who He is and what He's doing within you.
~ Matthew 11:28-30, John 15:1-4, Lamentations 3:21-26, Psalm 40:1-3, Psalm 139:1-5 ~
If you feel some companionship in a spiritual direction environment could be helpful to you right now, please reach out.
Photo Credit: Alvin Matthews
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matthew 6:26
About two weeks ago, we chose to stop using our front door. Can you guess why? A mama Robin was creating a beautiful nest in the safety of my front door wreath, and we decided we shouldn't disturb her important work. We all decided we wanted to start entering and exiting our home around back instead. This minor inconvenience takes all of 30 seconds longer each time and simply requires putting our shoes in a different place than where we're used to.
We weren't all on board at first but, through the Spirit, God touched hearts and gave our family a sense of oneness. We saw this as an invitation to consider the "least of these." So, we took the long way around the house, watching her wait in her nest from afar.
Days went by. Then a week and then two. All of a sudden something happened, but it wasn't what we expected. She left her nest and hasn't been back. For the first time in two weeks, we walked up our front steps and peeked in wondering what was going on. There were no eggs, no mama, just an empty nest, and our curious thoughts.
We don't know what happened. What went wrong? We thought if we do our part, we would get to see something beautiful occur! But, that's not what happened. Somehow still, this small inconvenience was worth practicing putting something else above ourselves. It was worth loving even when the result didn't create the new life we thought it would. Even when nothing seemed to happen, I believe our willingness to love mattered. It formed us. If we would inconvenience ourselves for a bird, how much more willing might we be to inconvenience ourselves for a person? The Spirit of God changed us, softened our hearts through our willingness to enter the process.
Jesus never asks us to know the results of the process. He simply asks us to enter it with him.
As I look around at the injustice and hurt in the world right now, it can feel overwhelming. The need for a love that is willing to go the extra mile is all around us. Still, I have hope. My hope isn't in what I expect will happen because of my efforts, but in what Jesus will do in all of us if we're willing to enter the process together. Jesus takes our "yes" and does something with it. We often won't understand, we're just asked to be willing to come and enter in and follow his lead.
Jesus will never waste our willingness. Everything matters to him.
Notice what He's laying on your heart. How's He nudging you to stay in for the long haul when results don't always reveal themselves? Compassion makes a difference out there but it also makes a difference in us. We need both. Everything matters.
"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
- Matthew 25:40b
This weekend I spent half the Saturday simply sitting on my deck under the sunshine, experiencing the sights and sounds of the birds coming to eat. I saw the yard work that will need tending. I saw the fallen branches, the leaves lying in wait from last season. But, I hear birds' wings breeze past me with songs from their friends responding from the woods. I smell the, now unfrozen, earth beneath. I feel the gentle movement of the Spirit invite me to have a seat and sense I'm right where I need to be. Work can wait.
Spring is for renewal, not just of nature but of soul and today my soul needed tending most of all.
This time nurtures trust. This reminds me I already have everything I need, and everything else can wait. As I let go of my work for a little while, Jesus and I got to enjoy what he's been working on in me. It feels as if God himself was giving me a hug.
Being able to sit still - still feels relatively new for me. I've always enjoyed watching the birds come to my feeders, but over the years, as life started piling up, I began resisting rest and enjoyment for the comfort control gave me as I crossed things off my to-do list. I would use "doing" to protect me from the deep wounds I felt in me. For a long time, I couldn't sit with Jesus like this and quite frankly, I started missing him.
The spiritual journey helps us see what motivates us, the habits that drive us, and the ways we particularly cope in life.
Like the part of me that thinks everything needs to be done and put in place before I can rest and enjoy. Awareness to this part of us signals a need to connect with God in His trusting love. To get glimpses of this side of myself feels like a glorious exchange, but it is tough work. I love how Marilyn Vancil, in her book, "Self To Lose Self To Find" calls the dual parts of us the "Adapted Self" and the "Authentic Self". It's a lot like how Saint Paul said, "Old Self" and "New Self." The "Old Self" is the part of me that is broken, straining, disconnected from God's presence and provision trying to make something happen. The "New Self" is the true part of me, created in God's image, trusting, connected.
We each have these two dueling sides, and Jesus' invitation is always for us to let go and step more deeply into the full life where our true self in God waits to be embraced. I keep learning life is so much less about what I do and so much more about how and why I do it. Am I using what I can do to make myself feel in control, content, protected, satisfied? Am I willing to see the compulsion of this "Old Self" of mine for what it is and tell Jesus I want to lay it down?
I don't know what your particular tendencies may be, but leaning into the full life Jesus came to give is about noticing God and noticing ourselves. It's being a christian knowing we still need help. It's becoming aware of the transformation we tend to resist when responding to life in a certain way gives us a momentary release but no long term benefit.
Freedom from what drives us is a taste of the full life, the healed life Jesus came to give! Freedom tastes so good when we can get there with Him. Saying no to what drives us is hard, inner work but it's work that's worth it because it's work that will last. It's work that will bless you when you want to simply sit and watch the birds.
What does the "Old Self" look like in you and are you willing to say "no" to it when you see it?
How might you let God embrace you and lead you into renewal this Spring?
"The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need." - Psalm 23:1 NLT
Would it help you to have a place to come and share what you're noticing inside you?
Message Amy if you want to set up a time for spiritual direction.
While I love Christmas the actual day tends to feel disappointing. While I love twinkling lights my soul still longs for a better experience of the light within me. I crave the quiet this time of year and this seems like the hardest time of year to find it. The expectation in the culture we live in and my own self-appointed ones ride along with me debating their worth alongside my soul’s true longings.
All the while, whether we notice or not, our soul is yearning for something else.
Recently, I began learning about Christmastide and it is opening Christmas up for me in a new way. My new awareness of what our church history and tradition is helps me recalibrate my perspective. Christmastide begins when Jesus is born! Instead of ending tomorrow, tomorrow it begins. God becoming flesh coming alongside His created humanity that He longs to love not only is the fulfillment of a great promise but it is a miracle. Christmas doesn’t actually end after you open gifts. This is refreshing!
As Christmas is happening, we begin our journey toward Epiphany when the wise men arrived in Christ’s presence recognizing Him as the son of God! It is very exciting and helps frame the bigger picture to what’s happening spiritually.
In these final hours of Advent, may we be led out of a desert of disappointments and false expectations into reflection and soul celebration. Christ has come for us and He is still coming. May we recognize who lives in us and wants to bring us life.
Today into tomorrow, find some space to be aware of what your soul is truly longing for. Reflect on the gift that it is to recognize Christ being born to come into your personal world - to love you and save you. Recognize and celebrate who He is to you in your life. Journal words from your soul.
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord.
- Zechariah 2:10
I don’t think I’m the only one who didn’t realize the emotional toll this year would take. Living in the midst of something beyond our control to fix on our own requires openness and resilience. Living with something bigger than ourselves is eye-opening. Experiencing grief in losing what’s normal and being grateful for the new revelations within it holds a tension all its own. Opposite emotions all at once can feel disorienting.
After 9 months, Covid continues to hang over our heads requiring what can feel like daily adjusting as we try to catch our breaths behind the masks. Deeply rooted racial wounds in our country continue to cry out for the need for awareness, repentance, and healing, not to mention (because I hardly want to) a political season weighty with divisiveness. My soul is tired.
I don't think I’m alone.
Just a little over 24 hours ago I was sitting in the sacred space my spiritual director creates for me. I don’t think I got more than five words out of my mouth before I started crying. “I am emotionally tired”, I said, feeling the depth of my emotional reserves on low. My #7 enneagram energy level isn’t where it usually is and I find that a little disorienting.
She had a few things to say in reassurance and then she simply asked the question, "If Jesus asked you what you want most right now what would you say?" In seconds, I knew. "I just want a silent retreat to feel refreshed and replenished."
I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Over the last 24 hours since meeting with her I’ve prayed and been so grateful for this awareness. I’ve asked Jesus, besides a retreat, what simple every day things would be life giving for me right now? It's amazing what we find in our hearts when we ask and listen. Simple things like, holding a warm mug of tea between my hands just staring out the window. Lighting a candle and putting on beautiful music. Playing a board game with my family. Sleeping in on a Saturday... Each of these things are surprisingly simple. Things I might even take for granted or not have much time for under “normal” circumstances.
So often I'm reminded, the solutions for our soul are often humbly simple but we have to listen for what they're crying for. We find hope when we hear and gain a greater perspective to live with awareness that we're experiencing something more real and true and raw than we saw before. We're experiencing our own limitations. We're experiencing our need for a Savior and to work hand in hand with one another. I'm grateful for what Jesus can do in us in the midst of where we find ourselves in the story of history right now.
I know I’m not alone.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you." Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." - Deuteronomy 31:6-8
Making daily time for silent moments nourishes my soul right now. Along with meeting with my Spiritual Director (to share and receive support for how God is working in me), silence is one of my most important practices right now. It feels as though the Holy Spirit is doing something in me and I need to be ready to hear.
Maybe, it's the education on racial wounds and the cry for justice?
Maybe, it's the continued corona-virus changes?
Maybe, it's the regular activity of my 4 children with me almost all the time?
Maybe, it's the reforming of the local church I find myself noticing as a spiritual director and pastor's wife?
I'm finding the reason why I'm being invited into more quiet time less important and simply receiving this invitation as a gift. To be available, waiting, and listening so I can respond to God. That's what matters most. That's what will change me and give me clarity in this season.
As I sat for quiet this morning, I used a few verses in Mark's experience of Jesus to help me become still so I might hear. Many of us don't have the energy left anymore to read our Bible for a religious, superior motivation. We want to read to know and be known by our Creator more personally!
You might know the parables Jesus taught often confounded people who weren't there for a relationship. They were focused on defending and justifying what they already thought they knew. But, His disciples were listening too. As I quietly, slowly read verse 34 the last few words stood out to me.
"But when He was alone with his disciples, He explained everything."
He was so kind to them. Amidst the questions, and at times confusion, Jesus wanted to guide them along their journey, pointing them back to the promises of God's heart! He didn't want them to stay confused. Jesus knew it would take time for His disciples to "get it". He knew learning would come in layers. He was aware each one walking with Him had wounds, differing personalities, and even some false desires in the way. He knew they didn't even really know who they were yet.
It's in this listening time where we grow in discerning His voice. Little by little, we get to know the priceless things He knows we need to understand for our journey. It's in this surrendered time we practice letting go of whatever is blocking our hearing.
Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." - Mark 4:9
For those who want to hear and be known by Him, He already waits for you. He makes Himself available to you. Our part is to arrange our lives in a way so we might hear and be graced in relationship with continued understanding.
What speaks to you about Jesus in Mark 4:34?
What might help you quietly listen for what He wants to explain to you?
Difficult times have a way of helping us see what really matters. And if we open ourselves to embrace 'what is' God truly can do a mighty work in our hearts. This unusual season of quarantine is no different. It's having an effect on all our lives. Maybe these few things can help give you some words to ask God about as you listen for His heart and find your footing in this season.
I believe that God is with us and working in us. When I pray, I'm opening myself to Him anew and being attentive to His work within me. Sometimes, I am simply still just being with Him, trusting He enjoys being with me. When I pray for the people I love, it reminds me that in the spirit we are all waiting and watching to find out how God will act and interact with us. Journaling about what is happening in me and what I'm noticing in the world around me, and bringing this into my relationship with Him can be very helpful in prayer. Learning about and practicing old tried and true spiritual disciplines like, Lectio Divina can also enhance your awareness of God with you in prayer.
2. Stay Connected
I have a new budding gratefulness for technology. As a person who has historically resisted the new tech trends I find myself so happy we have them! Not for self focused desires but for connection with other human beings. During the last few weeks of quarantine I have signed up for Zoom for myself to help further my spiritual direction training and connect with my friends and family. I've downloaded Messenger Kids for my children to connect with their friends. The ability to connect through Zoom, Skype, Facetime, texting or phone calls, are all great ways to stay in relationship with others. We are social beings. We absolutely need to know we're connected to someone outside ourselves.
3. Reach Out
See how your neighbors are doing. We can still practice social distancing through talking with each other from the safety of our own yards or starting a group chat with the people on our block. We can drop off flowers, a bottle of wine, fresh baked cookies, or cards on each others front steps. See how you feel prompted and led and go do it! Thankfully, social distancing does not mean the end of serving.
4. Cultivate Gratitude
There is always something to be grateful for. Always. As I write this, I am healthy and my family is healthy. I am grateful for more time together, the shared meals, the books I'm reading, for the birds chirping outside my kitchen window, for the silly playfulness our dog Jack gives to our home. Gratitude gives us perspective and a sense of peace as we look and see and thank God for His tangible gifts and provision.
5. Slow Down
Last but not least, slowing down seems to be key. Even as someone who is energized by others, I have often desired more time for contemplation. More time to look up at the sky, take a walk, write and read. Sometimes, it takes a forced slow down to sit still long enough to see what actually feels invited by God in the present season. Perhaps not being able to do some of the things I'm used to filling my time with is a gift right now.
While we wouldn't choose for this hard thing to happen or, the many inconveniences it causes, as we process it, we will be ready to embrace how God is going to reveal more of His heart to us through it. In this uncertain time, the invitation seems to be to open our lives to God's love and discern how He wants to reorient our plans so we align with Him.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now."
- Rainer Maria Rilke
I have many memories of myself jumping to answers or "quick-fix" solutions to a challenge to escape the uncomfortable feelings I was experiencing because of them. It used to be my 'normal' to attempt to control because I didn't know any other way. I'm aware of how living with a question that feels so pressing and uncomfortable to one's heart and mind doesn't feel good. I remember what I would experience.
I would have a question or feel like there was a problem. I would take control, figure it out, and go about trying to fix it, but nothing seemed to truly progress. I was a Christian, a Jesus follower, but I didn't know how to apply the things that were unresolved in my heart and let them be a part of my relationship with him. I didn't know yet how the uncomfortable parts were inviting me into a deeper relationship.
I believe our ability to hold our questions is crucial because if we can't we ignore one of the biggest parts of what makes us human. Our value and his purposes for us are difficult for us to see if we can't look and ask and wait in our real longings inside this sacred relationship. When we can't wait with our questions, we tend to rush ahead, trying to make something else work or happen instead.
In other words, we tend to try to control and manage life instead of discerning what Jesus is doing
in our life.
True connection with God as my love and my guide draws me toward maturity, understanding, and grace. My increasing capacity to be attentive to myself in God's presence brings light and truth into my heart. As I wait for the awareness I need to hear, friendship with Jesus becomes more personal. When I rush away from my questions, it actually disregards the experience of relationship.
When I try to answer too quickly, take control, and figure out a solution on my own, I haven't given myself a chance to experience Jesus and hear His voice in the situation.
Becoming present to ourselves, to Jesus, and at times a trusted soul friend nourishes a deeper feeling than a quick-fix response ever can, but it requires going there with him. It takes practice.
Starter Prayer ...
Father, Son, and Spirit, help me lean on you instead of running into my own conclusions. Enable me by your spirit to listen in prayer and in life as you reveal what I need to know. Your revelations, your heart, your wisdom means more to me than feeling like I have control. Thank you, for nourishing me as I wait with you.
Can I hold my question with the Lord without trying to solve it?
Can I be patient with this thing that is unsolved in my heart?
Can I rest with my question in God's presence?
"I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation my fortress where I will never be shaken."
I dropped my kids at my grandma's house a little after lunch. This has been a rhythm of mine for the last year or so to have the better part of one day a week to myself. My grandma is great-grandma to my babies. She's amazing. On this day, one day a week, I almost always have an appointment or two lined up and some reading or cleaning in my house to catch up on. But, today I didn't have anything that needed to happen.
My perception on time and living in a hurried way has been shifting. I can feel it happening. Maybe, it's the season I'm in or the book I've been reading. I can't put my finger on how exactly my thinking is changing but one thing I know for sure. God loves me and He'll use everything in my day to keep teaching me to rest, trust, rely on Him and desire Him in well, everything...
Today, on my one day a week, I could've tried to 'get ahead' on something important. I'm good at that! I've done it lots of times before. But, nothing actually felt that important and God knows I long to follow His Spirit. I want to walk WITH Him not on my own ahead of Him! This is a prayer for me lately.
I packed my bag with a book, a snack, a towel, my Bible, and water bottle, and sun glasses (because it's Summer still) and headed outdoors. After, I ate my cucumber sandwich, hummus, and corn chips sitting in stillness. I spread out my towel, a pillow, and fell asleep on my dock that rests on top of our little body of water. I dozed off until my sister called. As I listened to her special voice I heard her heart filled with words of updates of new baby and packing and moving soon to a different part of the country. After a little while she had to go and help her older baby toddler so I decided to open up my book and read a little. Soon, I'm highlighting and breathing prayers of thankfulness... peace, grace. presence, rest, love.
I took a deep, slow breath in. Probably, the first one I've taken in days and smelled the change in the air and felt God's peace touch me. I rolled myself over and sat up to check and see what the clouds were doing. They were big and dark and full and beautiful, haunting in a good way! A hawk, I don't know what kind, was using the soon-to-be-summer-storm wind to glide and soar high over me. I don't believe God put this hawk just here right now just for me but He surely does use all His creatures and the powers of nature to say something.
I felt His presence hovering. As if He wanted to say, "Life is here Amy for the taking. I give it freely for you, for your good, for my glory..." I sat still looking up all around me, little me, learning about all the freedom I have with God. It began to rain. I placed my things back into my bag and protected it with the towel I had just moments before used to lay in the sun. I headed for shelter. It's amazing how quickly things change.
When I stop to rest I really see.
I've been outdoors a lot in nature lately with friends and family and it's all good and it's moments and memories and experiences together and I love it! But, it's different when I'm all by myself with God. I feel His Spirit that lives in me smiling saying, 'Well done, my girl'. I love this time with you! "I'm so happy you're getting my point. I've been following you around teaching you, that a big part of serving Me, loving Me, bringing Me glory can only be done in rest, in waiting, in being still and finding out that I am God."
God loves us. He's abundantly kind to let me know when I've chosen well. It feels a lot like peace for my soul. I became aware of a grace, undeserved, while I was busy not accomplishing anything. This is what I'm learning and it's good and it's life giving!
Today, on my one day a week God gave a gift to me.
He reminded me that I don't have to do as much as I think.
He made it clear that taking my time in His presence just being and letting Him love me however He would like to, is worth putting aside my desire to accomplish another thing on my to-do list.
Resting with Him is worth every second.
"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." - Psalm 84:10a NIV
Inspiration becomes distraction when it's not executed at the right time.
I jumped out of bed at 6am and was out the door running within 15 minutes. For 3 miles I ran while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. The latest episode was on the benefits of blogging. I was inspired by reason 1 and completely sold by reason 10!
I came straight home determined I knew exactly what I needed to do but something didn't feel quite right. Normally, a morning run focuses my heart, mind, and body for the day ahead. I tend to feel calmer, clearer and ready to go! But today was different. I didn't know what I should write about or see how I was even going to fit whatever these words were supposed to be into my day. I felt tense and cloudy.
Instead of being led by the Spirit I was being led by a good idea.
The truth is, with all the great thinkers throughout time and information constantly right at my fingertips, it can be easy to get distracted and start things I'm simply not meant to do right now.
If you're anything like me, your mind runs with 100 different possibilities! My enthusiasm can easily turn into stress when I don't have my attention on where God has me right now. Passionate achievers who want to see movement and make a difference have to learn to stop. Stop everything for a few minutes to intentionally pray about what's next. "God, Where do you want my attention to be today? How can I agree with what you want to accomplish in me?"
We need continual clarity about where God has us in our story so we can learn what we need from the page we're on. This alone can bring peace and contentment. This alone can be all the reason we need to not jump ahead before this chapter's finished.
One of the most important things to remember today is, everything is not the next thing.
After coming home, settling in, I realized I needed direction! I paused and prayed. I felt freed up to wait and words came. I DID have a blog post in me today.