Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Daily Habit

"Daily life is woven together with the threads of habit , and no habit is more important to our spiritual health than the discipline of daily prayer and devotion to the Creator."

Throughout my life, when I have experienced times of unrest, dissatisfaction, joylessness, discontent, there is a commonality that runs through: my lack of time spent at the feet of the Lord and Savior of my life. I constantly give in to the "pressing" needs of day-to-day life over and above this most important of all needs, the filling of my soul with His presence, wisdom, and peace. Throughout this year it was my goal to seek out God's wisdom and to surrender to Him, and though I have grown in this area of seeking Him in my life, it has been sporadic, rather than steady and continuous. If you could graph it, it would probably end up looking like a mountain range with all the peaks and valleys. There are still areas of my life that I hold back from Him and too many times when I seek my own "wisdom" or that of this world before His. And it's no wonder when I do not daily carve out time for Him to speak to me, to move in me.
Why this is the area of greatest struggle for me, I'll never know. It all comes down to choices and creating that daily habit.  Heaven knows I've made room for the habits of Facebook, eating, and watching television .
This year has seen many areas of discipline, change and growth: our screen time habits, eating habits, where we give our time and energy. And yet this area continues to fall short. This area which touches every other in my life.
It's almost time to move into 2013. While I don't know what God has in store for me the rest of this year, I know that I want to move WITH Him rather than against or away from. And that all begins with a simple choice...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Stress can be an addiction and worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment is always yes because of Christ." - Ann Voskamp

Addicted to worry.  Lunging for control.  Why the struggle? The fight against surrender? Why is my first reaction still to rush to anxiety and anger?
Breathe in.
Give me wisdom from you, Father.
Breathe out.
I surrender to you.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday

"O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me the courage to follow it readily that I, too, may lead others to you. This I ask through Jesus, my shepherd and guide."
~From The Divine Hours

Monday, January 23, 2012

Surrender (Part 2)

"...there can be no peace with God, nor can there be peace in our hearts

apart from unconditional surrender." - Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Well. This blog has been glaringly empty of new posts, hasn't it? There are times when I feel the same about my soul. Not that God isn't there. He always, always is. But I turn tail and run from Him altogether too often. And I have been decidedly peace-free as of late. Which brings me to the quote above and to the title of my post. You can read here about my struggle with this idea of surrender. Look at that - it was a year and a half ago that I wrote that! Egads. You can also read here about the big ideas I had to try and work on this area of my life in 2011. Spoiler alert! Didn't happen. I ran harder and faster in the opposite direction in some ways. It's not that I openly rebel. It's more of a passive-aggressive rebellion where I just simply refuse to stop and listen, where I am ruled by my fears and wants. What I forget time and again is that this world is not my home. Rather, I burrow down deeper into the false comforts and temporary treasures that are offered to me here. I decide, when faced with decisions or stresses, that I know best. Especially when I sit down and open the Word and read words like "prisoner"* and "sacrifice"** or phrases like "carry your cross"*** or "thorn in the flesh"****. It sounds hard. And unpleasant. And controlling. But then I am reminded of this:

"To surrender to the Creator's control is not onerous or burdensome;

it is, in fact, the place of blessing, fullness, and peace."

or this:

"As long as we refuse to surrender our will to the will of God, we are never truly free.

Rather, we find ourselves dominated by ungodly appetites and forces.

You won't bow to [God's] will in relation to your marriage, your morals, your attitudes, your tongue, your eating habits, your spending habits, or the way you spend your time? Then count on it - the very points on which you refuse to surrender will become "enemies" that rule over you."

Both of these are taken from that awesome book I read a year and a half ago entitled (you guessed it) Surrender. It's by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. I highly recommend as you'll see over to the right there.

These sentences strike a chord in me which leads me to acknowledge their truth.

Dear God, I don't want to enter into 2013 in this same place. My heart longs for the abundant life you came to give, but my head gets all screwy and twisted-up what that actually looks like.
I am weary of calling the shots and weary of giving in to life as I want it to look like. It is scary to surrender. I pray you would bestow me with the trust I lack. Day by day, moment by moment, decision by decision.

"If there is anything holding you back,

or any sacrifice you are afraid of making,

come to God and prove how gracious your God is.

Never be afraid that he will command from you what He will not bestow!

God comes and offers to work this absolute surrender in you."

- Andrew Murray

*Ephesians 4:1

** Romans 12:1, 1 Peter 2:5

*** Matthew 10:38, 16:24

**** 2 Corinthians 12:7

Monday, April 25, 2011

Behold the Lamb of God

"One of the most sobering truths about the human situation is that we can take even the most spiritual ideas, practices, and plans and place them in service of "the old man" or the false self. We are much better at taking surveys, gathering information, and making strategic plans than we are at dying to what is false within us so that what is truest in us can live. Lent is a season when we face the wilderness within." ~Ruth Haley Barton:The Wilderness Within 2011

The above quote struck a chord with me as I read it last week at the end of this Lenten season. In my Christian life I have studied hundreds of books, engaged in countless devotionals/Bible studies, and taken dozens of surveys/tests, etc. to help enhance my spiritual walk. None of these things, in and of themselves, is bad. But without true contemplation, repentance, and change, they are ineffective. How often have I said to myself and the Lord, "I will live better, I will change", and what is unspoken on the end of that promise is always "tomorrow" or "soon" or "someday". Because I still struggle with that lasting change. I love the Lord. I am, now more than at any other time in my life, in love with Him and in awe of the sacrifice that He endured for ME. And for you. I am astounded that He would do die for any of us. Why, then, do I forsake Him so often? Why do I place in greater importance above Him the ridiculous, fleeting things of this world? Why do I coast and become lazy in my pursuit of Him and all things righteous that bring me true peace and fulfillment? It is the greatest mystery of my life, and just when I think I have turned a corner, I find myself back at the same crossroads at which I always arrive, choosing the wrong way. Mired in the wilderness within. I know it is part of the human condition to sin, to forsake, to selfishly pursue wrong things. I am so grateful for God's mercy and forgiveness, His unconditional love, His gentle leading and teaching, even His discipline. I continue to desire that right path and the abundant life that comes along with it, yet when it comes to choosing it I so often chicken out due to fear and selfishness. I know I'm not alone in this, but I don't want my standards to be the lives of those around me. I want my standards to be the Lord's, the way that Jesus lived, the Biblical guideline that has been laid out for me. I want to live out of gratitude for what has been done for me in love. And I know that my life has once again not been reflecting that.

God, forgive me for my poor choices and my self-centered living. Forgive me for choosing temporary pleasures over the abundant life you hold out to me. Be strong in my weakness, grant me perseverance and the will to obey. You have won victory over death on the cross, now help me to win victory and die those small deaths each day in surrender.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotion"

Oh God whose will conquers all,
There is no comfort in anything
apart from enjoying thee
and being engaged in thy service;
Thou art All in all, and all enjoyments are what to me
thou makest them, and no more.
I am well pleased with they will, whatever it is,
or should be in all respects,
And if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair
I would choose to refer all to thee,
for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss,
as I am in danger of doing.
I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal,
and it delights me to leave them there...
I can of myself do nothing to glorify thy blessed name,
but I can through grace cheerfully surrender soul and body
to thee.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Guest blogger!!!

My BFF from the womb and I have a long history of creativity together. In our younger years it was re-enacting scenes from Wonder Woman on the playground. This evolved into basement rock concerts (lip synced to the incomparable Amy Grant) and then elaborate storylines involving our imaginary boyfriends and work at our high-powered office jobs. In high school we would while away long hours in my bedroom listening to Sarah McLachlan or Toad the Wet Sprocket and pouring out our hearts via both poetry and prose. (Not to toot our own horns but I think we may both have had the honor of being published in both the high school literary mag and/or yearbook. Hang onto those valuable items, fellow classmates.) Our love of writing has not waned and for a long time she, like myself, kept a blog which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. A blog which is now, sadly, defunct, though her love of putting thought into word is not. And so I am happy and proud to give her a place here to voice some of her thoughts. I hope that you will find yourself challenged and encouraged by her as I am. Any feedback, response, etc. that you are so inclined to leave is greatly welcomed. Without further ado, I present to you, Robyn. :)

I had a friend who would call me up once in a while, to tell me she was in the area and wanted to pay a visit. I looked forward to this because we do not get to spend a lot of time together-at least, not quality time. Needless to say, it felt good to know she wanted to hang out, do some catch up- maybe grab a coffee and just be present with one another.

But as soon as she got to my house- I noticed something. We’d be sitting down, getting settled, and basically, the whole time she was with me, she was always thinking about all the things she had to do yet today, the things she was working on for next week and then, sometimes even, lamenting about what happened the week before. I didn’t notice it as much until I started trying to share with her, how I was. Or, to see if she’d even notice my new hair cut, or to see if she’d recognize anything different since months ago – instead, she was so busy spending time with me, but not seeing or hearing me that it was if I really didn’t need to be there at all.

The whole visit ended up being all noise. I realized, the quality of our time was really spent before she even showed up and we were ‘buying’ time instead. I honestly don’t think either of us felt anymore connected than if we hadn’t ever gotten together in the first place and I wondered what our friendship was really based on.

This morning, I sat down like I do for my devotions with the Lord every morning. It happens after I get my babies off to school and I carve out prayer time before I head into my day. But this morning, I had a list of things, concerns, prayer requests and worries for the day. My aunt had just passed a few days ago, my children were anxious about things in their life, I am struggling to just maintain normalcy, whatever that is…and my security in many areas is up for grabs right now. As I was driving back in my mini van- I was actually preparing my ‘prayer’ for the Lord the whole time. He has no idea what is coming to him, I thought.

And I opened up my prayer book to a random chapter-- it said:
Be Present. Be Present with the Lord.

In it, laid a prayer that asked for forgiveness- telling God how we forget so easily that our days are numbered and that he knows already, our past and future and all we have is our present moment. I paused. I quieted myself. I sat before him and said- Father, I am that friend who comes rushing in to your presence and steals every last ounce of goodness to turn it into something I need, I want. I even tried to explain to him, how ignorant I was and stubborn and before I found my mind wandering aimlessly to my prayer list, he told me to hush. Robyn, hush.

After this, I looked before me. I saw a few people gathered in a huddle, praying- non stop. Their words were mumbled, but their hearts were on fire- seeking his attention for their petitions before him. He told me, they’ve been there all day, like this; some of them, for weeks. Then, he widened my view- and before me I saw not just a few but tens, hundreds, thousands of people, praying—crying, presenting their laments, their prayers, their worries, their hurts, their needs for the day, the past, the future---their visions for their future, their castles and their wants. But – he said, to me, not one of them was ‘present’ with him. They were stuck in their heads, asking God to find them instead.

He said my daughter these things go on like this daily. They’re like crying children – you know those children that you can never seem to ‘stop’ ? …. And yes, while I tell my people to always present their prayers and their anxieties to me, I still want you to hear me--- it never stops. Even after they’re answered.

And I looked at myself-trying to hear what he was really trying to tell me with out telling me. And I looked at myself- with my loaded prayers, my ability – to chime in with the rest of em- to add to the chorus of crying children, to be another one – hearts begging, tears flowing. I looked up- for a moment, and saw this beautiful, patience that I had never known before. It sat there, staring back at me. And after I quieted my soul, long enough, to be ‘present’ - I heard my Lord today. I heard what he hears from where he sits and what he may actually desire after he hears our desires day after day after day.

I heard my Lord today. I heard the overwhelming wailing from women across the world, and the military moms who are all praying for their sons, and the never ending cries from the ones who have died and the ones who are being born--- it was humming…it was haunting, it was constant noise in my ears….

He sat there, waiting for my prayer and instead, I opened my voice and what came out was a love song…. I sang the first song that came to my mind--- “I love you Lord…and I lift my voice…to worship you oh my soul, rejoice….take joy my king..in what you hear …. May it be a sweet , sweet sound in your ear….” After this song released, with tears streaming down my face, I realized, in that moment, he had heard me because I heard him. I ask for comfort but I gave comfort – to be a sweet, sweet song in your ears…. He showed me how it was like giving a cool drink of water to someone who had been in the desert, able to go on with out a drink but what an incredible offering when it is available.

I looked back on the people who were praying; who were humming, who were crying and I sang it again, only this time, louder. I sang it, asking, no- begging the people to turn their prayers of worry, and concern into a love song for the Lord.

To be a beautiful praise- a sweet sweet something---in his ears….to please him… a King who already knows our concerns, who already knows our worries. Can we, just – for a moment, give him a break- and worship him? Consider him?

To be present is to know you.

I want to be a sweet, sweet sound in your ears Lord.