Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lessons in Love - All of My Mind

I mentioned at the beginning of the month that my word for 2014 is LOVE.
I'm compelled to understand what it truly means to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."  Deuteronomy 6:5

In the gospels, Jesus quotes this verse from Deuteronomy, with some different words:
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."  Matthew 22:37
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."  Mark 12:30
He answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and Love your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:27
These are a collection of verses that is Jesus' response to the question,
"Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

As I've been praying about this desire of mine to truly LOVE God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, I've been struck with loving God with all my mind.
I often struggle with bad thoughts.
I find myself having "fake" conversations with no one when I'm getting ready in the morning or driving in the car.  I might be defending an argument I had the night before with my husband, pleading my case to an imaginary person.  Or rehashing a conversation with a girlfriend that I greatly disagreed with. My mind becomes filled with negative thought towards others.  Judgement.  Arrogance.  It's all clutter.
As I read "LOVE God with all of your mind," I quickly realized that loving God with all of my mind means all of my thoughts being pointed towards God.  My "fake" conversations with no one are rarely pointed towards God and loving Him.
If I love God with all of my mind, all of my thoughts must be on Him.
In 2 Corinthians 10, Paul talks about the divine power we have to demolish strongholds in our lives - sin that entangles us.  "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 
Taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ - loving God with all of my mind means every thought being held captive by Christ - not allowing my mind to wander to negative "fake" conversations, judgement, fear, anger...
Lord Jesus, hold every thought captive in obedience to you today, Amen

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Above The Sun

Our pastor has been doing an amazing series on Ecclesiastes.
The first week, he pointed out how the writer of Ecclesiastes laments about life "under the sun."
"What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?"
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun."

When we live "under the sun," we live trapped by life, under it's demands and shortcomings.
But life beyond the sun, above the sun, is lived with God and from His perspective.
Yesterday he addressed the end of chapter 6 where Solomon comes to the end of himself.  He cannot change, he cannot increase, he cannot explain why - he has reached the end of himself and finds all meaningless under the sun.

When we reach the end of our self, we are done.
He words hit me, "I'm done."
How many times have I felt that way about my children?
"I'm done."
Their endless bickering, arguing over things that don't matter or even exist, the constant up and down from the table, the multiple requests to brush their teeth, "she touched me," "he's on my side,"
 "I got this first!"  
The same thing.
I'm done.

As my pastor talked about feeling "done" when you come to the end of yourself, living under the sun, I quickly realized that I have come to the end of myself with my children.  The end of my battle against them.  The end of my ideas of discipline.  The end of my lectures.  The end of my patience!
I've been living under the sun with my kids and getting rather frustrated as
I've come to the end of my rope!
But what about above the sun?
What about God's perspective?
What about the meaning and purpose God breathes into parents
from above the demands and limits of this world?
When I am trapped under the sun and thinking of my children with an earthly perspective, in the whining and complaining of the moment, I am quickly frustrated and done!
But if I live above the sun with a heavenly perspective of my children, I know they are God's precious creation and God has empowered me to love them, guide them and train them up in the way they should go.  God has given me His Spirit to guide me and counsel me in my parenting and with His help, I am not trapped and frustrated, but can properly discipline my children and point them to Jesus.
That's my challenge for this week -
Live ABOVE the sun as a Mom.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Haunting

My son started back to school on Monday.
So sad for me because I know this begins his final months of pre-school. 
 Kindergarten begins in the fall for my littlest one.
I'm not ready to let go of the littlest one.
My girls don't start back until the end of the month, so I've been taking the past few days to start to review what they've been taught for the past 4 months.
At first I'm amazed.
I'm encouraged.
They have learned so much and recall even more!
Then it starts to slip.
  Things they don't remember.
Things they don't understand.
I start to get discouraged.
I doubt.
I'm overwhelmed.
What in the world am I doing?
As the day turns into the evening, almost all I see around me feeds my doubt, fear and sense of being overwhelmed.
Drawers that need to be cleaned out.
Piles on the counters that need to be put away.
The kids' rooms.
They play room.
My room.
My closet.
I'm completely overwhelmed.
I'm incapable.
And then the haunting comes.
Since I've been on the other side of my struggle with anxiety, I have moments of what I call "the haunting."
Fleeting thoughts in the car or at the table or walking at the park.
Thoughts that really have no words I can articulate.
The haunting almost brushes my cheek or seizes a beat of my heart.
The haunting takes my breath away for only a moment, and I fear, "Is it happening again?"
It's almost like a sweet smell that beckons you away from your diet.
Will you fall for it?
Although it is not sweet at all. 
It is the memory of a season gripped by fear.
A season of being highly incapable and not knowing what each moment might bring.
And I wonder.
Is it happening again?
As I laid in bed, the haunting came gently, leaving me gasping for air and shaking my head to dismiss it.
I started to spin downward as I recalled all the events of the day and my feelings of inadequacy.
I somehow recall Dave Eubanks.
About 15 years ago I co-led a team of college students on a mission trip to Thailand and Burma.
Dave is an ex- Army Ranger and a missionary in Thailand.
His stories of adventure through the jungles, being shot at as he brought supplies and medicine to Burmese refugees were riveting.
In the midst of extreme, heroic stories, he would speak what seemed to be random, yet profound truths.
"When you marry, if you marry, only settle for someone who each day when you wake up and see them, you're amazed that they would want to be with someone like you."
Where did that come from?
What did that have to do with college students in Burma?
Yet I remember those words to this day.
As I laid in bed and my thoughts of failure were being spurred on by the haunting, I remembered Dave.
I wish I could more specifically remember the story, but the heart of it I recall.
He was out on a run (always pushing the physical limits of his body) and towards the end of the run he felt like he couldn't make it.  I don't know if the weather was a factor, the mere distance of his run, or mental doubt, but he was waning in his efforts to make it back home.
He had a choice.  To press on or give up.
He decided to start praising God instead of complaining and entertaining thoughts of self doubt.
He started to thank Him for everything.
Before he knew it, he was home.
I pulled out my journal and started to write down everything I could think of to thank God for.
One by one, holding the haunting at arms length.
Until finally, the truth broke through and the haunting was gone.
It's the same principle that Ann Voskamp writes about in "1000 Gifts".
"Gratitude is not only a response to God in good timesit’s ultimately the very will of God in hard times.
Gratitude isn’t only a celebration when good things happen. It’s a declaration that God is good no matter what happens."

The enemy wants to remind us of our past.
He wants us to be defeated by doubt and fear.
He wants us to be overwhelmed by all of our short-comings.
But thanksgiving ushers us into the presence of God.
Praise takes us right into the courts of His palace.
And trust me, there is no haunting in the presence of God.
Nor is there fear or doubt from the past in His palace.

I'm convicted all the more to take the challenge of counting 1000 gifts that God gives. 

I've been so blessed and challenged by Ann's words over on her blog.
I highly recommend you check it out and drink from her daily wisdom.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year of LOVE

Yesterday I got to kick off the new year in my most favorite way
at the ocean
with a new journal.
It was a stunning day, clear skies, bright blue expanse reflecting the sea below.
Calm, placid waters.
Dolphins leisurely bobbing about with seemingly no place in particular to go.
It was quiet
and still.
I sat and first read Ann Voskamp's reflection for the day which only inspired me more and fueled my excitement for this new year.
I sat with my beautiful journal that a dear friend bought me for my 40th birthday and heard the crack of the binding as I opened it for the first time.
A new journal
A new year
I began in my traditional fashion, recalling the highlights of the year that had only ended 7 short hours earlier.
In so many ways, 2013 was a year of redemption for me.
God took was had been stolen from me and gave it back 10 fold.
God gathered the broken pieces and fashioned something new.
He whispered truth.
There were challenges and struggles as well,
but in those God only reminded me to trust Him all the more as He pointed me back to the previous years and pointed out His faithfulness that pulled me through and would once again.
"Please focus me on the now," I paused to pray.
I was already spinning with ideas and thoughts about the new year and wanted to jump ahead!  
But I needed to be still and reflect on the year just ended.
At the start of 2013, sitting on that same beach a year ago, I wrote that I declared 2013 the year of pure JOY.
One thing I learned through the challenges of 2011 and 2012 was that God's love for me never changed, regardless of my pain and struggles.  So why should my joy change?
Pure JOY was 2013.
And reflecting back on last year, it was just that - Pure JOY.
Now to 2014
it will be the year of LOVE.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."  Deuteronomy 6:5
To LOVE God with all my heart, soul and strength - I want to know what the really means.
To LOVE others as myself - I want to know what that really means.
The final days of 2013


Thumbs up in 2014!


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