Thursday, July 26, 2012

Running over?

This morning I was sitting in the quiet of the house with God when He lead my thoughts to the theme of "over-familiarity."   After sharing with me, He lead me here to share with you.

Think of your own family for a moment. If you don't have children - YOU once were one, and perhaps you had a sibling or two.  In the scope of a family, it is not uncommon to have the malady of over-familiarity rear its nasty head from time to time.  I have had to counter it and bring it to task under my own roof with my three children.  I was known from time to time to say at varying times when they were younger, "Would you speak to your best friend in such a manner as you just spoke to your sibling?"  Or, "Until you learn to treat those inside these walls with respect and kindness, you will not have fellowship with those beyond these walls."  Oh, yes, I went there and had to enforce those words!  I have not had a single doubt that by going there, I have successfully instilled in my children a guard against "over-familiarity," which is a significant stepping-stone to God's command to "love thy neighbor as thyself."  Don't ever forget that in loving people, all people, we love Him!

Over-familiarity is a condition where we take those we say we value, and whether by conscience thought or not, treat them in a devalued manner.  The reasons are many.  Mood swings.  Hormones. Got up on the wrong side of the bed. Some offense we perceive to have received. Some exposed sin in their life.  A perceived limitation in ourselves of strength or grace or mercy to deal with an other's rough edges. Etc. 

The closer the relationship the more on guard we must be against this malady.  Simply stated, the closer we are, the more frequently we rub shoulders; and the more we rub shoulders, the more we take one another for granted that those shoulders will always be there.   Such thinking is short-sighted, selfish, and naive.

Fact is life can change on a dime.  As the saying goes, "Here today, gone tomorrow."

Picture with me for a moment a young apple tree.  Would you cut it down after it yielded a few apples?  I surely hope not!  But that is exactly what happens time and time again in relationships where we, NOT God, determine, "I am done with them!"  And we walk away... effectively chopping down a tree long before God has the opportunity to bring it to maturity.  Think of all the potential fruit lost!

Or what about the tree that we simply walk away from.  Is that tree going to be the picture of care and nurture?  Of course not.  Any one who has seen a wild apple tree growing and seen a farmed apple tree growing clearly sees the difference between the two. 

Relationships are meant to be nurtured.  I know.  In the raising of my three children, it takes DAILY diligence to train them such that they will bear much fruit in their sibling relationships, parental relationships, and in their relationships beyond our walls.  

"Bearing much fruit" doesn't just happen!  It takes a lot of work and diligence. It takes tender pruning (correction).  It takes good soil (God) and fertilizer (His Word).  It takes both sun (laughter) and rain (tears).  It takes a love that says, "I am committed to you to be here, to listen, to help in any way I can, to be a tool in God's hand.  I want to see YOU come to maturity and bear much fruit for Him!"  

What would happen if we took such an attitude in ALL our relationships?  Stop to really think on this!

The Word says, "Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do NOT demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. BUT love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, AND you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Is there a reward?  Of course there is....  "a great reward," the Word says, but our return should not be our motivation, but rather a sincere hunger to walk in greater degrees of God's character.  We cannot get closer to God while distancing ourselves from people.  That will NEVER work.   The evidence of God's character increasing in our lives will be evident by our increased ability to extend kindness to all people... even the ungrateful and evil men of the world.  

After He spoke to me about the things I have shared with you, He closed the time with the following:

"There is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart."

This to me has two applications:

1)  If you are a child of the Most High, you ARE a good tree, a good man....designed to bear good fruit!   In order to fulfill that destiny, be sure you are filling your heart with all things righteous and good, out of which come our actions.  Actions demand foundational elements we pour into our hearts.... such as we accept pruning (correction), we embrace the good soil (God) and the fertizller (His Word),  and we wisely take in both sun (laughter) and rain (tears) in life's ebb and flow.  If we are careful to heed His counsel, we will find ourselves growing in to mature, beautiful, bountiful fruit trees!

2)  Be careful to not cut down nor abandon the "trees" in your own life before God brings them to maturity.  For as His Word promises, "After he has been fully trained, he will be like his teacher!"  Glory!

God's ability never ceases to amaze me; be it the student being transformed to the likeness of his teacher, or the soil  returning an apple tree for an apple seed!  

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."  Luke 6:38
If you desire grace running over in your lap, give grace. 
If you desire mercy running over in your lap, give mercy.
If you desire love running over in your lap, give love.

And let us not forget our main motivation is not to be "self,"  but others.... so they too can experience the wonder of  God's character in action.

Loving you,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Follow up comments to "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" (on JITM's WEBSITE)

For those who have already read "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" on Joy in the Morning's website and wondered, "How do we find a balance in living and giving without becoming bitter?" -  I pray what I share here will be found beneficial.

First, regardless of where any of us currently are in our relationship with God, it is so important to grasp GROWTH -- God-directed growth -- as an honorable deed. My heart never ceases in its desire to cheer my siblings on to a greater and deeper relationship with God so that they can rest and live in the atmosphere of the abundant life Jesus spoke of.  Abundant what? Abundance of HIS character in us. After all, did not Jesus say, "I am the way, the truth and the LIFE"?  It is that abundance of His character -- of His constitution -- that causes us to rise above and be the head and not the tail.... that same abundance that causes us to grow even in the storms and trials of life because "greater is He that is in you, than he who is in the world!" So before going on, I just want to set the stage and clearly state this is about sharing some insights God showed me in the past that completely altered how I move through my days.

Of vital importance, over and beyond balance, is obedience. Have you ever heard the story of the man who was sent on a journey by his lord? He was to carry an object up over the mountain to a particular destination. When he started out, his load was light, but along the way, he passed "this person and that person" who asked him to carry "this load and that load" as well.  Wanting to help, he said, "Yes."  Well, before long, he found he was in serious doubt of even making it up the mountain, much less finishing the journey. When he finally arrived home, he complained about how exhausted he was and how heavy his load had become. When the lord inquired about the specifics of the journey, he learned that his servant had agreed to carry a number of things he, as the lord, never asked him to carry. "I did not ask you to carry all those things. You took those upon yourself on your own."

I have a precept I have lived by for years and years, and it goes like this, "Noble things done outside of the will of God are wrong."  The bottom line is make sure that what you are doing has been sanctioned by God. If not, drop these "loads." If HE asks you to do something, He will absolutely provide His strength to carry the load. "My yoke is easy, and My burden is light!" 

The second thought parallels the first. While certainly the idea of "balance" appeals to our nature, we must primarily seek to obey.  I have discovered that in obeying God, my "Abba" (meaning "Father"), that perceived balance I may OR may NOT "need" comes, but it did not come from me nor from my making.  No, if left to me, had balance, instead of obedience, remained my top priority, I would have remained weary, fried, and bitter.  (Stay with me here.)

It is not rare that I find people speak of balance often as an ideal when they sense their life is anything but "balanced" with a "self-thought" that such a state "must" be better than their current state. But until a person actually achieves "balance" -- which, to be honest, differs as much from person to person as purpose to purpose -- how can they know nor truly recognize what they seek? What are they to look for to tell them then have obtained the evasive balance they seek?

Understand clearly the signs to balance can be as evasive as balance itself  IF  the path to balance has been forged by human will instead of divine direction.

I have found that to be obedient may not be perceived to be "balanced," per say, but obedience is a place of divine strength and rest... regardless of the storms about me or loads I carry. The inverse I have found to be true, too. When I strive on my own to bring my life in to what I perceive will be a balanced state, I bump around the fog, running into condemnation and guilt as I struggle with anger and bitterness.

To presume we know what a life of balance looks like or feels like is to presume we know the path to the state of  balance, but if we in fact did, why would we find ourselves out of balance to begin with?

There is a Proverb I love: "In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Another translation puts it this way, "We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps." What is this saying? What I believe one of the truths is is that man's hunger -- regardless of the "flavor" of such hunger -- be it for balance, to be healthier, to be more efficient, to be a "better" person, to be a "better" mother or wife, etc (ALL honorable goals!) -- can drive us to plan a path, a BLIND path, that we think will get us to where we need to be, should be, or hunger to be --- BUT, all this effort is for naught if rooted (begun) and walked out in the strength of the natural man.

Hunger, often identified initially by a franticness, is a powerful thing. If left in the vein of the natural man (as opposed to the spiritual man), it drives people to do the craziest things, but generally speaking the ONE thing it will never, by default, drive a person to do is to "Be still" and know that God is God.  Should such a revelation come by His Spirit to the lost soul, and that lost soul surrenders himself  to God's beckoning, salvation then can come through Jesus, His Son.  At such a point, He joyfully makes the "Be still and know that I am God" profoundly  personal and intimate with the revelation that He is not only God of the Universe, but Abba, "Papa," to His beloved child! Glory!

Have you ever seen a truly hungry person?  They appear one of two ways; 1) to be driven almost into a state of madness, willing to "dumpster dive" for any scrap to eat OR 2) to be catatonic-like with a weariness beyond comprehension to the point they lay down to die.  A hungry person begins with the former and will end as the latter if not properly tended to. God desires to scoop us up, look us in the eye, and say, "My child, you are no longer an orphan, but My beloved!  I will take care of you and be with you all the days of your life."  A child of the Most High does not need to beg for bread or dive into dumpsters or succumb to death from lack, but I have witnessed many who do because they struggle with the orphan mentality.

The "still quiet voice" of the Spirit, in contrast, never ceases from beckoning us to do that very thing... "Be still and know that I am God."   Which one we heed is vital to harvesting that PEACE and CHANGE  we desire.  The Proverb says the Lord is the one who determines our steps.... each and every one. Only then can we be assured to stay on the path, secure from falling off the road.

So, in short, it is not our perception of what we need that matters most. It is the surrender of such perceptions, such thoughts, to the One who is truly able to direct our steps and keep us on the path. Again, it spins itself back to obedience.  The Word says, "
In all your ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct your paths."  How many ways?  ALL of them!   Do you believe this promise is for YOU?  Well, IT  IS!

In all I do, I can testify that He keeps me organized, at rest, and on task, even on the seemingly smaller issues of life. My personal habit is to get up each day and consult Him about what I am to do for that day. I do not presume to know what my tasks are nor plan my day out. He is my Lord -- and as such -- I look to Him and lean on Him for direction.

Let me give you a lighthearted example. One time, I had a brooding sense about sitting down to plan our family's vacation.  I confess I was hoping to fit it in before school began, but I hadn't been prompted to take the time to sit and "plan" during my brooding. I confess, as the days ticked off, I recall thinking, "Is this going to happen at all?"(ie: Was a vacation on His "docket" for our family because time was short and most all vacation places are booked well in advance during the summer months?) Shortly after this brooding period (a period where the thoughts would pass in and out of my mind, but no action was taken), I was standing in my closet one morning, talking to God about our day and what He had planned for me. He said, "Let's talk about that vacation." That morning I sat down with Him, not even with a clear destination in mind. Within a short period of time, He had led me to "the place"... not a general location, mind you, but the exact place. It was "shockingly" available!  The price was HALF of all other lodging opportunities in that area, but (to such a thrill for my family) it was the BEST lodging in that area --- including a king size suite and three additional bedrooms, all with queen size beds (again --- HALF off every other SMALLER lodging in the area). I was totally excited!  Now certainly I realize that I could have sat down on my own and figured out a place according to our budget and our calendar, but I know (because of my experiences in the past of striving to make things happen) that even if I had really tried to work a plan devised by "yours truly,"  it would have failed.  Lodging most likely would not have been found, and if it had been found, it would have been the "bottom of barrel" in picks, instead of the BEST!  What did transpire is an example of what we tend to call a "God-thing" --- as if such a thing was an anomaly instead of a normal occurrence that happens when we determine and dedicate our days to Him, as Father, for HIM to order. I could elaborate on other fine points of God's orchestration concerning that vacation, such as all of our busy schedules laid out to have this one particular week available, the only viable week at the lodging, and all I had to change was one orthodontic appointment.  That was it!  Boom.  God made the way and provide the way down to every last detail.  When we go with God, we become partakers of His character and His provision.  I'll take that every day of the week to striving in my own efforts and dumpster diving for provision.  Does this mean a "life of leisure"?  Absolutely not.  The word "obedience" indicates action, directed action from Abba Himself!

I have found that when I pass through storms, He is even more "on task" to lead me through than on sunny days IF I am careful to acknowledge and consult Him.  Make no mistake, His leadership is always up to the task of the need!  And not only does He possess the necessary leadership, but the complete provision we seek.  GLORY!

I truly believe many times God waits to see if we are going to plot our path, a symptom of what I call the "orphan mentality."  OR are we going to wait and listen for Him to reveal the steps we are to take WHEN we are to take them? After all -- HE is our FATHER and truly longs to lift both our burdens and our heads. What I have found He does for me, I know without any doubt He longs to do for all His children.

While such a habit of consulting Father BEFORE we start our day, as to what His docket is for us for that day, is indeed foreign to the lost soul, it should NOT be foreign to us, His child, but instead a developing habit that breeds peace, security, and strength.  Regardless if you work in or out of the home, understand that He longs to help you organize and prioritize the demands of the day!

I hope this helps a bit. Our first step should be to consult Abba to make clear to us what loads we have agreed to carry, but He has not sanctioned. Second, I challenge each reader reading this to honestly assess how much of their days do they plan and set into motion based on "human thought" rather than "divine direction." Only then can we have a hope of "course correction" by Abba Himself.

We all desire to know and taste the ease of His yoke, but rarely do we truly lay down our agendas - our orphan thoughts of  living -  giving Him opportunity to be Father to us, His beloved children. If we determine to grow in wisdom and in our trust of Him, then we can keep our "banks" open -- knowing with full assurance He is the one funding the endeavor, carrying the load to love and serve as Christ.

Remember, do not fall into the "quick sand" emotions of defeat, guilt, or condemnation. Understand God wants to be Father in every sense of the word. Think for a moment about the hurdles an adoptive father faces.  He longs to demonstrate his ability to provide, to discipline, to lead, and to nurture.. Abba is no different!  An orphan has to work with his adoptive father to break old habits of self-reliance, self-planning, self-seeking, and self-preservation. None of those things happen overnight. That same loving adoptive father does not berate his child when he sees them falter, but will seek opportunities to reveal more of himself.  Those reveals, if you will, develop within the adoptive child an increase of love, security and trust. 

Wise is the child who has their face to their Father, rather than their back!  

The more their relationship is fostered with deliberation, the lighter the child feels, even as the realm of responsibility increases because the child knows, believes, and rests in the promise that Abba will never place on them more than they can carry IN His power and IN His strength.

I pray this helps those of you out there struggling to keep your "bank" open.  (See:  "Where the Rubber Meets the Road.")

Loving you, your sister in Christ,


Friday, July 6, 2012


I have been pondering climbing lately.  Not physical climbing.  Spiritual climbing.  

I have climbed many a mountain in my lifetime, but no matter how many I climb, I never cease to be amazed how belligerent my flesh can become at the notion of climbing another one. 

Rising up in front of me there is likely the steepest mountain I have personally encountered.  The edges are jagged and positioned to potentially render a tear or two into my flesh should I embrace the climb haphazardly. The peak rises into the clouds where the air will most certainly be thin... very thin.

In recent weeks, I have surveyed this particular mountain from various angles, searching for a path around the mountain.  I have had numerous bouts of just standing at its base, saying to God, "Are you kidding?"

There is no path around it, and there is no visible path up it -- not even so much as a hint of a path.  No, this will be a maiden climb.  I have come to understand it will take absolutely everything that God has placed within me to date to scale this one, and the cost upon my person has been and will continue to be immeasurable.

Have you been in such a spot yourself?  Surreal, isn't it?  Numbing, too.

The other day, as I sat staring at this mountain, the Spirit spoke, "All the other climbs have conditioned you for this climb."   Quietly and submitted, my inner voice said, "Yes, Lord, I know."

His words, while they ring of truth, offered little in the way of comfort.

The other morning I awoke to the Spirit saying, "He restores my soul."  He had to say it twice, probably because the first time didn't hardly register.   After all, hello?  The concept of restoration is paradoxical to climbing.

But I get it. For years, God has spoken to me prophetically.  For example, right before my husband was laid off in 1999/2000 for 2 years and 2 months, the Spirit clearly spoke, "I will restore the years the locust have eaten."  (There's that word "restore" again.  Did you catch it?)  You can only imagine how short-circuited I felt when just days after hearing God speak these words my husband walks in the front door.... jobless.   But true to His Word, restoration did come.

Now the words the Spirit spoke several days ago now come from the well known Psalm 23. Suffice to say we usually associate Psalm 23 as the "death passage," a passage habitually read at gravesides, but we would be amiss to lose sight that there is life application, too!

For reasons I have not fully wrapped myself around just yet, as I stare up at this pending mountain, I not only hear "He restores my soul,"  but I hear what precedes those words -- particularly "He leads me beside quiet waters."   

So, having more "conditioning," as gained by previous climbs, than perhaps I ever set out to obtain in my life, I find a subtle and "slug-slow" resolve emerging.  My courage increases with a scale that is best measured in millimeters, but increases nevertheless with a prophetic bent that quiet waters, green pastures, and restoration of my soul await me for His name's sake after the climb.  

I do not climb alone.  Is a matter of fact  -- before my feet ever hit the mountain -- God has commanded my husband to move out ahead and forge the path. While that aspect certainly will help, he cannot climb for me. Each of us --- married or not -- must determine to take how ever long it takes to draw from God the necessary strength, courage, and vision for the climb.  And then believe it is possible.

I am reminded of something Audrey Hepburn once said, "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!"    And of even greater import, Jesus' words, "with God all things are possible.” (Matt  19:26)

What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.
C. S. Lewis 

Love to you all,