Tuesday, February 26, 2013

strengthen your heart

My best friend knows me so well. :)

I've been realizing lately that I have some issues with control and anxiety. I just recently recognized my need to surrender certain things in my life and am currently doing my best to make that a tangible reality.

She just sent me this and it just rings so true with so many of the things that have been stressing me out and overwhelming me lately. It's pretty simple, but I found it was a great reminder and wanted to pass it along in hopes of encouraging you today as well:

Turn off the news. Really - I mean it. The news is a product sold every day; evil sells. "Three children were told today they are loved" doesn't make headlines; "Three children found dead" does. The evil one uses the news to celebrate darkness. Turn it off.

Forgive. Bitterness and resentment eat away at the heart like cancer. It's time to let it go.

Name your fears, and turn them over to Christ. Fear is also a cancer (usually felt as 'worry'.) Name it, and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Every day if you have to.

Play worship as background music in your home, your car. For one thing, the demons hate it and don't like to be around it. But more so, it enriches  your spirit, mind, and heart.

Stay with one truth at a time. Distraction doesn't nourish. Pick one truth God brings you and spend a week with it before you rush on to the next thing. Marinate.

Sabbath. I don't mean an hour at church and then grocery shopping, paying bills and homework. I mean, where is the rest in your life? Weekly, what do you do for Sabbath?

One night a week. Most of you are running hard; the pace of life is in itself an assault. Give one night a week to quiet, to God, to joy, to whatever strengthens your heart. (It won't be TV; television does not strengthen the heart.)

Recover what once brought you joy. What was it? Running? Playing an instrument? Reading? Taking walks? Go take it back; joy strengthens the heart.

Distance yourself from draining people. I don't mean stop loving; I mean set boundaries for heavens sake. This may be hard, but the relief will be worth it.

Beauty. You need beauty in your life - nature, music, visual beauty. It's life.

Pray Ephesians 3:14-19 for yourself, often. This is God's will for you - that you be strengthened by his power deep within. My goodness - ask for it!!!

Tell Jesus you love him, several times a day. As we make a practice of loving Jesus, it strengthens our hearts because this above all else is what your heart is made for.

My friends, I hope you understand we are living in soul-draining times. The enemy very much wants to break the power of God's people. And remember - an affair doesn't happen in a day, nor does an addiction, or a suicide. All the woes of the human heart happen over time, subtly at first, as we yield to surrender, to the spirit of Defeat. You do not want to surrender your heart, not in these times, not when you need every bit of strength you can possibly find. Strengthen your heart. Seek those things out that Jesus is using to strengthen your heart.

It matters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

l'amour de Dieu est folie!

I am sad to say I have finished the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. It's okay though, I savored it a good, long time and will revisit it probably forever. (If you haven't yet, I highly suggest getting your own copy! I have cherished so many truths from this book and, as a result, marked my own copy up pretty royally!) 

If I were to share each bit that I loved, I'd end up rewriting the whole book on here... that's not the best approach, so I'm going to share with you the last bit that I found so wonderful. 

If you know me very well at all... you know I'm not a big fan of being told what to do, and generally don't respond very well in those situations. Somehow, with that quirk, I do appreciate step-by-step instruction and guidance. (Don't worry if it doesn't make sense, I don't get it either.) The last chapter of Brennan Manning's book The Ragamuffin Gospel gives excellent practical application to an exercise of the heart. 

Again, I suggest reading the book in it's entirety, but this is something I think anyone would benefit from.

The chapter is titled, 'A Touch of Folly'. Life is difficult and the truth of God's word doesn't always make sense. Oftentimes, we need a touch of folly to wrap our minds around the overwhelming truth and beauty of His love for us!

The first step toward rejuvenation begins with accepting where you are and exposing your poverty, frailty, and emptiness to the love that is everything. Don't try to feel anything, think anything, or do anything. With all the goodwill in the world you cannot make anything happen. Don't force prayer. Simply relax in the presence of the God you half believe in and ask for a touch of folly.

Such a suggestion seems easy enough: Accept where you are. Surrender yourself to love. 

(Trickier than it sounds!)

...gently close your eyes and assume any position that is comfortable so long as you keep your spine straight -- standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying on your back with your knees bent. Imagine Jesus glancing at you either the way He glanced at the apostle John in the Upper Room when, in an incredible gesture of intimacy, he laid his head on Jesus' chest, or the way He looked at the sinful woman washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. For ten minutes pray over and over the fist strophe of Psalm 23: 'The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing'.

For the next ten minutes pray over this passage from Hosea and wherever you see the word Israel, replace it with your own name:

So I would say:

Lauren, how could I give you up?
My heart turns against it.
When Lauren was a child I loved her, 
I myself taught her to walk, 
I took her in my arms; 
Yet she has not understood that I was the one looking after her. 
I led her with reins of kindness, 
with leading-strings of love.
I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek;
stooping down to her I gave her her food.
How could I treat you like Admah,
or deal with you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils from it, 
my whole being trembles at the thought. 
I will not give reign to my fierce anger, 
I will not destroy Ephraim again
for I am God, not man;
I am the holy one in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.
(Hosea 11:1a, 3-4, 8c-9, NAB)

Finally, for the last five minutes of this faith exercise read aloud slowly these three texts:

This is why I am going to lure her and lead her into the wilderness and speak to her heart. I am going to give her back her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a gateway of hope. Then she will respond to me as she did when she was young, and she did when she came out of the land of Egypt (Hosea 2:14-15).

The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named me my name... Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these I forget, I will never forget you. See I have branded you on the palms of my hands, your ramparts are always under my eye (Isaiah 49:1, 15-16).

In face of all this, what is there left to say? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not hesitate to give what was most precious to himself -- gave as a matter of fact over into our hands -- can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we need? (Romans 8:31-32).

The reminders and revelations I had through the journey of this book have been so invaluable. Absolutely priceless. To realize the furious, passionate love of God for me is unreal. It does take a dose of folly to accept this truth. 

I was particularly drawn to this paragraph for nostalgic reasons:

Should you ever have the opportunity to celebrate Easter in France, whether it be a large metropolis such as Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon, or Dijon or a small village such as Saint-Remy (where I lived for six months), you will see one phrase written on the walls of buildings or the sides of buses in script or black print. You will hear the one phrase sung, chanted, and recited in the churches; you wil hear it exchanged as an Easter greeting as people pass on the street: 'L'amour de Dieu est folie!' -- The love of God is folly.

Whimsical when you come right down to it. 

It's possible that there will come a day when I am not reading through the writings of Brennan Manning and I will then return to sharing my own thoughts on here... until that day comes, I don't want to taint his words.... so I'll leave you with them. :)

Enjoy the refreshing truth of God's crazy love for YOU!