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When you are stressed, do you hear anyone tell you to, “Just relax”? Of course.

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In English class, you probably learned that the prefix “re” means to repeat. If not, you are relearning that concept now. However, like most rules in English, it sometimes doesn’t apply. Repeat, rescind, remember…these common words all start with “re” but when do we ever peat, or scind, or member? I always thought that “relax” was one of those exceptions.

But lax, according to the online dictionary is “from the late Middle English (in the sense ‘loose’).” It is when muscles slack and thus are not tense or strained. It also means to slack off, as in to lax the rules.

So when we relax, we go back to a state of “lax”, right? Which kinda implies that is supposed to be our normal state. The way we were designed to be most of the time. In fact, when David wrote in Psalm 46:10 that God tells us to “be still and know that I am God” he is saying to relax. God’s got this. He will be exalted. We don’t need to tense our muscles and get ready to fight or flight. We are to slack off. Let go of the wheel. Let Him drive.

In our modern world of constant communication and availability, how often do we learn that stress is not the norm? In fact, people are admired for how they use stress to motivate them. How they can multi-task effectively and not need much sleep. As if the busier we are the more productive and important we become.

Not always the case, and not for very long, right? Soon fatigue fog sets in and we make mistakes, run out of steam, and have to chug down another energy drink in order to perform to high standards.

Perhaps it is time we realized (does that mean to “alize” again?) that we need to relax. God created us to need rest. To return (yes, turn again) to a state of laxness. In fact, He commanded it.

 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-10).

To make it holy is to set it aside from the ordinary. To sanctify it and give it priority. We all need to relax on a regular basis. When was the last time you took a day off…not just from your job but from all the other things you “had” to do? When did you carve out time to be still and know God? To worship with others, like your family and /or friends.

To turn off the phone, the computer, and the TV? Take a nap? Spend time with family? Take a quiet walk in nature.

Time to get lax again… it is long overdue.

If you have been following some of my blogs you have figured out that I am a word freak. I love words…word games, word search, the origin of words, and words backward and forward.

Two words seem to often be interchangeable … haven and heaven. But they truly are not. A haven is a refuge. It is a safe place away from danger. Many seek a haven from stress, life’s demands, or a reprieve from their jobs. The thing is, a haven is temporary, like a weekend at the spa or in a cabin by the lake in the mountains.

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Heaven is something entirely different. It is permanent. Not very many return from there once they gain entrance. One man comes to mind who did, and a good portion of the Bible is a testimony to his life. But He is the exception to the rule. In fact, even Jesus told a story about the permanency of heaven. It is found in Luke’s Gospel.

In Chapter 16, there is the story of a selfish rich man who daily ignored a beggar named Lazarus (not to be confused with the man Jesus raised from the dead). When Lazarus died and went to heaven and sat near Abraham, the father of the faith, the rich man in hell asked him to reach down and touch his tongue with a drop of water. Abraham’s response is, “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (vs. 26).

Whether you believe the streets in heaven are paved with gold, we will each have a mansion, sit on fluffy clouds playing harps, or spend our time in awe, bowing at the feet of our Savior and singing “holy, holy, holy” with the angels is not the point. The idea is permanency.

You see, it is all in the word. The power of one letter that totally changes the time span. (See why I love words?)

The difference between a haven and heaven is one letter… an e. And that “e” stands for eternity. All of us will die and leave this world. All of us will spend eternity somewhere else than here. The point of this story in Luke 16 is that we have a choice of where we will spend it. But choose wisely because your choice is permanent.

But the news gets better. If you seek a haven, then you can call out to heaven right now. Jesus also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). We don’t need to dream of heaven. If we believe that Jesus is Lord and confess our sins, we have already received the passage to eternity. We can feel secure right here, today.

Jesus warned that the Christian path in this life is not an easy one, but also promised that if we lean on Him, He will bring a reprieve that doesn’t just last for a little while. It can last forever. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

A week’s retreat to a cabin in the mountains or to a beach lapped by waves across a turquoise sea may seem idyllic, but there is something much, much better within everyone’s reach. The question is, will you reach out to Him and receive a touch of heaven today?

Give Me This Day?

I have a habit of saying The Lord’s Prayer each morning to start off my prayer time. Memorized as a child, I have said it tens of thousands of times over my life. But, living alone and couped up in my apartment for over a year now due to health concerns, I began to wonder why I kept reciting it in the plural. Our Father…give us this day…lead us not into temptation…

I realize that at the time Jesus told his followers to pray in this manner the concept of being an individual was a foreign one. The community was interconnected. Worship was always corporate. Shame was a huge deterent to temptation, because what you did effected others.

Today, people tend to think in the singluar in our Western world. Some call this the “me” generation. My needs, my wants, my life, my decision, my body. My, oh, my.

So I started to recite the prayer in the singular. My Father….forgive me…lead me….

It felt as odd and uncomfortable as putting my right shoe on my left foot. And I realized why. God did not design us to be solitary beings. We were created to belong. Believers form the Body of Christ, and though I live alone, I am never alone. What I do does effect others whether I realize it or not. My prayers effect others. Saying the Lord’s Prayer is an intercessory gesture. I am praying not only for myself but for other believers as well–that they realize God is their Father in Heaven, that they be given their daily needs, have a forgiving heart, and not be led into temptation but be delivered from the snares of the evil one. I am prayignng for people I may never meet, but God has, and He knows their needs.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Christ, who is always present even when we don’t “feel” Him nearby, unites us. I have felt the Spirit prompt me to pray for others, haven’t you? I am confident He prompts others to pray for me when my spirit and attitude deflate and I become more vulnerable to the whispered lies of the devil.

No matter who you are, where you are, know this: you are never alone. John Donne was right. No man is an island, despite what Simon and Garfunkel sang. God is with you, and He cares. He cares enough to connect you with other believers whether you realize it or not. He is, truly, OUR Father in Heaven. May His kingdom come and His will be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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Can You Hear Me?

Be not silent, O God of my praise! Psalm 109:1

I could not hear it. Since I am housebound and cannot walk witout pain, every Sunday for the past ten months I have tuned into the live stream of my church’s worship service. I bring up the social media link on my phone and then cast it to my TV. Today I had the picture but no sound.

First world problem…modern technology is great…when it works.

Was it my phone? I fiddled with the settings. Nope. I disconnected the stream and tried the connection through my desktop computer. Um, that didn’t work either. My heart sank. My weekly link with the Body of Christ in my little church was broken. I couldn’t hear the hymns, the prayers, or the Bible readings. It was an eerie feeling to see lips move but not be able to understand. I have a renewed empathy for the hard of hearing.

I must admit there are times I feel that way with God. I know He is present, He always is… But I cannot hear Him speaking into my life. Though I call out, my situation remains the same. It is as if my prayers hit the ceiling and then disintegrate into a puff of dust. Have you experienced that?

David in the Bible did. Read Psalm 109. He most likely crouched in a cave, hiding from Saul’s soldiers who sought to kill him so he wouldn’t take the throne. God had anointed him, yet the time for him to reign had yet to happen. Instead of fanfare and celebration of the royal robe wrapping in his shoulders, he now only heard the drips of stalactites and shivered in the coldness of the dark stone. Though he had to remain silent, he begged God not to be so.

I get that.

The Psalm continues with him asking God to smite his enemies. I get that as well. I want action. I want God to swoop down like a superman daddy and fix everything. I want the constant pain to end and be able-bodied again. Wouldn’t I serve you better that way, LORD?

But then, at the end of the psalm, David turns his attitude around.

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
     I will praise him in the midst of the throng.

For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
     to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

Jesus, in the silent night of Gethsemane, knelt in the silent night as his disciples slept, ignorant of his angst. He wanted his Father to take away the fate that awaited him—dying on the cross so His death would defeat sin and again bridge the gap between humans and their Creator. (see Luke 22:41-43).

But like his ancestor David, Jesus relinquishes his will to God’s. And so must I. It is the best thing to do.

Okay, I realize I am not facing enemies trying to slaughter me or have the eternal fate of humanity resting on my actions. But my health has isolated me. At times the silence is loud. I am tired of reaching out to friends and family who rarely reach back out to me. After all these months, they are living their lives but because I cannot be a part of it, I am not on their radar screen.

Yet in my heart, I know that God never disconnects from me. I might not hear His footsteps across my path but I have the examples of David and Jesus to rely upon. And Paul, and thousands of others who have suffered and yet not lost hope.

I will not be silent in my faith. I will praise the LORD in the midst of my “cave” and the dark silence of the garden even though my friends and family go on with their lives and do not notice my suffering. I know He is listening even though I cannot hear Him. I know in my heart I do not travel this road in solitude, even though it often feels that way.

God is there, and He cares.

So, I bow to His mercy… again and again. And I pray for others who feel alone in silence. Be it in a nursing home, or locked in their bedroom, or seated in a crowded school cafeteria, or cubicled in a noisy workplace. May they feel the hand of God rest on their shoulder. For He is there, standing at the right hand of those who need Him, seeing them, seeking to comfort them through their pain. Even if they cannot hear Him at the moment.

Ya gotta believe!

I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. I Peter 5:12

I sucked in my breath. The surgeon was to stick a long needle into my SI joint nerve and I was not to be twilighted during the procedure. “We need you to react to the needle to see which nerves are irritating your body.”

Right. I know. I had been through this before…twice! Each time the pain escalated to excruciating. Lord, I did not want to go through that again…ever.

All through the previous night I kept laying it at the cross, but the past replayed in my mind like a scene from the Ground Hog Day movie–over and over. “Deep breaths. It will be over in an hour. You can do this. God is with you.”

The next morning, a hospital tech wheeled me–complete with open-in-the-back, no-size-fits-anyone gown, hair net, and bright yellow no-slip socks dangling from my toes — feet first into the operating room. Six or seven masked faces greeted me.

Machine beeps, warm blankets, drapes, then an icy scrub on my rearend. The odor of rubbing alcohol.

Here we go. I tried to loosen my tight muscles.

“You will feel a prick as I inject the anesthetic.”

Yep.

“That will be the worst of it.”

I hope. Lord, make it so.

OMG!! OOOWWWWWW.

I began to sob as the needle pushed in further and the contrast rushed through the nerve. The machine beeps increased rapidly.

“192 over 97, Doctor.”

Hands held my shoulders down. The nurse’s calm voice told me to breathe deep, one, two, three… Another hand held mine and squeezed. “It’s okay. You are doing fine.”

NO, I am not!!

The doctor said to hold still. That he was injecting more local anesthetic. The pain began to wane, the beeping slowed. I sighed.

“Wow, you really have been in pain, haven’t you? I never have seen such a reaction.”

“Yes.”

“And you don’t take any medicine?”

“I can’t. I am allergic to steroids, Lyrica, and most pain meds. Tylenol is my go-to if absolutely intolerable.”

“And you have been this way for how long?”

Had I not gone over all this? Had I not told my story to five other doctors so far? had he not read my chart? I sucked in another lung full of air. “Eleven months. This time. Before that two and a half years until I finally had the fusion surgery that has now failed and left broken hardware in my pelvis bone.”

Several masked faces in the room let out a gasp. The hand holding mine squeezed it again and another patted my arm.

The surgeon bent down and laid his hand on my shoulder. “I think we have enough info to go on now. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Let’s get you out of here and more comfortable. Ice pack, please nurse.”

I turned to see caring eyes and a crinkled brow above the surgical mask. He gets it! Finally. A doctor understands.

Sure, he was only the doctor assigned to do the diagnostic, not my treating physician, but perhaps now this surgeon would relay this event to that doctor and at long last, after months of being shuffled from one doc to the next and undergoing injections and imaging, he might develop a plan to treat me.

For the first time in almost a year, I felt listened to, validated. A doctor finally talked to me not about me as he stared at X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and digital records. The first doctor in months who had actually physically touched me. (COVID has really changed medicine I guess.)

As they wheeled me back to post-op, I felt those Holy Spirit bumps tingle my arms. The reality whacked me in the forehead.

Had I been twighlighted as I wanted, this doctor would never have known my true condition. God had acted. God had been there and shown once again He cared. The Creator of the Universe arrived into time, my time, to interact. And all I had done was try to stave back panic. I felt humbled and convicted. Why do I not trust more? Where is the peace that passes all understanding? I am so sorry, LORD. I let fear trump faith … again.

Oftentimes, God acts in ways we do not expect. Answers may have to come out of pain and discomfort, or through unfavorable circumstances. A friend recently posted on Facebook …

Yeah, I get that… boy, do I ever. Maybe that day doesn’t classify as a miracle, but then perhaps it does. All I know is the DIvine interceded into the mundane. Eternity penetrated the temporal. Love came down and proved once again, “God’s got this.”

When circumstances seem too hard, look up – seek God. He is there, He cares, and He has a reason and a plan. He’s got this.

Easy to say. May I now find it easier to act on that promise and not react in my own weakness from here on in.

MAY YOU, who just read my witness, DO SO AS WELL.

Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1Peter 5:17

BOXED IN

Let me roam free. Don’t fence me in. I have to be me.

Not cats. Oh, yes, they do roam free but they know there are boundaries, and if you have ever seen a cat gravitate to a box for a good tongue-wash and a bath, you know it is because they feel secure when they are boxed in.

victoria alexander- unsplash

We, humans, seem to despise boundaries. We want to make our own choices, and decide if the rules apply to us and our situation.

Subjectivism. It seems to be more and more the way of the world. It is what CS Lewis sadly described in his book, The Abolition of Man. He stated that in every culture and religion there exist laws that allow us to live with each other in peace and harmony. When someone steps outside of those laws’ perimeters, trouble happens. When too many people leave the secure boundaries of society, chaos occurs. That opens the door to the degradation of other humans’ rights and ironically, allows an unscrupulous person, with only their interests at heart, to step in and take control. Because deep down inside we all want some boundaries.

Most ancient cultures thought in terms of “we” not “me”. Collectivism. What one person did affected all those around him or her. “We’re all in this together.” We Christians call it the Body of Christ. And our boundaries are clearly spelled out by our Lord when he quoted the first two commandments upon which everything else depends– love God, love neighbor. (See Matthew 22:34-40).


Paul addressed this in Acts 17 to the citizens of Athens: “And he (the Lord) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place…” God not only put Esther on earth for “such a time as these” but all of us as well, to serve Him and each other.

But, as Brandon Robbins often states in his YouTube videos, when the laws become more important than the Lawmaker, they will break down and lose their purpose. The “me” enters into the picture again way too strongly and pushes out the “we”. It is what the Sadducees and the Pharisees were guilty of doing. That is why Jesus said He came not to abolish the Law but to fufill it. To lead people back to the One who made them in the first place.

Perhaps if we once again set aside our own personal agendas, redefined our boundaries as stated in the Ten Commandments, and tried to live peacefully within them, glad for the security they provide, the world might be a better place. But then again, God granted us free will to make that decision ourselves, didn’t He?

Cats do not know who made their box. They are just grateful to find it. Let another cat intrude into the box and a few spats and hisses may occur.

We, humans, know better. Don’t we?


Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6

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I used to think of the salt in this verse as table salt. My speech and attitude should be yummy to digest, not bitter or sour. Maybe I am confusing salt with honey … oh, well.

But God had brought a new meaning to mind. My speech should be soft. Non-threatening, calm, and cool. You see, salt is used to soften water so the harsh chemicals are not left behind on the shower glass, your clothes, and the dishes. If you have dealt with hard water stains, you know how hard it is to erase them. It takes time and elbow grease.

I think the same is true with our words. Harsh, hurtful ones can take a long time to erase. People who bully others into cowering so that they can dominate leave a residual effect that can last for years. Over time, if the same person keeps being subjected to bullying, it can build up into a cloudy, yucky mess that films over their view of life. It etches into their psyche.

Psychotherapists often state that one should never engage with an irrational, self-edifying person. They are not interested in reason. They are too full of emotion. They seek to demean others so they can feel more in power. They crave attention and an audience, even if it is a negative one. They are manipulative and conniving, usually quite smart and quick thinking. You cannot win at their game.

Instead, soften your voice. Be gracious, slow to anger, and if necessary, walk away. Pray before you respond and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through you if you are prompted to do so, as Paul says above in Colossians, you know what to say. This isn’t being a wimp. It takes strength of character to not engage.

And pray for the person who wants to push your buttons to get a rise out of you. Arm yourself with the shield of Truth called God’s Word to keep the arrows of beligerence from penetrating your heart. Rely on the salt of Christ to help dissolve any residual build-up.

Another thing about salt – it can put out a fire. I always keep a canister in my pantry in case of a grease fire, although I rarely cook with oils or grease. In fact, I think I have packed and unpacked the same canister for the last thirty years. Do they still make them with the little girl and an umbrella on the logo?

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on Pexels.com

Anyway, when dealing with someone who is confrontational, it may be better not to “add fuel to the fire” by confronting them. This is a biblical truth. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. James 3:6

Jesus remained silent before Pilate and the crowds. He knew if he gave in to the urge to defend Himself, it would not fare well. When his family showed up where he preached and demanded he speak with them, he quietly asked his followers, who exactly were his family? Answer: the ones who do my Father’s will. He didn’t argue with his family members. He ignored them. (See Matthew 12:45-50, also in Mark 3 and Luke 8 ). He told his disciples when He sent them out in pairs that if they encountered antagonism to walk away and head to the next village instead. (Matthew 10:14).

Strength is not so much in the power of our tongues but in the power to restrain them and to know when and what to say in a calm, respectful manner. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Paul tells us in Galatians 5 that in order for the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in us we should strive to be gentle, have forbearance and self-control, be guided by love and kindness, and cultivate goodness and joy. We need to place God’s agenda ahead of our own. Be a witness of peace. Put salt on the flames.

Lately, I have had to practice these things. They are not easy. My human nature wants me to stand up for myself. My ego is tired of being misunderstood and bruised. I have a few friends who are in the same trial right now. It seems there is a lot of anger in the world right now and narcissistic, domineering attitudes are nearing epidemic proportions. The need to control is magnified when chaos is worldwide, I guess.

But our worth is found in our Lord. Self-esteem needs will wither when God-esteem blooms. IF our Creator loves us unconditionally, what need is there for competition? When He is in control of our lives, our emotions, and our motives, peace reigns. Jealousy and hatred dissolve like, well, salt on a slug. Fires are put out, and words are softened.

I sincerely hope if someone tells me I am a salty old person, I will smile and whisper, “Thank you.”

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Words can be fun.

In my Wordplay Mysteries, they often lead to crime clues. Wanda Warner, widow and head of her town’s neighborhood watch teams, has a knack for solving word puzzles and crimes … and in the latest mystery, Hang on Every Word,** she has been given a part-time position creating word puzzles for her local paper. Thing is, the answers to her clues perpetrate crimes against some of the downtown merchants and everyone is pointing the finger at her! Words are suddenly not as much fun for her … but they still are for me.

For exampel, words can be transformed by just rearranging the same letters.

Is evil really vile? Do you live under a veil?

Can a strap make traps? Do parts make tarps?

Will the tide be tied to your diet?

I bet you could think of other words that can be made by simply rearranging the letters. Might be a fun thing to do as a family one night or at a party with friends. Take some Scrabble tiles and see how many words you can make out of them.

Other things can be fun to rearrange. Like the furniture in your room, or the pictures clustered on the wall. Sometimes rearranging your schedule can give you a much-needed breather.

But when we rearrange our priorities, we need to think hard about the potential results first. What message does that send?

Matthew 19 tells the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life. He thought he had kept all of the commandments. Yet he had not. When Jesus asked him to sell all his wealth and give it to the poor, the man walked away discouraged. Why? Because he had rearranged his priorities. His wealth meant more to him than following God. He not only broke the first commandment to love God above all else, but he lacked the faith that God would provide even after he sold everything.

Don’t be too harsh on him. We all worry about money and if we will have enough in the future to survive. Especially now when prices are skyrocketing out of control. Will there be too much “month at the end of our money?”

Jesus preached in Matthew 6:25-33 that we should not be anxious about our lives and survival. God takes care of birds and flowers. Will He not even more so take care of us? Has He not provided in the past? Why do we doubt He will in the future? If we seek Him first, then tomorrow will take care of itself.

Not to say we should not save and be prudent with the blessings He has provided. But we need to remember whose money we are clutching in our hands before we put it in the offering plate and sing the verses from First Chronicles 29:14: For all things come from Thee, and from Thine own have we given Thee.

If we declare in the same breath that the Lord is the creator of all things, then so are our earnings a blessing from Him. We may have worked to earn the money, but He gave us the ability to learn the skills it takes and to possess the talent or strength to do the work.

It is all about rearranging our thoughts to align with His Word and His Truth. If our tummies clench or we toss and turn in the night as worries crowd our attempts to sleep, perhaps we need to shift around our thoughts to realize we are not meant to be in control. We can only see this very moment, whereas our Father in Heaven sees all, beyond the confounds of time. Can we truly sing “God is in control” and worry at the same time? Can we struggle with fear and still have a strong faith?

The clock doesn’t control time. It only displays it. What is our faith displaying to others? What do our actions spell out for others?

Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem on Pexels.com

Like words, our actions can reveal a lot about ourselves. Are things out of sequence? Do we need to rearrange the letters of our lives, so to speak, to make sure the right message is coming across?

Maybe it is time for an item in your life to be a mite more clear!


** If you pre-order this book before July 1, as a thank you gesture, I will email you chapter a week free over the next 8 weeks until launch day so you don’t have to wait – details at www.juliebcosgrove.com

BEAM ME UP


These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11).

I am living a dream. Decades ago, while in seminary, I received an opportunity to possibly be chosen for a scholarship to go to Oxford for a six-week summer term to study C.S. Lewis. As an Anglophile extraordinaire, it was beyond my wildest dreams. But, during the qualification stage, I fell in love, married, and within a few months became pregnant, spending a good portion of those nine months in bed. No Oxford in my future. So long C.S. Lewis.

Fast forward to now…

Just when my housebound confinement due to medical issues had finally begun to wear on me, I saw a small ad for a free online course offered by Hillsdale College on C.S. Lewis and Christianity taught by the renowned C.S. Lewis scholar, yes from Oxford, Dr. Michael Ward. The optional eight books by Lewis to be read in conjunction with the course cost only $120 with S&H. And I had just received my quarterly book royalty check. Hurrah! I could do this. I had the time. I had the funds. I was in between deadlines with my publisher. Isn’t our Lord’s timing perfect!

So for the past month, I have been emersed in the nonfictional writings of C.S. Lewis. And I want to share with you what I have learned.

JOY IS NOT AN EMOTION! It is not fleeting like happiness.

Lewis tells of a time when, as he stood in a woodshed, he noticed a beam of light coming through a crack. Contemplation told him it was a beam from the sun. He saw the illumination, the angle, the dust mites dancing in it. Intellectually, analytically, in his mind, he knew it to be a true sunbeam, not a figment of his imagination.

Beautiful. It caught his attention. But then he dared to step into the sunbeam. Lewis chose to immerse himself in it, and upon doing so, he experienced the joy of the sunbeam. Lewis no longer saw the beam but looked along it to where it led. He saw the sunlight dancing on the new spring leaves and reaching back to the sun. The beauty captured his breath. It quickened his heart as the warmth penetrated his soul. His whole being focused on the beam’s projected path.

That is the joy of faith. That is the true experience of religion. When one immerses his or herself in the will of God and joins into what is good, right, and designed to be, then and only then does the person begin to fulfill the first and great commandment … You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37) It is no longer a head trip, but a full-body, mind, and soul experience. A move from contemplation into joy.

Stepping into the beam and following where it leads engages the whole human being. It enlists trust, hope, and worth. It aligns us with the cycle of the universe, the created order of our God that extends beyond what our personal agendas and desires dictate. It opens our hearts to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and lets our souls embrace our Savior’s immeasurable, unconditional love. We leave the subjectivity of “what I want” and enter into the objectivity of God’s will for us in the dance of creation.

Faith is no longer a set of rules, traditions, and boundaries. It is no longer colored by our limited knowledge or experience. It is being of one accord with the Holy, and in that Eden-like moment when we walk in the garden with our God, it unites us with humanity as it should be. All the things that divide us–all the prejudices, hate, anger, and hurt–disperse.

This joy goes beyond contemplation or earthly rationalization. War, death, illness, and sorrow cannot break the beam. Hardship and despair cannot dim it, neither can envy nor pride bend it. Because we experience the totality of God’s love through joy, we can openly share that love with others and urge them to step into the beam as well. “I can’t explain it. It’s beyond cool. You gotta come do this for yourself.”

If you have ever witnessed a new birth, be it a butterfly breaking its chrysalis, a kitten, a puppy, or a person emerging from the womb, or participated in someone being baptized and becoming a new creation in Christ before your eyes, you can probably recall the joy of that moment. Forget the science. Set aside the tradition. Something else more marvelous is occurring–the fulfillment of creation. The soul and heart are engaged as well as the mind. Your whole being, as it was created to be, is experiencing the moment. You have stepped into the beam.

And that is what prayer should be … being emersed in the beam. Beyond feeling, beyond visual perception, beyond intellectualization or emotion, and a fulfillment of all of the above. It is immersing yourself in the eternal while still standing in the temporal.

Lewis’ reconversion into a faithful believer in Christ occurred when he took Tolkien’s advice and let the joy happen. When he dropped to the wayside the misconceptions, the hurtful remembrances of stifling rules and traditions, and his prejudices, and then stepped beyond the limits of his intellectual mind (which was vast) into experiencing the Bible itself. He immersed himself in the story of God’s love for His creation, His attempts to woo humanity back into the order of relationship, His coming to earth, then dying for our sins and triumphing over death so our hearts could soften to receive the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, in the light of that Love did all the traditions and commandments make sense.

I am beginning to once again tap into that joy that had dimmed so recently. To take my mind off myself and re-focus on my First Love. I am starting to feel the warmth again–the peace that passes all understanding — and I pray you will step into it as well so it may guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Dare to step with me into the beam. And bask in where it leads.

Just Adjust

When my mother first became widowed, this was a card she received. She tore off this message on the front and framed it. When she passed on, I took it home. Even now, widowed for twelve years, I still keep it on my desk. My daily reminder.

It is a message for all of us humans who have a tendency to want to be in control.

We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust our sails.

I have never sailed in my life, so my knowledge is poor at best, but I have read books and watched movies about sailors and the seas. About steering into the wind so it billows the sails or away from it to change direction. Sailors are at the mercy of nature and the Creator of the winds. They know it is better to adjust than to try to fight against it. Which is futile and a waste of energy.

There is another saying, which I see daily. I have taped it to my computer monitor. It is from Psalm 25:5. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and in my hope is in you all day long.

Often times hope is depicted as an anchor, a stronghold. For me, it is also a sail. It helps me stay on course and not veer off. It helps me seek the direction the Creator wants me to head. The Holy Spirit can be described as the wind, or so scholars say, because both the Greek and Hebrew word for “spirit” can also be wind or breath. If so, then I should not fight the direction God’s Spirit wants me to go. I need to adjust my sails.

Ad-just. Ad is the preposition that means to go toward something. Just, as an adverb, means exactly, recently, simply. As an adjective, it means appropriate, well-founded, and morally right. Adjust – to go toward what is simply and exactly right and appropriate.

God is just. His ways are true. His motive is love. To ad-just is to move in the way of His character. It is to be exactly and no less, simply, now, appropriate and good.

Why would we not set our sails to that? Why would we choose not to adjust our emotions, thoughts, and actions to match? Why would we try to control something that is not in our power to control? Can anyone truly harness, tame, and manipulate the wind? Only God can.

Wind may come swiftly, causing us to act with all our strength and wits. It may be so still we barely feel it nearby. It can be pleasant and soft, even refreshing. It can be cold and cause us to shiver. But I believe if it is from God through His Spirit, it is always just what we need at the time. The wise will learn to adjust and “go with the flow”.

Lord guide me in the way you wish me to go, and teach me to trust in the direction you lead. Amen.

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