It Doesn’t Have To Be Hard

A year ago today, my life changed dramatically in one moment.  I had already begun the search for a smaller house as we moved from just talking about downsizing to doing it.  This was already a major change for someone who had lived in the same home for twenty years.

For the first time in too long, that morning I had stopped my normally busy activity just to worship my wonderful heavenly Daddy.  In those moments, He dropped into my heart that we were to relocate from North Carolina to Texas in this downsizing.  While there was no doubt about what He revealed, and there was no doubt that I would go, it didn’t stop the tears as I reminded Him of what He had already heard so many times, But I hate Texas!

DSCN0615 hungry babies croppedOver the course of the next nine months (interesting how it coincided with the timing of a natural birth,) besides an amazing European adventure, my shoulder surgery and my husband’s two separate foot surgeries with their accompanying recoveries, we planned and prepared and prepared and planned for the sale of one home and purchase of another, as well as the physical move.  Along the way, our minds were changed.  Just as the child forming in the womb doesn’t change themselves, we didn’t change our own minds.  Jesus did it in us, taking us from sadly obedient to excited about such a major change at this stage of our lives.

More of the Spirit’s change in our hearts became obvious the day we left our comfort zones completely.  The online house hunt had gone on for six weeks with the only positive result being a change in attitude about what we to expect.  A ten-day house-hunting trip was on the calendar for early November (between Tom’s two foot surgeries), though it looked as though we might be wasting our time.  Looking at the latest online real estate additions that mid-October morning, one immediately attracted my attention.  Enough so that we enlisted the help of our son and the realtor to do an in-person inspection of it the next day.  With our son’s positive report, as well as his accompanying video, we found ourselves on the verge of making an offer to buy – sight unseen.

We got busy about our day, separately, as we awaited the realtor’s call, each dealing with excitement of what we were about to do at the same time hearing inner screams of What are you doing? As I spoke with the Lord about it, wanting to hear only Him, yet feeling like we hadn’t done the needed laborious house hunting, I heard in my spirit so clearly, It doesn’t have to be hard.

It doesn’t have to be hard.  In those words, I found release.  In those words, I was assured we were walking by and with His Spirit, and it was far different from and far better than our norm.  I also knew effort would still be required to complete this moving out and moving in process. I just didn’t need to rely on my own wisdom or understanding to make it happen.

Our house-hunting trip three weeks later was, in fact, a house closing trip.  I’m pretty sure this was Daddy’s plan for us when we made our airline and hotel reservations. 🙂   Instead of exhausting ourselves traveling from one house to another, we had a different type of exhaustion as we arranged for work to be done on our new home before our move.  When I felt myself becoming overwhelmed again by all the details, He lovingly reminded me, It doesn’t have to be hard.  Once again I found release from trying to work it all out myself and went back to doing the one thing I could do right then.  You know, every single detail was handled from beginning to end – not one left out . . . at just the right time.

So, on this one year anniversary of that life-changing day, three months after moving into my new home, I realize His words to me that afternoon were not just to help me through the move.  Instead, they are for my whole life:

It doesn’t have to be hard!

Advertisements

Auto-Pilot Prayer

Living in Christ and by His Spirit is not a 5-step list or a how-to lesson.  For some reason, though, we tend to default to lists and procedures, even in prayer, never knowing the freedom of relying on Holy Spirit to lead and guide.  (See previous post)

cockpit-1358898-640x480I assure you, this is not a how-to pray message.  It’s more like how not to pray, from observations that have changed my own prayer life.  If you remember nothing else from this post, I hope the theme will attach itself to your brain to be applied every time you pray from now on:  Turn off auto-pilot in prayer.

  • There is a difference between praying (talking with Daddy) and interceding for others.  We converse with Him, as we do with acquaintances becoming friends, to know Him better – not just to know about Him.  When we understand His direction for us in intercession, we boldly speak it aloud into the spirit realm.  Jesus spoke to illness1 in intercession, after spending early and late hours in prayer.
  • Rely on Holy Spirit to bring Bible verses to mind, rather than merely quoting what is always used in particular situations – healing, provision, relationship issues, etc.  The pinpoint accuracy of the verses He brings when we listen go straight to the root of the actual problem, which is not always obvious to the natural mind.
  • If you talk to me, does it sound like this?  “Kay, it’s so good to see you, Kay.  And, Kay, there are things happening, Kay, that I need you, Kay, to help me understand, Kay….”  Of course not.  Neither do we write personal letters that way.  Why, then, do we do this to our heavenly Father?  Prayer is not stilted and distracting like this, but is a back and forth conversation with someone we are getting to know more intimately.
  • Reminding God of His promises is wasted breath.  Yes, I said that.  If things aren’t happening the way we read in the Bible, it’s not because He has forgotten.  Ever.  While we can be helped by hearing those verses again, it’s not necessary to jog God’s memory.  Since Jesus Christ lives in us by His Spirit, when we speak His Word, we speak spiritually.  The ones we remind of God’s unbreakable promises to us are the angelic rulers and authorities of the spirit realm.2
  • Asking God to do what He’s already done, no matter how sincerely, is redundant.  For example, “Be with (or near) me.”  Or, “Bless so-and-so.”  Are we in Christ and Christ in us?3  Because of what happens when we receive Christ, He cannot be closer.  Because of what He has finished, we are already blessed.  So why keep asking?

I hope you will share in the comments your own examples of auto-pilot prayer my observations brought to light.  We need each other to shine the light of Christ in ways we’ve missed before.  Just remember to turn off that auto-pilot!

1 Matthew 8:5-13

2 Ephesians 3:10

3 John 14:18-20

4 John 1:16-17 Amplified  For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Not Strange, But Sad

It’s strange that you can’t find words to say when you’re praying, but you have no trouble thinking what to talk about with a friend.

Part of a recent Facebook post in my newsfeed, I found this statement nestled among similar ones designed to highlight Christian failings.  Instead of finding it strange, however, I found it sad.  And not in the way intended.

If the statement is reality for believers, then prayer has become something other than it was meant to be.  Something we do (or should do) because we’re Christians, rather than the means by which we become more intimately acquainted with our heavenly Father.  This is strange, but in a sad way.

Proverbs 18:24  NIV A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

The friend who sticks closer than a brother is Jesus Christ, Who lives in us by His Spirit.  That’s as close as it gets.  In addition, He calls us His friend.1  If we are really friends, why is talking together so difficult?

friendship-1534626-639x479Friends talk with one another about anything and everything, listen to one another, find comfort in silence, work together to help others, interacting along the way.  The more time they spend together, the better they know one another.  The better they know one another, the more time they want to spend together.

Is this the kind of friendship I experience with Christ?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  How about you?  When the methods and mindsets from so many years of religion become my default mode, I lose the freedom in prayer for which my friend Christ Jesus has set me free.2  When the duty becomes my focus, rather than the relationship, that sense of intimate friendship is lost temporarily, leaving me unable to find words to speak.

That’s not strange, my friends.  It’s sad.

1 James 2:23

2 Galatians 5:1

The Place of His Stillness

DSCN8825Believe it or not, several posts are written and waiting for edits.  I’ve been diligent lately to write when the thoughts come, rather than waiting until it’s lost to a more convenient time.  Why not just edit what I’ve written and put it on the blog? If it were only that easy.

When I began typing each of the posts, I understood what I wanted to share, that which the Lord had revealed to me.  The more I wrote, however, the more I realized how little I understood of what was just beginning to percolate in me.  Christ was revealing different facets of Himself to me, but I couldn’t yet write in a coherent form.  Instead I wrote haphazardly as the thoughts and questions flowed, saving each piece with hopes of bringing it to completion soon.

In the meantime, since Holy Spirit is encouraging me to live from the place of His stillness, I’ll practice as I write – and post.

1 Kings 19:11-12 Amplified  . . . And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice.

He Knew

What a feast I find each time I read from the book of John!  Yet I find each verse so delicious I savor each bite, rather than rushing to the next.

For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.  John 6:64 NIV

Jesus knew from the beginning, yet chose to include the unbelieving betrayer anyway.  I would not be so generous if I began a ministry (or anything else) and was aware of a traitor among those claiming to be with me.  They would not be on my team or my mailing list!  On the other hand, Jesus, knowing even before choosing, allowed the unbelieving betrayer to be among His twelve closest disciples as part of the traveling team and His money keeper, for three and a half years!

At this I cry, “Tilt! Tilt!”  Proceeding further down the path this verse takes me, I find Jesus’ treatment of Judas Iscariot even more disturbing – filled with the same love, patience, compassion, and humility He showed the others.

“But Jesus,” I protest, “Knowing he wasn’t really with You, how could You refuse to let it color Your treatment of him? Instead, You poured Yourself out indiscriminately to each of them, withholding nothing!”

All at once, the truth of Jesus Christ washes away those righteously indignant thoughts. Love compelled Him forward, not judgment.  Christ offered His amazing love and life to Judas Iscariot then, as He offers it to each person now, regardless of possible rejection.  The response is individual, but the offer has been given to all equally, the price paid in full.  Love compelled Jesus then.  Love compels Christ now.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are! . . . 1 John 3:1 NIV

He knew then.  He knows now.  Still, Christ Jesus loves.

The Holy Head Slap

It was a Holy Spirit head slap ala Gibbs to DiNozzo on NCIS.  Well, it had the same effect minus the pain.  Instantly, I understood what I’d missed all along.

In my mind, I had been rehashing a recent conversation with friends in which Tom and I told of his upcoming kidney stone procedure following many frustrating months of tests and procedures.  Even including the removal of his gall bladder.  As I considered the banter, I heard us bemoaning the loss of a good gall bladder, as we had done many times before.  Next thing I knew, I was the beneficiary (and I do mean that) of a holy head slap.

super-nova

In that instant, I remembered Tom and I praying specifically before his appointment with the surgeon last fall for clarity in our decision.  The gastroenterologist recommended surgical removal of his gall bladder, despite only finding two small polyps in the course of numerous tests.  The surgeon studied all test results and examined Tom before agreeing with the referring doctor.  The additional perspective she added settled us both.  Though not yet severe, those polyps indicated a diseased gall bladder.  His otherwise healthy condition at this time would make the surgery easier now.

We left the office certain surgery was the answer.  Our misguided understanding of the result of that answer brought much confusion in the months to come, however.  We expected elimination of the painful episodes by removing the gall bladder.  How wrong were our expectations!

Many months following Tom’s surgery included many more excruciating episodes of pain, just like before.  Was that an oops on the doctors’ part?  The longer it went on, the more we thought so, even becoming fixed in our minds as an unnecessary surgery.

After the worst episode in these eight months, Tom prepared for the medical sleuthing process again.  We both prayed for the source of the pain to be clear and the remedy relatively easy.  Within days, a large kidney stone was discovered, and a shockwave treatment to break it up was scheduled.  Prayer answered as asked, and we were thankful!

The bad attitude about the unnecessary surgery remained.  Until, that is, Holy Spirit reminded me of our prayers.  We had asked both times for clarity.  The first time, we felt surgery was the answer.  Maybe our expectation was the only wrong part of the equation.  We looked for an end to Tom’s painful episodes via the surgery we felt the Spirit was leading us to do.  Maybe Holy Spirit knew something else none of us could see or even know, at this point, that was best handled immediately.  Maybe it was something else.

Because our natural minds want to be in charge, we complain when we don’t understand what we thought was to happen, what we thought the answer to our prayer indicated.  But peace is found in trusting the Lord, Whose understanding is far superior.  Period.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

Too many times I have groused and complained when things didn’t go according to my understanding, especially when I thought I was in the Lord’s will.  When I simply trust God with all my heart, resting in His knowing the end from the beginning and every step in between, the peace of Christ Jesus is restored.  Since I’d rather live that way, even when it’s contrary to my understanding, I’ll gladly receive a holy head slap to remind me!

The Party’s Over

streamer-with-confetti-3-1419446-1599x1066

Dad had just thrown the biggest party the neighbors had seen. No expense had been spared in the days long celebration of his son’s return.

Yes, this party was for the prodigal son. You know, the wayward one who had chosen to live a wild life, squandering his still-living father’s money – his own inheritance – until he had no more to spend. He decided to return home to offer himself as a servant to his father to put good food into his starving belly. From what we’re told, we can’t be sure his thinking had changed about anything else. But none of that mattered to the father who ran to embrace him.

That’s one of the things that draws us repeatedly to this story. That father didn’t wait for evidence of repentance or a transformed life before welcoming him or throwing him a lavish party. He wanted everyone to celebrate with him because his son had returned. Period. As great as that is, I think there’s more to this story.

Think about it. The party ended at some point. What happened when it was over? The prodigal son didn’t become suddenly perfect, making only good decisions going forward. For that matter, his jealous brother, the obedient son who did as he was told with a bad attitude, was in the same imperfect category.

Consider this, though. Dad put no post-celebration stipulations on the son before throwing a gala in his honor. It wasn’t due to the son’s righteousness, either before demanding his inheritance or after his return. Nor was it because of the bitter son’s outward obedience. Their righteousness would never be more than filthy rags1! No, the party always and only flowed from the dad’s perfect love for his children, and his joy at having them together with him. His goodness and his righteousness, not theirs, covered them before the party and after it ended.

Fast forward to 2016. As sons and daughters, we try to be obedient, to make the right choices and have the right attitude – all to please our Daddy. But we fail repeatedly. Luke 15:10 says there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Sounds like a party to me – held each time one of us receives Christ Jesus into our hearts. That rejoicing isn’t because of our perfect character when we were born again, but because of Christ’s righteousness. He still rejoices over us2 today, no matter how many years have passed and no matter how many wayward actions we’ve taken.

Earning Daddy’s celebration now is as impossible as it was in the beginning – our good works still counting for nothing. It’s all and only about our Father, the One Who is in us, loving us, simply because we belong to Him. And it’s all about our Christ, Who made the way for us.

The party may be over, but the joy of celebrating our Daddy’s righteousness, love, and mercy in Christ continues for us through eternity!

1 Isaiah 64:6 NKJV But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;

2 Zephaniah 3:17 AMP The Lord your God is in the midst of you, a Mighty One, a Savior [Who saves]! He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest [in silent satisfaction] and in His love He will be silent and make no mention [of past sins, or even recall them]; He will exult over you with singing.