Is It Lifeworthy?

It was a typo in one of the online devotionals that I read.

It said, ““Dear Lord, Please help me to live a lifeworthy of You. Help me to bear fruit in what I do and make choices that lead to holiness.”

Lifeworthy.
Not a word, just a typo.
But it got me thinking.
That is actually a great filter!

Is it “lifeworthy”?
In other words, does “it” (whatever “it” may be) add life to my soul?
Bring life to my spirit?
Add life to my thoughts?

What I take in – the music I listen to, the songs I sing, the books I read, the things I choose to follow on social media, the things I click on to watch or read – are they “lifeworthy”?
Do they point me to hope?
To “things above”?
To a godly perspective?
To all that is real, all that is eternal, all that is good?

Or do they do the opposite?
Do they drag me down?
Feed the parts of my inner self that I am already battling?
Feed the hate, feed the fear, feed the anger, feed the sin?

Paul put it this way when he wrote to the Philippians:
“…whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”
Philippians 4:8, AMP

So are the things I am taking in “lifeworthy”?
If they are, they are going to feed the godly parts of my inner self, causing me to grow stronger in my walk with the Lord and in the actions and attitudes that spring from it.

And that one is hard enough.

But let’s take it a step farther.

What about the things I am putting out there? Are they “lifeworthy”?
Am I using my words to build up or tear down?
Am I using my social media posts to encourage reconciliation or division?
Am I speaking the Truth in love and leaving the consequences to God?
Or am I speaking what I think you want to hear, afraid of what the consequences might be?

Are my actions “lifeworthy”?
Am I living loved?
Am I living like I love you?
Am I living like God loves you?

And am I putting out all that is “lifeworthy” across the board in my life?
Or is it only at certain times in front of certain people?

Am I doing what is “lifeworthy” when I drive?
In a long line at a grocery store?
When I am waiting for someone or something?
On the phone with the telemarketer?
When I talk to the person I simply do not click with or even do not enjoy being around?

Even then, do my words speak life?
Do my actions?

Another set of verses from Philippians:
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit [through factional motives, or strife],
but with [an attitude of] humility [being neither arrogant nor self-righteous],
regard others as more important than yourselves.
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4 (AMP)

Lifeworthy input.
Lifeworthy output.
A good filter.
A good question for every situation.

Is what I am about to do or say “lifeworthy”?
Will it encourage, uplift, equip or show love to the other person?
If not, why am I doing it?
Why am I saying it?
If I have to say the hard thing, am I motivated by love?
Or anger?
Love?
Or hatred?
Love?
Or self-righteousness?

Is it “lifeworthy”?
Impossible to do on my own.
Fully possible through the power of the One who said, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”
Jesus, in John 10:10 (AMP)

But if we access the power and use the filter, then we will live the verse that the original author was quoting in her prayer, which is in another letter from Paul to the Ephesian church:

So I, the prisoner for the Lord, appeal to you to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called [that is, to live a life that exhibits godly character, moral courage, personal integrity, and mature behavior—a life that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation], with all humility [forsaking self-righteousness], and gentleness [maintaining self-control], with patience, bearing with one another [a]in [unselfish] love. Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful]. Ephesians 4:1-3

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A Beautiful Mess

The verdict is in.
And the jury is correct.
I am a mess.

I am weary.
Weary of the never-ending conflict in our culture.
Weary of trying to do the right thing.
Weary of navigating tough circumstances, tough people, tough conversations.
In my words.
Relationships.
Actions.
Attitudes.
Decisions.
Weary of fighting the good fight.
Externally, but internally, too.

Frankly, I am even weary of me.

It would be so much easier to shut down.
It IS so much easier to shut down.
To not engage.
To not speak up.
To not risk being misunderstood.
To not try so hard to do what is right.
To simply drift.
To turn my head.
Look away.
Not see.
To choose apathy over love.
Towards you.
Towards “them”.
Towards even me.

This weariness that is deep in my soul led to this journal entry this morning:

God:

I am a valley of dry bones.
Breathe life into me again.
Help me to rise as a soldier, ready to fight.
One of the army of the resurrected.
Unable to fight on my own, yet filled with power because of You.

I am a disciple in the boat, terrified.
Questioning Your ways
Weary of fighting a storm while You sleep.
Or appear to sleep.
With my heart questioning if You really are concerned about me as a person.
Do You hear my cries?
When will You answer?
With David and Habakkuk I cry out, “How long, Oh Lord, how long?”
Have You forgotten to be kind?
How I long for You to calm the wind and waves in my life, in the lives of those I love.
How I long for You to stand up and speak to them, silencing them once and for all.

I am Hagar in the desert, dying of thirst.
Rejected. Lonely. Misunderstood. Maligned.
And yet hearing Your voice once more, telling my heart that You are the God Who Sees.
And knowing You are The God Who Understands Rejection.

I am the small child who doesn’t know what she wants.
What is best.
What should happen.
What to say.
What to do.
How to navigate the many, many hills, valleys and curves on this winding, circuitous road of life.
I think I know – but then I change my mind.
That leads to a confusing prayer life!
And leaves me once more with the only prayer that “works”– “May YOUR will be done.”
Because, frankly, I am stumped.
And more than a little afraid of what Your will might look like in my life.

In other words, I am a mess, Abba.

And the Truth of the matter is that I am a mess.
But the whole Truth is that I am a beloved mess.

I am wholly and dearly loved – which makes me holy and able to love.

Not because I am fabulous.
Not because I have it all together.
Not because I am never weary, fearful, or faithless.
But because You are Good.
You are the God of the second chance – and the 200th chance.
Forgiven 70 X 7 by You, I must forgive others in the same way.
And forgive myself as well.

So, Abba, for the gazillionth time, I echo that guy’s prayer from Mark 9: “I believe – help my unbelief.”
I confess that I am a mess
And that You are the only Hope I have.

Please be God alone in my life once more.
Please take my weaknesses and show Your strength
Please take my holes and fill them with love, with grace, with Your heart.
Take my broken heart and mend it as only You can.

I am desperate for You.
I cannot do what needs to be done without You.
I am lost without You.
Please move as only You can.

*******

I recently read that the biblical words “glory of God” are really best translated as “evidence of God”.

So when Romans 8:28 says that God works all things together for my good and His glory, it really says He works out all the details of my life for my good and to show evidence of His power in my life.

So if I pray, “Show me Your glory” I am really saying, “Show me the evidence of Who You are.”
And when I pray, “Be glorified today at my expense” I am really praying, “God, show them the evidence of Who You are in my life, no matter what it takes.”

And I want that prayer to be Truth as it leaves my lips.
As the cry of my heart.
But for you to see the evidence of God in my life, there has to be breaking.
Storms.
Tears.
Crises.
Because these are the things that crack my heart wide open.
So that the light can shine.
So that the world can see.
So that the evidence that God is real, powerful and at work can be seen in my life.

So He allows me to be a beloved mess.
He allows you to be one, too.
To keep struggling.
To have tough circumstances.
And tests of faith.
To walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
To be hurt by others.
To be disappointed.
Rejected.
Afraid.

Because it is then that the Light shines through.

Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 4:
But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves.

So I will accept that I am a beautiful mess.
An earthen vessel of human frailty
A cracked pot.
With an incredible Light shining through.
A treasure of power working from the inside out.
Taking all that is a mess in me and turning it into evidence of Who He is.
So that all the messes around me can be blessed.
Can know the power available to them.
And can know Him for themselves.

A beautiful mess in the hands of a Holy God becomes a mosaic of infinite beauty as the Light shines through the brokenness.

Louisa’s Story: ‘Tis So Sweet…

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It was a beautiful day to be at the shore. Four-year old Lily giggled as the waves lapped at her toes and then darted back to the blanket where her parents were enjoying their meal. The sun was warm, the waters cool. An idyllic day.

Until the cries of a young boy reached their ears! He was out in the deep waters of the sound, flailing and fighting to keep his head above water. Lily’s father raced to rescue him, diving into the water and reaching the boy in record time. But then, as Lily and her mother Louisa watched in horror, the boy’s panic overtook both him and his rescuer. In a matter of minutes, both went under for the final time.

The year was 1879. And the mom in that true story was Louisa M. R. Stead. After that tragic day she wrestled with God. And out of that wrestling, she penned the words to a hymn that I love. She wrote:

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Refrain:
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

Oh, for grace to trust Him more! And she did trust Him more and more.
Enough to get on a boat with Lily and head to South Africa to work as a missionary. This had been a life-long dream but poor health had prevented her from going earlier. There on the field she met her second husband, Robert Wodehouse. Together they served the Lord in South Africa, the U.S. and finally Southern Rhodesia (which is present day Zimbabwe.)

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!
To believe, when tragedy struck, that this was not the end of the road for her and God.
To move forward when all appeared to be lost.
To move out in faith into the unknown of being a missionary on foreign soil as a widow with a young child.

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!

On Checklists, Control and Reality…

Checking it off the list
Whatever “it” is
That check mark equals success.

Controlling the pieces
Figuring out the outcomes
Planning
Executing

And then doing the next thing

Whatever “it” is

Touch it once
Organize it
Make a system
Work a plan
Manage your time
Fulfill the obligation
Execute the strategy

And then move on to the next thing

A+B always equals C, right?
Do the right thing and the truth will win
Show up and do your best and you’ll get the good result
Plan well and the details will happen

Check it off the list
(Crossing it off is even better)
Then make the new list, the next list, the next thing.
And success will follow

Until it doesn’t.
Until the dream flops
The idea goes down in flames
The results are not the anticipated outcome

Or worse yet, circumstances spin out
Unheard of tragedies occur
The unexpected strikes
The prayer goes unanswered
The pain explodes beyond what you have experienced before
The checklist falls to the side, useless
The control you thought you had turns out to be a façade
A farce
A useless exercise in futility in the face of real life

And you realize:
You have no control
None
You cannot produce the desired outcome
Make the people behave
Force the circumstances to align
Control the results
Or the stuff
The reactions
Or the consequences
Of anything
Or anyone
At any time
Or anywhere
Even if you are the one “in charge” of that area

Your checklist – my checklist – may be a useful tool for remembering, for managing the details
But it doesn’t drive the circumstances
Your organization and attention to detail may be beneficial to a point
But they don’t prevent the tragedy
They don’t shield you from the pain
They don’t keep you from experiencing the valleys

Face it, friend.
Face it, Kathy.
You have no control.
Never did.
Never will.

Yes, be smart about life.
Use your time wisely.
Consider your resources and do the best you can.
Be a good manager of what has been given to you.
But loosen your grip.
Go into every event, every circumstance, every day with the sure knowledge to you are not Sovereign.
You are not the King of the World.
You are not the Creator.
You are not the Good, Good Father.
And you do not sit on the throne.
If you do, it’s time to get off.
Once and for all.

Go into every event, every circumstance, every day with faith as the engine, fact as the car and feelings as the caboose.
Oozing with the grace you have been given.
Acting as a conduit for the love of God.
Not conjuring up your own emotion for the moment.
Not putting on the face you think they want to see.
Not even holding on to your intended goals or outcomes.
With your checklist of details to remember and items to be managed held very, very loosely in your hand.
Willing for it to flutter to the floor if necessary.

Go, knowing that you will be let down.
By people.
By equipment.
By outcomes.

But bringing what you have to the table anyway.
Taking the fives loaves and two fish of your life to your Master and allowing Him to break them.
Break your plans.
Break your dreams.
Break your desires.
Break the expected, anticipated, desired outcome.
Break even the thing you love the most.

Because in the breaking, comes the multiplying.
In the breaking comes the new beginning.
In the breaking comes the nourishment of all the others on the hillside with you.
Not because you are a great planner.
The Queen of Details.
The King of Getting the Job Done.
But because you are the servant of the King of the World.
The God who loved you enough to put one thing on His checklist:
“Make a way for the eternal restoration of humankind through the death, burial and resurrection of my one and only Son.”

In light of that, I have only one real checklist, the eternal one:
1. Be saved by grace.
“For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith”
Check!

2. And then walk in grace.
“And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation].”
Check!

3. Letting Him write the details of the to-do list, holding my ideas, plans, desires and thinking very, very loosely.
“For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set]…”
Check!

4. And the walking with Him in the good life, the one that begins here but never really ends, even when this body is done.
“…so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Check!

Who is in control?
Not me.
Not you.
So take what has been entrusted to you and manage it well.
But yield control to the Only One who actually has it.
You’ll be glad you did.

In Honor of Jacob…

The storm swept in suddenly, with absolutely no warning.
One moment it was a normal day.
Not fabulous but certainly not awful.
Just your average Wednesday.
Until the phone rang.
And the heavens opened.

The little boat that is my life was suddenly rocked hard.

That initial wave was so shocking that it took a while for me to realize just how enormous it was.
It is.
He was only 19.
And he is gone.
Taken in a car accident.

The wind roared in and in one moment, with one phone call, the waves went from gentle rocking to enormous, soul-swamping heights.
And it’s still raining.
Will be for some time.

So here is where I have choices.

I can stay in this little boat of my life that is being tossed about by circumstances and the emotions they bring.
I can bemoan the storm.
I can look inward and find all the pain, all the emotion, all the grief.
I can rail against the Creator who is in charge of the wind and waves.
And I can fold my arms against my chest, battening down the hatches until the storm stops.
Locking up my heart and my tears.
Using them to water the seed of bitterness that so desperately wants to take root in my heart.
Because I want to understand.
And because I hate these circumstances.

Tempting choice.

Or I could choose another way to deal with the storm.
Turn to something – or someone – that will help me to forget, at least for a moment.
Box up my emotions and this circumstance and then turn to a numbing agent.
Personally, I won’t choose drugs or alcohol. Those don’t tempt me.
But a plate full of carbs, preferably in the form of chocolate-something? Yes, please.
Eating away my sorrow? Sure.
Or choosing a friend to be my savior?
Turning to human comfort, looking for someone to love away the pain? Absolutely.

Those are both very tempting for me.

But then there is the sane choice.
The right choice.
The only one that will see me through this storm without major repercussions when it subsides.

Choosing to grab the hand that is extended to me.
The nail-scarred one.
The strong-yet-gentle hand of the carpenter from Nazareth, who is the King of Glory.

He is standing in the storm.
On the waves.
Un-rocked.
Unmoved.
Unshakeable.

And He invites me to get out of my boat and walk with Him.
Stand with Him.
Be victorious even over death – with Him.
Though the storm still rages.

And when I look into His eyes, I see His heart.
His heart for me.
And His heart for Jacob.
For his grieving family.
And the huge hole he leaves behind.
I see that Jesus is weeping with us even as He stands, rock-solid, on the waves.

He sees my pain.
Their pain.
Our pain.
And He understands.

But as I take His hand, I feel the scar beneath my fingers.
The one from the nail that pinned Him to the cross.
His love held Him there.
But the nails were the human instruments of torture they used.
Not because of His sin.
But for my sake.
For this exact moment.
My sin separated us before that.
It had to be paid for, atoned.
And so He did what needed to be done.
Dying in my place.
And then rising again so that I could experience this moment.
His presence in the storm.
His power over my circumstances.
His promises fulfilled in my life.

And that nail-scarred hand is the only hope I have in this horrible storm.
Because it represents every promise He has made – and died to keep.
It represents the resurrection power that brought Him to life again – and that now is at work in all who believe.
It reminds me that He is for me and not against me.
That He loved my friend Jacob and died for him as well.
That I will see Jacob again, sooner rather than later, because we both are trusting His work on the cross.
That God is inherently, inexpressibly good.
And that everything He does is right.
Even when I hate what He has allowed.
Even when my already limited sight is blinded by tears.
He is good. Those nails prove it.
His presences proves it.
And the peace that passes understanding proves it.

And for all those reasons, in Him, I have the power to walk these waves.
To stand on His promises instead of the shifting waters of my emotions.
To cling to His hand instead of my own strength.
To live what I say I believe, even in the darkest moments of life.

Yes, that standing comes with weeping.
And that is OK.
Because this is hard – but His love is harder still. Rock solid.
Even in the midst of the sea during a storm.
This hurts – but He hurts with me even as He reminds me that “weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
And this is holy. A time set apart, a time to be reminded, a time to remember.
Who He is.
What He has done.
How much He loves me.
How much He loves Jacob. And his family.
How all of His promises are true.
How I can trust Him even in the storm.
How important it is to tell others about Him so they, too, can have this hope.
And how even this is not the end of the story.
Not mine.
And not Jacob’s.
Jacob has turned the page in the book of his life from the title page to the first chapter far sooner than we expected.
He is now living the chapter entitled “Seeing Jesus Face to Face”.
With the subtitle, “Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant”.

One day, sooner rather than later, God’s hand will turn that page in my life as well.
As well as yours.
Are you prepared for that day?
Jacob was.
I am.
And you can be, too.

And in the meantime, my prayer for you is that He will make Himself very real to you as you face the storms of this life.
Perhaps we share this storm.
Or perhaps yours are very different.
It doesn’t matter because waves are waves and wind is wind.
But He is God.
And He can give you all that you need to walk on water as well.
If you know Him.
And if you keep your eyes fixed on Him.
Pray for me to do that.
And I will pray for you as well.

Life Lessons On Route 206

That particular road is only nine miles long.
It connects two major highways and is the best path to my favorite shopping area.
On the way there yesterday it was gorgeous, even though it had rained earlier in the day.
Dogwoods just starting to bloom.
Heavily wooded patches studded with pinkish-purple redbuds.
Clusters of daffodils.
And everywhere the electric green of new leaves.

No cars behind me, none in front of me, no obstacles to hinder me.
Just me, the Lord and the road.
Perfect.

******
That particular road is only nine miles long.
And on the way home from shopping it was like driving in a video game!
The person behind me who decided the most appropriate place to travel was attached to my bumper.
The traffic suddenly coming to a halt in front of me.
Being stopped in a short line of cars behind what I thought was a garbage truck stopped in my lane.
And the mail carrier in the other lane half-blocking the way.
It wasn’t until it was my turn to dart around the “garbage truck” that I realized what it actually was.
It was the roadkill collectors.
I pulled up behind them just in time for the perfect view of the rotting deer being hoisted into the bed of the truck.
That adventure was followed by others, including another mail carrier further down, a few emergency vehicles, lots of rain and more drivers who felt their agenda was more important than our mutual safety.

That particular road is only nine miles long.
But I was very grateful to get off of it and back onto the major highway!

*******
This life is only a few miles – er, years – long.
I actually don’t know how many.
But in light of eternity, the longest life is very short.

And sometimes navigating this life feels like my trip to the store.
The sun is shining, things are blooming, the path is clear.
Gorgeous circumstances.

But more often than not, as you know, life is not like that leg of my journey.
It is more like the return trip, fraught with the unknown.
Sudden stops.
Encounters with icky things at best and danger at worst.
Other drivers who bring their own irritations and bad choices into my world – as I sometimes bring mine into theirs.
Obstacles springing up out of nowhere and the sense that I am living in some sort of cosmic video game.

As I turned onto the main road, after surviving those nine miles, God reminded me of some very important truths about life.

  •  I was very grateful that I was not alone in the car. Physically, I was. But it was such a comfort to know that the Lord saw the road before me and traveled with me into it. I kept up a running conversation and commentary with Him as we went. Sometimes it was a “Really, Lord?!” and other times it was heartfelt “Thank You!”    Asking for protection and wisdom. And being thankful when the pushy driver turned off. Constant communication that made all the difference because I knew I wasn’t driving alone.
  • Knowing the rules of the road helped to keep me from harm. I am not a perfect driver, nor do I always follow the posted speed. But knowing the law and following it helped to keep me safe. For example, I knew better than to just whip around the Roadkill Collector’s truck without first peering around to see who or what might be coming. Keeping a safe following distance from the car in front of me helped me to be in no danger of rear-ending the other car when we stopped suddenly. In the same way, knowing the laws of God will keep me safe from many of the harms of life. Doing life His way – forgiving, blessing those that curse me, giving generously, keeping my thought life pure, speaking the Truth in love – all of these and many more guidelines from His Word prove over and over again to be the best way to live.
  • But it wasn’t just knowing the rules that helped. It was actual obedience to them that made the difference. I am certain that every driver I encountered yesterday took some form of driver’s ed course. But I am also certain that many of them have forgotten what they learned or have decided it doesn’t apply to them. And when we knowingly chuck the rules, we live with the consequences of those choices. And, potentially, so do the other drivers around us. The prophet Samuel told King Saul, “God desires obedience more than sacrifice.” I can know what God says – but the power of radical living comes in actually doing what I know is right.
  •  I was grateful to know that this road was only temporary. While it still had many beauties, it also still had no shoulder. Along with many twists and turns. Hills and a blind curve or two. I had to travel it – but I also knew that “this too shall pass”. Home was waiting a few miles away. All I had to do was keep my eyes on the road, apply what I knew, and trust God. And sure enough, that road – and all the others – came to an end at a place I knew was waiting, my home. Of course, a big difference in my analogy – I do not know when this particular stretch of road that I dislike will end. But I know the Lord well enough to know that He will bring me to an easy-driving stretch here or there. There will be moments of rest along the way. Spots of beauty. And He has promised to bring me safely Home to my ultimate destination at just the right time. So while I may not enjoy this particular stretch that I am driving, better days are coming. Perhaps in the here and now. But guaranteed in the There and Then. Home is waiting. And God is good.

Will I take Route 206, the nine-mile road, again?
Sure.
Will I drive it alone?
Never. Not that road or any other.
Because I am never alone.
I have learned to lean hard on my constant Friend, the One Who bought the right to go with me everywhere I go with His own blood.
The One Who loves me more than I can fathom.
And the One who will never leave me or forsake me.
The Only One Who can see the entire road I need to take over the course of my life.
So no matter which road He leads me to take – the most familiar or the least, the straightest or the curviest, the easiest or the hardest – I will choose to trust Him.
I don’t know how long the drive will be.
But I know the He is good.
And Home is coming closer every day.

On Babies, Oils and Abiding in The Vine

person girl woman photography portrait child pink baby close up sleep mother infant newborn toddler eye skin organ interaction sleeping baby portrait photography human action

He had been fighting sleep all morning.
He usually does, at least during the day.
Too much to see, too much to do for this little guy.
But he also seems to have seasonal allergies.
Hard to tell when he is only 10-months old.

But he finally gave in.
I took him in my arms and within a few minutes he was asleep with his nose buried in my neck.
A precious, warm weight in my arms.

Everyone who had been playing with him Sunday morning commented on it.
How he finally fell asleep, and with so little effort.
How he was completely passed out.
How relaxed he was.

And while I have to admit, I have a special connection with this little dude, I realized later that it probably had little to do with me personally.
It was the oils.
I, too, have developed seasonal allergies.
They don’t give me watery eyes or sneezes.
They mostly settle in my ears, my throat and my chest.
So I had rubbed a highly effective combo of peppermint, lavender and lemon essential oils on my throat and chest that morning.
And that is probably why he slept so deeply.
I was acting as a natural diffuser for his little body as he inhaled the oils on my skin. It is a combo that his Mom uses routinely at home. So whether it was the comfort of the familiar or the relief they brought, either way, I was diffusing something he needed.

But here’s the thing: it didn’t happen by some colossal effort on my part.
It was simply a natural consequence of something I did to benefit my own health.

And it made me think about our spiritual lives.
How they are.
How they should be.
How they can be.

See, you and I were born to be diffusers.
Naturally spreading into this world the love of God.
Not by conjuring up a to-do list, a check-off sheet, or a religious ritual.
But out of the overflow of our own hearts, our mouths will speak.
Out of the growth in our own lives, the Spirit will bear fruit.
Out of what we have been given, we will freely turn around and give away.

Out of the things I am doing that deeply benefit me, the world will be blessed.  I didn’t put those oils on for his benefit – but they blessed him deeply, simply because they were now a part of me.

And so in the Kingdom of God.  And in our assigned mission of reaching the world in the name of Jesus.

Because we are loved, we will love others deeply in His name.
Not out of emotion.
Or because they somehow are worthy.
But simply because we are loved.
We have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good.”
And as His love fills our lives, it will overflow, splashing and spreading into the lives of all who cross our path.

If.
If we abide.
That is the only secret to the Christian life.
To doing it well.
To diffusing it well.
Abiding.

If I abide with Christ, I want to know what He thinks.
And I find that in His Word.
If I abide with Christ, I want to have conversations with Him.
And I do through prayer.
If I abide with Christ, I want to stay connected, letting His life flow through mine.
And I do that through obedience.
If I abide with Christ, He says that I will bear MUCH fruit. (John 15)

But it won’t happen because I am trying to bear fruit.
It will happen simply because I am remaining continuously connected to The Vine.
Allowing His life to flow in and through mine.

Which will set off a chain reaction.
I will change.
And then that will change how I treat you.
Not because I am trying to earn a relationship with God.
Or because I am trying to make Him love me more.
But simply because I am doing the things that benefit my own soul.
But the side effects will be the distinctive aroma of grace. The sweet smells of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. The life-changing scent of knowing I am deeply loved – and therefore knowing it is safe to love you.

You’ll inhale deeply.
Drawn to what – or rather, WHO – you see at work in me.
And as you choose to abide in The Vine, you’ll “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12).
And the whole process begins again.
Multiplying the amazing scents of the Living God to a world that desperately needs a deep, cleansing breath of The Breath of Heaven.
Shining in the darkness.
A city set on a hill, unable to be hidden.
Being salt, preserving a world bent on wickedness.
Bringing flavor, preserving that which is good.

The choices before me today are myriad.
But all of them will fall into place if I seek first His Kingdom.
If I choose to abide first, the Vine will show this branch how to best reflect Him in every circumstance I find myself in today.
And I will automatically spread the fragrances of Him through my day.
Without a whole lot of effort on my part.
Beyond the effort of abiding in The Vine.