Heart Words

Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Challenges. Distractions. Life; with choices to make, priorities to set, goals to reach. Is life what makes some days hard to get through? Maybe no calamity befalls me or mine, maybe nothing life or death happens in a given day, but sometimes it does. Some days I feel a little hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood. I find myself spending time, probably too much time, pondering these hollow, worn out feelings, wondering who, what, why, when, how and where they are coming from and how to get rid of them.

So, I endeavor to “set aside” time for Jesus each day and fix this dilemma. I will read my Bible these many minutes or read X number of chapters and pray for this amount of time and then all will be well. I will start with thanksgiving, move on to confession and praying for all the needs of others, then I will pray for God to orchestrate my time and talent and use it for His good and glory.  That is the formula.  Right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with focused Bible study and structured time with God. Isn’t that what “everyone” says is the way to do it? So why is the formula not working? Why is the simmering, brewing frustration still there? Why is the discontent and irritation still bubbling and buffeting my heart and my spirit? It is a vague, foggy sense of something being off; like a miniscule rock stuck in your sock that you can’t quite find, but is so bothersome that it becomes the only thing you focus on, but never quite find.

With French Roast and some creamy foam in my favorite “ I LOVE MOM” mug, I found my spot at the patio table, with my Bible and all the necessary accompaniments at hand…and sat there. Nothing. Huh. As I sat, I noticed birds darting all over my yard, so content going about their business, exactly as God designed them to do and exactly how He created them. They sang. They squabbled. They moved on. They came back at a better time, to grab an open spot on the feeder. They didn’t sit and feel sad that they didn’t get the ideal spot on the feeder. They were creative in how they forced themselves into a space that at first glance, didn’t look possible.

This brought to mind Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek. How do I do that? My careful formula isn’t easing those feelings and isn’t filling those voids. And the formula isn’t always genuine. Ahhhh, there it is. Genuine. Real. Raw. Unscripted. These words are the exact opposite of formula, yet pierced my heart. I long for these words to be real in my relationship with Jesus. As the light breeze flipped the pages of my open Bible, Psalm 27 shows up. Specifically Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” My Father is asking me to come and talk to Him and my heart is leaping at the chance to do that! Nothing needs to be scripted, plotted or planned. There is not a wrong way to come before my Daddy in heaven. He said, “Come and talk with me.” That speaks of intimacy, closeness, trust and desire to be fully known. This is what I really want, deep down inside of my essence, to be known in all the goodness, ick, loveliness, confusion, humor, talent, fear, failures, victories. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be sometimes and not need to have a constant dialogue pouring from your mouth? When my son was younger, he often told me I use too many words and it exhausts him. It was funny and still is, but wow… that is truth right there! Too many words. How lovely, peaceful and restoring to be in the presence of my Father and not have to say words? Isn’t that what the heart is all about? Not words, big solutions and hour long flowery prayers, but presence, depth and intimacy that doesn’t always need an audible voice? Deep calling to deep; deep restoring, healing and transforming deep. I think I am finding my answers as I write this out. Yes, life is going to happen and I can’t do a thing about it. The balm that I need to soothe and let go of those hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood feelings is not going to be found in a rote formula and in getting the amount of time spent doing x,y,z just perfectly. No. My Father showed me His formula this morning on the patio in my everyday life, with my dogs nosing around the flower beds and birds scolding and singing. He asked my heart to come and hang out with Him for a bit and share what’s up. So, I will and I won’t say a word.

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Corporate Worship – Glimpse of Heaven

I had the privilege of attending an amazing concert over the weekend with my family, our church’s youth pastors and their wives and many others from my local church. The concert was wonderful; full of excitement, dancing and shouting; a spirit-filled energy that infused my bones and awakened a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Music has always been a strong source of life, energy and spirituality for me. Music awakens and fulfills at the same time, a deep place in my soul; through times that have been so crushing and devastating to times of such victory I can hardly stand it. Music and Jesus are deeply interconnected for me.

As I stood with the thousands of others on Saturday night, listening to praises rising to God, I was filled with awe and brought to tears at the way all of us were united for one purpose – to praise and love Jesus; to receive healing, love, acceptance and joy from our Father.  Our Father.  I love the sound of that. I was struck that at the very moment of praise; turning our focus on Him in communion with the spirit, we were united.  It didn’t matter who we were planning to vote for, the color of our skin, our past, our present or our future, our socio economic status or our dress size; all that mattered was that we love God and He loves us deeply; no shame, sin, guilt, habit or hang-up could separate us from His love. He was right there in our midst and His presence was so potent and powerful that it raised the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck.  The Creator of the universe, and of you and I, joined us Saturday night at the Concord Pavilion and lavished us with so much love. I know healing took place that night; lives were saved, hope restored, relationships healed and grace! Oh so much grace!

At one point during the concert, I turned around to look next to me and behind me and was overwhelmed at the sight of arms, hands, faces raised up to heaven; smiles, laughter, songs, tears; all directed upward to our Father. I thought, “Wow! This must be a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like; all races, all nations, all backgrounds standing, kneeling, bowing in the presence of the Most High God. I tell you, it was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen.

Bike ride full of sensations and truth

I went on a bike ride yesterday morning. The first longer one I’ve been able to do in months, due to knee and elbow injuries. It was lovely and refreshing; full of an almost overwhelming amount of much missed sensations.

I am very much a sensation person. You know, someone acutely aware of the nuances of the wind, scents, sights, sounds or the absence of sounds. Sensations fascinate me and stir something up inside. Originally, I was going to make this a ride of new beginnings in the most physical of ways; starting off with a pre-determined number of miles as my goal, so as not to overtax my knee and elbow, which are still healing and tender in spots. That was the focus and I was going to get ‘er done. No fooling around, fanciful riding! I also decided to add in to the mix, a prayer for safety and that God would use this new beginnings ride as He saw fit; whatever that means. He did. I’m pretty sure I knew deep down that He would; when I invite Him into what I am doing, He always shows up. Always.

The morning was chock full of sensations; I mean full. There was a light to moderate, persistently cooling breeze with notes of a gently sweet flower – jasmine I think, with undertones of dew damp grass and that calming scent of the sea floating along, teasing and soothing. The light was lovely. It was fairly early, so it was a new light, just waking up from its sleep; all soft, gentle and tumbly;  pleasantly warm when it hit my bare skin. The birds were in rare form, especially some blue jays with the raucous calls they are famous for, along with the pretty little birds, finches maybe, who dart and dip all over my neighborhood, singing their hearts out to the new sun. Wind chimes played in the distance and I may have imagined the earthy smell of coffee, floating by, making me wonder who was up and what they were doing. I’m also intensely curious! Some leaves danced and twirled past on a side street, as the playful breeze flew in to stir them up and left again just as quickly. Naughty and playful!

By this time, I am on the bike path parallel to the canal, trying to take in all the blue and yellow wildflowers that dip and twist in the breeze as I fly past. I realize that I have not been paying close attention to how far I’ve gone, what my knee is feeling, who else is out and about. It has just been me, my six senses and such a feeling of joy and excitement over what sight, smell, sound,  or creature I might encounter next. As I pedal along, I am struck by how much beauty and joy I rob myself of on a daily basis when all I am focused on is the next accomplishment, the next item marked off my list (I really, really like lists!!), the next thing I think I need to do because someone else is doing it, someone else thinks it would be a good idea . I am comparing my desires, my dreams and my genetic make-up, that calls and beckons me to get outside and bask in sensations’, to someone else’s make up that does not or sends them in a different direction. I felt like I had a mini epiphany that allowed me, through sensations, to see that this is good, right, ok and to not feel guilty or less than, because I choose to do life a little differently than the next guy and to embrace that and love it and deeply nurture it, because it is the essence of me. It is the spirit of me that my God put inside me when He created me. He knew I was going to crave and need nature and sensations in a big, big way along with words, dreams , music, visions and the scent of the air more than other things, and that He delighted in making me this way. I don’t have to decide to do something a different way because someone else is doing it; I don’t have to stress because I like to exercise and nourish my body, my way. I think it was such a revelation to me, because as I was riding my blue bike, feeling sweat running down my back just to be immediately cooled off by the chilly breeze, I simply thought, “why hello, Melissa. This is me.” I could see all those parts of me and loved them. So many thoughts started pouring through my brain. I won’t go into all of them, because a lot of them make sense only to me and I think God wants some of those revelations and thoughts to be just between Him and me. But thoughts regarding weight, gifting, inclinations, my ministries, friendships, past decisions, my food choices and my thoughts around those were highlighted in a gentle, yet firm way, pointing out that they stem from what God thought of and got excited over when He decided He was ready to set me loose on this earth. Yes, I do have a lot to learn from other people, things to re-think and maybe go about in a different way, but the essence of me, my spirit, is me and it’s mine and I desire to intimately know, cherish and fiercely protect every part of it; not feel like I have to explain myself, convince others to see the essence of me or to defend it.

So, God did show up on my bike ride. Like I said, I knew He would, I just didn’t know what He would bring to the party. For me, it was something deep and shifting inside. I’m not sure I did a great job explaining and sharing it, but I’m ok with that, too, because a lot of it was just for me. Maybe you will get a little nugget or tidbit for yourself. That is my hope. That through this convoluted and a bit random blog post, a little treasure will hop off the page that God put here just for you.

He is speaking. Can you hear Him?

Have you ever heard the comments, “God is closer than your next breath?”  or “God is always speaking to us?” Do you believe that? Have you heard that “still small voice” speaking to you?

As I sat outside on the patio this morning, my mind started wandering. It drifted through past conversations I’ve had with friends about this very thing. How does God speak to me, to you? Is He? How will I know if it’s God? I don’t know that I have the right answer, but I have a lot of thoughts about it and wanted to share what’s on my mind. I hope in the comments, you will share your thoughts and experiences as well, since we all have something to teach and something to learn.

There are those who have audibly heard the voice of God; an actual voice they heard with their physical ears. I’m not one of them. I would love to be, but I’m not; at least not yet. I believe that because our Creator made each of us in such unique and specific ways, we can’t say there is only ONE way to hear our Father’s voice.  We all interpret life and what we see, hear and feel very differently, according to our gifts, abilities, personalities and physical make up. It makes sense that we would sense our Creator’s voice in many varied ways.

Others in my circle of friends, hear His voice through very specific and detailed dreams and visions, where God is clearly showing them something important about life changes that are going to happen, the direction certain relationships are going, how they need to proceed in a certain area of their lives. I hear God this way, too. Not daily or even weekly; not in a consistent, regimented way, but He has spoken to me this way. When I was first dealing with the possibility of breast cancer, God gave me very detailed and specific dreams about it, so that I would know some of what was coming. He knows me so well, that He knew I would need this preparation; an advanced warning, so to speak.  It was a tremendous blessing to me and I am so grateful for the dreams He gave to me. It showed me that He is involved in every single thing that He filters through His hands and allows to touch my life. He knew cancer was going to be part of my story. He gave me some advance notice, because He knows how I operate. This is love.

Nature is one of the things in life that I love the most. I crave it. It is an essential part of my being, of my make –up. I feel the most alive and in touch with my Father when I am outdoors. My senses come alive and I am captivated and touched by all the sounds, scents, sensations. I have had my deepest times of communion with God, while outdoors in nature; whether it is the forest, a meadow, a trail I’m hiking, sitting on the beach or puttering in my own backyard. It isn’t an audible voice I hear, but it’s what I sense; like a spirit deep knowing that He is there and He is speaking. The brush of a gentle, playful breeze that cools my neck and ruffles my hair tells me that He cares, is always and ever-present. I hear Him speaking to me in the pounding surf and lapping waves; fear and wounding are drawn out and away in the swell of the waves as I pour out to Him all that is in my heart. The peace and awe that fall over me in the midst of the Redwoods; that glorious scent of pine, ancient growth and strength remind me of His power and creativity; that He has everything planned out that concerns me and mine; it isn’t necessarily safe and predictable, but it is good and right and promised. Sitting outside under the stars and the moon, I feel His majesty and His Lordship cover me like protective wings. He created what I see above me which is hard to comprehend, but He also created me and loves me. To me that feels so safe; I am protected and fiercely guarded. My Father’s eye is never off of me. His eye is never off of you.

Maybe you don’t believe that you have “heard” Him speak to you, but I challenge that. I really do. He speaks all the time to His creation.  Keep an open heart and open ears.  Slow down and allow yourself to hear Him. Ask Him how He wants to speak to you. I promise you He does. He has words for you and so much wisdom He desires to pour into you. But our Father God is a gentleman. He waits to be invited.  Will you let Him in?

Morning at the duck pond

 

 

The sun hasn’t been up for long, yet the pond is fully awake.

On a large moss covered rock in one corner of the pond, the cormorant is sunning itself; fully spread wings welcome the warm sun.

Turtles occupy a majority of the warming rocks and gnarled old roots, jutting up from the still water; always watching, always aware; stout legs and webbed feet stretched out to soak in the warmth.

As I wander closer to the pond’s edge, sleepy ducks regard me with curiosity, but they aren’t afraid; others doze on, with heads tucked into cozy, feathery wings.

The proud Canadian geese continue nibbling grassy tidbits and bugs as I stroll on by; a few venture a hiss or two, just to make sure we are on the same page.

The pond is still and quiet; yet it’s not.

Human noises are blessedly absent, but morning greetings and conversations are vivid and noisy; the rhythm of the pond is in full swing!

Cheerful, grounding, natural.  Life lessons can be learned here; the Divine is all around.

Along the grassy edge of the pond, small fish and tadpoles congregate in the warm shallows, as a ray of sun brings heat and light. Life.

My shadow causes a frantic, mass exodus, as they dart in a mass of tiny tails and fins to safer waters; ripples and bubbles marking their escape.

A large, silent turtle, with only the tip of its snout visible, is waiting; slowly submerging in an effortless swim to its breakfast. The ebb and flow of life on the pond.

Along the edge of the pond there is evidence of nests and bedded down reeds; a few delicate egg shell pieces and tufts of feathers and down. Home for a family of ducks; their safe place; warm and tucked away.

Moving along, the insistent chirping of a red-winged blackbird, signals that I am bit too close for comfort to his family home in the tall, fully leafed tree in front of me.

I move gingerly around this part of the pond, as he begins to dive and swoop at me; making it clear that I’m a visitor here. Respect.

Rounding one side of the pond, a mama and her ducklings dart and swim through the glass smooth water; nibbling up tidbits as they happily cluck and chatter to each other. She steers them toward the middle of the pond. Cautious.

The ripples they leave behind swirl and eddy, then disappear as the still water swallows them up. Calm restored.

Random splishes and splashes can be heard, as turtles slip into the water like small submarines; tiny, pointy heads can be seen as they break the surface to keep a sharp eye on the pond bank; scouts that watch and wait.

The green Heron, master fisherman, is tucked up and underneath the mass of reeds, on a thin root poking up through the water. He patiently waits in stillness and silence. He knows food is just below the surface and silently waits for his opportunity.  Patience.

A ripply movement catches my eye and I carefully make my way to the edge of the pond, curiosity brimming. Is it the river otter come back again; fishing and dining on crawdads and little fish?

No, it is a large, orangey, iridescent fish; the tail poking up and rippling the water like a miniature shark’s fin, as it roots in the murky, muddy water under the gnarled old tree, with the beautiful leafy branches.

I am captivated.

I sink to my feet watching it go about its business; gracefully moving and swishing as it searches for a treasure hidden in the murky pond.  Trust.

A sudden cacophony of honking and quacking, breaks apart the loudly peaceful pond, as a goose announces its displeasure; wings and webbed feet flapping and dashing into the pond, causing a few moments of panic and unrest as others follow suit.

Quickly, all is calm and everyone goes about their business, as if nothing has happened. Ritual, rhythm, order restored. Life at the pond.

The bench that is tucked in under the beautiful tree, with weepy branches skimming the water, beckons to me.

Resting here in the shade, I try to blend in quietly, allowing nature to return to its busy activities, and the turtles to relax their ever vigilant and rigid watch.

There is always one who stalks, silently tracking my movements.

As my eyes roam over this place I love, I notice that the trees and flowering plants are always reaching up to the sky, their source of life; branches and tender shoots going up, up.

Even in seasons of autumn and winter, when skies are grey and the sun seems scarce, always their branches seek light and reach upward. They know Who sustains them.

Some of these trees are gnarled and funky, with twists and crimps, bends and burned out, broken up places, yet up; they always point up.

There is a lot to learn out here at the duck pond.

The simplicity of creation looking to the Creator to protect, provide and sustain, as the seasons and cycles of life move ever onward.

My life resembles these tenacious trees, with their broken branches and crooked spots and their seasons of beauty and abundance, fully leafed and lovely.

Seasons come and go, ebb and flow as the divine tapestry of our lives are woven by a Master weaver; intersecting pain and beauty; abundance and lack. Always with arms and face lifted up to the Source of Life.

Come Away

I’m up early.

A restless, unsettled day, led to a similar night of sleep.

Rest is elusive, thoughts scattered.

Warm, earthy, steamy coffee warms my hands;  my eyes glaze over; mind swirling.

Through the open kitchen window, the morning air carries the faint scent of jasmine and cool earth.

The house is warm, but the fragrant air is inviting and full of promise; electric.

It beckons.

A friendly breeze, a puff of soft air, calls to me from the musical notes of the wind chimes,

“Come out.”

I go out.

My favorite bench is canopied by the looming butterfly bush; it’s purple, fragrant blooms toss and wave; encouraging me to come.

I do.

The cold marble of my bench, as I sit, is in stark contrast to the warmth of my hands around the child-painted coffee cup I carry with me. “I love Mommy” it proudly shouts, from its brightly painted surface. That brings a smile.

Also some tears.

I don’t feel so loveable of late.  Irritable. Tired. Frustrated, not loveable. Chaotic, possibly.

Looking at the flowers in the planter tubs next to my bench, I see chaos; at first.

Upon closer inspection, I notice that the random way in which I planted these lovelies, is actually quite beautiful.  Patterns emerge amidst the seemingly random design.

There is order here in the planter, despite the chaos and it is so lovely! Yes! Yes, it is.

Do goodness and beauty and happiness have to be meticulously ordered, spaced and arranged to be ok and acceptable?  Do I have to understand it?

This revelation makes me smile and breathe deeply. Inhale life.

The rising sun glitters its reflection at me on the feathery water of the stone bird bath. Winking and spunky, I want to laugh with it, at the possibilities of the new day.

I feel my back and shoulders relax; everything isn’t wiry and tense, ready for flight. Calm. Peace.  Is that joy?

Again the breeze; it caresses the back of my neck with cool, kind fingers; barely a whisper against my ear.

What was that?  I close my eyes, try to still my mind and just be.

I hear it now. You are speaking, but no words are spoken.

The peaceful scent of jasmine and butterfly bush blooms tell me all is well.

The stable, steady, ancient scent of dirt reminds me that new life is all around; rebirth is waiting daily for me to acknowledge it.

The breeze whispers that I’m never alone.  You will never leave me. I remember; I know.

I see in the riotous, chaotic colors and placement of the flowers, that You have patterned and woven my life together in a tapestry that may appear to be a random intersection of lines and curves; hills and dales; yet is actually something far more beautiful and ordered and perfected than I can imagine.

You see the entire picture of me and You call it lovely; You call me lovely. I am enough because of You.

You have dried my tears; they are captured in the bottle that holds all of them. In place of frustration, I notice acceptance has taken root. Not a resigned, sighing acceptance, but an acceptance of the unique journey I am on with all of the ups and downs that I know will come.

My place in Your arms as chosen, loved, accepted and redeemed is reconfirmed on my little marble bench. I am enough. I just needed to come away with You for a spell. You remind me I’m Yours and all will be well.

Everything

This song by Lifehouse (lyrics below) has been running through my head for a couple of days. I find this song profoundly beautiful and deeply moving; almost to the point that I cannot explain it with words. When I listen to it, goosebumps rise up all over my skin and my spirit awakens and rises up; tears prick my eyes and my heart beats stronger and faster. This is a song I can put on repeat. The lyrics resonate with me so deeply, because I have experienced these emotions and responses to Jesus described in this amazing song. I desire to hear Him speak and long for His words; it is a deep need in my soul and when I do hear Him, peace fills me up; I rest and have the strength to keep walking and trusting Him.

There are several specific times in my life that I look back on and know, like I know, like I know, that it was ONLY Jesus that kept me going each day; only His presence, only Him holding me in His hands and letting me rest that literally kept me afloat. There were times that I didn’t know it was Him carrying me through the storm, until it was over, and frankly, wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with Him.  Nevertheless, He saw through the pain and fear, right into my hurting heart and gently lifted me anyway. I’m His girl and He wasn’t letting go.

During my years of battling an aggressive form of breast cancer, He was the only hope I had to cling to and He never once failed me. Never once. The weeks and months that I don’t remember, because of a haze of medications used to keep me from the sickness of treatments, He was there and held me in His hands. I have scars, yes, but I’m proud of them. It reminds me of where I was and where He brought me. Survivor. Overcomer. Victorious.

During other dark times, He was the light that led me to a place of healing, peace and safety. Fully protected; never out of His sight. Thoughts of Him do take my breath away! He has stolen my heart and I’m not ashamed to say so.

Life has things in store for me and those I love that will be hard, painful and seem very unfair. I know this. However, I also know that Jesus has walked this suffering before me, He knows, He understands, He heals and He restores. He brings joy and peace into situations where there shouldn’t be any.

He is all I want, all I need. He is everything.

Everything

By Lifehouse

Find me here, and speak to me

I want to feel you, I need to hear you

You are the light that’s leading me to the place

Where I find peace again

You are the strength that keeps me walking

You are the hope that keeps me trusting

You are the life to my soul

You are my purpose

You’re everything

And how can I stand here with you

And not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

You calm the storms and you give me rest

You hold me in your hands

You won’t let me fall

You steal my heart and you take my breath away

Would you take me in, take me deeper now

And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Cause you’re all I want, you’re all I need, you’re everything, everything…