Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Make your life into a giving. When I say a giving, it is not to be understood as an act. Giving as an act is a deception because, after all, what can you give? Everything that we have, including this body, we have taken, been given, by Christ. What we can give is only a paltry part of what we have taken. Giving as an act could be very deceptive and could turn ugly, but if your way of being is giving and your actions are only a manifestation of that, when you open your heart to give, grace invariably seeps in. That is inevitable.

Each of us can also make every act and every breath into a process of giving – seeing how we can contribute to everything around us, no matter what we are doing.  In just 24 hours, we will be so rich that the experience of life, the beauty of life, will set a glow on our face because that is the only way life functions.  The whole process of life is a giving. It is a transaction. In every giving there is a taking. We are taking more than we are giving, but in your mind, just ignore the taking. You just keep giving because you do not have to take; it will be pushed into you.

There was a man who cleared one hundred acres of forest and made it into farmland. His two sons helped him and they became prosperous. When the man was dying, he called his two sons and told them that the land should never be divided, but the produce should be taken equally, fifty percent, by each son.
Accordingly, they went by their father’s word. One of the brothers got married and had five children. The other one never got married. Life went on and they each took fifty percent. One day, a thought entered the mind of the brother who had a wife and five children: "I'm getting fifty percent; my brother is also getting fifty percent. But I have a wife and five children while my brother has nobody. When he gets old, who will take care of him? He should have a little more than me because I have the wealth of my children. But he is too proud; he will not take it from me." So in the dark of the night, he carried a bagful of grain quietly and walked into his brother’s store, dropped this bag and walked back. Whenever he could, he went on doing this.
The same thought also entered his brother's mind. He thought, "I am alone, my brother has five children to feed and I am getting fifty percent, but if I give him extra, he will not take it." So he started doing the same thing at night. This went on for many years and both of them never noticed. One night, both of the brothers carrying sacks of grains in secrecy walked towards each others storehouse and came face to face. Suddenly, they realized what was happening. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

“He has planted eternity in the human heart …” Ecclesiastes 3:11b (NLT)
A while back, my young adult son took a trip to visit friends in the state where we used to live. He stopped by the house that had been ours for all of his childhood. And, he felt compelled to knock on the front door and introduce himself to the strangers who now own it.
When he said he had grown up in that house, the wife didn’t hesitate to open the door wide and invite him in. She knew that in our hearts we often feel toward our houses what we might feel for a trusted ally, a kind friend or maybe even a silent witness to our pain.
My latest character Marielle Bishop understands this. In my new novel A Sound Among the Trees, new bride Marielle takes up residence in an old house with a storied past. She just isn’t sure that this place can be a safe haven for her heart.
We are wired to feel a tug toward that one special place we feel safe, wanted and cared for. Our hearts are restless when we’re far from home, or our home is taken from us, or when discord disrupts the tranquility of that place.
So what’s a girl to do when she doesn’t feel at home? We need to remember that Christ is at home in her. So in a sense, we take our eternal home with us wherever we go. Wherever we are, we can feel safe, wanted and cared for by Christ who dwells inside every believer.
When the Israelites were waiting for God to lead them to their new home in the Promised Land, He had them build a tabernacle for His presence to dwell right there where they were, wherever that was on their journey.
We don’t use the word “tabernacle” much these days but if you were to look at its Hebrew roots you would see that it comes from the same word as “dwell” and “abide” and “settle down.” When God brings His presence right to where we are, He is “tabernacling” with us.
The Lord God Almighty settles down inside us. His Spirit lives in us. Our heart becomes His Holy tabernacle and He is at home in us. Isn’t that a thrilling, mind-bending concept?
The Bible tells us God has “set eternity in our hearts” which means He has made us hungry for His heavenly embrace. The affection we have for our earthly houses stems from this smoldering ember of our longing for Him as our eternal home.
There’s no place like home. It’s why we like everyone to be home for the holidays and home before dark and why we just want to go home when we’re having a bad day. Home is where our hearts are at rest. And our hearts can always be at rest in Him.
Whether your earthly home is as near as your next breath or too far away to be seen today, know that God has promised to tabernacle with you! He dwells with you. You are His earthly address. And in Him, you are home.
Dear Lord, help me today to find all my joy in knowing You are my forever dwelling place and that I am at home in You because You are at home in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
“You are not liked.”
“Who are you to think you could do that?”
“Why did you say that? Everyone thinks you’re annoying.”
“Your kids just illustrated every inadequacy you have as a mom.”
“You are invisible.”
Have you ever been taunted by these thoughts? I have. Why do we let such destructive words fall hard on our souls? Toxic thoughts are so dangerous because they leave no room for truth to flourish. And in the absence of truth, lies reign.
The other day I was discussing something with my husband and I said, “I know you think I’m being annoying and overly protective about this but…”
He stopped me and said, “How do you know that’s what I’m thinking? Please don’t hold me liable for saying things that are really only thoughts in your mind.”
Wow. He’s so right. He hadn’t said those things. I was assuming he was thinking them and operating as if those toxic thoughts were reality.
I think we girls do this way too often. People aren’t thinking about us and assessing us nearly as much as we think they are.
As Christian women we should hold our thoughts to a higher standard. How dare these run away thoughts be allowed to simply parade about as if they are true and manipulate us into feeling insecure, inadequate, and misunderstood! Oh how much trouble we invite into our lives based on assumptions. We are instructed:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9 NIV 1984)
This is probably a verse you’ve read before. But, have you thought of applying it to your every thought…especially the toxic ones?
We are to think on, ponder and park our minds on constructive thoughts—not destructive thoughts. Thoughts that build up not tear down. Thoughts that breathe life not drain the life from us. Thoughts that lead to goodness not anxiety.
So, here are three questions we’d do well to ask ourselves when thoughts are dragging us down.
1. Did someone actually say this or am I assuming they are thinking it?
If they actually said it, deal with it then. If I’m assuming it, that’s unfair to them and unnecessarily damaging to me. Instead of staying anxious, I need to seek truth by seeking God and asking Him for peace.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
2. Have I been actively engaging with truth lately?
The more we read God’s truths and let truth fill our mind, the less time we’ll spend contemplating untruths.
Thinking run-away, worrisome thoughts invites anxiety. Thinking thoughts of truth wraps my mind in peace and helps me rise above my circumstances.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
3. Are certain situations or friendships feeding my insecurities?
If so, maybe I need to take a break from these for a season.
I need to seek friendships that are characterized by truth, honor, and love.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Good gracious I know this is tough stuff. I know these issues can be more complicated than three simple questions. But it’s a good place to start holding our thoughts accountable.
After all, how a woman thinks is often how she lives.
I think we need to read that one again, don’t you? How a woman thinks is often how she lives. May we think upon and live out truth—and only truth today.

Seriously though, if this isn't the greatest act of God's love and one of THE most inspiring stories you've ever heard, I don't know what is.
This really has just spoken to me so much recently. I've definitely been battling some demons, some skeletons in my closet. More to come!

Friday, November 18, 2011

“We live with accusations, sometimes heavy expectations that tell us we can never measure up. And yet You repeat with mercy that in Your eyes we are worthy, ‘til at last we see how much we’re loved.” - "Broken into Beautiful"
Healing begins when we hold tightly to the truth of God and allow the truth of God to hold tightly to us.
What's the difference between just giving your heart to God like so many children do, and really surrendering your life to Him?
Why would Jesus, on his first journey, take his followers to a party? Didn’t they have work to do? Didn’t he have principles to teach? Wasn’t his time limited? How could a wedding fit with his purpose on earth?
Why did Jesus go to the wedding?
The answer? It’s found in the second verse of John 2. “Jesus and his followers were also invited to the wedding.”
Jesus wasn’t invited because he was a celebrity. He wasn’t one yet. The invitation wasn’t motivated by his miracles. He’d yet to perform any. Why did they invite him?
I suppose they liked him.
Big deal? I think so. I think it’s significant that common folk in a little town enjoyed being with Jesus. I think it’s noteworthy that the Almighty didn’t act high and mighty. The Holy One wasn’t holier-than-thou. The One who knew it all wasn’t a know-it-all. The One who made the stars didn’t keep his head in them. The One who owns all the stuff of earth never strutted it.
Jesus could have been all of these, but he wasn’t. 
His purpose was not to show off but to show up. 
He went to great pains to be as human as the guy down the street. He didn’t need to study, but still went to the synagogue. He had no need for income, but still worked in the workshop. He had known the fellowship of angels and heard the harps of heaven, yet still went to parties thrown by tax collectors. And upon his shoulders rested the challenge of redeeming creation, but he still took time to walk ninety miles from Jericho to Cana to go to a wedding.
As a result, people liked him. Oh, there were those who chaffed at his claims. They called him a blasphemer, but they never called him a braggart. They accused him of heresy, but never arrogance. He was branded as a radical, but never called unapproachable.
His faith made him likable, not detestable. How can I make mine do the same?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

 Only when you turn attention to awareness itself, there isn't anything behind it. That's what returning to the source means. It means that nothing is next. There's nothing behind it. With a thought there's always something behind it. There's always the awareness of thought. So awareness is behind it. With a feeling there's always something behind it. With the conditioned tendency there's always something behind it. There's always awareness behind everything that's perceivable. Everything that's thinkable. There's always something behind it: namely that awareness. Spirit.

To 'look within' doesn't mean to look for something really amazing to happen. To look for the states of consciousness to change. That's not what look within means. Have any of you looked within like that? I've spent so many hours looking within that way - not thousands, tens of thousands of hours looking within. And I was looking ... the same way we look outside. You know, like we're looking for something. And so you look inside. It's a great teaching, but then what do you do? You tend to look for stuff. Look for really groovy spiritual stuff to happen. Right? It's the same looking. It's not really different than looking for a million bucks, or a hot looking guy or gal or success.  It's just looking for inner stuff. And there's a world of inner things and experiences, just like there's an outer world of things to look for. 
But the inner world, it's not any more real or significant then the outer world. So to look within doesn't mean that, to look within in a way that you're looking for something. Looking for a treasure. It means to go to the root. And the root is the looking itself.
To turn within is to turn to that which is looking. So that we find out for ourselves that there isn't anybody that's looking! Looking is looking. There isn't someone there called 'me' that's behind awareness that's aware. Awareness is aware. It's the opposite: I'm not aware; awareness is aware of me. And this is quite a shock when you really come upon it!
This is really 'one without a second' as Ramana (Maharshi) used to say. That the self is one without a second. Without a second means: nothing behind it. No deeper return to go to. You've returned to your natural state. In Zen we used to call it 'taking the backward step.'  We (generally) want to take the forward step: to pursue, to seek, to find. But the backward step is very simple ... return to what you are. Till that flash of recognition dawns, that awareness itself is what you are. Just like the flash of lightning in an empty sky - a spontaneous flash! 
The easiest thing in spirituality is for it to become complex, instead of simple. But this is a very simple thing which is why it can penetrate so deeply. So quickly. So immediately.