In the same way

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You might think I have learned all I could learn from the “I had surgery on my foot” story..

but no.

There is more….

This week I returned to what I would call, fairly regular exercise.

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We kicked it off with a walk on Monday night after work, followed by returning to exercise class several nights this week.

With two months absence and a new fall schedule of classes, I am not only behind physically;

the whole workout routine I was familiar with has been replaced by some kind of combination of Zumba, kick-boxing and Army boot camp maneuvers that left this middle-aged, uncoordinated and slightly handicapped-because-my-big-toe-still-doesn’t-actually-bend-in-a-normal-way woman seriously wondering if perhaps she needed to exercise her rights to freedom and just walk out of class. (how’s that for a run-on sentence???)

At one point, the entire class dropped parallel to the floor, balancing only on their hands and toes as they alternated pushups and planks with rotating their bodies in complete circles…

ON THEIR HANDS AND TOES….MIND YOU

So basically – a pushup but moving around in circles…that went on for basically, an eternity.

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yeah

Because even on a good day with 10 healthy toes…this would be a challenge for me.

So there I stood, much like a flashback to high school PE…

like a sore thumb in a sea of athleticism kind of considering bailing…

when our instructor caught site of me and signaled her assistant.

Immediately he rose to his feet and began a modified exercise for me to follow.

As I watched and followed the maneuvers, suddenly I didn’t feel alone or ridiculous or failing…

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I felt empowered to continue the work I had set out to do.

And I thought to myself…

what a picture of parakletos…

the Holy Spirit

the Helper

the Comforter

the Advocate

sent by God.

The Holy Spirit is the One that our God sent to us because He knew we could not walk this thing out in the brokeness of our humanity…

 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you. John 14:26 AMP

When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. John 16:13 NLT

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17 ESV

Often in this world today, I feel much as I did in class last night.

Standing in the midst of a large crowd all doing the same thing, I stand alone…

helpless to know what to do…

and in this case, it is not that I want to join in but that I want the crowd to know my Savior so they too can stand firm and strong in Him who died for them.

But I am weak and broken and flawed in myself…and so I am most thankful for this other gift of our parakletos.

For I, in my own human frailty….

do not know how to pray…

in power and in truth…

and so the Spirit intercedes for me…

giving to me the prayers of the heart of God…

sometimes in words…

often in tears…

in sobs and groanings…

so that I can pray His mind…

His strength…

His comfort…

His transforming love…

His mercy…

His grace…

His power…

His forgiveness…

His healing…

His restoration…

His justice…

His kindness…

over

and

into

and

around

a hurting and dying world.

 Romans 8:26…my paraphrase <3

 

Dog gone it

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As I have been preparing for leading the lessons in the Finding Your Way Back to God series, I keep remembering our dog Mitzi.

I am pretty sure I have shared about her sometime in one of these emails…but it’s a good story and it fits and I come from a long line of people who love to repeat themselves so….

here we go…

When the kids were little, like all kids, they wanted a dog. I was on board because I love dogs. However; Russ’s family never had a dog and he had no interest in having a dog and so it seemed hopeless that we would ever convince him of the need for one of these critters in our home.

I prayed he would change his mind and sure enough the prayers and/or the nagging of children worked because we wore him down and for Christmas one year, he told them they could have a dog.

I did pray fervently that she would be the best dog possible since she would have to win Russ over and sure enough God plopped our little Mitzi into our home in mid-February…an abandoned puppy of six weeks.

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And while it wasn’t love at first sight for him, he will tell you that he still misses her furry little mug greeting him at the door at the end of the day.

She had some issues with chewing and shedding, but overall we survived her first two years with our marriage intact and our children blissfully enjoying all the benefits of a dog and even helping with some of the responsibilities.

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We loved her dearly but she had one flaw that she never seemed to overcome.

She was a runner.

A door that lingered open too long, a slightly loose collar, a weak link in the leash…and she was gone.

Fearing she would be run over, the family would grab a box of dog biscuits and someone would take the car out (for some reason she always would jump in the car…) and it was an all-out dog hunt until she was back with us.

One day I was by myself when she took off.

She had a knack for picking the worst times to make her get-away and I was on a tight schedule that day.

I stood frantically on the back deck…shaking the dog biscuits and calling her name.

In my frustration, I loudly lamented of this nature that seemed a part of her wiring.

I pointed out to anyone who was listening, since she wasn’t…

how foolish she was to run off where she could be hit by a car or eat some poison someone had left out or who knows what kind of danger she could encounter…

I ranted that she had it good here…

She was well fed and loved
She was kept safe and free of fleas and heart worms
She was a part of us and she loved us …

why oh why did she always run away from the place that was her home?

And God whispered ever so gently in my heart as I stood shaking that box of Milkbones….

How like you, Laura.

Ouch

He was right.

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Prone to wander…

Lord I feel it…

Prone to leave the God I love….

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.*

God’s correction has not been harsh to me.

It has reminded me that He is my source of every blessing…that my ways lead to wanderings that bring me and others heartache.

His ways can be hard and hard to understand.

But I would have no other way.

God bless you today to hear His voice whisper to your heart <3

*Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing; Robert Robinson 1758

Drum roll please…

IMG_2643Just feeling like celebrating today because I actually completed something I started.

On April 25th of this year, I cracked open the first crisp pages of Kelly Minter’s study: No Other Gods confronting our modern day idols

I can’t recommend it enough…even if it was painfully eye-opening.

The whole study walked me through the process of identifying the idols that have been foolishly nudged God out of first place in the heart of this lady, right here.

She kicks it off on Day 1 of the study with this definition:

An idol is something other than God that we:

  • Set our hearts on
  • Motivates us
  • Masters and rules us
  • that we trust, fear or serve

It can be good things, that have become the main thing.

Careers

Relationships

Family

Security

Reputation

Talents

Approval

All of these things are God-given things…

but when they begin to eclipse God in our hearts…

they have become idols.

Ouch

These idols maintain their position in my heart behind strongholds…

places of strength that are held in place by deception, lies, fear, intimidation…

all for the purpose of taking up space in my heart that, in truth, belongs only to God.

It is so interesting to me that while I was working on this study, I also participated in a book launch for Make Room for What you Love by Melissa Michels.

While one book was a Bible Study and one book was about decluttering your home…these two books are written by Christian women and both speak TRUTH.

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We don’t empty our closets or our hearts to fill them with more junk.

We are emptying ourselves of false gods to make room for THE God.

Jehovah

I AM

Yahweh

Adonai

El Elyon

El Shaddai

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

on and on and on…

to eternity…

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“Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Ezekiel 14:3English Standard Version (ESV)

and….

praise be to this amazing GOD we serve…

He helps us in this process…

And I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender responsive heart. Ezekiel 36:26 NLT

I have a lot of work tearing down some places that have been revealed through this study.

It isn’t easy…

some run deep and have hidden themselves as “virtues”…

when in reality they are as ugly as sin…

because..

that is exactly what an idol is.

 

 

 

 

When your pastor hits it out of the park…

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When I get the blessing of hearing great teaching and I am still chewing on it come Monday morning…it’s best to just share that with you all so we can ponder together.

As we continue with the series Finding  Your Way Back to God, this week’s focus was about the inevitable regret that will come when we head in any direction other than God.

As we explored the story of the Prodigal Son further, we took note of the literal physical hunger that was the catalyst for his “awakening”.

As the authors of the material put it,

“Coming to our senses is when we realize decisions we have made have led us to places we never thought we would go.” 

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The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates for us a cycle that is common to every human being’s story.

Pastor Brian put it beautifully so I am just going to share his words from my notes.

We can identify places where we have gone off to a far land and are getting way off track by asking, “Where am I running around in stuff that isn’t God’s best for me?”

Submitting our life to God and then surrendering little pockets that we maintain our own hold on is a process that continues throughout our lives.

But there must be an awakening (or I would say an enlightening in our mind) where we finally become aware of the fact that we have wandered.

The young son in the story did not come to this realization as he squandered his money and time and purpose in prodigal living.

To be honest, in that season he was quite unaware that he was anything but having the time of his life.

If he thought of anyone who would have tried to correct him, he would have considered them to be wrong…out of touch…off base…irrelevant.

It was only when he had spent all his money and the “friends” who had enjoyed and encouraged his choices moved on…

only when he was left to his own consequences and found himself poor and abandoned and … seriously…just straight up starving physically…

that he “came to his senses”.

Pastor Brian pointed out that there are two parts to this:

  1. He came to his senses

                         AND

2. He decided to go back to his father

Sadly, it is possible to experience regret and choose to continue in a cycle of returning to the very things that led you to regret in the first place.

This is being sorry…but continuing to repeat the choices that will lead you further into regret.

Or as Proverbs 26:11 puts it…

As a dog returns to it’s vomit, so a fool returns to his or her folly.

Yuck.

And so the hope and the prayer is that we would not just be sorry …

but that we would…

repent.

Repent…

in Greek…metanoia: to change our minds

in Hebrew…teshuvah: to return to that from which you came

Together these words can be blended together to give us a full picture of the only way we can end the cycle that spirals us farther away from the Blessed Father of comfort and strength and mercy and grace…

the only One who can heal our hearts and mend our brokeness…

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Sincerely ask God….

Lord, show me what I have allowed to fulfill my longings that is outside of your will. Awaken me to the knowledge and acceptance of the consequences that my choices have brought that have separated me from you.

And then listen…

He will answer.

Most likely the answer will be unpleasant and painful and will make us feel bad…

because that is the nature of regret.

I urge you today…

don’t push it aside..

or stuff it down..

or look around for those who have become your companions in the running away…

I pray instead for all of us…

whether we need to return from a far country …

or a little side-trip in the middle of an ordinary day…

to fully and completely

R.E.P.E.N.T.

To change our minds…

AND

and go back Home <3

** I encourage you to take the time to listen to Pastor Brian’s teaching on this. My summary does not do it justice…but thank you for joining me as I processed it this morning. You can access the sermon later this week at: 

http://www.firstdecatur.org/sermons/

 

 

 

 

Wrapping up another week…

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We started out this week with thoughts and remembrances of 9/11.

Like you, I have read other’s thoughts and watched some touching videos this week commemorating the 15 year anniversary of that day.

I also thought about the trip Russ sent me on with our two daughters to New York City for Spring Break in 2008.

Our first day was a trip to Ellis Island to see the museum and show them their great great grandfathers’ names my dad had engraved on the wall of immigrants.

For the return to our hotel near Broadway, we decided to ride the subway for only a short distance and  walk the rest of it so we could see as much of the city as possible first hand.

As Rachel navigated us with a map, we walked through various districts and then realized that we would be able to pass by Ground Zero.

We had walked a long way by the time we encountered a massive wall of plastic behind tall fencing.

With noses in the map, we continued around this barrier…checking street signs and landmarks attempting to find some kind of indicator marking the site of the tragic event.

As we continued to follow the fencing and the plastic, Rachel commented that it should be right where we were standing.

Duh

It was.

Seven years after the attack on the Twin Towers,  we peered through the edges of the black screen of protective material, down into this enormous hole in the ground.

Men and machines were working deep down in the pit of it.

Looking across the expanse was mind-numbing.

The area of devastation was massive.

We looked up around us at the glass skyscrapers.

We walked the circumference and finally found the temporary display that had been set up by the subway entrance.

Seven years.

All around this scar of pain, the city had resumed and mended it’s exterior…but the remnants of the great loss were limping along.

Time does not heal all wounds.

Only God heals all wounds.

Take the devastations of your personal 9/11’s to Him and allow Him to do what only He can do.

God bless each of you this weekend.

I pray you know His healing touch in your deepest places of pain <3