{re}fresh

Month: April, 2014

Letting Go in Hopes of a Return

by ivyjonah

Image from  pictureseeds.com

Image from pictureseeds.com

The story of The Prodigal Son , retold by Linda J. Maynard

“Stop staring at me father. You knew this day was coming, I told you days ago.”

Hiding his tears, the father looked the other way. Standing close to his son, he felt the swish of each piece of clothing  thrown in the bag.

“You have the money right?” asked the son.

The father reached under his cloak for the bag that held his son’s inheritance. While knowing he had verified it many times before, but he recounted it stalling for time. Because every moment with his son delayed his heartache. The father recalled the many times they played hide and seek. How, when he found his son, he would tickle him, then spin him around, as he held him tightly. He shook himself to return to reality. This time, his son didn’t want to be found and was only anxious to get away.

His son quickly moved toward the tent’s exit. He stopped abruptly and turned towards his father. “You know father, I have to do this, and I hope you understand.”

The father couldn’t answer that question because he didn’t understand, but he loved his son so. “Please don’t leave without my blessing son.” And with that,  they awkwardly advanced towards one another. The son was determined not to hold on to his father too long and yet, for a moment his resolve weakened. As if he were embarrassed, the son pulled away and left the tent. The father was not far behind and watched his son leaving. With a sigh and a deep swallow, he acknowledged he may never see his son again.

The father’s shoulders sagged as he made his way back to the tent. He waved off his older son and told him he needed time alone.
The father’s heartache was so deep, that all he could do was lay down, feigning sleep if anyone should call on him.

He thought to himself, “My emotional tank is empty Father God, I hope you understand.”

Much time passed, but the father kept his eyes on the horizon; searching…hoping…always hoping  for his son’s return. When the son had wasted all of his inheritance on food, wine and women he finally returned—poor, broken and repentant. The father ran to him and embraced him.

Take Away: Who do you identify with? The father? The prodigal son? Like that father, our heavenly Father searches the horizon for our return with open arms. No matter how far we roam; no matter how low we go, God always welcomes us home. No. Matter. What. Maybe, like the prodigal’s father, you’ve watched a prodigal leave, but instead of keeping your eyes on the horizon, hoping for his return, you’ve slammed the door–angry at God and your son. This battle isn’t about you. It’s about God’s mercy, grace, forgiveness and unfailing love.

May I challenge you to open the door? Invite God in to revive your hope and always…always…keep your eyes on the horizon and your arms open wide.

Prayer: Lord, I can see love encapsulated in” letting go.” You have fashioned us with a free will. We can “stay home” in the realm of obedience or we can do it our way, being star-struck by worldly enticements. We are so grateful that You are a dad who never gives up hope for our return. And as You eye the horizon, you will be the first to run, embrace us and welcome us home.

To learn more about Linda, please visit our contributors page.

Advertisements

God’s Pretty Good at Taking Care of You

by Mike McKinniss

SheepI am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

I doubt other people have this issue, when it comes to dealing with God, but I disagree with him a lot.  I have, from time to time, gotten the distinct sense that the Lord wants me to do something for someone else (it’s always for someone else), like praying for them or meeting a need of theirs or acknowledging their presence.  And I typically respond by informing him: “But I don’t want to do that, God.”

I’ve got my reasons, whatever the circumstance.  I’m not ready for that.  I’m not spiritual enough.  That’s not my personality.  That’s too scary.  That’s too risky.  That’s going to cost me too much.

Ultimately, though, I’ve really only got one reason: me.  Really, I just want what I think is best, or, barring the best, I just want what will make me comfortable.  I’m concerned about my stuff, not theirs.  In short, I basically only want to think about myself.

For whatever reason, though, it doesn’t seem that God is all that interested in my comfort.  And so we argue.

It is in these times that I tend to forget an important fact: God is for me.  He’s not interested in abusing me.  He’s not interested in misleading me.  He’s not interested in holding me back.  He has been, after all, best exemplified by the good shepherd who cares for his sheep (John 10:1-18).

God is supremely interested in my well being.  You can distort that statement in all sorts of ways (and it has been), but the truth of the matter is that God has the best in mind for each of us.  I like the way a colleague of mine puts it: “God always has your highest and best purposes at heart.”

It is this simple yet profound fact that I’ve typically forgotten when I get into these arguments with the Lord.  “You want me to do what?  But I don’t want to do that.”

And God’s all, “Yes, but I think you’re forgetting something.”

“I doubt it.”

“Ahem, I want the best for you.  And I know everything.  So if I think you should do this, then…”

Ensue sheepishness.

The point is that God is deeply concerned for me.  He wants what is best for me at all times.  And it turns out he’s pretty good at taking care of my concerns.  But if I focus my energy on myself, I can actually block the Lord from caring for me.

Rather (and this is only very slowly dawning on me), it turns out that when I concentrate my attention on others, the Lord is suddenly freed to meet my needs as well.

It’s an odd paradox, but it seems the truth is that I’m in the best shape when I’m caring about other people because it gives the Lord access to fill me, which, of course, he does better than I ever could.

To learn more about Mike, please visit our contributors page. 

He Drew From Us

by Wendy

whitacre2-600x522 (2)

by Wendy Coy

His arms swung side to side like fishing line through water, pulling notes through time and space as if sound had weight.   Arcs of song spun like orbs through the air, flowing from us and reverberating into vaulted rafters.

We had no idea we could sound that good.

Stunned, our eyes riveted on the conductor’s face, his hands, his body. We watched for his next breath, mirrored it, and brought forth shimmering, whirling tone.

No wasted motion. No excess talk. Every move efficient, yet indulgent; he was masterful, and we instinctively copied. Faced with his gentle genius we became an instrument that he played.

Decades before, I learned that any choir reflects the conductor – his attitude, his motion, his nuance. However, newly awed by my amazing experience, I realized again how much we became what our director demonstrated and accomplished what he expected; he drew music from us which we could not produce on our own.

Even more stunningly, I see now that the people around me will reflect whatever I emanate. Our brains are wired like that – we sense (and sometimes mirror) the people around us. I’m not particularly happy about that concept, but the reality exists: the people around me will respond to who I am and what I do.

Most of the time that is a shudder-worthy thought. I’d rather the ones I lead and befriend not copy me, but copy…someone else. Someone nicer, kinder, gentler. Better yet, let them copy Jesus. But copy me? Not so much.

Those aren’t real options, however. We are social creatures and we often produce the sound that we see and hear around us. I think again of my conductor. He knew in advance what he wanted to hear and he enabled it. HE enabled it. He didn’t yell or exhort, but saw what we needed to do and showed us how to get there. He did not insist that we figure it out on our own.

And does not my God do the same? He lives in me and brings forth from me that which I didn’t know I had. He brings forth that which He has built, that which He inspires. He makes the impossible happen.

Funny how I assume my effect will be negative, but that which I radiate isn’t all bad, thank God. Much to my amazement, some of it is good. Passion, delight, hope, joy, dreams, vision…. These are things He wants to spread to others, and they burst forth from all He does in me. Despair, anxiety, criticism, judgment, negativity and insecurity? He’s working on those and apparently they don’t spread as I fear.

My part is to focus on the Conductor, sing even when I cannot hear myself, and trust that His direction will create the marvelous sound we all desire. “With me,” He whispers, as I follow His downbeat.

You, too, follow that downbeat. You, too, hear His voice. What is He whispering? What marvels is He drawing forth from you?

(To learn more about Wendy, please visit our contributors page).

Hey, here I AM. I love you.

by Dawn Aldrich

 

Moving WheelbarrowThe calendar reads “spring” but somehow I’m not convinced it’s here, yet. I yearn for warmer temperatures, soaking up sunshine and yard work. Yes, call me crazy, but I love yard work.  It serves as my playtime, really. Digging in the dirt, creating designs on my lawn, watching nature’s changes from every corner of my yard, neatening unruly bushes, and enjoying visits from the birds and butterflies thrills me. It’s like playing at God’s house. He lays things out there and says, “Hey, here I AM. I love you.”

I enjoy creating a home on the inside, too. Maybe it’s the creative brain syndrome but I love decorating, rearranging, straightening, mopping, and cleaning. But, ask me to cook and I get all frazzled. Maybe it’s the undoing of things, the floury messes; sticky sugar stuck to the floor, the cluttered counters and stained stove tops. I’m not sure.

But come Sunday, I cook my heart out AND enjoy every minute because that’s when three and four generations gather ’round the table and we serve up love. We share our weekly ups and downs, cheer for our biggest and smallest achievements, and celebrate milestones, make memories, and play. It’s where God shows up in my sons’ and daughters’ conversations and through the anchored faith in my granddaughter’s whispered dinner grace. It’s where God lays things out around our table and says, “Hey, here I AM. I love you.”

In Song of Songs 2:4 (NLT), the woman says of her lover: He escorts me to the banquet hall; it’s obvious how much he loves me.

It’s that way around God’s dinner table. He cooks his heart out, serves up love all ’round and makes it obvious how much he loves us. We are his family and He is our home. He loves us first and He loves us most. It’s where he lays out his plans, cheers us on, listens and loves unconditionally and says, “Hey, here I AM. I love you.”

How does God make his love obvious to you?

(To learn more about Dawn, please visit our contributors page).

Learning to Receive His Love

by mandyade

 

Gods-love

“Mothers love is pain,” a friend told me when my children were babies. A parent loves until it hurts. The parent-child bond does not originate in man’s attempt to be good, but is placed in our DNA by God.

Much about God is revealed to us through His creation (Romans 1:20). We are created in His image and the parental DNA that humans carry is a clue into the nature of God. Our parental DNA mirrors Father God’s heart.

I believe that understanding His love for us is the most important revelation we will ever receive. It’s not a one-time ‘get it’ moment but a continual growing revelation of how He loves me. This is a pursuit we must run after. The more we understand this, the more we will taste Him.

We cannot force our hearts to understand His love. Romans 5:5 says that God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. His Spirit reveals His love to our hearts, but we can also position ourselves to receive this revelation:

1. Believe God’s Word– what it says about His love for us, even if it contradicts our feelings about God or ourselves. Believing places our minds and hearts in alignment with God and we are able to receive.
2. Spend time in His presence simply to receive His love. In this time try to refrain from your own requests and busyness even if they are spiritual and good.
3. Practice awareness of His love. When you think of Him during your day, stop for a moment (in the car, grocery store, at your desk) and consider His love for you. Allow yourself to sense His love. It’s amazing how this will change your day and life!

Here’s a meditation exercise to help us become more aware of God’s love for us:

Take a minute, quiet yourself and ponder this…

Think of how much you love your kids.
Think of how many times you think about them and how important they are in your life.
Think of how quickly you are grieved if they are hurt or in trouble.
Think of how your whole day is ruined if something is not right with them.
Think of how happy you are when it is well with your child.
Now learn from your own heart. Abba Father loves you MORE than you love your own children. He loves you with a perfect Father and Mother love. His compassion over you is greater than your compassion for your kids. So is His mercy, His favor, His forgiveness, His grieving, His grace and His thoughts toward you.

Now live from that outflow and rock your world!

God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)

 To learn more about Mandy, please visit our contributor’s page.

%d bloggers like this: