{re}fresh

Month: June, 2015

Forevermore-Pleasures

by Dawn Aldrich

You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 NKJV

We welcomed the long holiday weekend with its blank calendar and no particular place to go; no demands or deadlines or distractions. Only time, a full gas tank, and an open road lay before us—a perfect weekend in our book.

Escaping the hectic pace we meandered along quiet country roads—some familiar, some not—soaking up every nook and cranny of God’s creation. Like a touch of heaven, beauty poured forth from every direction. We bathed in radiant sunshine that warmed our winter-white skin as we drove beneath robin egg blue skies finding occasional relief from leafy green tree tunnels that arched high above our heads. We found red-barn farmlands that bragged of freshly plowed earth and sleepy neighborhoods with pristine gardens dotted in rainbow hues. We even hopped aboard a rural ferry to cross the river just for fun.

CT RIver's edge, Deep River

CT RIver’s edge, Deep River

Moorings @ Deep River Ferry, CT

Moorings @ Deep River Ferry, CT

CT River, Deep River, CT

CT River, Deep River, CT

Compared to the serendipitous pleasures we enjoyed along the way, our destination seemed insignificant. For it’s through those experiences we catch a glimpse of heaven, isn’t it? It’s as though God’s foreshadowing what’s to come in the here and now; inexpressible pleasures on a simply perfect day that fill our lives with joy and peace and beauty.

We climbed aboard life’s merry-go-round two days later and it started spinning, making it more difficult to see all God’s beauty.

This morning I spun past the dining room hutch towards my office—a hutch whose dishes tell stories of family history and journeys past. An English tea cup my daughter brought back from London caught my eye. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to drink my coffee from that cup?” (I know, it’s sacrilegious to drink coffee out of an English tea cup, but that’s not the point). I dismissed the thought mid-spin, but as I sat down in my writing chair, God whispered, “Enjoy a cup of coffee in that pretty tea cup! It’s a simple pleasure for a daughter of the King.”Teacup

Now, as weird as it might seem to you, sipping my coffee from that beautiful cup ushered me into God’s presence because I knew He offered me that pleasure from His heart. In the midst of my everyday, my mundane, my pressures and deadlines, God offered me His personal thoughtfulness and love—a simple pleasure that gave me just a glimpse of all the forevermore pleasures He has in store for me.

Here’s how Sarah Young describes it: “Why would you want to follow a manmade path when My path of life is wide open before you? This path glows with My radiant Presence and it stretches all the way into eternity. As you persevere along this way with Me, I give you samples of forevermore-pleasures” (Jesus Lives, 2009 Thomas Nelson).

What forevermore-pleasures has God shown you lately? Has he whispered his approval on some frivolous pleasure that, like me, you would easily dismiss? God so wants to spend time with you. Take the time to enjoy His little glimpses of heaven throughout your journey today.

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Relational Circuits and Pharisees

by Wendy

irises

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. Psalm 103:8

“OK, thank you,” I chirp tersely in my leave-me-alone-can’t-you-see-I’m-working voice. Five seconds later, I realize what I did…no, what I AM doing. I have no idea what my husband said, what he wanted, what he’s feeling, or even if he smiled or frowned.  Nor did I care.

That’s not the first time I preemptively stopped conversation, empathy and connection with someone I loved in the last 24 hours. Not that I’m cruel, or abusive, or even short-tempered. On the contrary, I’m cheerfully accomplishing more in one day than I usually do in a week. I’m also cold and distant, distinctly not synchronizing with anyone’s feelings ( not even my own!), and driven to accomplish my overwhelming to-do list. In short, my “relational circuits” are off.

Relational circuits? Yes: those emotional, social, and neurological pathways that keep us connected to God and others. “RCs” are the trails and corridors that let us value people, attune to them (and notice them attune with us), work with them well and function as a team. Relational circuits help us lead with sensitivity, respond with flexibility, and process pain when life triggers or traumatizes us. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that relational circuits are what enable us to perceive and cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing. I can’t really “do what the Father is doing” (John 5:19) if I can’t respond to the Holy Spirit, and if my RCs are off, I don’t really want to respond to anyone!

What about Jesus? Did He care about relational circuits? Certainly He never used those words, but it’s impossible to love someone well without empathy, attunement, sensitivity and care. When my relational circuits are off, I don’t care about people as people; I see them as problems to be solved or pieces to a puzzle, but certainly not as cherished sons and daughters of the Most High God.

The very people Jesus tussled with most were the Pharisees and my suspicion is that their relational circuits were definitely off almost all the time. The Pharisees were legalistic, judgmental, critical, evaluative, and consumed with external appearances. They valued rules over relationship and Jesus confronted them at every turn. That’s not a comforting thought as I bulldoze through my to-do list, shoving people, conversations and interactions off to the roadside.

How ironic. Here I sit, writing about relational circuits while my relational circuits are off. Huh. How to turn them back on?

Chuckling, I shake my head and notice the gorgeous irises my husband left on my desk before dinner. I did say thank you. At least that’s a start.

“Okay, Jesus, let’s begin again.” I breathe a quick prayer and think through the mental checklist of ways that work to reset my emotional temperature.

Appreciation. Appreciating God is probably the best route, but gratitude for anything is good, as long as I can really feel it.

Prayer.  It’s hard to be ornery if we’re really talking to God and being honest about what we feel. After all, he already knows how we feel. 

Empathy. Finding someone to be with you in your pain; someone who will understand, empathize and listen. 

Laughter. Real, genuine, kind and goodhearted humor (not the sarcastic kind) can help jump start our brains back to connection.

Singing. Singing worship or sacred music, especially in a group.  This may not work for everyone, but it certainly helps me focus on what’s good and true. Neurologically, singing together is a powerful relationship builder, both with God and others.

My RC light flickers on as I print the page. I’m smiling now, the real kind of smile, as I toss my inner Pharisee to the floor and walk upstairs to thank my husband for those lovely irises.

I Am Not a Worrier. I Am a Warrior.

by mymorethanme

womanworshiping

I am not a worrier. I am a warrior.

How quickly we can plummet from the pinnacle of peace to the precipice of pandemonium.

We look at the Israelites and wonder how they ever could have doubted, complained, looked back. God had just miraculously saved them, parted the sea, led and fed them, and still they had the gall to grumble, grouse, murmur and moan. Really?

Yes, really. I hate to say it, but I get those Israelites. Our God, to whom my husband and I surrendered our lives and hearts, who saved us, parted the sea, led us and fed us, endured a flood of fear flowing from my heart and out my mouth this week. For years the Lord has spoken to us, directed and protected us, provided for us, loved us, and now, on the brink of a brand new blow-our-minds blessing I fall face first into fear and stagger away an amnesiac.

Thankfully my condition, while intense, was short-lived.

“You’re not a worrier. You’re a warrior.”

My husband spoke these words to me, stirring my memory and snapping me out of my stupor.

No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and do what He had promised (Romans 4:20-21).

Our God gives life to the dead and speaks of the nonexistent things He has foretold and promised as if they already are.

I am a warrior. The battle is fought in the heavenlies and in the space between my ears. We’ve been given an arsenal of weapons, the greatest of which is love. Love has never and will never fail. I won this week when, dropping to my knees, I confessed lusting after the blessing and returned to simply, singularly loving the Blesser. We are granted perfect peace when our hearts are set not on gifts, but the Giver. Not on promises, but the Promiser.

The Lord knows the end from the beginning.

He has a plan.

He has a way.

He is the Way.

Looking back it’s easy to see Father’s hand guiding, leading, shielding, guarding. Loving, comforting, carrying, aligning. He’s not going to leave now. Oh no, He will never leave us or forsake us. Dipping’s not His style.

Breathe and rest and trust and know.

May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,

That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];

 [That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!

 Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—

 To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it). Ephesians 3:17-21

Missed Opportunities

by Rob Dunne

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Behave yourselves wisely [living prudently and with discretion] in your relations with those of the outside world (the non-Christians), making the very most of the time and seizing (buying up) the opportunity. Colossians 4:5 AMP

Two years ago, my boss was diagnosed with cancer in his spine and chest. In spite of this diagnosis, he continued to come into the office. Amazingly, there were days when he came in following chemotherapy treatment. I never heard him complain about pain or the inconvenience of it all. It was one of the most valiant battles I have witnessed.

Recently, while in my office, he looked frail for the first time. With a weak voice he asked if I could meet with some new clients. “Of course I can meet with them,” I answered. There was a pause; a moment in time that I wish I could revisit. There standing before me was an opportunity to ask the man who gave me a job (when I couldn’t find one for thirteen months) if I might pray with him. But I didn’t. Moments later he turned and walked out the door.

Shortly after this encounter, the cancer spread to his brain. “It’s not over till it’s over!” I proclaimed to the rest of the office. In desperation, I asked for an opportunity to visit him in the hospital. I just knew I had to pray with him for his healing before he died. Alternatively, I had to take a stab at introducing him to Jesus. It was not meant to be.

That moment runs through my head continuously. I ask myself, “What was I so afraid of?” He was an austere man, to say the least. It was difficult to approach him even with regard to work-related issues. Outwardly, he was a professing Jew. His behavior did not line up with his profession. I was going to pray for him in the name of Jesus. But, I was afraid.

It’s been a few weeks since his funeral. Other opportunities to pray with people have come up. I wish I could say that this life experience emboldened me and that I prayed with each one of them. It has certainly encouraged me to be more of a risk-taker. I keep telling myself that the worst thing that can happen is the person will say no. While I lose nothing, they gain the knowledge that someone cares enough to ask; that God placed someone in their path because He loves them.

This journey of faith is incredible. In spite of my shortcomings, our heavenly Father continues to cheer me on. My efforts put a huge smile on His face. He rejoices over me with singing even when I fail. He encourages me by saying, “Don’t worry. There will be plenty of other opportunities.”

As I encourage myself, I also want to encourage you. The pressure is off of us as believers. We don’t perform the miracle. God makes us conduits through which His power flows. He bears the burden if the miracle doesn’t happen. Keep your mind fixed on God and get excited as He uses you to be someone’s miracle. Don’t let fear get the best of you and you won’t live life regretting that you missed an opportunity.

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