The Way We Talk

My one word for last year was still. After coming across a little gem in Ephesians, I decided to revisit it. A lot of my focus last year was on being still before God, listening to him and being calm and serene in my soul. But just as importantly, I spent time thinking and praying about how to watch my mouth. I read a book titled Zip It by Karen Ehman, which was helpful in learning how to tame my sometimes-errant tongue.

Ephesians 4:29 in The Message Bible tells us to “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift” (emphasis mine). I don’t know about you, but sometimes my words are more like IEDs. Thinking of my words as gifts gives a whole new perspective on how I speak to others. If I can imagine each word wrapped in a pretty box and tied with a bow, I might be able to avoid lobbing verbal bombs at people.

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The Beauty of Space

While visiting a museum last summer, I was intrigued by the displays of large sculptures. The statues were placed in huge rooms with at least 50 feet of space around each one. A person could walk all the way around, view them up close or from across the room. My first thought was what an extravagant use of space, perhaps even wasteful. After all, the building housing the statues was incredibly big and must have cost a fortune, and indeed, it did. But then I realized that while extravagant, the generous amount of space was the right way to respect the masterpieces and allowed the best viewing.

Space is an interesting concept (as well as the final frontier). In my house, as in most houses, space is at a premium and I’ve done my best to fill it. I certainly don’t have any empty tables or counter tops. When I do manage to clear a table, it seems to draw papers and other items like a magnet.

Space is beautiful but difficult to attain and maintain. I’ve been working hard to clear space in my home and my life. It’s a long process but I’m celebrating what I’ve accomplished so far because I’m experiencing breathing room on my calendar, in my closet, cupboards and yes, even a little on my counter tops. I’ve also found more space for spending time with God. Going to bed early and consequently getting up early, has allowed me to expand my quiet time in the mornings.

I love the simplicity of space – in my house, on my calendar and in my head. Less clutter in my head and heart makes more room for the Holy Spirit to live and breathe in me.

Journey to Simplicity

My one word for this year is simplicity. God seems to have been leading me to this word for quite some time. The clutter in my house has been bothering me for years, but I was too busy (or thought I was too busy) to tackle it until last year.

A few years ago, one of my longtime and favorite pastimes, bowling, came to a halt when the whole league deserted me at the beginning of a new season. I still don’t know why that happened, but it freed me up from a weekly commitment and a lot of responsibility (I was league secretary). At the same time, I began volunteering at the local blood bank, which works out better, as I am in control of my schedule.

Last year, I resigned from a board position with the women’s organization I’ve been part of for many years. And then a journal I wrote for and edited ended its 26-year run. I continued to work on getting rid of things in my house I no longer wanted, needed or found useful. My husband has retired and he’s cleaning out a little too.

All this cleaning and clearing of physical things got me thinking about spiritual simplicity, which led me to believe this is my word from God for 2019. I’m being drawn to simplicity in all areas of my life, where I can enjoy peace, serenity and space.

Next time: The Beauty of Space

Supper for One meditations

I’ve made notes of verses and quotations to read and pray through when I have supper for one. I’m sharing them with you in the hope you will find them helpful. This isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few I’ve found meaningful.

1 Corinthians 10:16, NIV: “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” When I take the bread and wine, I love to ponder my participation in Christ’s body and blood. He doesn’t use me; he doesn’t just need me to do a job for him. I participate in his life and he shares his life with me. One morning as I meditated on the blood of Jesus, I marveled that life is in the blood and when I drink the cup representing his blood, his blood—life—is now in me.

Faith That Matters, October 30, N.T. Wright: “The Eucharist is the arrival of God’s future in the present, not just the extension of God’s (or Jesus’) past into our present. We do not simply remember a long-since dead Jesus; we celebrate the presence of the living Lord!” My supper for one is really supper for two. Jesus is alive and present with me as I commune with him during our meal.

Making Room, Linda Rex: “The gift of God is the internal, eternal law of God, Jesus Christ, who joined himself with humanity and who stands in our place as both lawgiver and law keeper.” He has joined himself with us and this is especially real to me when I eat the bread and wine.

Also from Making Room: “Christ in us, the hope of glory. It is Christ who defines us, who lives his life in us and through us by his Holy Spirit.”

I forgot to note the source of this one—if I find it, I’ll let you know: “He is the character, heart, will and mind of God the Father, revealed to the world. He is the universal reason (logos) inherent in all things, the binding laws that explain all in existence.” This is from Colossians 1:15-17. Also read verses 18-20, a great passage to help focus on Jesus and who he is.

And in case you’re wondering, yes I do drink real wine (a thimbleful), even if I do this at 6 in the morning. We have no grape juice in the house, but we do have wine!

Table for one?

The communion service is a very important part of the life of the church. Many congregations make it a part of their weekly or monthly worship. But have you ever considered taking it on your own? I was first introduced to this idea in an article in Discipleship Journal, Nov/Dec 1996. The author went through a difficult time and felt God urging her to have communion with him every day. She did, and it changed her life. She shared her experience with others, and they also began having supper for one.

At first, I thought this sounded a little strange, especially considering my fellowship took it only once a year for much of its history, and always as a congregation. I didn’t add it to my quiet time until recently, though I have thought of it many times since reading the article. It turns out, this is a wonderful way to go deeper with God and experience a greater intimacy with him.

I go to a quiet place in my house, light a candle and read scriptures and quotations I’ve collected about communion. I pray, meditate on what I’m doing and what it means and then eat the bread and wine. I know you are probably thinking it’s supposed to be done in community with other believers and that’s true. But when I take the Lord’s Supper by myself, I’m not alone. I experience unity with all my brothers and sisters in the Christian community, including the cloud of witnesses from the past, through God’s Spirit. Because I don’t have to rush through, as we often do at services, I can take my time and linger as long as I want with Jesus.

If you’re looking for more intimacy with the Lord, set the table for one and let Jesus feed you. You might find yourself, like me, going back for more, again and again.

 

One word for 2019

Beginning in 2011, I ditched resolutions and started the practice of using just one word to give me direction and keep me on track the whole year. Today, I looked back over my words and then tied them together in a prayer:

I immerse myself in the Word and in the life of Jesus, with a resolve to keep on in this life of following him, to breathe in Christ and breathe out the love the Holy Spirit has breathed into me, as I gaze upon his sweet loveliness. I ask for help to decrease, even as Christ decreased for us when he came to earth as a baby and died on the cross, and may I have the same attitude of death to self, obedience and humility. May I keep steady and rely on the steadiness of God, and may I learn to value Jesus above all else, to recognize the value of knowing him – nothing else matters – and to understand how much I am valued, loved and accepted by him. May I be still before him and know he is God, remembering his majesty and holiness, and that he is the great I AM; may I also be still in my soul and in my tongue. Help me live in the simplicity of Christ and his love – the simplicity of single-minded, pure, undivided, genuine and innocent devotion to my Savior.

Happy New Year and may you be blessed with the simplicity that is in Christ.

SimplicitySign

 

Discipline God’s Way

As my children grew up, we were blessed to have both sets of grandparents living next door. While I appreciated the built-in babysitters, it was the relationships they had with each other that made such a difference in their lives.

Once when my parents watched the kids while we were traveling, an occasion for a spanking occurred. As my son learned, a little spanking went a long way, especially when administered by my dad. One little swat was all he needed to adjust his attitude. It was a lesson my son remembered for a long time.

Many people object to spanking these days but at the same time believe the discipline of the Lord is similar. They imagine God has a huge, heavenly paddle—with holes in it to make swats sting more—and he wields it often and with great gusto.

I must admit I used to believe God’s discipline would come in the form of physical illnesses or pain or other big trials such as financial problems, losing a home or the death of loved ones. And if you needed a big spanking, you might even experience trials of Job-like proportions. But in the last few years, I’ve come to have a different perspective because of what I’ve learned about the love embodied in God’s triune nature. I’ve realized he is not holding a paddle in anticipation of punishing me. Rather, he is gently and slowly giving me glimpses into his loving mirror. He has shown me things about myself, traits I wasn’t aware of and wish I didn’t have. Of course, it hurts. It’s painful to have your image of yourself shattered and to find out you need more work.

Could this be what the discipline of the Lord looks like—being confronted by your sin? Fortunately, I haven’t had to go through anything like Job experienced. God is gentle with me, but his discipline is always eye-opening and sure makes me think. I’ve had to really dig deep and work through it in prayer and then I thank God for his gentle and loving yet incisive work in my heart.

The discipline of the Lord can indeed be painful but it’s nothing to fear. Everything we experience at the hand of God is done in love and with our growth and good in mind—and no paddle!