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Would You Like a Joyful Heart?

Do you know how it feels to live with a joyful heart? It is one of the best experiences I know, yet it isn’t easy for me–it doesn’t come naturally. I’ve always thought it was just my mostly-melancholy temperament to blame, but I’m discovering that most people struggle to live in joy.

There are just so many things that work against it: our hormones, our health, our perception of others, the things we do for pleasure from food to drink to drugs all have a negative aftermath. Add these in the people around us. We certainly have no control over their choices, actions and words. It seems our joy is doomed.

But there is an antidote in Psalms 105 that I read this morning: “Exult in His hallowed name; Let those who seek the Lord be joyful in heart.”

There is a lot of instruction in the verses around that one: seek His presence always, turn to the Lord your strength, think upon all His wonders, remember what He has done, sing to honor Him, give Him thanks. Good stuff. But the one that caught me was “Exult in His hallowed name.” What does that mean?

“Exult” is like celebrating victory in war. “His hallowed name” is God’s very special all-good character. We can celebrate that God is all good. And since we live in a war, that is important. Especially because we are so used to this war zone we forget about it.

However, if we seek Him, spend time alone with Him, we are allowing ourselves to exult in joy! We are educating our hearts to be joyful. That just means we fill them with joy.

We celebrate love tomorrow in Valentines Day. But we can celebrate God’s amazing love every single day. He has the capacity to be up close and personal with each of us all the time. Imagine having a lover with you all the time whose presence gives you a lift, fills you with the feeling of sunshine, makes you feel more than yourself, like you can do or be anything you want, but mostly you just are constantly mindful of being LOVED.

I’ve been asked to teach on John 17 today, and the preparation has been rich. It’s the prayer Jesus prayed for all of us who would respond to Him. He was asking God to make us one with Them. Wow! We can have everything Jesus got from Abba! And He got the JOY that carried Him through the worst abuse and death ever.

That joy was resting in what He knew: He knew when he cried, “It is finished” from the cross, His triumph would be exulted in all over the universe–celebrated from world to world, evil would be done in the universe, Satan’s kingdom finished after all questions are answered here.

He knew and rejoiced that he could do more for us who stay connected to Him than we could ask or even imagine. (Eph. 3:20)  We can surmount impossibilities, rising on eagles wings. (Isaiah 40:31)  We have hope in everything because we are linked to God through amazing love. Power to resist evil, that hell can’t overpower, is ours.

If we focused on what we have, instead of what we don’t have, the love available to us, instead of our fears, we would live in joy. Once again, it’s a choice. Sometimes a choice you have to make every hour, or half hour.

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Two Way Relationships

Relationship requires two unless its a relationship with yourself. That’s obvious, but so often we forget it. It’s so easy, when you are the one in receiving mode, to take the other for granted. I work at staying aware and being grateful for all my husband does for me. I’ve always been independent. And when he retired and started doing more and more, I felt freed, so loved. But now I can easily expect it–a different attitude altogether!

My friend told me it changed his perspective of God to realize Psalm 23:6 was saying, “God pursues me all of my life. Almost like He’s running after me, hunting me out, trying to get my attention.” I love that. God never gives up on us!

But it is a two-way street. in Isaiah 65 this morning I read, “I called, but no one answered, I spoke but no one listened.” We could add, “I followed but no one noticed.”

This week in her mom’s blog, my daughter wrote, “Why don’t I just trust His love? In EVERYTHING. 

My toddler falls down. Hurts his knee. Is in pain. He doesn’t flail around and run in all different directions trying to make sense of what happened. Nope, he makes a straight line to his mama’s arms and crawls up for comfort.”

A great picture of our part in a relationship with God–all we have to do is run to Him, or just even glance His way. But the running to and crawling up in His lap feels so much better.

Come on, I know you long to be loved, just like I do. But it did take me years to admit it. It might take that for you too, just know He doesn’t give up. This morning He said to me, “I do come after you; I do pursue you with incredible love you can’t imagine.”

Some of you have a hard time receiving. Love wasn’t abundant or expressed in your home. Your parents were damaged; or maybe just stoic, like my grandparents. They weren’t comfortable expressing love.

You can learn. Let God love you. Just let yourself be loved. Learn to crawl up in His lap and feel loved. It’s wonderful.

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Loss and Love

Are highs and lows part of every vacation? Or just two week-ers? with family?

Going to NC is always a high, the beach in September is always a high, but right after, I got word that a good friend’s dream house burned in the fires of Northern California. And on the heals of that, learned that another good friend unexpectedly lost his father who was also a good friend of mine. It’s hard to imagine him gone. He was so full of life and laughter and love. He lived with God and told hilarious stories of his adventures.

Grief is always hard, even though it’s rich if you lean into it. I just experienced that again this morning. The hardest part of vacation was feeling unwanted at my daughter’s. That’s happened before in tiny doses but always had an antecedent–I had a clue why. This time no clue. I just felt like I was in the way and not liked. It was painful.

Fortunately God drew me to a book on her end table and I started reading it. Of course, it was exactly what I needed. I knew she loved the book, but I had never felt a desire to read it before. It’s about learning to live in gratitude. I thought it would be all fluffy. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

1000 Gifts is a book so raw, and so rich in its detailed unfolding that you are enveloped, learning as she does through her life story. Perfect for what I was going through.

The last day we did have time together and she opened up about her stresses and post partum, and redeemed the week; but leaving I still told myself, this is her life, her choices, and if she is happy  then I will be too. Maybe I’m going to die young and being so far away will make it easier on them than being here every day. I will give thanks in this too, and be thankful I didn’t move here.

Then she texts me that she always has such a hard time with us going home!

Really? I’m in the airport waiting, and we text till takeoff. We pick it up again in the next airport. She couldn’t enjoy having us because always in her heart lurked the hurt we’d be leaving soon.

I really do get that, we share it, but it seemed like such a waste. We texted again when I got home, and so much pain came out. I discovered that she had always felt I was trying to fix her, and she just wanted me to love her.

What? I always thought I loved her too much! Was always afraid I’d lose her. Always fought favoring her above my step kids. Always tried to tone it down!  Felt I needed her to be happy. Feared I loved her more than God.

I should have known nobody in my life would ever feel loved too much, our lives are too broken! And for sure not by me–I’ve had too many lies healed about not being lovable! not being wanted, not being good enough. But under all that rubble, had hidden one, whispered by some dark imp in a vulnerable time, and I had agreed: Nobody really wants me in their lives–they just tolerate me. It had helped me keep everyone at arm’s length so I wouldn’t get hurt.

When Jesus gently and graciously brought it up this morning, I could see that it fit every stage of my life, confirmed every broken relationship in my mind. And I had hidden it from myself because there was just enough attraction and newness in life to pretend it wasn’t there. Yet I believed it. So if someone didn’t need me anymore, moved away, got too busy, was more attracted elsewhere, it just reinforced the belief and I stepped back, moving on. It was almost comforting to me. The reason… And I didn’t have to work at loving. (It’s work for me.)

But when He pulled it up, the feelings came in sobs from the deepest part of me–physically from the pit. And what relief it brought! Especially when He said, “I want you in My Life. I’m so glad you come to be with me every morning. Not many people do that–just come to be with Me.”

Then came what could be called peace, relief, joy, fulfillment, freedom, but I call it loved.

Even in your brokenness, even in your wounded mess and weakness, He will be there. He brings light into your darkness.

No one will ever love you like Jesus.

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Choice — Guest Post by Loxlia Paltz

I found myself in the dark of night this week. That black space where the silence covers you like a heavy blanket. I was there, on the floor in the bathroom, sobs born of my own weakness, my failure, shaking my bones. The only sound–my heart splintering in my chest. Why did say that? That’s not me. I didn’t mean to. Didn’t want to. It didn’t matter. It’s the worst thing I could have done to him.

And He was there. Whispering comfort. Promising the future. Forgiving. Always there.

For days I’ve thought of this approaching Easter, this celebration of His resurrection, my head twisting all around it. Do I get it? Really “get” it?

I’m not sure I did.

I don’t even like to say that. It feels wrong. But it’s truth, stark honesty of my humanity.

Many have died for His name, tortured and disfigured, refusing to deny Him. Many even crucified. Peter, His Peter, crucified upside down, feeling unworthy of dying His death.

And we dress up, go to church, and hear about this Son of God crucified for us. Risen from the dead. And it fits neatly into a little package in our minds. Yes, we’re grateful. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, it absolutely changes lives. But do we really get it?

What made Him different? Able to save? Was it His divinity? His humanity?

What made Him choose me? In those splintering moments of anguish that I cannot make sense of, what was different?

Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. And it was neither His humanity nor His divinity that made Him different. It was both. He grew from a baby, learning about life and about God just as we do, in a time of strife and conflict–statistics of that time show high death rates, crushing poverty, and persecution. All those things that developed His compassion, His awareness of suffering and pain.

It is learning to suffer, to feel, that makes us able to fully love. We are not as humans able to dissect our hearts. We cannot choose to only feel love. If we are to feel love we must be willing to suffer. We must learn to suffer. We must live–hearts wide-open.

I’m struck by this. Undone by the thought that it was the careful development of Christ’s humanity that made him the only atoning sacrifice. That His humanity could not have carried the weight if not carefully woven with His unused divinity. He could have at any moment chosen, “That’s it, I’m not doing this, its not worth it.”

And it would have been true. I am not worth it.

He chose me. There in those moments, when the fullness of His humanity tested the fullness of His divinity. He chose me. He embraced the crushing anguish. The brutality. The very worst darkness ever known, death and separation from His Father. He surrendered to it. Not in weakness, by choice He went there.

He was ravaged and broken by my brokenness. Held it in His hands and said, “I choose you”. A warrior in battle surging onto the front lines. Giving every last ounce of Himself for me. For you. And then He lay silent. Dead. It was over.

They had taken it all. His very breath. I had taken it all. With my wounds and weakness, the dark corners of my heart, I had taken everything He had. His humanity, His divinity, spilled onto the rock for me. He died my death–my broken, sinful, separating, human death–by choice. Because He loves me.

Then the sun rose and there in His divinity He walked out of my tomb. Broke the shackles off of my forever darkness, just walked out into the light. And that is what is different. It was not His humanity nor His divinity, that made Him my atonement. My rescuer. It was His love. His choice. I am always His choice.

His reckless love takes on the very greatest anguish to never be apart from me. To never have to let me go. In spite of my flaws, my weakness, the crippling weight of my guilt, He made the world His stage to show His love.

He loves me. Really loves me. By choice.

And there it is – Choice. The defining word.

Love is never love without choice. It is the choosing, the action, that makes it love. It is willingness to suffer that allows us to love. And there has never been anyone more willing to suffer.

Nothing can ever separate me from Him. Nothing. Because the question was my freedom, my heart. And in all my messiness He chose me. Wrapped His broken body around my shattered heart and chose me.

The difference is Love. Wild, reckless, unchanging love. The difference is Him.

I really get it. He is completely mine. So very completely that my death has already been endured. Already been conquered. Just because He loves me.

I, in awe and surrender, can simply dare to be Loved.

 

by Loxlia  http://Godhelps.net/About us    also   http://Brokenbeautyproject.com

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God has a Sense of Humor–Pt 2

In the first part I wrote that God has been turning a lot of things around on me lately.

I’m not the only one. My daughter has started dating the only friend of her ex-husband that she didn’t like.

I went out to dinner with them recently, and he was giving his first impressions of her. He thought she was depressed because he only saw her on the couch with a blanket. She didn’t speak to him or move, and he felt bad that she had no life or no energy.

His interpretation set up such dissonance in my head because even though I know there was some depression, it didn’t sound like her. My impression had been her hyper-connecting with his friends because she was unhappy and unfulfilled.

She got upset with both of us–feeling bad that he had experienced her like that, and saying I made her sound like she’d had affairs!

For the record, she didn’t, and I knew that, she was trying too hard to control everything, and make it perfect. But a whole picture took two days and three hours of talking to put all the pieces in the right gestalt.

Suddenly it came clear–he was the only friend of her ex-husband that she didn’t like, and didn’t want him hanging out with. She thought he was a bad influence, so she didn’t give him the time of day. Wouldn’t even get up or acknowledge him! That would have been consistent with who she was then. (Happily, not anymore.)

How funny that four years later, she thinks he is the only man in the world. Once she got to know him she began to see that he was much more than she’d thought. In fact, they are a lot alike–God is central in his life as well as hers and obviously brought them together. It’s quite a story, and I can just imagine God smiling.

I think he loves to delight us with surprises. And blow our minds over how much we don’t know! Ever been surprised by God’s graciousness overturning something you were sure you’d judged correctly? He just wants us to stay close.

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Being Real is Messy

I hate messy!

So why am I a therapist?

That’s different. I’m good at professionally helping people find themselves and fix their issues.

But I don’t like it when my kids are messy, or my friends are messy. They don’t come to me asking for help. They don’t show me their vulnerability. They want me to think they have it all together. Shoot, they don’t even know they have issues! Don’t even know…

And yet I’m called to love them.

How? How do I do this?

Do I have to just trust them? Like what I can like, and love the rest?

Really?

I can’t even tell them what I see?

“No. Not unless they ask.”

God, this is too hard!

This is what You do? Really?

I can’t do this. I don’t want to.

“That is exactly why you have to let me do it for you…and I can…if you let me.”

But I don’t want to.

“But you can choose, and I will do the rest.”

Are You saying I can’t be God in their lives?

“Exactly, you can’t, because you can’t. You just can’t. It makes you uptight and stressed. And it sounds judgmental coming from you–unless you don’t know you are speaking for Me.”

I don’t get it. I don’t know how to love like that.

“You just need to help them see Me by making them feel valued. Choose to value them because I do. I’ll do the rest.”

Does this mean that I believe I can only love perfect people?

“Pretty close.”

I made my daughter believe that she had to be perfect for me to love her, didn’t I?

“You had a lot of help.”

Please forgive me. Tell me the truth, and heal my lie that I can only love perfect people.

“The truth is there are no perfect people for you to love. And yet loving is what makes you like Me. You are learning to let me love you. Now just let me use you to love them.”

Thanks. Please heal my fear of loving and being loved.

“I’d like that; don’t forget it’s a process.”

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“How Can I be Happy?”

“I need to find something to make me happy!” she said with such feeling that I knew she believed it.

So I responded simply, “Why?”

Her look was shocked silent, disbelief taking her words. Why would she say that? Didn’t she hear me?

So I continued, “Why not just be happy because you can?”

I knew it sounded counter intuitive. She was going through a break-up she didn’t want. But as I explained that happiness is a choice, I saw first confusion, and then light coming from her eyes.

“That is what I tell people about my job!” She exclaimed. “They have always wondered how I can like working in people’s mouths all day. And I tell them I choose to focus on all the good things about it.”

“So you have a template!” I encouraged.

“Yes!” she was getting excited, “But I never knew happiness was a choice! My choice!”

As a therapist, I hear, “How can I be happy?” or “How can I find happiness?” stated in many ways; most often it comes as a wail, “I just wanna be happy!”

But it is always about the same thing “How can I get myself loved?” They wouldn’t say that, who’s going to ask “How can I find someone who will love me unconditionally just for me?” We don’t usually say things like that.

Seriously? The fastest and easiest way to get yourself loved is God. Because it’s already happening. All you need to do is plug in. You may have heard that before, or wondered how to do it, or what He is like. You may not know He is the best place to start, insuring a healthier human relationship if you get loved first and listen…

The how to is choice again. And as to what He’s like…

He’s everything good. He’s gotten a lot of bad press because of suffering. But even though He gets blamed for suffering, He isn’t responsible for it.

That is a long discussion, one I’ve written a 300 page book on, and another 45 page one soon to be released, so here let’s cut to the question–What is God like? And How can I know Him (Her, Them)?

The video below, “You Love Me,” is my experience of knowing God. You, too, are Loved. It’s who God is. It’s what He does. He has no evil in Him.

I got into making mind movies a while back, and I made the one below for me. (I’d had a rough week.)

I decided to share it here with you because it made me feel so good. Also, I got very good feedback from a client whose week was much worse than mine.

It’s only about a minute, and you can watch it as many times as you want. In fact, you can put it on your site or your phone. If you like it–check out my blog about God at http://Godhelps.net/God-in-a-Box and find out for yourself what He’s like and how to know you are loved.

yep, I saw the mistake this morning after posting it, and after watching it for months–only God is perfect 🙂

http://Godhelps.net/God-in-a-Box for discovering how much you are loved

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