Sometimes I Walk in the Light . . .

 



Yesterday, I spent a few hours with a sweet friend of mine. This friend is not highly educated; she is much younger than I am; and by some people she might be considered”disabled.” But I enjoy her company. She’s very creative, emotionally and spiritually sensitive, courageous, and delightfully “real.” She’s also very generous, eager to help in ways that she can, and quick to volunteer.

Because I spend so much time reading, studying, and writing about rather “heavy” topics, I need people like her in my life. I need them to remind me that I’m made of the same stuff. I need them remind me that  I must take time for relaxation and fun–that I need to put my books down, turn off my computer, and sit on my deck, doing nothing.

It helps me, also, to remember what my father told me. “You can get too educated,” he said. He was not against education; he was a life-long learner, always curious, not afraid to ask questions, and not too proud to say “I don’t know the answer”; he was not intimidated by anyone more educated than himself.

What did he mean by the phrase “too highly educated”?  He was referring to the attitude of arrogance that those of us who have several degrees can easily assume. Sharing my struggles and failures, not just my success stories, helps me to keep humble. I hope, also, that this helps you who read my blog posts to identify with me.

Like my father, I am a life-long learner. Like him and like everyone else, I am made of dust. “Sometimes I walk in the light; sometimes I’m afraid in the night.”

I’m not ashamed to admit that I still experience struggles–that I lack perfection; neither can I deny the fact that, by God’s grace and with the help of fellow believers, my faith is much stronger than it was when I wrote the following poem (1984). 


SOMETIMES, I WALK IN THE LIGHT

Sometimes, I walk in the light;
Sometimes, I’m afraid in the night.
Sometimes, my faith is all-right;
Sometimes, I still have poor sight.

Sometimes, I suffer deep pain
Of fear and anger repressed;
Sometimes, through poems I write,
Feelings are owned and expressed.

Sometimes, I suffer the guilt
Of sins I fail to confess.
Sometimes, I know true joy;
With forgiveness, You choose to bless.

Sometimes, I walk in the dark,
Afraid of what light will reveal.
Sometimes, I walk in the light;
Then, Oh Lord, you can heal.

Sometimes, I cling to the law,
And my fears greatly increase.
Sometimes, I trust in your grace;
Then, my spirit knows peace.

Sometimes I suffer alone,
Fearing shame for what I feel.
Sometimes, I share with a friend;
Then, more truth you reveal.

Sometimes, I hide my tenderness,
And no one knows I care.
Sometimes, I cry when others hurt;
Burdens we both share.

Sometimes, I want to make believe—
Pretend the battle’s done;
But Lord, don’t take me home
Until the victory’s won.

Jane Ault 1984 

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Rejoice with Your Friends


Sisters can be good friends


In a few days, we will be celebrating a national holiday—the 4th of July. Although there are many problems in this country, we have many freedoms and an abundance of resources. I’m thankful for all of them.

I’m in favor of celebrations! The ability and the decision to rejoice (be glad) in times of trouble and difficulty is essential for spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of joy as a decision—something you could control. For years, I thought that joy was something I did or did not feel, and that there was nothing I could do about it. I’ve learned that joy is not as much of a feeling as it is a choice. Better said, the choice comes before the feeling. Rejoice is a “take-action” word.

I’ve discovered that there is much that I can do to increase my level of joy. The biggest thing that I must do is to be willing to change. For me, that meant giving up the belief that depression was part of my personality—my identity! After living for years with depression, it seemed abnormal to think of myself as a joyful person.

Celebrating—rejoicing with our friends when they are blessed and allowing them to rejoice with us when we are blessed—increases our joy level. It also energizes us, promotes confidence, and increases our productivity.  

There are two ways of looking at what it means to rejoice with your friends: 1) Rejoice with your friends when they have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile. 2) Rejoice with your friends when you have received a blessing or accomplished something worthwhile.

Which is easier for you to do? To celebrate with others when they are blessed or to allow yourself to celebrate with others when you are blessed?

Both choices can be challenging. We love celebrating with others when they are blessed. Unless, we feel envious; we want or think we deserve something that our friend has, such as a gift or ability, a promotion, a bigger house, newer car, financial success, marriage, children, or a slim figure. The list of possibilities for envy is endless.  

When I was a teenager, I envied my sister. I wanted the favor that she had with certain Christian leaders. Envy made it impossible for me to wholeheartedly rejoice in who my sister is. Being so focused on what I didn’t have, also, blocked me from seeing, accepting, and developing the person that I am. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize the envy in my heart at that time. Thankfully, God revealed it to me and showed me that it contributed to my depression.

My sister and I are twins; we have much in common; both of us write poetry, sing, and play the piano. Yet, we have quite different styles, as well as personalities. Her ability to sing alto and mine to sing soprano is one way in which the difference between us brings joy. Hanging on to envy would have destroyed the “harmony” that in so many ways we enjoy. Though we live miles apart, we are Scrabble buddies and prayer partners.

My envy makes it impossible for me to truly rejoice with my friends or family members in their times of blessing and accomplishments. Their envy makes it difficult for me to share the joy of my blessings and accomplishments.

It saddens my spirit when friends say things like: “Oh, I wish I could be that lucky! I wish I could afford (the whatever) you have. It must be nice to be talented.” It’s very disheartening to receive that kind of a response. At times, I’ve reacted to such expressions of envy and resentment from others by feeling guilty, closing down, and telling myself that my gifts and talents had no value. Those have been sad choices.

Envy makes it impossible for us to rejoice with our friends.  In addition, the writer of Proverbs tells us that it’s detrimental to our physical health. “Envy makes the bones rot.” (Proverbs 14:30 ESV) Does this mean that envy is the cause of osteoporosis? Of course not, what a humorous conclusion that would be! This proverb, like so many others, is a principle from which we can make many applications. It means this: envy is destructive to our inner self.

Envy is vicious. I hope that you will join with me in determining to reject that destructive joy-killer and embrace joy. I hope that you will, also, go back and re-read the first post in this series— remain with Jesus. He is the greatest of all joy-givers.

To conclude this seven week series, I’m sharing the lyrics of a favorite hymn


Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

1907 Henry J. van Dyke

 

This entry was posted on June 30, 2017. 6 Comments

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Rid Yourself of Clutter



This is the sixth post in my seven week series on restful living; and, for me, it’s a challenging task. Getting rid of clutter is harder than I expected it would be. I’m beginning to understand why it’s not the first step toward restful living.  

In order to accomplish this task, I’ve discovered that I must remain with Jesus, schedule time for it,  listen to others who know more about decluttering than I do, and take time to rest and relax ; if I neglect these things, I will exhaust myself and become resentful.

To rid myself of clutter seemed like such an easy task—until I started doing it. When I looked at the clothes in my closet and counted everything hanging there, I was shocked to discover how many articles of clothing I owned.

I wanted to shut the closet door and forget about the clutter. Why didn’t I? One reason is that the Holy Spirit (my GPS), kept reminding me of Jesus’ words. Words such as these, “If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” (Luke16:11 NLT)

What does trustworthiness with worldly possessions look like? For me, it means making these kinds of choices:

  • removing stains from my clothing rather than throwing them away, so they will last as long as possible,
  • limiting the amount of clothing that I have to what I actually need and use,
  • giving away the pair of only-worn-once new pants that don’t fit me, 
  • reminding myself, when I go shopping, to pay more attention to how my clothing feels 

Giving new clothing away not only blesses others but also benefits me. Deciding what I’m going to wear for the day is much easier when I don’t have so many choices.  

Still, this task is difficult. Why? Many emotions are tied to the “stuff” that I’ve collected over the years. Without God’s wisdom, encouragement, and love, I would be overwhelmed by what I’m discovering about myself as I purge my closets, cupboards, and dresser drawers.

For a few days last week, I did feel overwhelmed  Thankfully, my husband noticed my increased stress level; with patience and some kindly-spoken words, he pointed it out to me. The Holy Spirit, also, notices my stress, and he brings me back into peace and balanced living.

One cause of my stress, while decluttering on my clothes closet, was legalistic thinking. Legalistic thinking means that I make  a rule for myself and demand that I follow it with perfection.  Making an unbreakable rule out of a principle in Scripture (such as, it’s more blessed to give than to receive) increases my stress.

I tend to go on a “give everything away” binge and then, feel sorry about it. While I was reading, meditating on Scriptures and praying, the Holy Spirit gave me the perspective and peace that I needed to understand in order to restore balance to my life.

These are the two Scripture verses, which the Holy Spirit spoke to me through: “Valuables are safe in a wise person’s home; fools put it all out for yard sales” (Proverbs 21:20 MSG), and “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15 NIV).

These Scriptures represent two extremes in life:
1) without thinking about the consequences, we indiscriminately and impulsively give everything away.
2) expecting that this will bring us joy and fulfillment, we accumulate more and more “stuff.”

If we gave away everything, then we’d be dependent on others to take care of us. God may call some people (including me) to give everything away, but this is not for everyone, and it’s seldom for anyone–all of the time. 

I’ve finished decluttering my closet; In front of it, I have two large bags of clothing, which I will give away. My closet contains some empty space, but my heart contains more peace. 

Although, I still have clutter in my house, I can look beyond it and focus on the sunshine-sparkled, lake. As usual, my rationale for doing this is best expressed in the words of a poem.


Contentment or Clutter

Contentment or clutter—
Is it one or the other?

Or can I have both of these—
In the midst of clutter, peace?

I’ve made some progress;
Now, I have a larger mess!

I emptied too many drawers;
I opened too many doors.

Shame and guilt jumped out at me.
I want to hide; I want to flee.

I need to go for a walk,
Or find a good friend and talk—

I need to give myself some time—
Compose a song or a rhyme.

Then, with a peaceful heart and mind,
Face the clutter I left behind.

Contentment in clutter,
Not one or the other;

That’s my solution for now,
Because I am just learning how—

(After years of collecting
I’m engaged in reflecting)

In one way or another,
I’ll get rid of my clutter.

But this job can’t be done
In a day, week, or month—

Without health and friendship damage;
Is that how I want to manage?

I could tell my friends they can’t come
Because I have a messy home;

I could forfeit sleep and exercise;
Would that be smart? Would that be wise?

Although, I’m not yet clutter-free,
Content is something I can be.

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Reduce Commitments



To celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, John and I took four days off and traveled to Pennsylvania. We spent a  day at  Longwood Gardens (the largest botanical gardens in the United States, enjoying the immense variety of trees and flowers. Our spirits were inspired by the beauty of creation. 

We made new friends at a fantastic B & B . Our bodies found comfort and strength through the generous and cordial hospitality of our host and her husband.  We visited friends whom we hadn’t seen for over three decades. It was a very special time, and our hearts were greatly encouraged. Our entire frame –body, soul, and spirit, was refreshed.

Nevertheless, when we arrived home, we realized that we were tired and that it was not time to “gear up” but to “gear down.” That’s not something I’ve ever wanted to do. My motto for years has been: “naps are for children and old people and I’m not old, yet; so I don’t need one.” When I’m told by my physician that my vital signs are wonderful, it”s hard for me to accept the fact that I can’t do as much as I could when I was 30 years younger.

Even when I’m tired, I resist gearing down. Why? Because it includes reducing commitments–cutting out things that I enjoy doing. And I enjoy many things. It would be great if I did not have to sleep. Yet, if I want to live a restful instead of a stressful life, getting enough sleep and maintaining a schedule that fits the reality of my age and abilities is essential. This is true for all of us, no matter what age we are at. 

I haven’t met very many infants, children, teenagers, or adults (of any age) who like to cut enjoyable activities out of their schedules. In fact, I can’t think of anyone. If we must cut some activities from our schedule, why can’t we simply cut out the things that we don’t enjoy and prefer not to do? That of course, would be easy. Easy, but deceitful. 

We would not only become badly-spoiled narcissists, we would also end up addicted to our desires, We would exhaust ourselves pursuing brightly colored, soap-bubbles that contain nothing but air. I know, in my head, that this is true. Living it out is still difficult.

For example, at the beginning of this week I made a “Not-right-now” list. Items on this list included things that I enjoy doing, things not “bad” in themselves, just things that distract me from my main focus–which is reducing my commitments, in order to recover energy and lead a more restful life.

These are some of the things that I included in my “Not-right-now” list.

  • Make  a booklet with my blog posts on restful living
  • Do extensive research on the DNA result that I got back from myheritage.com
  • Arrange my song lyrics into a format such as youtube
  • Get involved in another mental task before I go for my daily walk
  • Take another interesting on-line quiz regarding some health issue
  • Check Facebook for the umpteenth time each day and spend unlimited time there.

On the first after making my list, I was successful in following it.  On the second day, I gave in to  one of these distractions before breakfast. 

Why did I give in to a distraction so quickly? I asked God. The answer he gave to me was that until our desires are in line with his purposes, we will not be able to reduce our commitments. That’s because pursuing desire, apart from God, is never satisfying to our souls.  If we succeed in removing something from our schedule, we will replace it with something else. (But the word “reduce” does not mean “replace.” Reduce means ” doing less” not “doing more.”)

Success in reducing commitments boils down to doing only those things which our Abba-Father calls us to do. ONLY those things. NOTHING else. That’s the way Jesus lived. He delighted to do the Father’s will (Hebrews 10:7). That was his one desire.

This means he lived according to the wisdom of  the psalmist, who said: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”(Psalm 37: 4 ESV). 

I’ve often misinterpreted this verse to mean that God will give me everything that I desire if I delight in him. That is a misunderstanding of what it means to delight in God. To delight in God means that having a relationship with him is our sole desire. It means that we realize, like Jesus did, that any desire that’s incompatible with our Abba-Father’s will is a distraction and pursuing this distraction will leave us empty and unfulfilled. 

To remain in a fulfilling relationship with Jesus, we must learn to recognize and manage our distracting desires. This is what it takes to effectively reduce our commitments  and, consequently, lead restful instead of stressful lives. 

As my following poem indicates, doing this involves conflict.


The Conflict

The world is full of many things that sound so good to me.
Like music of a carnival it cries, “Indulge yourself—break free!”
I spend my money and my time—how fast it disappears!
My head is tricked and I’m confused—like in a house of mirrors.

I’m pulled in all directions, consumed by passion’s fire,
Content with nothing that I find—enslaved by my desire.
Like cotton candy full of air is everything I buy;
At first it tastes so sweet; yet, soon, I find I’m dry—

Unsatisfied, yet turning not to water that would fill
My parched and aching soul. Can there be pleasure in God’s will?
I laugh just like a funny clown. Inside I’m full of tears.
Why do I cling to worthless things that bring me only fear?

I laugh and play but Jesus weeps. Life’s not a carnival.
He died to set his people free—to follow Him; He calls
Me to turn aside—desire him above my pleasure
And promises, within his will, a far exceeding treasure—

Thirst-quenching water, bread of substance (not frosted fable),
And a permanent invitation to dine at his table.
“Delight in me, my child,” he says. “Come see what I have planned.
I’ll satisfy your highest dreams with good things from my hand.”

  @ 1997 Jane Ault

(from journal reflections on Isaiah 55: 1-3 and I John 2:15-17)

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Resist Resentment



I procrastinated writing this post. I did not want to admit, after writing two chapters in  Emotional Freedom on how to identify resentment and replace it with joy, that I still struggle with it. This means that now I know how to identify resentment and how to resist it. I don’t feel helpless and remain stuck in it. As my husband would say, “you might not be able to keep a bird from landing on your head, but you can keep it from building a nest there.” 

After a very enjoyable few days in which John and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, I walked into my office, saw the clutter that I’d left there, and wanted to go on another trip. I felt resentful about my messy office. Until I realized I had a choice. Several choices. 

I could ignore the clutter, or I could pick it up.
I could blame someone else for the mess (maybe God), or I could admit that I was responsible.
I could forgive myself, or I could hold a grudge against myself.
I could feel overwhelmed and do nothing, or I could brainstorm–think about possible solutions.
I could procrastinate, or I could make one small step to change my situation.

I started picking up the clutter in my office. At first, I felt frustrated–angry at myself for the lack of order there. I began to feel overwhelmed. Then, I made one change that gave me a completely new perspective. I took the recliner that sat in the corner of the room facing all the clutter and turned it around so that it was facing a large window.

I sat down in my recliner, looked out at the graceful birch tree and beyond it to my flower garden, felt the cool breeze, and relaxed. It was refreshing to my frame–body, soul, and spirit. Having the  recliner turned toward the window will make it convenient for me to take the necessary breaks that I need to take from my computer. 

By periodically sitting there, I’ll be able to escape the clutter and confines of my office, focus on the bigger world of nature, feel the cool breeze, and meditate on the goodness and grace of God. This will help me reconnect and (remain) with Jesus throughout the day. But, again, I have a choice. When I am feeling stressed, I could choose to sit in that chair and relax, or I could choose to stay at my computer and push myself into mental exhaustion. 

It’s when  I feel as if I have no choice (or when I’m forced into a choice that I don’t want to make) that resentment can gain a stronghold in my life. Even then, there is one choice that I can always make. Just like I can turn my recliner 180 º, so I can turn my attitude 180 º.    


 I Can Choose My Attitude

Discontent or gratitude,
I can choose my attitude—
Select just what I want every day.

Impatience when my friend is late
Is a choice that I could make,
But it will effect the actions I display.

If I stamp my foot and curse,
Throw a fit or something worse,
Will it really help our friendship grow?

Let me stop and think awhile.
Perhaps that’s not the best of style.
Is there another way I could go?

I could choose my attitude,
Give my friend some latitude,
Refuse to take offense when he is rude.

I could hold my temper back.
I could decide to not keep track—
Do my part to stop this silly feud.

If I pause before I act,
Discover what is truly fact,
I won’t become a victim of my rage.

Just like I choose my food and drink,
I determine what I think.
And I could leave the past, turn the page.

I can decide just to cope,
With my moods simply float,
Or I can learn to swim and progress make.

I can grow a bitter root,
Or I can choose a Spirit fruit,
It depends upon the attitude I take.

Jane Ault

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Receive Kindly Spoken Truth

As I said in part one of this series on restful living,  my doctor recently told me that I needed to reduce my stress.He was very kind in the way he spoke, but he let me know that I needed to make changes–he told me the truth.  In a firm yet gentle voice, he gave me what the writer of  Proverbs calls, “a timely reprimand” (Proverbs 25:11)  I love the Message paraphrase of  this verse: “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, and a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” (verses 11 and 12)



I’ve slowed down some and noticed that more often during the day, I am singing. By reducing the expectations I have for myself, I’ve begun to make progress on another stress-producing problem–the clutter in my house. Because I am a visual person, clutter distracts me from the work I am doing and slows me down. Consequently, at the end of the day, I often end up with quite a few unfinished tasks. 

In the past, I’ve made some very ineffective attempts to reduce my clutter–usually just stuffing everything in bags and boxes. This made it look like I was a very neat and organized person, but it produced a bigger problem–that of not being able to find things. For example, I often couldn’t find a pair of reading glasses. Last week,underneath piles of papers in my office, I found five pair. 

Clutter has not only distracted me and reduced my efficiency, it also has made me feel frustrated and angry toward myself. I’m getting some help from my friend Liana George, a professional organizer. I joined her FB Clutter Wars group  and I’m learning how to be gentle with myself, while clearing away clutter one small step at a time. 

I enjoy watching Liana’s online videos because she has such a cheerful voice. She’s a very accepting person and speaks words of encouragement for every small bit of progress. Like my doctor, she kindly speaks the truth. Her group is about making war on clutter not on yourself. 

(If you are interested in joining her group,  search “Clutter Wars” in the FB search bar and then just ask to join.)

Throughout my life, God has given me kindly-speaking-truth friends. I treasure their friendship. But  it’s God, himself, through the words of the Holy Spirit, who best speaks the truth in a gentle way. I have no words to adequately express how thankful I am for his presence in my life. I’m sharing a little of what this means in the following song.


The Spirit of God So Gently Speaks

The Spirit of God so gently speaks
When we go wrong, when we are weak
Not with judgment, not to condemn
He, with kindness, turns us again

Back to the path we know that’s right
He gives more grace; he gives insight.
Then with deep joy and confidence
We change our course; yes, we repent


The Spirit of God prays for us.
He sees our frame, knows we are dust.
He keeps watch all day and all night
We are, forever, in his sight.

So let’s not worry; let’s not fear
About the things that will disappear;
Our life consists of something unseen,
For God has washed our spirits clean


The Spirit of God has made us alive
Under his counsel, we now thrive
He brings to us the Word of Christ—
The Message of Truth–unrevised;

Not mixed with lies, not altered to please
Indulgent hearts, preferring ease.
Let’s receive his correction with joy
And in our lives, his wisdom employ.


The Spirit of God will seldom shout;
With all our noise, we can block him out.
That, my friends, is a very sad choice.
We need to hear his gentle voice.

We need his wisdom and his power
We need his grace, every hour
Apart from him, we will not succeed
In doing any worthwhile deed


The Spirit of God is our Comforter
And with his help, we can endure
Grief and pain of every kind
He gives to us a peaceful mind

And we give up our addictive stuff–
His gracious Presence is enough.
He gives to us his strength and love;
Someday, we’ll join the Saints above.


The Spirit of God so gently speaks,
So gently speaks,
So gently speaks . . .

This entry was posted on May 31, 2017. 8 Comments

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Remember Your Frame–Body, Soul, and Spirit

Last week, I talked about the first “R” of restful living—remaining with Jesus. This week, I’m talking about the second  “R” of restful living: remember your frame–body, soul and spirit.


One of the songs, popular when I was teenager, was “This Old House.” The lyrics describe what it’s like to age— live in a body that like an old house is falling apart. As a teen, I was clueless about the meaning of phrases in the song such as, “getting feeble” or being “tuckered out.” Now, I have a better understanding.

According to my doctor, my body is not yet in the “falling apart” category; still, like an old house with creaky floors, some parts of it groan and complain.

The lyrics of  “This Old House” are based on the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes  . The song (but not the Bible passage) implies that it’s okay to neglect physical pain because someday, in heaven, we will exchange our bodies for better ones. That was my viewpoint for quite a few years.


I’ve learned that neglecting the needs of our physical bodies—abusing them in any way—is not a Christian virtue. They  are God’s gift to us through which we serve others, in ways that honor him.

Jesus, perfect in every way, had a human body. Just like us, he felt thirst and hunger. Just like us, he became tired and felt physical pain. Just like us, he had emotions—felt anger, sadness, and joy. 

He took care of his body by sleeping, eating and drinking, walking, and taking time off—enjoying a Sabbath rest. He paid attention to his emotions and expressed them in appropriate ways.

Jesus remembered his “frame.” Frame is one of the words used in Scripture to refer to our bodies. The psalmist says that God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).  

Thinking about this makes me feel humble and honored—humbled, because dust isn’t much; yet, honored, because God so deeply loves me.


God took a simple speck of dust
And with his breath fashioned us;

With joy, he viewed his finished task—
Created beauty—pure, unmasked.

Though we’ve fallen from that place
God remolds us with saving grace.

In hope, our wounded spirits rise
As he, with faith, anoints our eyes.


Calling my frame “beautiful and pure” is for me, an act of faith—especially, as I’ve become older. It’s so easy to get distracted by messages in the media that focus on things such as, covering up wrinkles, forever staying at that impossible-to-attain, Barbie shape, and conforming to current hair or clothing styles.

It’s easier to stay focused on truth when I think about the marvelous complexity of my frame. This word refers to more than my body. It refers to my whole self, which, according to Scripture, is designed in the image of God.

God is a three-in-one Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Part of what it means to be designed in God’s image is to understand that we, also, have a three-in-one nature—body, soul, and spirit.

I’m not going to try to explain all of this. Instead, if you want some very good teaching on it, I recommend Jack Hayford’s book, Rebuilding the Real You .

In  this book, based on the book of Nehemiah, he uses the symbol of a three-part temple to represent our three-part nature–body, soul, and spirit. He says, 

“At the core, we have a spirit. It is the relational worshipful, living center of the human personality.

Surrounding the spirit, we have a soul. It is the command center of the human personality, which includes intellect, emotions, and will.

Supporting and supported by both spirit and soul, each of us has a body; the body is usually the only part we are familiar with.” (p. 36)

God cares about our entire selves–body, soul, and spirit. Listen to this wonderful Scriptural blessing: “May the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT).

I hope that this blessing motivates you, as it does me, to do your part in caring for your whole self-body, soul, and spirit–because in these falling-apart frames of ours (these temples)–the Holy Spirit lives. 

 

This entry was posted on May 26, 2017. 6 Comments

Seven R’s of Restful Living: Remain with Jesus



A few weeks ago during one of my yearly medical appointments, my doctor told me that I needed to reduce my stress. At first he was going to prescribe a medication (which I was willing to accept); then, he changed his mind and said,” I am not giving you the medication; you know what to do and I believe you can do it.” This conversation made me feel humbled, thankful, and honored—

  •  humbled, because I wasn’t doing what I knew I needed to be doing;
  • thankful, because in a very kind way my doctor pointed that out to me
  • honored, because he recognized that I have the knowledge and ability to make changes.

 God spoke to me through my doctors words. I thanked him, as well as my doctor, and told him that I wanted to exchange my stressful lifestyle for a restful lifestyle. I asked him to show me more clearly what a restful lifestyle looks like.

He gave me the following seven-point guideline which I’m calling “The 7 R’s of Restful Living.”

  • Remain with Jesus
  • Remember your frame—body, soul, and spirit
  • Receive kindly-spoken truth
  • Resist Resentment
  • Reduce your commitments
  • Rid yourself of clutter
  • Rejoice with friends

By following these guidelines for seven weeks, I’m confident that my stress level will decrease. Each week, I will be sharing what I’m learning in my blog post. Today, my topic is: Remain with Jesus.

What does it mean to remain with Jesus? Remaining with him is just like remaining with any other person. It means staying rather than leaving. I married my husband in 1967;  in a few weeks, I will have remained (stayed) with him for fifty years.

John never forced me to live with him; I chose to do so. Before we got married he told me that he loved me. If that was the one and only time that he said “I love you”, I would not have wanted to stay with him for fifty years. Frequently he’s told me. Just as importantly, frequently, he’s shown me that he loves me.

If I ‘d never acknowledged his love and responded to it by returning his love, I don’t think that he would have wanted to stay with me. Because he is such a faithful person, I’m confident that he would have remained, anyway. But neither of us would have enjoyed very much.

What has it taken for us to stay together and enjoy our togetherness? One very obvious but easily neglected thing is that we talk with one another. Even after fifty years, we cannot read one another’s minds. It’s through our words that we discover what one another thinks, feels, and desires. He wants to give me what I desire, and I want to give him what he desires.   

It’s the same with Jesus.  He never forced me into a relationship with him. When I heard that he loved me (I was convinced of it by his words, that is—Scripture), I chose to enter into a life-long relationship with him. I’ve remained with him because he continues to love me. And my love for him continues to grow.

What keeps the love flowing between Jesus and me?  The same thing that keeps the love flowing between my husband and me—frequent conversations.  As I read Scripture, Jesus tells me more and more about himself—he shares his desires his thoughts, his plans; I feel honored and loved.  

Because I’m confident of his love, I listen to his words; I feel blessed not only by his affirmations but by his kindly-spoken words of correction. And I’m finding out the truth of this statement:”Those who love your instructions have great peace and do not stumble” (Psalm 119:165 NLT)

You can find much more about what it means to remain with Jesus in the Gospel of John, chapter 15. In some translations the word that’s used for “remain” is “abide.” 

What I recently heard from Jesus (while mediating on John 15 and Psalm 119: 165) I express in the following poem/song.


REMAIN WITH JESUS

Verse One
If I love God, I will love his instructions.
Listen to him and do what he says—
Live a life of intentional obedience,
Making plans and following through.

Chorus
Remain with Jesus;
Remain with Jesus;
Remain with Jesus!

Verse Two
I will do my best on all his assignments,
Trusting in the wisdom he gives—
Always remain in touch with the Spirit
So from his purpose, I do not shift.

Verse Three
Often, I’ll need to make an adjustment
Not from his purpose, just to my plan.
If I’m resentful of all interruptions,
I’ll miss what Jesus is saying to me.

Verse Four
Some of my phone calls, I need to answer
Blocking them all reduces my sight;
Without help from brothers and sisters,
My vision of Love will be incomplete.

Verse Five
Remaining with Jesus, I have discovered,
Also means remaining with them.
For this is his most basic instruction–
Love one another as I have loved you.

Remembering Mother


On this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m sharing a poem that I wrote and gave to my mother the year before she died. She’s been gone for fourteen years but I still miss her—especially on this holiday. Remembering her specific actions of love is my way of honoring her.

Dad planted rosebushes along the side of our house. Mom loved them and cared for them with diligence.


Sharing about my mom stirs up a lot of emotions—loneliness, because I miss her; sadness, because I’m not able to send her flowers, make a meal or buy a gift; a little bit of regret, because of  things I wish had done or not done; but, thankfully, no anger, because I’ve accepted who she was and let go of my demand for her to be a “perfect” mother.

Learning to let go of my demand for perfection from Mom and accepting her as she was has progressively freed me from the demand for perfection that I placed on myself. I’ve discovered that accepting my mother is inseparably connected to accepting myself—because, in many ways, I am just like her.  

Today, remembering my mother stirs up mostly positive emotions—gratitude, for her kindness and generosity; admiration, for her talents and creative use of them; deep thankfulness, for her sacrifices of love; and joy, because I know that someday I will be reunited with her. 


Thank you, Mother–

For keeping me in clean, dry diapers–in the days before disposable ones.
You washed them with hand-made soap and water heated in a boiler on the wood-stove.

For keeping me well-clothed;
You made beautiful hand-smocked dresses and warm coats from hand-me-downs.

For making sure I had fresh milk to drink.
You got up before dawn to milk the cow in an unheated barn, and you fed the kittens, too.

For introducing me to poetry;
I can still “hear” your voice reciting:”In winter I get up by night” and “I have a little shadow.”

For teaching me to read so early in life;
In second grade, I won the prize for reading the most books that one-room, eight-grade school.

For making sure I got piano lessons–
Even though I hated the way my teacher spit through her teeth when she counted the measures.

For giving me an allowance
(When you did not have extra money on hand) and not telling me how I must spend it.

For buying me a shiny blue music box one Christmas.
You found the gift you knew I wanted more than anything else.

For sewing tiny pearl buttons on the back of my wedding dress and making loops to hold them;
You re-designed the entire skirt so that it would fit me.

For coming for a visit after your granddaughter was born–
Traveling 1000 miles on the Greyhound bus and transferring buses in an unfamiliar city at midnight.

For coming, again, when I was recovering from surgery;
You fixed spinach greens, and served them with apple cider vinegar from Aunt Mary’s antique cruet.

For taking me and my family to Virginia;
It was the last time you and Dad traveled in your motor home.

For climbing the stairs to reach my upstairs bedroom;
Never in the time you spent with me did you complain about your painful hip.

For stitching and re-stitching quilts,
Especially the one on which you embroidered a cardinal, a red-winged blackbird and other songbirds.

For continuing to pray and write letters.
When my letters were few, yours kept coming. At age ninety, your penmanship is still beautiful.

Thank you, Mother for expressing your love for me in so many ways.

Comfortable Shoes and “Comfortable” Thinking



When I find a comfortable pair of shoes, 
I wear them,
And wear them,
And wear them,
And wear them.

I never want them to wear out;
But after awhile
They do wear out.

Then I look for a pair of shoes exactly like those comfortable old shoes.
I look,
And look,
And look,
And look.

I’ve never been able to find a pair of shoes exactly like my comfortable old shoes.
I’ve always been told,
“No one makes them anymore.”

But today was different!
I found a pair of shoes that looked
Not exactly,
But almost exactly,
Like my comfortable old shoes.

I tried them on. I bought them. I went home as fast as I could.
I went in the house.
I took my new shoes out of the box.
I looked at them, and then—

I put my comfortable old shoes back on my feet.

 @ 2001 Jane Ault 


It’s time for spring cleaning, and my clothes closet is one of the things that I intend to declutter. As my poem suggests, I do have a few pairs of old shoes—among them are black suede sandals and tan leather slip-ons.

Both pairs look unsightly, to say the least. The suede has been water-soaked and it’s stained beyond recovery. The leather is scuffed, wrinkled, and faded.

Yet, because they are so comfortable, I don’t want to throw out these shoes. Maybe I won’t. I’ve put them in the trash can before, but they somehow creep back into the house when I’m not looking.

I don’t think I want to keep them around much longer, because (as my husband reminded me, in his say-it-like-it-is fashion) old shoes have one characteristic in common: They stink! However, we might be so used to the noxious odor that we no longer notice it.


That reminds me of our thinking. Thoughts that we’ve carried around in our heads for a long time usually feel comfortable. At first they might not have been. They didn’t seem to fit us. They might even have felt painful. But we’ve “worn” them a long time and now they feel like comfortable old shoes. Even if they stink— they’re unhealthy and untrue—we don’t notice it. And we resist giving them up.

Types of comfortable (but stinking) old thoughts include—

  • Thoughts about ourselves that are out-of-line with who God created us to be and declares that we are; for example, I’m unlovable; I’m not talented; I’m not creative
  • Thoughts about God that prevent us from receiving the good things he wants to give us; for example, God isn’t fair; God doesn’t like me; God is against me or I don’t deserve ______________because . . .
  • Thoughts that prevent us from accomplishing the good things God’s designed for us to do—things that will bring us joy and fulfillment; for example, I’m not smart enough; I don’t have enough faith; I tried and failed

 Here are some examples of healthy and true thoughts regarding

1) Who God created us to be

  You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. (Psalm 139: 13-15 NLT)

2) What his attitude toward us is

God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. (Psalm 103:8-10 MSG)

3) How we can accomplish the things that will bring us joy and fulfillment.

  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)                                                              

ACTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

 Invite God to show you these things:

1) One comfortable old thought that is unhealthy and untrue.

2) How that thought is preventing you from obtaining a good thing.

3) What healthy and true thought you could replace that thought with.

Then, if you want to, ask God to give you the courage to “throw out” that stinking thought and receive in its place the healthy and true thought.


Like stinking shoes that sometimes mysteriously creep back into the closets of our house, those comfortable stinking thoughts also mysteriously creep back into our minds. So, we might need to throw them out more than once.

 

This entry was posted on May 5, 2017. 8 Comments