What Am I Chasing After?

 



Recently, a freak accident killed the 33-year-old son of some friends of ours. It happened on an ordinary workday. He did nothing unusual. I felt not only grieved but shocked. This event made me seriously think about how I am using my time.

Being a senior citizen, it’s clear to me that the number of years I have left on this earth is less than the number of years I’ve already spent. Yet, at what age, can we confidently assume that we will not be the victim of a freak accident or the flu virus or a terrorist’s bullet?

How crucial, then, that we think about our values and our direction in life! What gives us the most joy? Lasting joy!  In what ways do we, or can we, intentionally design the minutes and hours of our day to pursue that joy?

Jesus’ apostle Paul clearly knew what would bring him ultimate and lasting joy, and he pursued it with all his heart, mind, and strength.  For him, the value of knowing Jesus Christ surpassed everything else in life. He wasn’t talking about the intellectual knowledge of Jesus–historical facts, although he considered them important; he was talking the kind of relationship with him that is secured by faith. That was what he chased after. (Philippians 3:7-10) 

As a follower of Jesus, I asked myself the following questions. Perhaps you might consider them.


What am I chasing after?

What am I chasing after?
What am I running toward?
Is it something I can capture?
Will it bring me a reward?

Is this prize worth pursuing?
Is it substance or wind?
Is it a venture God will bless?
Will I want it in the end?

What is the risk I’m taking?
Have I counted the cost?
Am I doing what I need to
So my days and years aren’t lost?

What will make me a winner?
Where must I never go?
By what things am I distracted?
To which friends must I say “No”?

Can I succeed by myself?
Or do I need support?
Am I willing to secure it?
To whom will I report?

In making my decisions,
Do I engage my mind?
Or go with whatever impulse
Delights me at the time?

When time for me is over—
This body’s laid to rest—
With what words will I be greeted?
Will my faith have passed the test?

What am I chasing after?
What does my soul crave for?
The righteousness of Jesus Christ—
This alone; nothing more!

3/16/2028

This entry was posted on March 23, 2018. 6 Comments

Like March, I Can’t Make Up My Mind


March is typically thought of as a month of transition from winter to spring. So far, there’s not been much evidence of spring. The occurrence of three snowstorms, with one so quickly following the other, has caused much distress in this country. I long for sunshine and warmer temperatures. I wish like in the movie “Frozen” that spring would instantly and magically appear. I wish that this same kind of instant transformation would take place in my transition from an imperfect-performing follower of Jesus to a perfect-everyday-in-every-way saint.

What I wanted and hoped for, years ago when I committed myself to a relationship with Christ, was instant perfection and a problem-free life. I thought that these would be automatic benefits which would be granted to me without any effort on my part. These are not the promises that Jesus made.

He said,” In this world, you will have trouble”; his next words were “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). He also says to us in the words of his follower Paul, “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12 ESV).  We do this through what I call the “dynamic dance of choosing grace.” 

As I said in Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, this dance with Jesus “has two basic steps–grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward him”. 

 Jesus is not a magician. He does not mysteriously and instantly transform his followers from foul-smelling skunks or fearful, hiding, turtles into loving and courageous creatures. Character transformation does not occur in a straight, steady, upward line of progress. It’s marked with ups and downs, yet who I am today is significantly different than who I was yesterday. 

Like the month of March, I’m still in transition and my performance varies from day to day. I believe that God will keep his promise to complete the work of transformation that he initiated. (Philippians 1:6) Therefore, I live in confidence not shame.


Like March, I can’t make up my mind
Some days I’m cold; some days I’m warm
Fluctuating temperatures
Eventually, produce a storm

In this season of transition
Sometimes I laugh; sometimes I cry
I want to move into the future
It’s tough to tell the past goodbye

Although winter means restriction
Familiarity feels safe
In the spring of growth and freedom
Will I know how to navigate?

Like March, my days are limited
Someday, the storms I face will cease
So, I will heartily pursue
Ways that advance both love and peace

I will uncover roots of fear
And with God’s help detach my mind
From the constraints which block my joy
Through truth and knowledge, I will find

Ways to manage anger and pain
So they do not control my frame
Strengthened by grace and acceptance
I am no longer owned by shame

Jane Ault 3/8/2018

This entry was posted on March 16, 2018. 4 Comments

Inspired by Billy Graham’s Scripture-reading Habit

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
    I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.”

(Proverbs 8: 12 NLT)


The recent death of Reverend Billy Graham, who became known as “America’s pastor”, brought back special memories to me. While a teenager, I attended one of his early crusades in Minneapolis, MN. I choose Northwestern College,  a school which he founded, for my first year of study beyond high school. Years later, my husband and I heard him speak at a conference for Christian leaders in Boston. 

The thing that most impressed me about Billy Graham was the quality and depth of his character.  He displayed integrity, wisdom, and compassion. He practiced what he preached. He was truly honest and, yet, deeply humble. I believe he well represented the Christ whom he recommended. 

Billy Graham’s handbook for life was the Bible. I heard that he read the Old Testament books of Proverbs and Psalms every month. Proverbs, a book of wisdom, contains 31 chapters, so he would need to have read one chapter every day. Psalms, a bo0k of song lyrics and prayers,  contains 150 chapters so he would need to have read 3 chapters every day. I’m sure that he, also, read other parts of the Bible on a regular basis.

Although I’ve read the Bible through more than once, in recent years, I’ve chosen to read shorter or favorite parts of it. Inspired by Billy Graham’s practice, I thought about reading both Proverbs and Psalms during the month of March. But reading both of these books in one month would not be a realistic goal for me, so I decided to limit myself to one of them.  On March 1, I began reading the book of Proverbs. 

I’m freshly motivated to diligently practice the principles of wisdom that I’m reading about. One principle is prudence. Now, prudence (not to be confused with the word “prude”) is not a word that we commonly use, today.

These are dictionary definitions of prudence:  1) careful good judgment that allows someone to avoid danger and risks. 2) caution with regard to practical matters; discretion.  The opposite of prudence is naive. This is a dictionary definition of naive: having or showing a lack of judgment, knowledge, and experience.

I think that a poem might offer an interesting, as well as an informative definition and comparison of these two concepts. I just happen to have one.


Prudence and naivety were walking down the road.
After a while, they met a stranger who offered them some food.

Naivety just swallowed it; she assumed all things were good.
But prudence first examined it; she wisely understood

Appearance can deceive us–unless we’re very shrewd.
Things which, at first, taste sweet might turn sour when they’re chewed.

(p. 101 in Heart Connections: Finding Joy through Openness with God, by Jane Ault)


Questions for reflection

  • How can caring too much about our appearance affect our integrity?
  • How can caring too little about our appearance be unwise?
  • Do prudent people care at all about their appearance? Why or why not?

 

 

A Poetic Snapshot of Simplicity


In this season of life, there are days when I feel frustrated about my limitations. I want to have as much energy as I did when I was in my 30’s and 40’s. Living in simplicity and being content is my desire.  According to  Jesus’ follower, Paul, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 ESV). 

Godliness, according to Richard Swenson, author of CONTENTMENT: The Secret to a Lasting Calm is “an attitude whereby what we want is to please God”. Contentment is an inward quality of my heart and simplicity is the outward lifestyle I am able to develop because of that contentment. 

The following poem describes the kind of simplicity and contentment I desire to enjoy. On some days, it’s a reality. 


In God’s presence, find delight
Receive his blessings; live my life

Make a house into a home
Plant a rose and write a poem

Invite a friend to come for tea
Listen as she shares with me

Laugh and cry as we connect
Treat each other with respect

Don’t solve a problem that’s not mine
Assure my sister she’ll do fine

Practice daily what I’ve learned
Only speak when it’s my turn

Remember that I’m God’s employ
Do what brings us mutual joy

Write a letter or a note
Include a verse that brings some hope

Write a chapter in a book
Now and then, take a look

At the chipmunk on the deck
Watch the Cardinals as they peck

On the seeds that I’ve thrown out
Put away my fear and doubt

Trust the One who made the birds
Believe my prayers have been heard

All day long, compose a song
Remind myself that I belong

Don’t go back to where I’ve been
And revisit pain again

Believe that I have done enough
Don’t get entangled in more stuff

Go to bed and be content
About how my time was spent

Whatever happens in the night
Know that I am in God’s sight

Keep looking for that happy day
When He will wipe all tears away

When every battle has been won
And my work on earth is done

Delight, for eternity,
In God’s profound simplicity

2/21/2018 Jane Ault

 

Busy but Not Hurried

 



The six-week study of John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping, which I’ve been participating in with a small group of like-minded people has ended. The insights I gained and inspiration I received while doing this study were profound. With renewed determination and fresh energy, I’m pursuing God’s call to love him with my entire heart, mind, and strength.

I’m especially thankful to Beverly Ewart and Courtney Kissam who prepared for and led this group, helping us to more clearly understand what it means to have a healthy soul. 

The following poem/song, “Busy but Not Hurried”,  describes the kind of soul I desire to possess. “Hurried” refers to anxiety and worry located in our inner life. “Busy” refers to activities in our outer life. We can be very busy, yet not hurried. 


Busy but Not Hurried

PRACTICING GOD’S PRESENCE

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am living
In the presence of my King

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am singing
And giving thanks for everything

LIVING IN FEARLESS OBEDIENCE

Busy, but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’ve stopped thinking
About what other folks might do

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am doing
Works my Father called me to

CONNECTED AND FOCUSED  

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I am moving
In rhythm with the Spirit

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m avoiding
Things that have no merit

 HOPEFUL AND INTENTIONAL

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m preparing
For the day when he returns

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m not working
For the money I could earn

MAINTAINING WISE BOUNDARIES 

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m refusing
Loads not meant for me

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m accepting
My responsibility

UNTROUBLED BY DIFFICULTIES

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when I’m not sleeping
I still have inner peace

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when I am hurting
God’s comfort will increase

FAITH AND CONFIDENCE

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m receiving
God’s acceptance of me

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means that I’m still sharing
My songs and poetry

STABILITY AND CONTENTMENT

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means when life is shifting
I know that God’s not distant

Busy but not hurried
Means I am not worried
Means my soul’s not drifting
‘Cause God is all sufficient 

2/19/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on February 23, 2018. 12 Comments

Finding Time To Be Loved By Jesus

 



When I was a college student, someone gave me a little booklet with the title, Quiet Time. Quiet time meant having quality time with Jesus–telling him about my struggles, asking him my questions, learning what his thoughts were, and most of all receiving his love. 

In order to do this, it was necessary to find a place where I could be alone, and I needed to put aside anything that distracted me. Then, I could focus on learning what Jesus had to say to me through Scripture and respond to him through prayer. 

When I was single and going to college, it was fairly easy for me to get up early and have an extended quality time with Jesus. I developed a daily habit of reading Scripture, journaling and praying.

After I got married and had children, it was NOT easy for me to continue that habit. They always seemed to wake up before I did. As they got older and slept longer, it still wasn’t possible for me to stick to my early morning habit all of the time. I experienced days of depression when my head felt too foggy in the morning to concentrate. In that condition, it was a struggle to read  Scripture. 

For years, I felt guilty if I did not have my early morning quiet time. I thought my whole day was ruined. One day, God reminded me that there’s no law stating: you must have a “Quiet time” first thing in the morning. It’s not one of the ten commandments.  It was a law which I made for myself.

I often compared myself with well known Christian women of the past or present, who seemed to be able to do this under circumstances more difficult than mine. Such comparisons were unhelpful. They filled my heart with unnecessary guilt.

I discovered that Jesus welcomes me with joy whenever I come to him. Although time management is a helpful skill (and I need to grow in it),  he is more concerned about my heart desire than my capacity for keeping track of time. 

In this stage of my life, I can, again, get up early and enjoy quality time with Jesus.  But my desire is much bigger than that. It’s to experience his love, grow strong in it, and let it flow through me throughout the day and night.


I’ll think about God when I awake,
Give thanks for mercies of the night,
Listen for his word to me,
Rise up and follow him.

Throughout day, I’ll search for time
Where we can talk, just he and I;
In my day I’ll find a place
For Jesus, my best friend.

I’ll tell him all that’s on my heart,
Then search in Scripture for his thought;
With his Word, I will agree.
I know he cares for me.

I’ll think about God and who He is,
Think about God and what He did,
Think about God all day long,
Think about God and live.

(Poem reprinted from Heart Connections: Finding Joy Through Openness with God by Jane Ault)

 

This entry was posted on February 16, 2018. 8 Comments

Finding a Personal Tempo of Joy and Productivity

 



When I was younger, one of my dreams was to run a marathon. That dream never materialized because I did nothing to prepare myself for running. Marathon running was not a heart desire. It was wishful thinking. Wishful thinking works like this: (1) I close my eyes and in my imagination see a picture of what I want. (2) I open my eyes and pouf! there it is!  No effort on my part is needed to make this happen. 

While I admire runners and regret that I had not chosen to be more physically active when I was younger,  my preferred tempo is walking. I am at peace with my decision to walk rather than run because I believe it’s the most beneficial exercise for me in this stage of my life.

I’ve discovered that walking is the tempo that brings me joy and makes me most productive. Now, I’m  using the word “walk” as a metaphor for the tempo which best facilitates my growth toward emotional and spiritual maturity. What makes walking so beneficial? It requires me to slow down and pay attention to my soul. My soul, according to John Ortberg author of Soul Keeping, is that invisible part of me that is designed for and longs to connect with God. 

I’ve been reading Ortberg’s book and participating in a group study of it. He emphasizes the importance of living an unhurried life. “Hurry”, he points out is a quality of our inward life. To be hurried is to live in a climate of inward stress. To be unhurried is to live in a climate of inward rest.    

An unhurried life is the kind of thing that John Greenleaf Whittier longs and prays for in these lines from his poem The Brewing of Soma, which is quoted in the hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”. 

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace

I love this word picture of peace and beauty–the result of living an “ordered life”. God has a prize for each one of us at the end of life’s “race” but we can only attain it if we “walk” according to the tempo designed for us.

We can never discover our best tempo by comparing ourselves with other runners (or walkers) but only by listening to the voice of the Spirit. He, our patient coach, remains with us throughout our earthly journey, assuring us of ultimate victory. Still, we must choose to follow his instructions.


Questions for your reflection:

Describe the condition of your inner life?

If you feel hurried and stressed, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what step(s) you could take to find rest.

In your stage of life, do you need to move at a slower tempo or a faster tempo?

Ask Jesus to show you what it means for you to  “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV).


This poem is my prayer.

Jesus, show me the tempo that I must run
To win the prize when the race is done;

Release my soul from self-centered ambition;
Teach me how to slow down and listen

With an intention to obey your command—
To follow through with what I have planned.

1/23/18 Jane Ault

 

This entry was posted on February 9, 2018. 8 Comments

Comfort for Imperfect Performers

 



 

My husband’s favorite snack mix is a mixture of Corn Chex, Rice Chex, and raisins, which he mixes with olive oil and peanut butter and then bakes in the oven. When he takes it out of the oven, it smells so good. I could eat quite a lot of it. He’s glad to share it with me, but sometimes I eat more than my share. 

This morning, I noticed that the snack mix was almost gone, so I put what remained of it in a cup, walked downstairs, sat in the rocker beside my husband, and said,”I’m eating the last of your snack mix.” (Pause) “But that’s okay because I didn’t eat much of the last batch; you ate most of it.”

“There, you justified yourself,” he said. We both laughed.

What does it mean to justify ourselves? It means that we try to cover up an action that we feel guilty about by making a legitimate (good-sounding) “reason” for our action. 

Did I need to prove to my husband that it was okay for me to finish off the snack mix? Not really. He’s very generous and willing to share. There must have been some doubt in my mind about my motives.

Although I’ve been a follower of Jesus for many years, I still tend to struggle with doubt. Not doubt about who Jesus is and what he did for me by his death and resurrection. Just doubt about me. Doubt about my performance as his follower. I want to be the “perfect” follower. 

When I feel impatient with my progress toward perfection, I might silently scold myself with these kinds of comments:

“By now, I should have learned that!”
“God must be disappointed in me.”

What does this self-accusation do for me? Nothing good!  It stirs up despair in my soul, it makes my body feel tense, and it causes me to become self-centered–so preoccupied with my performance that I can’t see the needs of those around me. 

One night, I was restless and could not sleep. These words of Scripture popped up in my mind: “It is God who justifies.” They were the comforting words given to followers of Jesus in the 8th chapter of Romans. To be justified means to be declared innocent and made acceptable.

God’s message to me was that I needed to stop worrying about my “performance” and put my confidence in his performance. Perfection is his work. The following Scripture verse states that so beautifully!

Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.  All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 24 and 25 NLT)


Suggested Activity: Reflect on the above Scripture and the following poem. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Then, write your thoughts in a journal entry. 


Jesus, thank you for this day
Holy Spirit, help me stay

On the pathway you mark out
Shield my soul from fear and doubt

In your love, I will remain
By your power, I’ll refrain

From doing what in the past
Kept my soul from peace and rest

Quickly, show me when my mind
Receives a lie—any kind

Help me reject and replace
Deception’s voice with your grace—

And love-filled Truth! Patiently
You shepherd me—faithfully,

You’ll persist until that day
When before you I display

The perfect work you have done—
Most Holy God, Glorious One!

1/29/18 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on February 2, 2018. 8 Comments

The Mirror of Truth

 



I haven’t thrown away my hand mirror. It’s beautiful antique given to me by a friend, but I’m spending less time looking at my face than I used to do. At first, it was because I did not want to see the wrinkles there.  I’m not uptight about them, anymore.  I’ve accepted them as a normal part of aging. Hopefully, smile wrinkles outnumber worry lines.

More importantly, I finally understand the truth that “skin-beauty” is not nearly as important as what I call “heart-beauty”.  God sees beyond the condition of my face to the condition of my heart. I’ve learned that an unhappy, angry, or worried heart cannot be hidden behind beautiful skin. Whether I like it or not, the expression on my face reflects the condition of my heart.

God’s mirror of truth is Scripture. I love Scripture. When I look in this mirror the Holy Spirit shows me exactly what I am like. He shows me the wrinkles and blemishes in my heart—things such as worry-lines, anger-pimples, and ugly-acne–caused by my reaction to hurt. Sometimes it’s painful to see the truth about myself; I feel ashamed and want to hide.

I don’t hide because the mirror of Truth is held in the hand of a Loving Savior. Jesus does not condemn me. He simply wants to give me the kind of loving, generous, and good heart that he has. When I receive his words of truth, he heals the hurts in my heart and cleanses it from all ugliness.

Why do I spend more time in front of God’s mirror than I do my bathroom mirror? It’s so much more rewarding!


Suggested Activity

Reflect on the following Scripture and poem. Invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Then, write out your thoughts in the form of a prayer. Share it with a friend, if you want to do so.


Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. (Psalm 19:12)
Search me, O God, and know my heart. (Psalm 139:23a)

Just as I am
I come to you, Lord.

I don’t understand the confusion within.
(Of what am I guilty? How have I sinned?)

Search my heart
Not, in a condemning
Introspective way, as I have done.

I’ve taken too many painful trips into the past,
Discovering only despair;

With the power and sweetness of your Grace,
Correct my distorted vision.

Cut my attachment to falsehood.
Bond my soul with truth.

1/23/2018 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on January 26, 2018. 8 Comments

Cooperating with the Holy Spirit for Personal Transformation

 



I grew up in a traditional church where every Sunday at the end of the service, I joined the rest of the congregation in singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. Yet, I had no idea of who the Holy Ghost (another name for the Holy Spirit) was. He seemed, indeed, like a ghost, hiding somewhere in the church. In some mysterious way he was related to God, but  I did not think of the Holy Spirit as my personal teacher.

However, in the Gospel of John, Jesus said that that is exactly who the Spirit is for those who follow him. These are his words: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name . . . will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26) 

Over the years, I’ve gradually learned to recognize the Holy Spirit’s voice, and I’ve discovered that he is an amazing teacher, wonderful friend, and ever-present helper. It is impossible for us to develop the character of Christ without his assistance. 

With his x-ray vision, he sees the abscess of unhealthy thoughts and destructive behaviors that we hide from ourselves and others. A true friend, he loves us enough to speak the truth even when it’s painful for us to hear it.  A compassionate physician, he offers help but does not overpower us and force us to comply with his directions. A wise counselor, he does not do for us what we can do for ourselves, but he gives us the power to do impossible things. 

In my book, Emotional Freedom: The Choices We Must Make, I describe cooperation with the Holy Spirit as a dance and I describe it in this way:

The concept of dancing with God delights me. I call this dance with Jesus “Choosing Grace.” It has two basic steps—grace and responsibility. Grace is God’s step of love toward me. Responsibility is my step of love toward God. Jesus said, “If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love” (John 15:10 MSG). 

Choosing grace is about dancing in such a close relationship with Jesus that his nature becomes a part of us, motivating our decisions and empowering our behavioral changes. Here is a clear Biblical statement describing the interaction between grace and responsibility: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13 NIV).

My poem, today, is a tribute to the Holy Spirit and an expression of gratitude to Jesus for this wonderful gift.


The Holy Spirit is your gift
He helps me so I do not drift

From the pathway you’ve laid out
Into lanes of fear and doubt

He tells me things I do not know
And he’s patient when I’m slow

Allowing me to try once more—
When my performance has been poor

Never does he leave my side
From his eyes, I cannot hide

For this, I’m thankful everyday—
Here I laugh and here I play

Songs of joy and hymns of praise
Reflecting on your splendid ways

Jesus, you are purest Light
In your presence, I delight

Of your goodness, let me tell
In every virtue, you excel

Beyond measure is your grace
How I long to see your face

Lord, in my remaining days
May what I do reflect your ways

May who I am resemble you
Holy Spirit, keep me true

1/12/2018 Jane Ault


Questions for Reflection

  1. In your “dance of choosing grace”, which step are you stronger in? receiving grace or accepting responsibility
  2. If you have difficulty receiving grace, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what the barriers might be.
  3. If you have difficulty accepting responsibility, ask the Holy Spirit to show you who he might have in mind to help you. 

 

 

This entry was posted on January 16, 2018. 3 Comments