Satisfying My Thirst for Approval


Jesus said in  “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart.”
The Gospel of John, chapter 7, verses 37-38

Frequently, I thirst for approval. It’s a human desire and a human need. God promises to fulfill this thirst, and he does so when I turn to him. Sadly, he’s not always the first one I look to.

In her book, Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not about You, Sharon Hodde Miller describes seven mirrors we commonly look into in our search for approval. As I read her book this week, God gave me insights which I recorded in the following poem.


 
 Sometimes I seek approval
 From family or friends;
 My vision is distorted
 When looking through that lens.
  
 I lose sight of Jesus.
 My love for him grows dim
 In his grace and goodness,
 He calls me back to him.
  
 I focus on forgiveness
 Instead of on my sin;
 I regain hope and courage
 And, in strength, rise again.
  
 I rise again to worship
 My Savior and my God;
 Then, gratefully, I work
 For his accepting nod—
  
 I know I have acceptance.
 Approval’s something more.
 It takes my faithful effort;
 Obedience is its core.
  
 Obedience flows from love—
 Love that I’ve been given.
 Oh what joy it is to be
 A friend of God in heaven!
  
 That friendship costs me everything
 It must be my one desire.
 I cannot cling to other loves
 And retain the Spirit’s fire.
  
 An all-consuming love for Christ
 Transforms my soul and spirit
 So that from sources outside of him
 I no longer search for merit. 
  
 Jane Ault 
 7/18/19
   

WHAT MAKE AMERICA GREAT?



 What makes America great?
 Is it the money we make or how we relate?
  
 How do we relate those at our gate?
 Who gets to come in and who has to wait? 
  
 Whom do we love and whom do we hate?
 Must we all agree or can we debate?
  
 What makes America great?
 Is it due to the way our government runs?
  
 Is it the size of our militia and high-powered guns?
 Can greatness be measured in stocks and bonds?
  
 Does it matter how we acquire and spend our funds?
 Do we see our skyscrapers but not our slums?
  
 What makes America great?
 Does everyone have a steak on their plate?
  
 How do we treat a prison inmate?
 Do we believe an addict can become straight?
  
 Whom do we favor and educate?
 Whom do we choose to isolate?
 
 What makes America great?
 Is it simply a matter of fate?
  
 Or is it due to the choices we make?
 Who should we congratulate?
  
 According to God, how do we rate?
 Are we humble enough to admit a mistake? 

 What makes America great?
 For what do we live? For whom would we die?
  
 What makes us laugh and what makes us cry?
 Is what we’re pursuing truth or a lie?
  
 Do we have the courage to not comply?
 By saying nothing, what do we imply?  

 What makes America great?
 Is it the flag we fly on this Fourth-of-July?
  
 Is it a celebration of days-gone-by?
 On victories past, can we rely?
  
 What do we see and what do we deny?
 What will have changed by next Fourth-of-July?
  
 7/4/2019
 Jane Ault 
This entry was posted on July 4, 2019. 4 Comments

Goodbye to People-Pleasing


 

When someone you care about such as your child, friend or spouse fails in some way, who do you hold responsible? Do you help them realize that they are accountable for their action or lack of it? Or do you blame yourself for their failure and then clean up their mess?

God does not clean up our messes. He gave Adam and Eve specific responsibilities and clear instructions. He told them what would be healthy and what would be destructive. When they disregarded their responsibilities and disobeyed his instructions, he did not blame himself. He did not say, “Oh, I’m a bad parent; I must have done something wrong”. He did not say, “Oh, I’m a poor gardener; I must have made a mistake”.

He held Adam and Eve accountable for their decisions and actions. Unlike God, some of us get confused about responsibility. Instead of holding others responsible for their destructive actions, we blame ourselves. We are overly dependent on their opinions, think we can’t survive if they don’t like us, and become so busy making them happy that we neglect our own responsibilities and growth. In doing so, we harm both ourselves and others.

Why do we do this? in his book, When Pleasing You Is Killing Me, Dr. Les Carter identifies unhealthy pride as the root cause of such behavior. He says that failing to confront others is a common practice of people pleasers. I’ve been reading his book during the last few weeks, and I’ve found myself in its pages. Recognizing and admitting to that root of pride brought me relief. It’s the bit of knowledge I needed to have in order to say a firmer goodbye to people-pleasing.

God has been giving me an increased understanding of what responsibility means over the years. This is an early poem.

 RESPONSIBILITY
  
 I hated them without a cause 
 Because they chose to be;
 I hid behind a mask of fear
 And told myself I could not be.
  
 Someone-out-there made me freeze in fear
 And kept me from moving ahead
 Someone-out-there spoke the words 
 I heard inside my head. 
  
 And all the time it was really me
 Intimidating myself;
 I chose to suffer and to lose—
 To hide my wealth and ruin my health;
  
 I chose to think that I was bad,
 That I did not belong;
 I chose rejection, fear, and pain
 I chose to sing it as my song.
  
 I chose it even when I learned
 God forgives our sin.
 I chose to fear what “they” would think
 Instead of trusting him;
  
 But I Could Choose Again.
  
 I could decide to live in faith,
 I could decide to grow
 To give up fear and suffering
 I could decide, I know.
  
 What will I choose? Where will I go?
 Where will my thoughts abide?
 I want to love; I want to risk.
 Shall I, again, run and hide?
  
 Now fear thrives in the dark,
 It cannot handle light.
 If I remain close to the SON 
 I’ll have good judgment and more might
  
 More courage and more confidence,
 Some hope to balance doubt
 Great joy will come to me 
 As I, in faith, step out. 
  
 Responsibility That's What My Life's About.
  
  Jane Ault 
 
This entry was posted on June 28, 2019. 8 Comments

A Life-Giving Practice


The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies announce what his hands have made. Day after day they tell the story; night after night they tell it again.
(Psalm 19:1-2 NCV)

Almost every morning since the first of January this year, I’ve spent the first forty-five minutes to an hour studying and meditating on Scripture. As I converse with Jesus about his words, he frequently gives me a poem or song lyrics. This is the best part of my day.

When my husband hears me singing, he knows I’m ready for breakfast. As we are eating, I share my new song or poem with him and welcome his insights. After hearing and discussing his viewpoint, I often write additional verses or improve what I’ve written.

It’s a challenge to do so, yet my desire is to continue the Jesus-and-me dialog throughout the day. This is how I find strength and courage. This how I gain and regain clarity about my purpose in life and how I receive direction for the day. This is what keeps me from taking pleasurable but distracting side trips.

As I silently or openly include Jesus in my conversations with others, he gives me insight and wisdom in my responses. God said to Isaiah, ” my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9). God’s thoughts are definitely more profound than mine.

If I want to write or speak words which reflect the heart and mind of God, I must listen to the Spirit of Jesus. If I want to say things which have true worth, I must dialog with him. Amazingly, he then can then display his love and power through me.

The following poem flows out of my meditation on Ephesians 3:16 and 1 Timothy 1:17.


Jesus is Worthy of All Praise

 Jesus Christ is worthy of all praise.
 In him, all perfection is displayed.
 He shows those with faith-enlightened eyes
 The glory and power of God on high;
  
 We are strengthened in our inner selves
 By the love of Christ. He is our help.
 When facing hardship, our choice is firm;
 Held in his arms, we suffer no harm.
  
 Though on this earth, we experience loss,
 We rejoice, knowing it’s worth the cost.
 God comes through with his abundant grace;
 How immeasurably good are all his ways!
  
 Immeasurably wise are all his words.
 How blessed we are when we have heard
 And closely followed the Spirit’s voice;
 God gives to us unimagined joys.
  
 Jesus Christ is worthy of all praise.
 In him, all perfection is displayed.
 Through those who have faith-enlightened eyes,
 He displays the love and power of God on high. 

 Jane Ault
 6/17/19
This entry was posted on June 21, 2019. 6 Comments

The Mirror of Truth


Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised
.
 Proverbs 31:30 (NIV)

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been spending less time looking at my face in the mirror. 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. Why do look in the mirror less often? I simply don’t think about it.

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 of my face reflects the condition of my heart.

God’s “Mirror of Truth” is Scripture. It’s a very accurate mirror. When I look in it, the Holy Spirit shows me exactly what I am like. He reveals 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.

When I spend more time in front of God’s mirror and less time in front of my bathroom mirror, it’s so much more rewarding!


  A Virtuous Woman
  
 Doesn’t need to write a poem-a-day
 To prove that she’s okay;
 She simply records what she’s given.
  
 Doesn’t need to get applause
 When she supports some worthy cause;
 She simply cares about others.
  
 Doesn’t need her husband’s praise
 For how she spends her days;
 She simply desires to serve him.
  
 Doesn’t need an extrinsic reward
 For any accomplishment; 
 She simply does what she loves.
  
 Doesn’t need to look in a mirror 
 To discover if beauty’s still there;
 She simply looks at the face of Jesus.
  
 It’s his beauty that she hopes to reflect.
 It’s his work that she wants to do.
 It’s his word that she desires to speak.
 For Jesus is infinitely precious to her

 Jane Ault
 January 2019
This entry was posted on June 14, 2019. 6 Comments

A Meditation on the Meaning of Faith

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
(Hebrews 11:1 NIV)
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  
for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9)

Compared to some of my past life experiences, I am not currently going through a tough time. Just the normal frustrations of aging. My poem, today, is a reflection of more difficult days.

I wrote it with confidence and joy because I’ve discovered this: what felt like failure turned out to be success; what felt like loss, turned out to be gain, and what felt like losing ground turned out to be a faith-builder.

If this is a challenging day for you, I hope that you will be encouraged by the words of Scripture, as well as my reflective poem.


 He is here when I cannot see him
 Here when I cannot feel him
 Here when I cannot hear him
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when I am not sleeping
 Here when my body’s aching
 Here when I have no words to pray
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when the wind is blowing
 Here when the rain is falling
 Here when I see no rainbow
 Jesus is here.
  
 He is here when the night is long
 Here when my friends have gone
 Here when I have no song
 Jesus is here.
  
 In these times, when faith is tested,
 I remember his promises 
 I recall his faithfulness
 I review the times he answered prayer
  
 In this way, my roots grow deeper 
 Although the path is steeper
 I do not, in fear, turn back
 Up ahead, I know I’ll see his face
  
 In these times, when faith is tested
 I get up and read some Scripture
 I write down the truth I find there
 I compose a prayer response
  
 In this way, my faith grows stronger
 Although the night is longer
 I do not, in doubt, lose hope
 Up ahead, I know I’ll see his face
  
 He is here when I cannot see him
 Here when I cannot feel him
 Here when I cannot hear him
 Jesus is here.
  
 Jane Ault
 6/6/2019 
This entry was posted on June 7, 2019. 8 Comments

Living in Jesus’ Presence


He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul; (Psalm 23: 3 NASB
)

Many years ago, I read the little booklet “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It stirred in me a deep desire to live my daily life with a conscious awareness of Jesus with me.

I believe this is what Jesus was desiring for all of his followers in his prayer to Our Father when he said these words: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

If I wake up in the night or wake early in the morning when the world around me is quiet, it’s a great time to give thanks for Jesus’ presence and open up the ears and eyes of my spirit to any message he has for me.

The poems I’m sharing, today reveal something of what it means for me to live in Jesus’ presence. I hope they stir in your heart a deep desire to establish this practice.


The path of sorrow and grief
 Is turned into joy and relief
  
 When we see Jesus
 Who walks beside us
  
 Our eyes are opened to reality
 We were loved from eternity
  
 That which was crushed in our soul
 Is healed! We are made whole. 

  Jane Ault
  5/31/2019

 If I want to live in Jesus’ presence
 I must not go where he is absent—
  
 Anyplace the devil tempts me,
 Anywhere that the world attracts me,
  
 Somewhere the flesh would coax me.
 I must stop all conversations—
  
 With the devil, he’s a pseud,
 With the world, they are rude,
  
 With the flesh, it is lewd.
 Why would I seek such conversations?
 
 If I want to live in Jesus’ presence
 I must listen to the Spirit—
  
 Always hear what he is saying,
 Always go where he is leading,
  
 Always do what’s wise and loving.
 I must have more conversations—
  
 With the Spirit, he is wise,
 With my Father, he never lies,
  
 With my Lord, he takes no bribes.
 He gives me grace and wisdom.
  
 Jane Ault
 3/18/2019
   

This entry was posted on May 31, 2019. 4 Comments

The “Law vs. Grace” Conflict

“ For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Galatians 5:1 ESV

This greedy little squirrel and my husband are engaged in a conflict. Every morning John fills the bird feeder and scatters sunflower seeds across the deck for birds that prefer to eat it there. This squirrel not only gobbles up the seeds on the deck but also climbs up the pole into the bird feeder and eats the seeds in it.

John keeps chasing him out but he persistently returns. I’m amazed at how many times this happens in one day. It reminds me of another conflict–the conflict Paul speaks about in the book of Galatians. Here, the conflict is between the desires of God’s Spirit and the desires of the flesh.

In this context, the word “flesh” refers to the sin nature passed down from Adam to every human, not to our physical bodies. Our struggle with the flesh continues throughout life. It’s through grace, not law, that we win this battle. As usual, I think my poem conveys this truth better than these preceding paragraphs.


 When we embrace law 
 Instead of grace,
 Life is not easy;
 There’s no smile on our face.
  
 We get stuck in our structure
 And fight with each other.
 Feeling “right” in our ways,
 We wrongly appraise
  
 Our status and worth—
 Thinking it’s based on our work,
 Our wealth or position;
 What God wants is contrition—
  
 A heart that is humble,
 Repentant and thankful,
 A heart of submission 
 Instead of ambition;
  
 A spirit that’s willing
 To follow his calling,
 Unafraid of the pressure
 That this might engender,
  
 From family and friends—
 To whom this change makes no sense.
 Let us not fear it!
 For life in the Spirit
  
 Brings great freedom and joy, 
 Peace that no one can destroy,
 Strength and contentment
 ‘Cause Jesus is present!
  
 What hope this engenders.
 What strength it inspires.
 What wonderful knowledge.
 He shatters all bondage!
  
 Let us never despair
 But with praise fill the air;
 He sees our need and answers our prayer.
 We, his children, are safe in his care. 
  
 5/22/19
 Jane Ault 
This entry was posted on May 24, 2019. 6 Comments

A MOTHER’S DAY PSALM OF PRAISE AND PETITION

 I HONOR YOU, GOD, AS THE DESIGNER OF MOTHERHOOD
  
 Father-God, I praise you for your mothering heart—
 The love which you have for all creation;
 You feed the sparrow and provide a cliff for the goat.
 You send the sunshine and the rain.
 You smile on children of every nation.
 Your heart delights in their praises.
  
 Holy Spirit, I praise you for your gracious disposition—
 You accurately reflect the Father’s heart;
 With joy, you continually honor Jesus.
 With patience, you convince the skeptic of truth.
 With gentleness, you assure the fearful of forgiveness.
 With generosity, you give knowledge and wisdom to the humble.
  
 Jesus Christ, I praise you for your profound obedience—
 The astounding humility which you displayed while on earth;
 You knew the heart of the Father.
 You trusted him without reservation.
 You laid aside your rightful, godly-status.
 You lived as a servant and died as a criminal.
  
 Holy Spirit, produce the heart of the God-head in your church, today.
 So that in union with you we may labor and give birth;
 Give us perseverance in our prayers
 Give us endurance in our labors
 Give us steadfast faith, unwavering hope, and unconditional love
 Give us the joy of bringing many into your Kingdom.
  
 ON THIS DAY SET ASIDE TO HONOR MOTHERS, I ASK FOR THESE BLESSINGS: 
 
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the expectant mothers—
 Those with children in their wombs;
 Show them how to care for their bodies and nourish their unborn child
 Let their hearts be filled with peace so their babes feel secure.
 Give them discernment in their choices so the life they hold flourishes.
 Give them rest when they are weary and protect them from disease and injury.
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the mothers whose children are with them
 Those who are happy, those who are weary, and those who feel teary;
 Show them fresh creative ways to express love to their children.
 Give them insight to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of each child.
 Encourage their hearts with your grace so they discipline with kindness
 Let them feel so secure in your love that they never seek their child’s approval
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the mothers whose children are missing—
 Some are prospering, some are staying, and some have been buried;
 Holy Spirit, fill each sad and lonely mother-heart with your comforting presence.
 Banish their feelings of failure and guilt and assure them of forgiveness.
 Give them the faith and energy to persist in their prayers
 And bless them with the family and friends they need to support them.
  
 Father-God, I ask you to bless the women who don’t or can’t have children—
 Those who may feel left out or may be ignored on this holiday:
 Holy Spirit, heal their broken hearts and fill them with laughter.
 Jesus, bless them so that children are drawn to them as they were to you
 Send them the orphans, the wounded, and the so-called “difficult” children
 Give them honor in mentoring and joy in seeing the Spirit bring forth new birth.
  
 Father, I bring these requests to you in the blessed name of Jesus;
 It is through him, alone, that I have the right to pray.
 Knowing that you will answer me in ways far beyond what I can imagine,
 I leave them at your throne with gratitude and thanksgiving.
  
 May 10, 2019
 Jane Ault 


This entry was posted on May 12, 2019. 4 Comments

Caring for Crushed and Broken Turtles



How many are your works, Lord!
   In wisdom you made them all;
   the earth is full of your creatures. O Lord, how manifold (Psalm 104:24 NIV)


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 ESV)

I don’t usually insert such ugly, sad, and “unpleasant” photos into my blog posts. However, I hope you will not quickly reject this post but read it to the end.  I think turtles are fantastic creatures and tears filled my eyes when I saw this crushed and broken one–a lowly reptile but still beautiful in God’s eyes.

 Out of the corner of my eye I noticed it, on the opposite side of the road, as I walked along the highway. My immediate impulse was to avoid it. Up until that moment, I was inhaling the fresh air, watching the movement of white clouds moving across the blue sky, and admiring a tiny green fern growing in the hillside at the edge of the road.  

So I turned my head and bypassed the turtle on the other side of the road. Then, sensing a nudge from the Holy Spirit, I turned back. At first, I wished I’d kept on walking. The sight made me feel nauseated. Quickly, I realized there was a lesson in this for me. The turtle could not make it across the highway because it was too slow. Whoever hit it did not stop and notice the damage they’d caused.

At first the lesson God had for me came in questions. Who is “not making it” in the world where I live? Who is being ignored, dismissed, run over and crushed because in some way they are “slow”?

These are the people I quickly thought of: those whose skin color is not white; those, who in some way, are mentally or physically challenged; those who are defenseless—the unborn, the abused; those fleeing from persecution and —refugees, those who can’t afford health insurance or the cost of higher education; the elderly . . .

Which of these people are my neighbors? Do I see their pain and brokenness? Or am I so busy counting my blessings, or so absorbed in my own struggles, I don’t see these crushed and broken “turtles” around me? Either the crushed and broken reptile or the broken-hearted human whom God created and loves.

Regarding the crushed turtle—my dear husband removed it from the middle of the road and buried the remains. He is a gentle-hearted man, who notices and stops to care for all of God’s crushed and broken turtles.

I am asking God to open my eyes and my ears to see and hear the broken and crushed turtles (of every kind) in my neighborhood, and to open my heart and hands to love and protect him with the love and wisdom of Jesus.

This story has a happy ending. The next day my husband found another turtle in the middle of the road. He picked it up and carried it to the lake shore, where it crawled away in safety.


This entry was posted on May 10, 2019. 8 Comments