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The act of choosing

Each day of our life is filled with choices. What to wear, what to eat, what to do… I am ever aware of those choices since I am still the primary decision maker for my young children. Though they are simple, I often tire of those unrelenting decisions. Can’t someone else decide? It would be so wonderful if all those decisions could just be made by themselves!

Recently, I have been aware of the bigger, deeper, life directing decisions I have to make everyday. I’m not referring to ‘those big life decisions’ we all must face… college, marriage, children. No, it’s more along the lines of Francis Schaeffer’s question “how should we then live?”.

Everyday as I face a new morning I have choices to make….

Will I be thankful for this new day or begrudge its arrival?

Will I revel in the choices I have to dress myself today or complain that I’m tired of wearing my clothes?

Will I greet my children with delight or grumble under my breath as they make their regular morning requests?

And the day unfolds… with choice after choice.

The choices I make about my heart, my attitude, my purpose & my perspective have reverberating effects throughout my day & my family. I regularly forget that each action, each response, each task I undertake begins with a choice I have to make. So often I feel as though I’m living my life to just get by for another day. Bearing my teeth to suffer through until I get some sort of a break.

This realization has led me to ask some hard questions. What do I lose by living that way? What do I surrender by allowing those choices to be made by whim or circumstance? What more could I get out of life if I stopped letting something else, something automatic & unchecked in my heart, make those decisions for me?

Psalm 1:1-3 says:

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked or stand around with sinners, joining in with the scoffers. Those who delight in doing everything that the Lord wants think about his law day & night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither and in all they do, they prosper.”

I have read this psalm many times & always thought of the first lines in terms of the influence of others. Outside influences. Just recently I had to admit that not all wicked influences are external. When I surrender my choices I become like those standing around, scoffing, listening to the selfish, bitter, lonely or weary comments my heart throws out. I become easily influenced. My perspective is skewed. I forget to focus on the law of the Lord. Then I begin to wither and it becomes impossible to bear fruit!

I don’t want to end up being an ugly withered old tree by the side of a dry creek-bed. My heart truly longs to be a lovely, green, fruit bearing tree that my friends & family take comfort from. Yet, if I do nothing to cultivate that tree, I will never be like that.

In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus said to those who wanted to follow after him to “put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.”

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I really do want my life to be about me. I’m not thrilled with carrying a cross and choosing a life of sacrifice. When it really comes down to it, I want my choices to be about me, for me, and not for others. Living by default plays to my sinful nature. It allows my cross to lay on the side of the road while I stop walking to throw a tantrum. It never looks lovely when I decide to go my own way & its exhausting to feel like I have figure it all out. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be so hard!

Jesus also said in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary & carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble & gentle, & you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly & the burden I give you is light.”

Taking up the yoke of daily living is a constant choice. It is relentless & never a moment passes where we do not choose. There are several options along the way…

I can try to do everything on my own, making every decision the best I know how.

I can forget trying at all & coast through the day, hoping to just get by.

I can surrender all my decisions to others, living as a victim of my own life & circumstances.

Or…I can admit my weariness, my inability, my need for direction & accept the guidance that Christ offers.

In order to delight in my life everyday, I need the constant presence of the Teacher to show me a new way. I need the awareness of the Spirit to help me see my choices. I need the wisdom of the Father to to speak into my every circumstance. I need the Holy God of the universe to break into my mundane life choices & transform them into decisions that bring life. Fruit.

I’ve decided this week to try to allow God to invade my everyday in hopes that I will begin to pay attention to the choices I have to make. I have decided to take up a challenge. To seek, to see, to listen, to enter into my own life on new terms. I am beginning with a record of thankfulness. To write down daily the ways that I see God’s blessing & activity in my life. I am choosing to discover joy. I am learning to delight.

Will you join me? Will you choose His yoke, His way? It is supposed to fit easily. Try listing a few things that you are thankful for today. It will be wonderful to see where that decision leads….

I Surrender All

I Surrender All

Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896

I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

This hymn has been resonating with me the past few days.  I have been singing it while getting ready in the morning, doing the laundry, preparing meals, paying the bills & forging ahead in relationships. It has become my prayer. The more I sing it the more I realize how necessary it is for me to find the joy of surrender…

  • As we leave a steady paying job with benefits for a temporary part time position & the task of raising our support
  • As we live with almost entirely all of our possessions packed in boxes in 3 locations in 2 different states
  • As we press on to sell our house amidst an array of obstacles with very limited resources to overcome them
  • As our family of 6 learns to live with my parents, in their 2 bedroom house, for as long as is necessary
  • As we attempt to create relationships, meaning & purpose for ourselves during our time here
  • As we seek direction for our next steps in life & ministry, persevere in faith, hold fast to hope & live in love

The verses of this song speak volumes to me about the challenges we are facing in this journey of faith.  The lessons I am learning are rich & deep as I continue to learn to surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I am learning to set aside my plans, my ideal settings, my preferences & my comfort for the sake of others.  I thought I was getting pretty good at that as I embraced motherhood. It is constantly a life of sacrifice but God has shown me how much more I have to grow in ‘freely giving’. The comfort I take in giving without limit is that it is all ‘in His presence’ and not one act of surrender goes unnoticed by my Father.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
 
Surrendering our life challenges our comfort & pleasure.  In my head I know that possessions are just ‘things’ but I have discovered that my heart has yet to be convinced. Over the past few weeks, with most of my ‘things’ packed away, I have found how much my identity is wrapped up in my possessions.  What I wear, the tools I use, the comforts I surround myself with can become all too precious & important.  It has been an eye opening experience to realize how little we actually need for our day to day.  There is freedom in forsaking things.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

As a mother, I have learned the sweetness of prayer without ceasing. To talk with the Father as I make lunch or stoop to tie little shoes provides me an anchor for my days & a pathway amidst the trials.  This time of trial has made clear to me how inseparable the Holy Spirit is for my daily survival.  If I were to walk through my days based on my undulating tides of emotion, my life would be a wreck. Yielding to the Spirit is my salvation.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

Surrender is for a purpose.  It is not, as we can wrongly assume, solely for learning lessons or giving up ‘our way’.  When we surrender we become useable.  We are no longer distracted by our own plans, agendas, desires & needs instead, we are free to be focused on what is truly important. Surrendering daily makes way for Him to sustain me beyond my own strength. Only then can we experience the depth of God’s words to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

As I continue to sing this song I will hold fast to this truth: when I feel pressed & overwhelmed, ready to give up, He will empower me to continue on amidst these challenging circumstances. I surrender it all…

 

To view more paintings by Lyn Deutsch in the series ‘Hymns & Musical Instruments’ click on the image above.


Autumn’s Splendor


This maple tree outside my parents house here in Illinois was the first tree for miles around to have changed into it’s glorious fall gown. I snapped this photo on my iphone just a few days into the season on September 25th. Of course, my phone can’t come close to capturing the brilliant color, the play of light through the leaves & the graceful presence of a burning red tree amidst a world still green. Red maples often take my breath away in the peak of their color & this tree was truly a beautiful sight.

According to my parents, this tree has been struggling all summer long.  They had less than average rain & a little more than the expected share of hot summer days this year so it’s understandable that this tree had trouble keeping its leaves healthy & vibrant.  They had months of construction on the road that runs next to their home. They had weeks of heavy machinery driving over & around their yard.  It was a hot, dry, noisy, dusty & precarious time.  This tree was weary. Yet once the construction wound down & the trucks drove away, the rains of late summer began to fall and the tree began it’s transformation.

Today as I glanced out my bedroom window I saw the maple tree standing bare & pensive against a grey fall sky.  All the surrounding foliage was now dressed for the pageant of colors. Standing there, I was a little sad that this tree had already spent is glorious colors.

As I put away laundry & glanced again out the window I let my mind dwell on this lone red maple. During the first days of autumn while the other trees were still catching the last rays of summer this maple became a spectacle of beauty. All at once it transformed before our eyes in a stellar display no other tree quite managed. It was as though this maple tree, with all it’s struggles, became the clarion call of the season.

This tree has been speaking to me now for weeks.  I have heard it’s voice whisper of beauty & hardship, of loneliness & solidarity. My heart has called out and claimed this beauty for it’s own. I feel very much like this tree.  Our summer has been chaotic & noisy.  Our year has been very hard.  God has been doing so much good for us, yet, it has taken a toll on me.  I arrived in Illinois at the beginning of autumn with 4 kids & a dog in tow, half of our earthly possessions in a cargo trailer & no place to call my own. This woman was weary. Yet God showers me with His goodness & grace, so, I am praying that a transformation takes place.

I pray that I am just like this maple tree, brilliant in splendor because of the struggles I have experienced this year.  Oh that I will not hold back His Spirit at work in me but allow Him to surround me so that we may all bask in the beauty that is brought out of brokenness.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever!  Amen.”  Ephesians 3: 20-21

Journey with me…

I’m diving into this world of blogging for one main reason: I was inspired.

Two dear friends of mine are to blame, really. They wittily, reflectively & wisely comment on their daily lives through their own blogs regularly. It is such a joy to have that window into their worlds.  They often challenge me with their observations, encourage me through their solidarity or humor me with their irony. I treasure that, I long for it & I know others do, too.

So today, in this world awash with words & overwhelmed by technology, I add my voice to the blogosphere in hope of doing the same.  May the work of God in my life inspire you to find joy for this morning.