“Softening, We Become His Own”, from L.Willows (a New Heart, Soft Love, God is With Us)

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Recently I encountered an old friend. In a conversation with her, she asked how I was now, as so much time had passed. “Softer, I said. “I am softer with time, after many years and experiences. Life had made my heart softer where before it had many edges and ridges. Now it sinks here and there.” I tried to describe to her what is indescribable.

Afterward, I felt thankful and filled with memories. I knew that she could not really understand. We had been separated by such distance, like the many mountains that I have traveled through in my journeys.

Life softens. God knows. He walks beside us.

Sometimes it takes time and ups and downs to soften our hearts. Only God sees our lives and our hearts in truth. Surely, He had known each detail along the way. He has been with us, beside us for every step.

What is a soft heart and what does that mean? Well, soft is new. We are born with hearts that need to become new. We need a second birth. We feel alone until we find it. We sense vulnerability and powerlessness until we find our true heart in and with God.

When I thought that I was alone, I tried harder, I often created much effort believing that I needed to do things on my own. I thought that I needed to form strengthening skills to survive. We all develop heart-survival skills because we forget that God is with us on the journey. He is our true and only strength in life’s journey. Everything else falls away or may fail. Real Strength was not even about me!

Real strength is about God, not us.

Psalm 76:26 –“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Philippians 4:13 -“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

As we find Him, we are given a new Heart.

Ezekiel 26:36 –“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

2 Corinthian 5:17 –“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Soft is the Spirit of Christ’s Love in our hearts.  

When the new forms in us, and we belong to Christ we, are saved by faith. The process of becoming like Him is ongoing, it is Sanctification. That new heart grows. It becomes our new inner Influencer!

We and our lives are never the same again. The ridges become containers that are filled with the pourings of God’s blessings, with His Spirit – like waters that fill us and our hearts with newness. Imagine a thirsty valley in the springtime receiving the rains of God’s love season after season. We Soften, we are fed and the fruit of His Spirit grows in us.

Galatians 5:22-23 –“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

When we become new, we live as His Own. We can live with hearts softly, lovingly. I am not there, I pray that I live a life that gives rich evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. I have a long way to go still. But the parts that ‘sink here and there’ are soft enough to be filled by God’s Spirit. I am so grateful for His Goodness, and for so many Blessings – surely there are challenges but the Lord is at my side. (and with you) This is the only journey that I would ever want to be on.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Pray Soft

I pray that we soften to the miracle of knowing God’s Love,
to the reunion of walking each hour of the day in His Mercy.

I pray soft listening for our hearts, that we hear His Voice
amidst the challenges of our lives; from the calls that we are each given.

I pray soft walking in this world as we journey with one another.
Let us find each other in His Arms as One.

I pray for soft forgiveness in our relationships near and far; help us
all to remember how much we have been forgiven, and open our hearts.

I pray soft tenderness so that we open doors for others; let us be generous
and gracious givers in this wondrous life that we have –

for the Lord God has been so good and kind to each of us.

In Jesus Name,
Amen

“A Long Time Ago, but We Have Now”, from L.Willows (Live Love, Courage, Bold)

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Joshua 1:9 –“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

A long time ago, I traveled very far away. It was a different time, my perspective was immersed in the experience. (a humanitarian initiative) I did not have colleagues from the US with me. My reflective life was on the inside of my heart and in prayer. The times asked for courage.

It was 1993. I gathered with many others in the old cushioned seats of the historic Sarajevo National Theater, a majestic structure that had been constructed in 1899. It was during the second year of the Balkan war. Though there was shelling from the nearby mountains and snipers lined an unseen circumference in the ridges, there was nothing that stopped the people of the city from attending a performance at the cherished Theater. The local performing artists worked to continue performing during the war. I remember that a small orchestra group also played regularly outside for all to enjoy each day. These were bold people.

That evening, I remember the feeling of being together with several hundred others in the cathedral-like opera house gathered together gazing towards the stage. It smelled a little bit musty, maybe of a perfume that I was not familiar with. It was semi-dark because it was only lit by an old generator. It felt wonderful to enjoy laughter at the comedy that was presented. There was joy even during the war. It was a relief to be together in the Theater.

No one had electricity at that time. There was no heat. It was winter-time in Sarajevo. Just being in the audience was a victory. Crossing the streets to arrive meant that you had risked the snipers that targeted civilians. I noticed that no one ran across the streets. Everyone learned to walked with heads held high. They had reasoned that there would be an appointed time to live and a time to die.  This was the time to laugh.

The actors on the stage were immersed in the play. I was far enough forward that I could see their expressions. It helped me to understand and be swept into the joy of the moment. Laughter rippled through the Theater. Then, suddenly, there was a loud thunderous sound. Then it happened again. It wasn’t us clapping. It was an interruption that everyone knew well. It was shelling from the mountains that landed next to the Theater if not upon an adjacent wall. My ears rang. My heart shook. No one moved. The play stopped. Everything became completely dark and still.

It was understood that the generator had been struck. No one moved towards an exit or left their seat. I sat in my seat and waited. I could feel the breath of the people around me. It was very cold in there.

I had learned to be still and expectant. Everyone sat together and waited in the darkness without moving for some moments, I don’t know for how long. Because of the thunderous shelling outside, the decision to stay may have meant living or dying. It seemed that the Theater was the target. It was a landmark. The next shell could have hit us all. It was the same as deciding when or how to cross the street.

God really does have your life in His Hands. We live and die for Him. This was one of those moments. There were many in that war. It felt like a collective decision to be together in the Theater with the expectancy of faith.

Suddenly a small light appeared on the stage. It was a candle. One of the actors was placing candles on the perimeter of the wide half-circle of the stage’s edge where the stage-lights had been. The actors were lighting the candles. One by one they were lit. In moments the lights revealed a wondrous view, one that was more spectacular than before.

Then, in the glow of a very special evening, with the pop-pop of shelling in the background and the occasional thunder of larger threats, the play continued in candlelight. The play was wonderful. I am not certain that I ever really knew what it was about but I laughed and was filled with joy.  It was a night to remember forever. Though it was very cold, I felt warm.

Later, walking to the room that I stayed in on those icy and snow-filled streets, I felt like I was in a neighborhood regardless of the threats that appeared to still be all around. Though I was not carrying one of the candles from the stage with me, I felt the glow of the room. The sense of faith and expectancy stayed with me. I did not have fear later that night when I was alone and the night war thunder.

We all seemed to be together, still in one larger room – not scattered individually throughout a city divided. God protects each of us, like a Light with and within every heart.

And now, (2019) if I hear thunder I am comforted. I remember that God is with each of us everywhere. I know that in some places and in some lives, we face times that feel dangerous or isolating but I know that He is always with us and never apart from anyone. I know that even when things happen that seem to cause moments that looks like a temporary “disconnect” – if we wait with hope, faith, and expectancy, especially with and for one another, and in fellowship – our Lord God responds bountifully and generously.

His Love and Light and His Spirit shine into our lives and hearts vividly. They warm us in ways that are transformative. We enter into bold new ways to tell His story, of how His Love has altered our lives and the landscape of our hearts.

He has mine. My story is one of the ongoing triumph of the Love of Christ in my heart and how it brings peace to me.

Joshua 1:9 -“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God is with you. He is with us all the time. He gives us strength and courage. I pray that we are each given the gift of many chances to step forward as bold Christians that walk fearlessly and lovingly towards the Life that we are given with generous and loving hearts.

© 2019 Linda Willows

“The Burden becomes a Miracle”, from L.Willows (Glory to God, burdens Lifted, walk by Faith)

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The Burden becomes a Miracle, from L.Willows

This morning I was convinced that I needed to get rid of the small table in the kitchen. I already moved it from one room closer to the front door so that it would be easier to discard. It was very heavy. I had been concerned about hurting my back. I toyed with the thought of keeping it there because it was closer to the front door. But it started to accumulate more and more ‘stuff’, papers and piles of things each day. Whenever I walked in the door I loaded it up with more ‘stuff’. It became the ‘stuff’ table and started to get messy. I could no longer find anything important buried inside all of the stuff. After a week I wondered if this was a good idea after all.

I needed help. I did not know that I needed God for this. It just felt like a mess and one that had become a burden.

Anything that encourages us to make messes of our stuff to the point that we cannot see the “What” of it is not serving us. It needs to go; it has become a burden. Do you have anything like that in your life, anything that is like my table that gathers dust, stories, burdens, and stuff?

The “What” of our lives must always be The Lord. We must see Jesus so that we are filled with the treasures of knowing him. 

This morning I decided that the table had become a burden. It needed to go. The problem was that it was too heavy to get out on my own. I had been able to slide it from room to room but I would not be able to get it out of the front door and to the right receptacle for disposal without help. I went down and asked at the front desk. The answer was that I had to wait for help and perhaps pay for assistance later. That didn’t reassure me.

When we get swept by an impulse that seems almost greater than our own hearts, it is often for our ‘greater good’. Something new seems to be desiring to enter in but the old needs to move out. Have you ever had that experience?

Then for a reason that I did not understand at the time, I decided to drag the table out of the front door to the elevator while holding my lower back to test if ‘all was OK. I was on a mission. I could not be stopped. The hall was empty. I was alone so early in the morning. I remember thinking to myself, “This looks ridiculous. I know it is being caught on the security camera but I don’t care. I am dragging this table out.”

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,  for we walk by faith, not by sight.- 2 Corinthians 5:6-7

There I went down the hall towards the elevator with one hand gripped on the table and the other onto my back. I did not know how it would work at the lobby level because there was a glossy floor that might scratch. I was trusting the process from moment to moment. The elevator door opened. I dragged the table in.

Psalm 55:22
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

The solid bottom of the table got caught in the grove of the opening in the elevator door. I am staring at the dilemma. Then suddenly a young woman appeared out of nowhere and held the door open. She smiled at me and said, “Hello, do you recognize me?”. I smiled and nodded, “Yes!”. I didn’t, but she looked so lovely and kind. She was Ethiopian, a relative of one of my neighbors. She asked about the table and I explained that I was discarding it and that it was heavy. Helping me to slide it onto the elevator, she asked again as we were traveling toward the lobby, “Don’t you know me? My Grandmother is ‘the tall woman’.” Oh, I thought quickly, the holy woman. Well, that explains her kind shiny face. I have two neighbors that are from Ethiopia who lived on the edge of the Ark of The Covenant for most of their lives until they were forced by civil war to evacuate and come to the USA. I love them very much.

Then as the elevator reached the first floor she quickly offered to lift the table and help me to transport it to the right room to have it discarded. I thanked her and told her I knew that Jesus had been with us that morning. She smiled and understood.

Galatians 6:2
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Are you as amazed at this holy intervention as I was? I did not know what would happen when the elevator opened at the lobby. I would not have been able to drag it. Something in my heart expected a miracle. I had been stuck even getting it into the elevator! The young woman appeared as if from nowhere!

As I walked back into my home, I thanked Jesus for being so close. The way that we are still spoken to in parables amazes me. Not only are we seen and helped but Our Lord sends His own to assist us. His help comes in ways so many miraculous if we are willing to step out and take the first bold move.

We do the “light-lifting”. That means preparing our hearts to meet God at his Door. Jesus does the “heavy lifting”. He provides the door and the Way. He takes us There. 

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.- John 10:9

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:6-7

He opens the way for us. Often when we cannot see, we do not know what is ahead yet we walk forward held by His Love, trusting in His Glory.

The Burden became a Miracle!

Heavy, in scripture, means “Glory”, When I look back on this ‘fresh’ parable in my life, I see my concern about not having the ability to lift something with my own power, my own ability. When I gave that up and trusted in something ‘beyond me’ to intervene and moved forward despite the evidence in front of my physical eyes, I ignored the physical weight which was based upon worldly value. I expected a miracle. 

I used my spiritual eyes. Faith increased. The glory of the outcome and of the task went to God. That shifted the ‘weight’ of the table. It became light, filled with new possibilities and like my heart, the moment began to transform. I did get stuck but God intervened and sent His messenger to assist me. He used the daughter of a holy woman who loves Him vividly, devotionally. This is the beauty of God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

His Glory is everywhere. I witness that He seeks to bear our burdens and reach to us with Love. He longs to encourage each of us.

We are not alone nor are we separate from one another. The Lord allowed this burden to become a small miracle before me that morning. His love is gifted to us every day, every hour.

It is in this precious miracle that we trust, not with our human eyes but by faith.

© 2019 Linda Willows