A Last Word on Less {Goodbye 2012}

I remember the initial challenge. One. Word. A word that sets your intention for the year. I am not one who struggles to find words. Words are the chariots of fire that roll through my mind in the dark of night. Words are the fuel that propel me onward through days that become one in a never-ending story. Committing to one word for me was like asking a kangaroo to lasso a great white shark, from a boat…during a blizzard…at night. On another planet. OK, maybe I exaggerate. Just a little. I think knowing that others were setting there intention and focus through these communities helped me feel less alone. But still…when God whispered to me in that still small voice the word Less, I was really not thrilled  exactly open to the idea. Yet, I knew there was wisdom in it. Though my flesh did protest, I listened and accepted this One Word for 2012. Less. 
He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30
So I pondered, prayed and wrote up that post and joined my one word with many one words and became one with a whole bunch of others…and asked God to answer me the question Could Less Be Best?
Because you know I tend to be a little slow and sometimes I don’t hear so well…that is when God is talking to me anyway. Fortunately He is fairly patient with me. I mean sometimes I get a little nervous and think He might just have the earth split and swallow me, but so far He shows me grace and mercy despite my stubborn sheep tendency. He does faithfully lead me beside the still water but occasionally He will also Take Me To The River  (so I can hear him better). 

I’d like to say I have it all together after walking a year with this word looking back at me from my desk, blog and heart. Instead I recognize it is this Living Word, very real Savior and Faithful Guide who leads me to His ultimate destination His way, in His time and by means that amaze and humble me. I know not the way He goes, but I know that there is no turning back. In all of it I learn to yield, trust, submit to that which I still do not fully grasp. In this process there is transformation, reconciliation and true salvation. All being worked together without my effort, acknowledgement or often, awareness. This holy path from which I will not depart but walk at exactly the right pace, as He allows it to widen or narrow before me. 

I still have much to learn…but this year as I pondered how much more Jesus needs to reign within my heart I was led to the verses which exemplify what love looks like so well. The timeless verses of 1 Corinthians 13. The Love chapter. I realized that less of me and more of Jesus might mean that love would be magnified in me. That Jesus would reign and be revealed. 

My paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13 with the help of “The Message” Bible:

Never gives up.
Cares more for others than self. 
Doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Doesn’t strut.
Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Doesn’t force itself on others.
Isn’t always me first. 
Doesn’t fly off the handle. 
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Doesn’t revel when another grovels.
Enjoys truth’s growth.
Is never offended.
Trusts in God completely. 
Always sees the good.
Does not look back. 
Perseveres til the end.

This is a portrait of Christ. He lives within you and me and ultimately He will have His own look just like Him! Oh, Lord, I have so far to go. But I do hope in you!

The pursuit of Less led me to Love and authentic Love always leads to the One who is love and that is God. (1 John 4:8)

The Women’s Bible Study I participated  in wrapped up in December, and when I missed a class the leader  made sure to save me a special “challenge” card that each lady had received. On the front there was a bible verse and theme; on the back a specific directive to follow. It was no surprise to me that I got Ephesians 5:21. Submit to One Another. On the back: “Specifically this week consider where you fit in in the body of Christ or in family relationships. We are not always #1!” Ouch. Less of me Lord, more of You. I have always struggled with the fitting in. As a matter of fact, I mostly go through life feeling pretty much like I don’t fit in! But God says we all have a place and it comes in the submitting one to another that begins with considering where we fit in, only after we submit to Him. If we are not submitted to Him, we will not be ready to submit to those we love or others in a healthy, balanced way. Selfishness  reigns and He is dethroned. But if we submit ourselves to Him, He enables us to submit to one another. He is glorified.

 “Submit to one another<sup class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: 'Charis SIL', charis, Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; text-align: start; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> out of reverence for Christ.”
Ephesians 5:21

Less of me and more of Him…
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Still learning.
Abba, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit, as I learn to fly…
I thank you for these lessons, your patience and your promises. 

“Take these broken wings and learn to fly
 All your life 
You were only waiting for this moment to arise…”
Paul McCartney

A special thank you to Bonnie @ Faith Barista, Alece @ One Word 365, and Melanie @ Only A Breath who make this Bloggy World a whole lot smaller in a really BIG, wonderful way! Thank you, Ladies!

The Day He Remembered He Was A Dog

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 
1 Timothy 1:7

He is a funny character.
He still growls when my hubby kisses me goodbye.
He makes grunt sounds as if he tries to speak at times. 
He likes to be the center of attention and makes it known in a variety of ways.
He thinks the couch makes a fine bed, although he will settle for his own when told.
He is one happy tail wagging, welcome wagon to his family members when they return home.
He gets along well with the cats and does not eat the bunny, to our great relief.
Sometimes, I wonder if he thinks he is one of us. He looks to us for his cue to where he fits in. 
Like a child at times he competes for attention. He never misses scrap opportunities while I prepare lunches. He believes he should have a taste of everything that we eat. When I walk him at the beach he is uninterested in people, and only has eyes for me. Occasionally he will look at a dog and bark to make sure they know that I am his bone. “Back off”  in doggy language is pretty easy to understand.
Until this one day.
 Something was different.

As we were coming near the end of our beach walk on a chilly afternoon.
He noticed the Piping Plovers. It’s not like they are not always there when we walk, but this time he seemed to be awake to their presence. It was as if someone knocked him upside the head and said, “Duh, hello- see the birds? You are a dog and you should chase those guys!”
But, the leash.
Ah, sweet restraint. 
I sensed his interest. 

Off the leash has led to many, frustrations and altercations.
I looked around. It was cold, and some droplets of rain were falling. The beach was pretty empty.
I paused briefly, as he sought assurance in my face. I let him loose on those birds, knowing full well he did not have a chance. I would have never done it had I thought otherwise. 
What joy I beheld, as he seemed amazingly enthralled with the idea that he should chase these creatures.
At last he remembered who he really was. I was like an overprotective mother hovering over and not trusting that some unleashed beast would suddenly appear and wreak havoc on his joyful moment. 
But the moment was not stolen away from that old pup renewed!
This dog who walks the edges of the shore and runs from the rolling in waves dashed toward those precious plovers, given to the thrill of the chase and hope of a catch. Into the wave kissed shore toward the water; not too deep. Yet. I laughed and felt the pleasure of his moment, with an ever doting presence of my own. 
Always cautious, ever suspicious the moment will be robbed. At last realizing we would enjoy this gift and momentary pleasure together. I leashed him back up as we came to the parking lot. I saw him notice the gathering of sea gulls. He glanced at them, and back at me, eyes pleading approval. I dropped the leash and watched as the gulls easily stole away.
Ah, but the joy of it.
I would not let him be deprived of it.
The fleeting moment, beautiful.
The day he remembered he was a dog.

Friend, God has spontaneous moments of joy prepared for you. He delights in you as you delight in Him and receive from him with thanksgiving each moment fearlessly. Let’s consider embracing all He gives with thanksgiving. Trusting in His goodness. Not expecting to be robbed of it, like I was in the story…suspiciously awaiting the Goliath moment; almost allowing fear to rob the present joy. 
I am learning this…even as I walk the beach with my sweet pup. 
One day at a time. 
Seeing his joy and the way he forgot his fear of the water and waves in the moment reminded me that I too, need to be fearless in embracing the future with my faithful God. 
I need to Fear Less. 
Trust more.
Embrace each moment as a gift from the Giver of good things. 
Shall we run toward the waves, fearlessly?
Will we trust, repenting and fleeing from the sins of doubt and fear of the unknown? 
Will we embrace faith running toward the everlasting arms?
Are you ready? 
On Your Mark- Let’s Go!
We all win, dear one. Of this you can be sure!
I did it at the start of the year…perhaps this is another in my lessons of Less for the year. 
For to the man that pleaseth him God giveth wisdom, and knowledge, and joy...
Ecclesiastes 2:26

Here are the pictures I snapped,  in the order of the story. 
I completely dedicate this writing to my friend Susie and her new fur baby, Layla, in light of the current growing pains the family is experiencing during their adjustment period! 

Be ready for joy in unexpected moments!
Linking up with Bonnie at Faith Barista!

The Lessons of Less: Take Me To The River

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, 
streams of living water will flow from within him.
John 7:38
Well here we are approaching the last few days of the first month of the new year. 
The path I have been travelling on has become narrow. Squeezed. Where it leads I’m not sure, but my faithful God has been revealing a few lessons on my journey. It’s early on this road trip, but I’m brave and foolish enough to share what He’s shown me so far. 
The Voice
Early morning. I feed the pets and prepare myself for my “quiet time”. The thought comes and is somewhat startling in it’s interruption into the space of my own mind. 
I hear, “Come away with me, alone”
I gather my things. I hear it with more clarity. Directly addressing my immediate plans.
Come away from the busyness of your quiet time. 
Oh, boy. I sense a gentle parental tone in this quietness.
Come away from all of your big ideas for yourself, Me and others.
Come away from your agenda, 
away from your thoughts, perceptions expectations, frustrations.
I confess I am stubborn.
Thickheaded. Coincidentally, Italian. Not that it matters. Just sayin’.
On this morning, I heard Him.
He wanted me alone. 
You’d think the reality of this would bring me to my knees, the impression was so strong.
So not of me.
I confess here the truth. I didn’t want to make the trip.
I felt God calling me away with Him and truth be told, I had more important things to do.
Hold your stones!
Hear me out, first.

The Argument

You see, there are obstacles…
after all the dog stared at me through pleading eyes with happy anticipation as I got dressed.
It’s not like I don’t have a “quiet time”. Planned.
How can I go for a walk, or even get out of the door with only the purpose to be with you, Lord?
Lord, look at this dog. Surely it’s selfish for me to walk without Him.
No camera?
You know I love to capture the beauty of your Creation.
No camera. Just to walk alone.
I’ll miss something, for sure.
(missing it already…still, keep your stones, Pharisees -Wait for it!)
But, I reasoned, at least I should walk briskly to get some exercise.
 That would be OK, right?
No itinerary,
No motive, or agenda…
away with Me.
So I went.
My Crowded Mind
As I ‘m walking on the beach feeling unsure, He speaks to me.
He tells me my head is crowded.
Then He reminds me of how I used to walk alone with Him along the shore.
Many years ago. Early in my Christian walk.
Early in my journey of seeking Him.
With only the purpose being to be with Him.
I forgot…
no dogs, camera, agenda.
No mission oriented search for stones.
Empty hands.
Open heart.
Soul Distraction

He told me my mind is busy and too crowded. 
He told me my soul is distracted.
I walked the full length of the beach.
The hissing, roaring waves chasing the shoreline and my head 
crowded with resistance to this very moment.
Finally, as I approach the place where the ocean and the river 
meet in a glorious union of strength and gentle perseverance, 
I am ready…
 to listen.

Peace Like A River

When you stand in this place, one ear hears the roar of the waves in the distance. As you get closer to the river, the trickling of the current, teases the other ear, like a sweet invitation to peace, tranquility, calm. Gentleness.

I realize my mistake.
As I walk alongside the river, my mind begins 
to quiet.

You can drop your stones now, if you haven’t already.

The ocean reminds me of the demands, distractions and presence of my earthly life.
Roaring, hissing, commanding my attention.

Yet the river ushers me into a peaceful, stillness, quietness. 
The promise of His Presence. 

The Lord desires this intimacy with each of us.
 So often we complicate the beauty, simplicity and magnificence of this truth.

We let the roar of the ocean drown out the trickle of the river.

Lord, I thank you for the lessons of less that you want to teach me. That you being God, would want to walk with me, talk with me, spend time with me.That you desire to touch each of us in the deepest places of our mind, heart and soul. You long to free us from the hold of earthly distractions that we may enjoy the precious promise of your presence. Let us never take this for granted. But when we do, return to you again, comforted by your Faithfulness and Everlasting Love.
In Jesus name, Amen.

This is how the LORD responds:
   If you return to me, I will restore you 
      so you can continue to serve me. 
   If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, 
      you will be my spokesman. 
   You must influence them; 
      do not let them influence you!

Jeremiah 15:19

Could Less Be Best?

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

I find it hard to believe that as I sought the Lord about a word to represent the year ahead, the word impressed upon me was “Less”. First of all let me say that I love words. There are a lot of good words I can think of to contemplate, focus and project into my new year. Less is not one of the words I would choose. Course, that is the key. My choice. I am OK with that because typically when given and assignment like this I go a little Ga-Ga! As a matter of fact at a Fitness Conference last year I had an epiphany. The suggestion was to have one word, and set your intention for the new year. So what did I do. First I grabbed a rock from the Boston hotel’s lobby and then I proceeded to think about some of my favorite words. Did I choose one? No. I wrote FOUR words on one side and a phrase on the other side of that sweet, oval rock. Sometimes, I think God just really has His hands full with me, but then I realize, hey, He’s God – He can handle the mess of me!

How ironic that in a culture, society and time that says “Be all that you can be”. Be more, do more, get more I hear God telling me the word that is my word if I will accept it, is less
Don’t think, this is where the conversation ended. See I am not so submissive like that. But, I debate, Lord- I like words and can think of lots of words that might be good for this next year in my life. Remember last year? I chose: energy, enthusiasm, creativity and focus. Good words, right? By the middle of the year I was sapped of my energy, my enthusiasm had run out, my creativity at a stand still and my focus unidentifiable. Um, Lord, I am listening. Less. Got it.
I’m not sure I get it but I’m willing to listen and have it your way, Lord. 
Audible, sigh.
So, I started to consider how less could be best for me and lead to more of God’s will for my life. 
If I complain less, I can praise Him more.
If I hurry less, I can enjoy the present moment more.
If I criticize less, I can encourage more.
If I judge less, I can love more.
If I talk less, I can listen more. 
If I want less, I can give more.
If I condemn less, I can forgive more. 
If I doubt less, I can believe more.
If I fear less, I can receive more. 
You see in the end, God knows what’s best and the less he is asking me to embrace is a less that will lead to more. More of Him. Now that’s less that I can live with. Or without. Oh, you know what I mean! 
So, this year I start with the word that is best for me.
God says it’s Less.
I think this year He has a few Less-ons to teach me.

Thank you for this One Word for 2012 Challenge , Bonnie! 

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