Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. John 14:13-14
I looked over his shoulder at his paper. The incomplete outline revealed that he was about six steps behind the rest of the class.
“You need to hurry and catch up,” I said.
“I’m lost.” He responded.
“When did you get lost?” I countered.
“At the beginning.”
Stunned, my simple response was, “Then, why didn’t you just ask me for help?”
Frustrations abound in the classroom. A simple request at the beginning of our assignment would have prevented my student from being lost throughout the majority of it. If he had asked, I would have helped him. I could have gotten him straightened out at the beginning, instead of having to backtrack several steps, restate directions the group had already covered, in order to get him on track and in the right place. He wouldn’t have been lost. All he had to do was ask.
As I read today’s passage, I thought sometimes God must gently shake his head back and forth whispering to himself, “Just ask.”
How many times have I stumbled through my day, week, month or year lost, frozen in place by my thoughts and emotions like a diver trapped in the sea by a school of circling sharks?
Worried. Stressed. Frustrated. Unsure. Overwhelmed. Undecided. Stuck. Hurt. Lost.
All the while God is whispering, “Just Ask.”
John 14:12-14 tells us that God is in the business of answering our prayers. He wants us to ask. He wants us to take care of our confusion in life at the beginning of things, not at the end. He doesn’t want us to be lost. He wants us to be on task doing what glorifies Him because when we are lost, we stop being productive. We start desperately looking around trying to find anything that will help us get back on track. Our confusion consumes us, eventually paralyzing us rendering us powerless for His purposes.
My student let his early confusion keep him from completing a task. He looked around at others. He talked. He couldn’t figure it out on his own, so he sat. Doing nothing. But, in reality, all he had to do was ask me for help and his problem would have been solved.
How about you? Are you confused about something? Concerned? Worried? Unsure? Overwhelmed?
Have you asked?
God doesn’t want our “why?” or “what next?” to grow into an “I can’t” or “I won’t.”
But, He can’t help us if we don’t ask.
A Good Hot Shower
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 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. Ezekiel 36:25-26
I could not wait to get out of my sweaty, nasty, dirt soaked clothes. I had been working in the yard for hours pulling weeds, tilling flower beds, and planting new perennials. The Florida humidity had made me hot, grumpy and tired.
In the shower, the grime began to melt off my skin and swirl down the drain as the hot water drummed across my back. Grabbing a clean towel as I stepped from the shower, I breathed in the fresh scent of Tide laundry detergent and Downy fabric softener. I inhaled the clean fragrance deeply through my nose fully enjoying the fresh smell. I pulled on a clean shirt and shorts leaving my stinky, sweaty work clothes crumpled on the floor at my feet.
I don’t know about you, but for me a good hot shower after a sweaty work out or day of grueling yard work is a gift. There is something almost magical about the way a shower feels when you are coated with salty sweat and caked in soil. The dirtier I am, the longer I tend to linger under the cleansing spray of my Delta shower-head.
Believe it or not, my internal spirit can get just as grimy and gritty as my outside skin. Things like bitterness, gossip, pride, disobedience and selfishness build up within me making my heart stiff and crusty like my boys’ leather batting gloves at the end of the baseball season. The once pliable leather gloves become cracked, brittle and unyielding as a season of sweat dries inside of them. The once new gloves have to be thrown away and replaced by new ones the next season.
In the same way, sin makes my heart stiff and unyielding towards the things of God. And, just like it takes a hot shower to melt the grime off my body, God uses His word to scrub the filth from my heart. The crustier my heart the longer it takes and the more elbow grease He has to use to make my heart pliable again.
Ezekiel 36:24-28 promises us that God will cleanse us and give us a new heart. He won’t let us stay stinky forever. He will remove the hurts that have hardened us and will make us supple again like new leather gloves or freshly washed clothes. He will do whatever it takes make us clean again and in right relationship with Him. And, just as I would never think of putting back on my dirty work clothes after my shower, He won’t let us go back to the way we were. He will replace our selfishness ambition with the will to walk in His ways.
Are you feeling a little bit grimy and gritty today? Step into the shower of God’s grace. Allow his presence to wash over you revitalizing your spirit with the fresh fragrance of His mercy. Then wrap yourself in the freshly laundered linens of His love and get ready to start fresh again.
Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life.
I John 2:24-25.
What I Learned From My Yoga Tree
I wobbled. I shook. I leaned over and planted my foot on the ground, regained my balance and started all over again. Left leg straight. Right foot to ankle, calf or inner thigh. Arms overhead. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Remain steady? No wobbling? No way!
My body is stiff and tight from many years of running with very little stretching. My calves, hamstrings, and hips have been crying out a long time now to be released from the tension I put them under running multiple half marathons and 5Ks during the year. Adding weight lifting to my already tense tendons, hasn’t helped the situation.
I knew I needed regular stretching and strengthening.
So, in June I started doing yoga at the YMCA.
I had considered trying yoga for a long time, but the fear of looking ridiculously stiff in a room filled with flexible Lululemon yoga pants kept me outside of the studio. But, with the encouragement of a friend, a class that fit my schedule, and my favorite YMCA instructor leading it, I donned my Old Navy yoga crop pants and started my summer of stretching.
Yoga is hard.
Flexibility is hard.
Balance is hard.
Did I say, yoga is hard?
Focus is the key to it.
Yoga requires tuning out the distractions around you, letting go of the tensions in your body, suspending your self-conscious concern and leaning into the movements. I can’t relax if I am worried someone is looking at me or if I am looking at them.
I am learning.
I am learning to tune out the distraction of my perceived awkwardness in the midst of the graceful.
I am learning.
I am learning to still my heart and body through breathing, focus, and movement. I am learning to tune into and release the tension my body is tightly holding in different places. I am learning to untie the overused twisted tendons and knots of stress I have tied around my back, neck, shoulders, and hamstrings.
I am learning.
I am learning to improve my balance. I am learning to steady myself in an unbalanced position by fixing my eyes on an immovable object instead of focusing on my quivering legs and arms. I am learning to become physically stable, not because of me, but because of the object on which I am focused.
I John 2:24-25 describes spiritual stability. Spiritual stability that comes by connecting the word abide to our relationship with God and the promise of eternal life. John states that if we allow what we know to be true to abide (adhere, comply, rule, keep, stay) in us, then we abide (dwell, last, remain stable) in the Son and the Father. In other words, when we fix our wobbling hearts and minds on the immovable object of God and His word, we become stable in our faith. Just like I stop wobbling in yoga when I fixate on a spot that is not moving, we can remain steady in faith because God and his truth doesn’t move even when we quiver. When our world is unbalanced our steadiness comes from fixing our eyes, not on our circumstances, but on the truth of God’s word.
Hebrews 12:2 describes faith steadying focus this way, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus the author, and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus was able to endure all that He did because He was focused on one unwavering truth. In the same way, we can remain steadfast in our faith when we focus on the constant truths of God’s word and not the unstable circumstances that surround us.
So, if your faith is feeling a little shaky today, think about how I have to steady my yoga tree by focusing on a static spot on the wall, then pick a truth from God’s word and focus on it. Breathe it in and out allowing God’s immovable truth to quiet your quivering heart.
Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. Psalms 91:14
I looked down and there it was coiled in a tight circle lying millimeters from my feet. Simultaneously my body reeled back my mouth let out a yelp. The black racer had taken me by surprise scaring the heck out of me resulting in an over-dramatic response on my part.
I hate snakes. They scare the heck out of me. I don’t like the way they hide. I don’t like the way they move. I don’t like snakes. I shudder at the thought of them.
The Psalmist writes about serpents and lions for a reason. Serpents are sneaky and lions are fierce. Our lives are filled with sneaky and fierce struggles. Struggles that startle us like hiding snakes or devour us like lions. They can be skirmishes with ourselves, others, or outside forces.
How about you?
Are you struggling with lions and serpents in your life today? Are powerful circumstances pressing down upon you? Stalking you? Encircling you? Closing in on you?
Is your heart racing, palms sweating and head swiveling as the clamping jaws of your circumstance open wider ready to pull you to the ground and devour you?
Or maybe your steps, words and heart are guarded today because of the venomous words and actions of the people slithering around you. Are you having to step lightly around the coiled cobras of anger, bitterness, insecurity, ambition, or manipulation?
Are you living in fear with your toes down and heals up, eyes scanning the lay of the land, hoping to avoid the strike of a heart-stopping poisonous fang from the mouth of a viper?
Psalms 91:13-16 cries out to us:
The words in these few verses not only proclaim the protection of God, but also tell of the triumph of the trusting. If we hold fast in Him in love then He will:
Be with us.
Today, when trying circumstances are circling and mean people are prowling, lift your eyes up, take heart, hang on, press on and prevail because God’s got this and you. He is greater than anything or anyone we could ever encounter.
Got snakes and lions nearby? Walk confidently in their midst because faith in God has given you impenetrable protective boots to wear.
So, stop tiptoeing and start stomping. Faith boots were made for walking.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.