Heart Openers.

phone imageIn yoga class, we do a lot of postures we call heart openers. I have struggled at times in my life to take this stance with God and with people. So recently every time the instructor offers the option to do this in a pose I take it. I use it as a mental reminder and an invitation, because opening my heart is an action and a posture I choose with intention. Open my heart. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how uncomfortable it feels.

So if you don’t do yoga, for the purpose of keeping it simple, just imagine clasping your hands behind your back. When you pull your shoulders back and your shoulder blades closer together, it opens up your chest.

Some of the poses that yoga refers to as heart openers are what we call bind poses. For the non yogis, binds are usually some variation of trying to grab your hands behind your back, the easiest one I can think to describe is a deep squat, feet pointed out, and you place the right arm around the outside of the right leg, right under the knee, and then the left arm wraps back around the back of your body and tries to grab the other hand. I hear the word bind and in my mind it has a negative connotation. God however has used it to teach me something really quite beautiful and refreshing. In yoga, “Binding, when done correctly, allows the body to relax, deepen into a pose, and hold for a longer period of time.”

God nudged my heart while in this pose. Let’s talk about this.  (haha. Great timing. I feel uncomfortable and unfocused on anything but what I’m doing, but I say ok.)

He was helping me to realize when I “bind up my hands”, (my works, my dreams, my desires, my plans) and open my heart to God (His works, His dreams, His desires, His plans), it allows me to relax, to rest, to abide in faith. Binding my hands doesn’t mean that I’m trapped or imprisoned by God. It means that I’m free, because it’s not my job to control and work for everything. When I think about this, I think about my dad, a man was drowning and my dad went in to help him, but the man was flailing and flapping and almost drown my dad with him! Sometimes the best thing for us to do is to let God help us without trying to save ourselves. When I bind up my hands, I let God be God and take steps in faith.

Binding my hands allows me to go deeper with God because it opens my heart for intimacy. It allows me to open my heart to truly know him and to be known. Binding my hands and opening my heart allows me to have perseverance. It allows me to not just survive as life goes on around me, but to actually thrive. He empowers me to live a righteous and pure life, no matter how uncomfortable. And the more you do this the easier it becomes and you begin to take this posture in more than one area of your life.

This is painful at times. And sometimes we do this in faith and feel sore from it afterward. But connection is always worth it. I urge you to choose connection with God and the people around you today and every day.

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Home.

God has given me two “wake up” calls in my life that truly shook me. This is my phase two. In this one I’m learning (not perfectly, but it’s still amazing to me) to be a morning person (yeah you heard right, #miracle), to fast, to balance my life, to be honest when I hurt and allow myself to feel emotions and not live by them, to check my heart every morning, to sing (and I mean belt it out, no instruments) in public places, to choose Him when I need it, to give up, to crave, to dig in, to praise and worship and laugh through tears …It’s beautifully terrible (haha), beautifully painful, and so beautifully worth it.

In this phase, He is in the process of resetting my heart, because it needs it. I’m learning balance is hard and it isn’t just within 24 hours. A well balanced person by the world’s standards is a multi tasker. The one who gets it all done and it was the standard I set for myself.  I’m learning it’s ok to not do it all and I love choosing to spend my free time with Jesus singing and laughing and falling in love with Him instead of fixing the best dinner or getting in more gym time. Balance needs to be spread throughout the week. It’s not about making sure I complete 10 things all in one day, it means maybe I complete all 10 or maybe only 8 of my 10 things over the course of a week. He is my number one and everything else falls at number two. Everything.

I’ve talked a lot about transition with Jesus lately, because I’m in one. Right now my “home” is a room full of boxes, and I don’t know where anything is. Since the house is under some renovation and I can’t unpack even if I wanted to, God is teaching me when I open my Bible, wherever I am, that’s Home. He’s all I need, and that is the excursion I’m on. In the midst of transition I see this picture of myself standing in what looks like Times Square. It’s a time hop video where I just stand as the people and cars and world and the weather whirls around me for hours, turning from day to night back to day. In the midst of chaos, or turbulent waves, I can keep my eyes on Him and that’s how you sleep in the storm. That’s how you walk on water.

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I was walking downtown last week and the little girl, whose family I’m living with, grabs my hand and looks up at me. She starts sharing with me about how much she wants to see Finding Dory and what she is looking forward to as they leave their home, friends, and life here. I saw this beautiful, eager, brave, bold, little girl loving without abandon or hurt. I felt her little fingers hold mine, life coursing through her veins. She glows with Jesus’ radiant joy. And for a second, I saw what Jesus sees when He holds our hands and walks with us. He cares about what you love. He cares about what makes your heart come alive, whether that is a verse, a mountain, a sunset, laughter, a Disney film, or all of the above. He’s a good dad, who wants you to tell Him all the things in your life with eager, childlike wonder. I’ve tasted Your goodness and I want nothing else. Nothing. I took a sip and now you might as well call me crazy. Life is too short, to not spend every second exploding with what I have in me.

Why give anybody else, the glory.Why give anybody else, my praise.Why give anybody else, my worship.Why give anybody else, my days.

He is worth it all.

I don’t know what you are walking through. I don’t know what you are feeling, but I know you have a dad who is pursuing your heart each step of each day. I know how real that is. I know that whether you are climbing mountains, slaying beasts, fighting to hold on, sliding down the mountain side unsure of when the bottom will come, or walking through the valleys in between. He is with you. He knows what your favorite flower is, He knows what stirs your heart, He knows what makes you uniquely you, and if you look for it you’ll start to see how He is pursuing you wherever you are. He is with you whether you ask Him to be or not. He is with you before you “make it”. He is with you when you don’t have a home address, He doesn’t need it to find you. I’m praying for His eyes for us. That we may see the things He sets out for us. That we would notice His heart for others. That we would see people how he sees them. Pray that we learn to balance our hearts and lives with Him first, so we can be the peace in the storms around us.

Pressed.

Friday dates with Jesus might be my new favorite and this place has become a place of refuge with Him. When a lot of my circumstances seem to be in a state of transition, this place with Him has been my constant the last few weeks. Walking yesterday I came across this beautiful image of two paths, that I somehow have missed the many times I’ve walked by…ohhhhh. Point proven.

God led me into Matthew 7 and Luke 9.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14.
That word for hard is from the Greek word thlibo which means to press (as grapes, a compressed way, or to trouble, afflict, distress). As soon as I see it means to press, I think of the garden of Gethsemane which means the winepress of oils. Now that is a topic all in itself. Jesus was pressed to the extreme after talking with His dad here. And what was the result? THE most beautiful love story of all time. When we think about the pressure put on something to squeeze the oil out of it you see a beautiful picture of what we are called into as Christians. Life may not always look how we thought, or feel how we thought. Sometimes it will be better than we could ever imagine and other times hurt worse than we care to be conscious through. But that isn’t the point. The point is what do you produce from whatever it is life sends your way? The point is Jesus didn’t have to die, but he chose to because he loves us. The same is true for us. When we encounter tough situations we can endure through them because of His promises for eternity. But we have a choice to make, and our love means nothing without the freedom to choose it.
Right before this passage in Matthew the Bible says ask and it will be given to you. It describes how parents want to give their children good things and so how much more would He want to give you everything you desire in this life. God wants to give you everything, He doesn’t want you to have to endure hard things, He doesn’t want suffering. He wants to give us the desires of our hearts (Psalms 37:7) Are we willing to give up the picture we paint of how it looks? I need to be willing to give up my plans for my life in exchange to partake in the greatest adventure we could ever imagine, because it’s actually not my life at all.
Then He shows me Luke 9: 57-62. God gives us three examples here of people who said they wanted to follow Him. His response isn’t just a great lets go. Jesus responds by saying this isn’t the easy way. It can be uncertain at times. I need you to understand that this way you need to “hate” everything else in comparison to how much you love Me. Family, Friends, Job, Spouse, Children, because in comparison you love Me that much, because that’s what it’s going to take to stand firm in this. He wants you to have good things and not everyone of us is called to give up everything, but we might be. And in the moments of hard callings where is your heart? Because proverbs 4:23 says, “above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Back in Luke 9 I love the last verse. “Jesus said to him, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Maybe this sounds harsh, but what God is saying is look at Me. Look to Me. Don’t take your eyes off me and I will make your paths straight. Like a man plowing a field looks to something in the distance to make straight lines for his crops. I just see Him holding my chin in His hand, a tear rolling down my cheek. A gentle, loving father. It’s hard, it might hurt right now, but it’s worth it.

Blush.

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I think that in society, we don’t like the idea of blushing. It means we are embarrassed about something, am I right?

I was grabbing lunch from a fast food chain with my parents last weekend and I saw a younger girl, probably a high school student, grabbing her drink. She’s a beautiful girl. Long curly hair, tan skin. I noticed something though. Her shorts were awfully short, fitted and she was wearing a decorative bra for the purpose that it was to show out of her tank top.

Now I know what you are thinking, old lady Jamie over here judging the youth. I do want to just put this thought in your mind for a second. And I’ve been challenged with this myself the past few days. Challenged in my heart and mind as I unpack clothes and put them in the closet, threw out multiple shorts, that’s right threw out, because I decided I don’t want to pass these on to someone else. In doing so, I had this beautiful weird thought,  I want to bring back what it means to blush. I think our society as a whole should want to bring back what it means to blush. In the best way. We are exposed to a lot these days and it’s almost like we just aren’t surprised anymore. I just realized the man I want to marry one day, I want him to find my shoulders attractive, my fingers attractive, my toes. The way I hold a cup of coffee in my hand or laugh when it’s too big to care if my gums are showing (yes that’s a thing). I want to respect myself enough to know that I’m worth waiting for and that he is worth protecting in what I choose to wear until that day. I want to make only one man blush with the beauty God gave me the ability to reveal. Maybe that sounds like TMI or uncomfortable, but like I said I urge you to truly think about this.

Modesty isn’t for the faint of heart. It is a position of the heart and a mindset and it might take some wrestlin’ within ourselves to understand, challenge accepted. It’s saying not just I want to be careful what I wear, but I want to think differently about how I compose myself. When a man or woman compliments you in some way, they are actually complimenting the glory of God! And one of the hardest things, at least in my own life, is to just accept that compliment. You are beautiful, and that is a manifestation of the image of God on and in you!

I want to urge you to really think about this ladies, we complain about our bodies and the first thought that comes into my mind is this image from the movie Mean Girls. They stand in front of the mirror and all start saying things they don’t like about themselves. My hips are huge, I hate my calves, my pores are huge, my hairline is weird, my nailbeds suck. (haha, those are direct quotes).

How often do we get ready in the morning or to go somewhere and feel less than par. Some days I feel like a 3 and on a good day maybe I’ll feel like a 7, but the truth is we are all 10’s, because on my 3 day or my 7 day, God fills me up to 10. We are comparing ourselves to other women and we see what we have as not enough, what if every time you said “Wow! Jesus the stars are really breathtaking!” His response was, “Well yeah, but that one is out of place, those are too close together, that earthquake happened and that mountain was beautiful until it’s now crumbling, that comet won’t stay where I put it, it keeps running off…”. What if God had only had the stars shine in the day and at night they were just dark? You see sometimes it’s also about timing. One day it’s going to be ok to show it all off for the man or woman God gives you, and it’s going to be beautiful. You shouldn’t have to worry if he’s going to stick around after you bear it all. You shouldn’t feel worried that this man will leave if you don’t have a six pack, a two pack, a backpack, fanny pack, whatever pack, because the stars are shining when they should. The purpose is the right one and God will smile down on it and it will be good. When we shine our stars in the day no one really cares. The suns out, there is skin everywhere. It’s hot. It’s in style. Believe me ladies, I have a hard time finding shorts and dresses. I feel your pain, but there are better options and they are worth searching for.  I just hope this midi dress is sticking around because I’ll tell you what,  I love it. I digress…

When we speak condemnation over our bodies, our lives, we invite death in. I had this amazing picture of myself tending a garden. I was unhappy with God because 7 out of the 8 plants I had in my garden were dying, barely sprouting, and then the one that was flourishing. I didn’t know what that meant so I asked God, “why are you showing me this?”

I felt like he told me you think you only have this one quality. But I gave you all eight, you just told yourself you didn’t have the other 7 and you didn’t water them, you didn’t nurture these traits in your life. You told yourself you are a tomboy, you aren’t feminine, you aren’t good at cooking, you aren’t very good at hospitality, you aren’t blah blah blah. You condemned these qualities you have.

There is a story in Mark 11 where Jesus curses a fig tree. I believe words are powerful, especially when we repeat them over and over in our lives.  Wow. Conviction. Let’s speak life into our lives and the lives of others. Let’s invite Jesus into our “dark” places. Let’s invite God to speak Truth into our lives. At Bible study yesterday we are studying the armor of God, and we discussed the devils tactics. This is a perfect example. You are created in beauty. The beauty of the Almighty God. You can’t lose it or earn it for that matter. It’s a part of your design, and since the devil can’t actually take if from you, he will do everything he can to make you believe the lie that you don’t have it at all. You are beautiful. You are worth it all. You have confidence. Let’s learn what it means to blush again.

Grand.

imageIt’s been a crazy few days. Actually weeks. Life has not felt instagram worthy, and yet it always is.

A few weeks ago God gave me an opportunity to see the Grand Canyon. I’ve been dreaming of this experience for awhile now.

I remember the bus trip there. Long. Early morning. Maybe a little bit anxious. Disappointments arose throughout the day, but God kept reminding me that the goal was Grand and not the pitstops along the way and to just embrace the journey.

When the moment came to walk up, it felt so strange and I saw it in the distance and can feel it even now as I type the words, the lump in your throat, eyes filling with tears. It’s here. It’s in front of me. It doesn’t even look real. I was expecting it to be alive. To move. I don’t know, but it was so still. It just was.

I escaped off and found a quiet spot to enjoy this moment with Jesus and take it all in. I sat at the edge and felt God tell me in my heart, “This is how much I love you.” I got you here when you never thought you would have the time or the money or the company. And here you are. Tears filled my eyes, because I knew it was true.

This past week, Jesus asked me to come outside one night and watch the stars with Him. I laughed thinking about the funny, amazing wonderful times I’d spent in this home. I cried thinking about what I’ll miss as I move on to the next one. I cried seeing the girl I was when I moved in and the woman I am now as I move out. New beginnings can be exciting, but they can also be terribly scary.

On that porch, I sat under the starry summer sky and sang song after song to Jesus. Crying and just being thankful. (It’s ok you can laugh at the scene of an almost 30 year old wrapped in a blanket laying on the deck watching stars, my neighbors and my roommate probably did.) I’m so thankful for this life. Even when it hurts so bad you want to wallow a little longer…And then you hear God pursue your heart.

I heard Jesus say to me on that porch looking at this beautiful, breathtaking sky I can’t even comprehend, “Jamie, this is how much I love you.” (cue ugly cry)

Now all this to tell you. This life is short. It’s a speck in time. My heart is so alive and in love with the King of it all. He is in love with you. Not the kind that falls in and falls out. Not the kind that does what it wants when it wants or when you do what it wants. Not the kind that is convenient. The kind that breaks the norm. The one that kicks down doors and walls to get to you. The one that never stops chasing you. And He is the creator. He is the King. He is everything.

Now bear with me. I’m talking telescopes. I read something beautiful and I want to urge you to look at this beautiful reality. (Science nerd.)

The hubble space telescope.

“The light the telescope can see has been traveling for years and years to get there.” Whoa. “So you’re telling me that the light it’s seeing for the first time right this second is light that’s been already traveling toward it for years?”

Yep.

Unbelieveable. Even before that telescope could see-even before it existed-light was already traveling toward it . It may be that the Hubble is chasing the edge of the universe, but the reality is that the light from the edge of the universe was chasing the telescope way before scientists had even made the plans to put it into orbit. The telescope has to “choose” to see, yes. But the glory to be seen was always there, always sprinting right down to its level. -Grace Thronton

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Light of the world has been in love and pursuing you before you were born. Before you chose Him. Before you knew maybe that He existed.

The point of this was absolutely beautiful and I hope that you can see it. You see, I saw the Grand Canyon and I was amazed when God said I love you this much. It seemed like it was a huge deal, right? Except God challenged me and then he hit it home when reading Grace’s words. She used the example of the ocean. It’s massive, but you see, the ocean or the Grand Canyon and all it’s grand-ness ends. It has limits. I might not see the end, but it does in fact end. However when God showed me the stars He was calling me to know and understand something that I cannot yet comprehend. Limitless. Boundless. Endless. Infinite. However you want to word it, love.