"Once we clearly acknowledge the soul, we can learn to hear it's cries. - Dallas Willard, Renovation Of The Heart."

It takes courage to pursue our dreams. It takes time and patience to unearth buried treasure. But I believe with all my heart that we must do both.


Which Kingdom?

I have noticed several bloggers selecting a "word" for the year. Something to accomplish, or a way of being. I was not going to pick one, but a word or concept kept coming up. I decided to choose one.

ABIDE - This is why.

This is taken from Desiring God's Will", by David Benner
Kingdom of Self
Ruled by self-interest
Clenched fists and closed heart
Hard and brittle

Kingdom of God
Ruled by love
Open hands and heart
Soft and malleable

"Given the sharpness of the contrast, one might wonder how these two kingdoms can coexist. But they do. Many of us – perhaps even most of us – have one foot uncomfortably but firmly planted in each. Jesus warned about the dangers of trying to do this (Matthew 6:24). But fear, laziness, greed, mistrust and an illusory sense that ultimately we are in the best position to know how to achieve our own fulfillment keep us from an unequivocal surrender of the keys to the kingdom of self. Perhaps like Ananias and Sapphire (Acts 5:1-3) we foolishly make a pretense of turning over the keys but keep back an extra set just in case we need to take control again at some point in the future. In one way or another we try to keep our options open. If I am honest, I have to admit that much of the time I find myself moving back and forth between the two kingdoms. I open my hands and heart to God and others, and then I find myself grasping and controlling life with clench-fisted-willfulness. I catch sight of the grandeur of God's kingdom vision and feel the paltry worthlessness of my own, and then I find I have again turned from God and am busy protecting my petty self-interests and controlling my life to maximize what I think will be my fulfillment.

But after four decades of Christ-following, one thing above all has become supremely clear to me. I can't make the spiritual changes that I want to make on my own. I cannot will myself into surrender. I cannot simply screw up my determination and chose God's will over mine once and for all.

What I can do, however, is talk with God honestly about the realities of my soul. And I can turn back toward God and once again hear Jesus' gentle words of invitation.
Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

Hearing this invitation, everything within me wants to draw near and receive the gift of love that Jesus represents – not out of obligation but out of a soul-aching desire. And each time I do, my heart is slowly but progressively more aligned with the heart of God – God's desires becoming my desires and God's will becoming my will.

Take some time to prayerfully reflect on the ways you continue to live in the kingdom of self and resist surrender to the reign of Perfect Love. Think about how you spend your money, and use your time. Reflect on your dreams for yourself and others. What do these things tell you about which kingdom has your heart and primary allegiance?

As you do this, don't allow yourself to be distracted by feelings of guilt. They simply point you back toward yourself, typically leaving you still stuck by now more miserable. Guilt is not enough to motivate surrender.

Instead, ask for God's desires and priorities to become yours. Listen to the invitation of Jesus to join him in the reign of love that is life in the kingdom of God. Hear his call to come to him for the rest that results from taking up his cross and his cause. Ask him for fresh appreciation and renewed (or first-time) excitement about the possibility of working with him on the advancement of God's plan to displace all kingdoms of this world and replace them with his glorious reign. As Willard put it: "Review your plans for living and base your life on this remarkable new opportunity."

I want to be ruled by love not by self-interest.
I want to be releasing, not grasping.
I want to experience and live from the gift that has been given, and not seek my worth from my achievements.
I want to give God permission to do the changing, because striving in my own strength does not last.
I want to be sharing this journey with authentic community, not trying to go it alone.
I want to be releasing,not holding.
I want to be willing, not willful.
I want to have open hands and a open heart, not clenched and closed.
I want to be soft and malleable, not hard and brittle.
I want to be transformed, not with just determination that is not capable of lasting change.

The way these changes will take place is abiding. Sitting at God's feet, allowing his ways, his will, his heart to become mine.

A splendid adventure.


Anita said...

Thanks...I needed that

Wepa said...

Hi Mary,
I'm wiping the tears away so that I can hit the proper keys. Know that you have been used by God to speak to my heart this morning. I finally made it back to Create by Faith, only to end up here...and I'm glad!

God Bless you,


Elena said...

Oh just beautiful! Thank you!

Cre8tvlyyrsGina said...

Wow! This post...God's words...your words...everything in this post is sooo inspiring!! It is something I will definately want to come back and review time to time!! You are such an inspiration!! Thanks for sharing that part of yourself and God bless you always for it!! Gina :)

Katy said...

Mary, God used you as an instrument of His grace today. I am so blessed!

S. Etole said...

abiding ... takes time and patience ... thanks for the reminder of the best kingdom

sarah said...

this is beautiful Mary and I have learned how much I need to be really close to Him...otherwise me takes over and I don't like the me without Him.

Just Be Real said...

Mary this is really a great post. Such encouragement and to see how God works in His children. Blessings and thank you for the reminder to have Him with me!

lori vliegen said...

your journal page illustrates all of this so beautifully, mary! fabulous!! :))

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

Wow Mary, you really have many gifts. You are an artist and a writer and I bet you could even be a counselor! Your words are so wise and God directed. I am inspired once again today because you wrote down what God put in your heart.

Thank you-

Lee Ann

Brenda said...

I agree.

CountryDreaming said...

Love your reflection today ... It's something that the world really needs to hear right now, and it helps me personally to hear it again. You know, I think we could solve the current economic problems if only we would live by the principles of God's Kingdom. There would be enough to go around and more if people looked out for each other guided by the love of Christ.

Chandrika Shubham said...

I liked to read spritual writings. This is really nice.
I feel GOD is always with us, in every situation whether it good or bad time of life.


Dear Mary,

Very true... that's it... very very true... your words are full of sincerity and conviction... all your thoughts and reflections are inspiring and really encouraging... there's no doubt why many love this stuff of yours... I enjoyed the read... thank you!!!:)

BTW, let me thank you for understanding our situation and for your prayers... very much appreciated...!!!:)

God Bless!!!:)

Good day!!!:)


katie purcell said...

I found your blog and added it to my favorites. Your words, your heart, your art are like little encouragements to me from the Lord each day. Thank you for letting the Lord flow through your life to minister to His sheep.
Abiding together in Christ,
Katie Purcell

Christina Colwell said...

Lovely blog. Glad I stumbled upon it it. Thank you for visiting.

I suppose my theme word for this year wouold have to be Forgiveness.

Bevie said...

It's true sis, God has been flowing thru you for a very long time now. I feel so blessed to have a sister who cares enough to share with all of us who have been touched day after day with words that not only touch our hearts but makes us stand up and take notice. My theme HEAR.

Psalm 116:2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. I love you sis!!!

Martha Lever said...

Oh Mar, this is so true. How much we have a foot planted in the kingdom of self is quite scary. It's a battle for sure! Thanks for your wonderful posts. oxox

Lisa said...

Thanks Mary