Red Vine Spirituality

Taylor K. Arthur balances Bipolar 1 Disorder, marriage, and motherhood with a nitty-gritty faith inspiring a twisted, blissful life.

Category: Monday Cup (page 1 of 4)

Monday Cup: First Thing

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

I used to think getting my Bible reading in every day was a lot like taking vitamins. Getting my “God time” was on the to-do list, something I needed to do every day in order to feel good about my life.

But now, somewhere in all of the hard things, I figured out what Jesus was talking about when he said to Martha,

you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42).

The first thing is not a task. Nor is the first thing an obligation.

The first thing is my right. The first thing is what I was born for.

You see, I am the child of the King. And so are you.

I belong in His arms, at His feet, whispering prayers into his ears first thing. I belong in His presence first thing because this moment face-to-face, cheek-to-cheek, with my Father keeps me connected to His version of my story.

He is my first thing because He reminds me who I am. I remember every day in those moments with Him that my story is much bigger than today’s troubles. My definition is bigger than wife, mother, writer, housekeeper. My definition, my purpose, is eternal.

I am His, first thing.

I’ve stopped looking at morning quiet time as a task to complete. Sometimes I read my Bible, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I sing, and sometimes I cry into my coffee cup. But I say good morning to my Daddy, no matter what.

Because He’s my first thing.

May He be yours.

Monday Cup: Gideon days

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.
Gideon 6:36-40

I can’t imagine how scared Gideon must have been. As he began to piece together the practicalities of what God was asking him to do–raise an army and fight the dreaded Midianites–can’t you see him just shaking his head? At every turn, he must have questioned his own sanity. At every new step forward, he must have needed new assurances. Don’t we all?

I tend to think of God as a general: He gives the orders, and His minions are supposed to follow. But, I’m learning very slowly that that’s not how He works at all. He cares deeply that the work we do outside of ourselves reflects the work being done within us. He’s not in the business of pouring us out like pitchers. Instead, He’s filling us from the inside out so that we naturally overflow.

He’s not going to get angry with me if I keep coming to Him like Gideon did. Every time I return to God for reassurance, He bolsters me. He prepares me. He fills me up.

So even if you wonder how you can ever ask for more reassurance from your Heavenly Father, ask.
Even when you know He’ll just turn you away, ask.
And even when you should be filled up and certain, but you’re not? Ask again.

Just keep asking. Keep going back.

He’s in the business of filling.
He’s ready and willing to fill you to overflowing so when your day of battle comes, you’re ready.
Keep on asking until you feel ready.
Keep on asking until you’re flooded in the assurance that can only come from Him.

Go on, Gideon-heart. Ask.

Monday Cup: God Alone

“For God alone my soul waits in silence;
for my hope is from him.”
Psalm 62: 5

There’s a note next to this verse in my favorite Bible. The word hope is circled, and a line is drawn to these words: “Expectation in Hebrew.”

Expectation.

The word “hope” means “expectation” in Hebrew.

The NIV translates it a little differently: “My expectation comes from Him.”

My hope, my expectation is from Him?

Shouldn’t it be “my expectation is in Him”?

It’s early morning, I’m drinking my coffee and shaking my head.

I have a problem with expectation. I put expectations in people who cannot meet them, people who ARE NOT GOD. Because of this, I am constantly disappointed. Then, I’m praying the same prayer, Lord, please fill my disappointment. Please help me to look to You instead of them.

But this morning as I read Psalm 62 and Beth Moore’s beautiful commentary on it in Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer, I stuck on this idea that God built this expectation into me. It’s supposed to be there: this hole of expectation. And I am supposed to be desperate to fill it.

I just have to fill it with the right thing, instead of all of these other things that won’t satisfy. But I keep trying to fill it with all of these other things, like feeding my physical hunger with motor oil or stuffing cheeseburgers into our SUV’s gas tank. I’ll just get sick, and the car will not run.

I will never be fully satisfied until I turn to Him to fill this expectation, this appetite for Him, that He’s designed me with.

Beth Moore says it so beautifully, “GOD ALONE–the next time someone disappoints you, whisper those two words to yourself. If you agree to let that person off the hook and allow only God to grasp the other end of the rope, two things will happen: you’ll attach yourself to Someone strong enough to hold you up; you’ll be secure enough to let one arm go free to help the one who disappointed you back to his or her feet” (Day Fifty-Nine).

I don’t know about you, but I want both those things: to be be securely fastened into the Creator of my Expectation and filled up by Him, and to let other people off the hook for not being God. Lord knows I’m not God either.

So, Lord, this morning: please fill me. Please teach me to turn toward you when I need, when I hunger, when I’m expecting. Please teach me to whisper, “GOD ALONE,” and live a life of dependence based solely on those words.

God Alone.

Amen.

Lenten Cup: Planting Ahead

Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126:6

It’s that time of year again. I wait with anticipation for Caleb’s birthday, pregnant with longing and an ache my body feels to the marrow, never quite sure of how I should feel or what I should be doing. It will be his 7th birthday this week. And, as our family grows, our schedule changes. Caleb’s birthday must change, too.

We are stepping further and further away from our first born the more we step into the world with his living, thriving, growing brothers. Abraham attending full day kindergarten means we will not be going to the beach as many days as we normally have. I am venturing into the world–for my living boys’ sakes–on days I have, up until this point, hidden. Life moves me forward.

Samuel’s teacher approached me about celebrating him in class during March, due to the fact that his real birthday is in August. Of course, the day that worked is right in the middle of Caleb’s week. Our God is so good that He plants blessings right in the midst of my grief. I am now busy making cake pops for my miracle son, while my heart grieves Caleb. And do you know that the alternate meaning of Caleb’s name in Hebrew [is] כָּל (kal) “whole, all of” and לֵב (lev) “heart”? Thanks, cousin Kelsie, for that!

IMG_1608

IMG_1603

So we will be celebrating St. Patrick’s day, green shirts donned and leprechauns leaving jellybean trails, and we will celebrate our Samuel‘s half birthday, thirty homemade “banilla” cake pops and all. Because we are crying, and we are laughing, and we are praising a God who weaves all of us together.

Leprechaun traps

Leprechaun traps

The more I live this twisted, blissful life, the more I understand there is no way I should do this. I’m not white knuckling or stuffing down these tidal waves of tears. I am throwing seeds as I walk through this grief, as many as I can. I’m planting ahead for the times of joy to come, the times of trial when I can look back and see how My Provider harvests righteousness from these seasons of pain. I’m birthing the joy of the Lord this March, as the tulips bloom and we visit our son’s grave, because I’ve learned now that this pain will yield. The tide will turn, friend. And His joy comes in the morning.

God bless your tears, that they might yield.

Taylor

Thanks to my Aunt Keely, who pointed this verse out during one of her “Living in the Unforced Rhythms of Grace” talks. I can still see you crying and throwing seed during your talk!

Lenten Cup: Come to the Water

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents[b] of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

I don’t know if you are sinking or swimming today, or if a tsunami of suffering has swept you away. I don’t know if you’re diving deep in search of more God, or don’t even want to dip your toes in this pool of faith.

But this I do know: we are transformed in the water. I am reminded of Eustace, boy-turned-dragon, meeting the great lion of Narnia, Aslan (God), in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Aslan appears to Eustace to save him from his dragon flesh and to restore his little boy body. The transformation is a three-step process: Eustace scratches off three layers of his scaly dragon flesh, but realizes his efforts “had been no good.”

“Then the lion said . . . ‘You will have to let me undress you.'”

And so Eustace, despite the fear of the pain, lay down and let Aslan claw his dragon skin off:
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times . . . And there I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me–I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on–and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone . . . ” pgs.474-475, The Chronicles of Narnia

I wonder about a Lent in which we didn’t try to abstain from caffeine or m&m’s, but rather allow a layer of ourselves to be removed? I wonder if I have a Naaman heart, full of pride and entitlement? Or if I’m willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to be healed, be new again? I wonder about a Lent filled with enough desperation to allow the pain of God’s healing hands? To allow new skin? A fresh look, perhaps? Or a new look at life without scales over my eyes?

I wonder what layer, what skin, there is to lose as I venture into these waters. Where may He be leading, and what does He see that needs removing? I will be praying for the will to let Him remove old dragon skin so that I may, too, plunge into delicious waters of healing.

Forward, into the waters! Happy, healing, scale-removing Lent.

Taylor

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