Thursday, January 31, 2008

Desert Living

...and he gave him Achsah
his daughter for a wife.
When she came to him,
she urged him to ask her
father for a field.
And she dismounted
from her donkey, and Caleb
said to her,"What do you want?"
She said to him, "Give me a blessing.
Since you have set me in the land
of the Negev,give me also springs of water.
And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

Judges 1:13b - 15

What a wedding gift! Achsah’s new husband Othniel asks her father for land as a wedding present. Caleb gives them acres in the Negev–land not hospitable to new life. Achsah finds herself in a situation beyond her control. But she doesn’t demand a more appropriate gift! Instead she asks for that which will make desert living possible.

"Give me a blessing–I can’t live in the desert without water." It’s a cry for help from a daughter to her father. Hearing her cry, Caleb does not skimp on his generosity. He gives Achsah the upper AND lower springs. It is so much more than she asked for.

My urgent cries to my Father are "get me out of this desert!" I don’t want to live in the Negev! But, to be able to see this desert as my Father’s gift, asking for a blessing to make the desert more habitable–this is how I want to live! Expecting God to exchange the gift would mean I know better what I need. To ask for a blessing within the desert is to acknowledge that God knows where I am living and what I need to survive.

Father, I am your child!
Hear my voice! I’m living in a desert
and I don’t know how to survive.
Hear my cry!
I am not asking for the desert to be removed.
Hear my voice!
You have given me this desert. Give me now
the springs of water that will help me survive.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Healing Rays

But for you that
honor my name,
victory will shine
like the sun with
healing in its rays,
and you will jump around
like calves at play.

Malachi 4:2

Carefree, exercising their new limbs in short bursts of energy then dipping for a nip of milk from their mother–these are calves at play. Sometimes I don’t feel much like a calf at play and my spirit has no energy to expend, even in short bursts. The warm rays of healing that would indicate victory in my life haven’t touched my skin. I feel more like a lamb, alone, repeatedly bleating, lost from the rest of the herd with no source of comfort.

But in my flailing about for relief I will miss the promised victory, the sun and jumping calves. In the midst of whatever may be happening God calls me to honor his name. The word but makes all the difference because in this last book of the Old Testament God says the day is coming when the arrogant and evildoers will be destroyed, but, if I honor his name, thankful for what he has given me, rejoicing that he is with me, I will not be among them. Victory will come in due time. The sun will shine again and I will leap with joy when I walk out of the darkness into the healing rays of the sun. But, first comes honoring his name and this comes about by how I walk through my life and live in the present, day to day.

So today, giving honor to his name must be my focus. Calf jumping will come later and no doubt when I least expect it.

Jesus, your presence is what will keep me going today.
Help me to live each moment in a way that honors
who you are in my life and
when it is time for jumping my
spirit will be ready.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Firmly Rooted

Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:19-23

Bent and bowed down, but rooted firmly, an aged coastal tree prevails. It’s shape and color have been altered by years of unrelenting wind, nevertheless, it clings to the precipice above the turbulent Pacific. Though formed and shaped by events it cannot control, it does not move.

Adversities in my life have shaped and altered me. Certain dreams and ambitions have blown away and I find myself reluctantly closing the door on what I thought were marvelous possibilities.

Who will remember what I have endured? "My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me." The memories of hurt and suffering never go away. Like scars that remain from a physical injury there are and will be soul scars resulting from what blew my way.

But, Jesus also remembers my suffering! His suffering makes him intimately acquainted with my hurt. He responds by loving me, steadfastly. I press in to the Rock. Despite the winds the Rock does not move. Taking my own actions to move away from the storm will mean letting go of that which keeps me safe. Pressing in, digging my roots deeper I feel the Rock’s strength. The steadfastness of the Rock is my only hope of survival. I will not move.

Jesus, I feel bent and bowed down, overwhelmed by the
storms that rip at me. Help me to accept the strength
of your steadfast love. Your mercy is my hope.
Your love is my rock. Your faithfulness is my foundation.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Prevailing Winds

Though the fig tree should
not blossom,nor fruit
be on the vines, the produce
of the olive fail and the fields
yield no food...yet I will
rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy
in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17a, 18-19

Seventy-eight years after it happened, I see a family lose everything. Standing in the museum, concentrating on the black and white photograph before me, I hear the wail of the wind as it blows away the top soil. For months the clouds refused to produce water. Now there is only howling, dusty, robbing wind. There will be no blossoms come spring.

The wailing winds in my life have stripped me bare. My soul is hungry and thirsty. How long will it take for the bits of fuzzy new growth to show again? I don’t know. But I want to learn how to live in this moment and find my joy in the God who knows when I am flat, face down in the sand.

Slowly my head will lift a bit more each day and there will be a peek of higher levels of rock. One day I will have a flicker of energy to at least stand up and begin walking to those mountains. The Lord will be my strength. And when I have climbed, slowly and cautiously at first, the strength in my legs will increase and finding that I am able to leap and jump over rocks I reach the top. Looking down I will see how far I have come. God will save me.

Jesus, the winds have blown it all away.
I don’t even have enough strength to stand up.
But, I believe you have all the muscle I need.
Today, this is what gives me hope.
Tomorrow is unknown, but I am certain
that your strength will get me to the top.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Friction Rubbing

Purge me with hyssop,
and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be
whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7

Stuffing the dark load into the washer I begin to fold the clean whites. Water flows in, suds appear and the cycle begins; back and forth--stop--back and forth--stop.

An old hymn begins humming in my brain. Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow now wash me and I will be whiter than snow. How do I become whiter than snow? It’s the back and forth, rubbing together, friction, that produces my clean clothes. That same action is probably going to make me whiter than snow as well. The rubbing friction of disappointments and struggles that, in part, make up my life; it’s these events that will wash away my dirt and grime.

The washing process is uncomfortable. I don’t like the friction. My load of dirty clothes is clean within the hour. But my life continues to be rubbed with adversity and discouragement. Will the whiter than snow result, be worth the painful rubbing?

Gathering up my clean clothes I find, while showing signs of wear, they are clean–made brighter for the rubbing. Perhaps these life rubbing experiences will make a difference after all.

Jesus, help me.
I don’t like the agitation
and rubbing that is going on in my life!
It’s too rough, too hard and too long.
Please give me a glimpse
of what I will be in the end.
I long to be purer, whiter,
cleaner but I need
your strength to endure the washing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When Heat Comes

Blessed is the man
who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord’s,
he is like a tree planted
by the waters that spreads
out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat
comes, for its leaves remain
green, and is not anxious in the year of
drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Life wasn’t complicated for Mary, difficult, yes, but complicated, no. She had simple needs, was an obedient child and looked pragmatically into the future. She knew pretty much what lay ahead–hard work, marriage, children, a meager life. That is until Gabriel burst in on her. With a blast of light her life became very complicated, at times lonely and definitely uncertain. Nothing would ever be the same for Mary, the mother of the Son of God.

Oh that I could have a blast of light burst in on my morning prayers! But then again, it would be terrifying! While the initial thought creates a surge of excitement the rethink gives me pause. Each day as I cry out to God for his mercy and strength what would be my response if an angel did show up? I would be afraid.

But Mary wasn’t afraid! When the heat of questions surely began, the drought of rejection cracked the heart and loneliness settled in, her conversation with Gabriel kept repeating, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a plan for you." Fear did not have its way. Instead, in the midst of the heat and drought Mary sings! "God took one good look at me, and look what happened–I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!"

Jesus, thank you! Mary has given me hope!
She experienced so much--
suffering the heat of rejection
and drought of loss.
Help me hear your words today!
"You have nothing to fear.
I have a plan for you."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Entrusted with Grief

For the Lord
will not cast off forever,
but, though he cause grief,
he will have compassion
according to the abundance
of his steadfast love;
for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men.
Lamentation 3:31-33

Innocent or not, condemned Irish prisoners in the early centuries, were often put on a boat without paddles, food or water. Pushed out to sea, they were left to the mercy of the currents.
My present sorrow was not caused by my guilt or any wrongdoing, however, I remain at its mercy. In my condemned boat I cry, what have I done and where is my hope?
Rising and falling I remember the engraved silver angel hovering above the kitchen sink. "I know God will give me the strength to endure. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much." The author of these words, Mother Teresa, knew something about suffering. Perhaps she was right–this grief may be about God trusting me.
Forget trust. I want compassion and feel good love! Entrusting me with grief is beyond my abilities. Yes! It is beyond my abilities! My only response can be to return trust to the God who entrusted me and will protect me in this sorrow boat. Helpless and unable to change its course I rely on his compassion and love to rule the currents. He will guide it to a solid place.
This journey will take time. My hope is in the God who trusts me.

Lord, thank you for riding with me in this sorrow boat!
Your compassion and love give me strength.
This journey may be long or short but,
I will trust you to get me to a solid place. AMEN.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Keeping to the Narrow Path

The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
though he should fall,

he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Psalm 37:23-24 (ESV)

Heal-toeing it along the path; I am hemmed in to my right and my left. One faltering step to my left, I tumble down the rocky cliff to the ocean. The other side crowds me with prickly berry bushes. Either side spells injury or death. I keep to the narrow path heal-toeing my way, looking down, but straining ahead to see. There are no barriers barring my plummeting to the ocean, nor is there a restraining wall to barricade the thorns. It is my deliberate choice to follow the path that has been hewed, keeping to the narrow way.
Yet there is uncertainty even with this choice. Depressions, rocks, turns, abruptly appear and hinder my walk. Progress is slow. Speed is not a priority. Impatience will be my downfall. It is faithfully continuing on the path that will bring me to my destination. The narrow way--heal toe, heal toe--I take it as it is hewed, stumbling on roots, scrambling over rocks, navigating the crevices, seizing the smooth way; straining for a view of the horizon. The time of my arrival is unknown, but I am confident that neither right nor left is how I want to go. It’s the being-hemmed-in that keeps me going, moving me forward to meet the Son.
Jesus, I may stumble and fall but
you keep me from being thrown completely off course.
Thank you for allowing the bruises, cuts and scrapes
that help me understand a little more
about the strength of your arm around me
and the enduring nature of your love.