Friday, February 29, 2008

Map Reading

And the Lord will
guide you continually
and satisfy your desire

in scorched places
and make your

bones strong;
and you shall be
like a watered garden...
Isaiah 58:11a, b

Maps cover the table top along with the legal pad that has been glued to my hand these past few weeks. On its pages are lists of what should be done, could be done and finally the lengthiest, what must be done. Boxes piled high sit amidst an odd assortment of bits and bobs that haven’t made their way into a box. The moving vans arrive Monday and yet I’m still not sure which interstate is best to get me where I’m going.

Traveling the Jesus road I often wonder what direction I’m headed. There isn’t a designated map page for this trip. Having wandered into so many scorched places, certain that the road was lost, I feel frightened even to continue.

And yet, reality is in this present moment. I am certain that road signs have been directing me. Looking behind me I see that I have come out of the scorched places and discover that wandering in its lonely desolation has given me an uncanny strength. I hardly recognize my previous weary wandering self!

I find that the road on which I am presently standing is wider with less cavernous holes. It’s a smoother way and feels safe. I have no idea just how I arrived. And while I don't think I saw anything particularly along the way or heard any verbal directions it is apparent my way was guided. And now I find myself standing in a beautiful garden, waiting for Monday.

Jesus, you are the
guide through the scorched places!
Thank you for making me strong
along the way.
Now I am going to enjoy the
beauty of this moment’s garden.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Learning to Float

So then it depends
not on human
will or exertion, but on
God, who has mercy
Romans 9:16

For children it’s almost instinctive. Adults less so. Initially, floating on one’s back in the water seems easy and restful. In reality, the older we get the more difficult it becomes. It seems to be a matter of our wariness to trust the supporting nature of water. We begin over analyzing the process of floating and before we know it our legs sink. Children, however, know how to trust the buoyancy and enjoy the moment.

Living each day with a floating attitude is a challenge. Consciousness awakening with the dawn, our minds whirling, we begin "analyzing the process"–figuring out how to get the most out of the day, what projects need listing, who needs calling, some existing problem that "depends" on our ability to solve. Sensing our sinking legs we begin struggling and our floating attitude is lost.

No matter the situation nothing is dependent wholly on us. God didn’t structure our existence to be that independent or self-focused. Instead, He designed us to be able to float, buoyed by His mercy and love, not our effort of will. We begin sinking for lack of trusting the supporting nature of God’s character.

God has an end result in mind for each of us. How quickly we get there depends on our willingness to trust the floating process, in other words, to be childlike. Allowing our human will and exertion to drown and giving ourselves up to the buoyancy of God’s mercy, we’ll enjoy the process and arrive at our Godly destination, rested.

Jesus, what You ask of me
is my trust. Instead I try to
figure everything out on my own.
Help me to learn how to float
and trust the buoyancy of You.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Infinite Knowing

For the Spirit searches everything,
even the depths of God.

I Corinthians 2:10b

A mother once said to her child, I know you better than you know yourself. Being known–it’s comforting and terrifying. Comforting in that whoever you "are" is evident and hopefully accepted; terrifying because in the depths is stuff that you don’t want known!

How the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists as three and yet one is a theological mystery. But, how they relate to each other is consistently revealed to us. Their intertwining relationship, where one leaves off the other begins, brings comfort. With no beginning or end, one is encircled and there is nothing to fear.

Psalm 139 says that God’s knowingness is what got us started in the first place! While we may not be conscious of our beginnings, there is comfort in knowing that God was attentive. As bones began to solidify and nature, personality, quirks, were taking shape, to become you, God saw that what He was creating was good.

With these infinite abilities, why should the depths of God be known? Accountability and relationship. Living accountably, as well as in relationship with trustful friends, gives our life clarity, wholeness and vision. God being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, who searches everything, even God himself, means we know a God that cares.

God sets the example of willingness to live a life that is known to the depths. It’s the kind of life he wants with us. A willing acknowledgment that nothing can be hidden because He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Jesus, I am known by you.
Nothing can be hidden.
I give you all that I am
and pray that with Your help
I will become all you want me to be.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On a Personal Note

For Christmas my husband gave me the book, Sister Wendy on Prayer by Sister Wendy Beckett. Today I opened it up and my eyes fell on the passage below. It seemed to complement the meditations from the past couple of weeks and prompted me to include it as a meditation for today. Blessings!

Life is unpredictable. Tragedy and comedy come down upon us without warning. This may be part of the fascination of playing or watching sport. The ball always comes from an angle the player could not anticipate, and the skill is all in the reaction. In real life the same is true. How do we react? When do we feel it right to take the initiative, and if we do, what kind? Pure passive endurance can never be the whole answer. It is in coping with this, the strangeness and stresses of even a normal day, that we need the help of God. We would like Him to change these stresses. This will not happen. What will happen is His support in making everything in our lives a means of deepening our capacity to be human. Not God the puppeteer, pulling the strings for His favorites, but the God who has resolutely refused to people His world with puppets. He has paid us the comliment of creating us as free and intelligent, able to choose and reject and look clearly at the truth.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Friendly Wisdom

I know that you
can do all things,
and that no purpose

of yours can
be thwarted.

Job 42:2

Everyone knows about Job and his problems. There’s no question, Job had it tough and on top of losing wealth, wife, children, family, and health, Job had a bunch of friends who thought they knew just what Job needed and they eagerly shared their bits of wisdom.

No wonder Job couldn’t get out of the depression pit! While he sat wasting away, well meaning friends fed him with words giving him the vastness of their finite knowledge. Amidst the advice, Job's spirit begins to break down and wonders Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? In other words, hasn’t God been paying attention to the good life I’ve been living?

And so, after several more "friendly" religious debates and moral lectures God breaks in with, Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth...and He keeps going! (read Job 39-41) God has heard enough.

"Friendly" wisdom can go a long way. The trip-up is that sometimes we glom onto this wisdom first. While well meaning, its sometimes "friendly" wisdom that can drown out the words of the One who laid the foundations of the earth.

Here’s a bit of "friendly" advice! When you find yourself with Job, questioning the nature of things, move away for awhile from the friendly chatter and listen. The One who laid the foundation of the earth will speak words of assurance; promising to take care of everything allowing nothing to stand in the way of His plans for you.

Jesus, thank you for friends
who are there when I need them.
But help me to listen first
to Your wisdom because
You are the One who knows the
plan You have for me.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Seek and Find

You will seek me
and find me.
When you seek me
with all your heart,
I will be found by you...

Jeremiah 29:13-14a

God is like a person who clears his throat while hiding and so gives himself away. This seems to voice a very contemporary viewpoint, after all it addresses the "hiddenness" of God and finding God has posed a challenge for thousands of individuals in the 21st century. However, Meister Eckhart, a German mystic from the 13th century, is credited with these words in answer to the question, Where is God?

Jeremiah also spoke about God’s hiddenness well before the 13th century so it would appear that we are not alone. The question of where is God has been an eternal quandary. Many of us expect God to just show up when needed keeping the action to one side only. It is an expectation that allows us to be sedentary.

What Jeremiah promises and Meister Eckhart understood was that God shows himself to those who actively seek. If we stood motionless in our attempts to find hidden friends during childhood games of hide and seek we would have missed the joy of discovery. It’s a given–one can only find if one first seeks.

God longs to be found and His being found is a concrete promise. In seeking God we may find ourselves led to unexpected places, locations we never imagined, people we never considered. But, if we seek with all our heart, He will not be silent. When we least expect it He will clear his throat, disclosing his position, giving us the joy of discovery.

How will you seek God today?

Jesus, thank you that you
are not a god that stays hidden and silent.
Help me today to seek you, finding you
in the places I least expect

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Throwing Pots

Desperate, I throw myself on you:
you are my God!
Hour by hour I place
my days in your hands.

Psalm 31:14-15a (The Message)

I have a friend who throws pots. Her web site describes her as a ceramic artist and indeed that is her true vocation, an exquisite handler of clay. Nevertheless, she has taught me through the years a great deal about pot throwing and the robust yet fragile nature of her medium.

When her focus was pot throwing she would sit at her turning wheel and taking a hunk of clay determinedly throw it directly into its center. There it lay, until she placed her wet hands around its shapelessness. Gently pressing, with the wheel continuing to turn, a graceful shape would begin. I was impressed. Then I began to follow this graceful shape through the days of drying, glazing and firing that would ultimately bring out its true beauty. When it finally emerged from the fire I was humbled.

Careful thought and consideration had been given to each step of its creation–nothing had just happened. There were a few unknowns as to the end result, nevertheless, the raw graceful shape was painstakingly prepared for the final process that would bring out its character and depth of color–fire.

When you feel the hit and turn of life’s wheel, lie still for a bit. Soon the ultimate clay Handler will begin gentling pressing. It promises to be an uncomfortable and perhaps lengthy process, but be assured, nothing is just happening. It’s the time spent in His hands, along with some fire, that will ultimately bring out the character and color of you–God’s exquisite work of art.

Jesus, I’m dizzy from life’s
turning but I feel Your hands
gently pressing, confident that in Your handling,
I will become Your
exquisite work of art.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In memory of Wendell Jordan
who was welcomed home by Jesus
on February 19, 2008.

Being Owned

Not that I have already obtained
this or am already perfect,
but I press on to make it my own,
because Christ Jesus has made
me his own.

Philippians 3:16

As a young person growing up in the church I heard amazing "Jesus made me his own" stories. They involved marvelous accounts of being rescued from behaviors I had never dreamed of as well as the miraculous results of Jesus making people his own. I wanted an amazing story as well. It never occurred to me that my "Jesus made me his own" story was unique in its own plain and simple way.

It’s important to hear "Jesus made me his own" stories. Listening to how Jesus works in the lives of people helps us understand the depth of his character and the all encompassing love he has for each one he makes his own.

For several childhood years Uncle Wendell would visit our family at Christmas. After the death of my grandpa those visits stopped. And while contact with Wendell was sparse he remained, for me, a larger than life fixture. One recent summer I traveled with my parents and found myself listening to Uncle Wendell’s "Jesus made me his own" story. At eighty-one years of age he remembered it clearly. It meant everything to him. It had, after all, made a profound impact on him at the moment of its happening as well as his next sixty years.

Jesus met my uncle at a church service in Chicago. As the evening came to a close and the invitation was made to anyone who wanted to know Jesus Uncle Wendell could feel something in his spirit shift. Recalling his feelings and his hesitancy he remembered, "I said, God, if you want me you’re going to have to send someone to get me." Opening his eyes there stood Jesus, looking like the preacher, reaching out his hand.

Jesus made Wendell his own that night. Sixty years later I heard the choking voice of my uncle declare, "I knew He loved me. And that has made all the difference."

Jesus, thank you
for making me your own.
Your ownership has and will
make all the difference.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Unforgivable Forgiveness

Jesus prayed,
"Father, forgive them;
they don’t know what they’re doing."

Luke 23:34a (The Message)

Ask almost anyone if an unforgivable event has happened in their lives and you may find yourself looking in the face of at least one of these emotions–pain, anger, hurt, sorrow, bitterness, doubt, frustration, resignation, hardness. It’s the look of the unforgivable being unforgiven.

There will be those faces, however, that register peace and contentment. Here is the summit of the unforgivable, forgiven.

There’s no doubt about it, forgiveness can be the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome. Seemingly impossible, we can’t begin to imagine how to set a course much less prepare ourselves to achieve the insurmountable. Fortunately, hundreds have climbed "Half Dome." Routes have already been discovered and set, waiting for us to begin our climb.

Beaten, publically humiliated, hanging exposed for all to see, Jesus knew exactly what it took to climb "Half Dome". For three years people hadn’t been able to get enough of him. He was at the top of his game! Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the disciples disappearance and Pilot’s judgement, quickly turned it all upside down. Immobile, weakened and alone Jesus prays, Father, forgive them.

Forgiveness begins with this prayer. It tells us Who will meet us at the starting point. Paralyzing emotional pain can stop us from finding our way up our forgiveness "Half Dome" but our Father knows the route. The prayer of Jesus points us to the first foothold on the wall, Father, forgive them.

Don’t worry if months pass and this is your only prayer. The rest of the route will be revealed one foothold at a time.

Jesus, you lived out the route to forgiveness.
Help me to rest, knowing
that I don’t have to
work out the way on my own.
I trust You to show me the route,
one foothold at a time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

It's Simple

And the Lord came and stood,
calling...And Samuel said,
"Speak, for your servant hears."

I Samuel 3:10

Years ago a group of friends started recalling the prayer language we had heard as children. With the majority of us having been raised in faith communities that emphasized the importance of personal, extemporaneous prayer, our collective memories were extensive and yet oddly familiar. We discovered that most of the prayer language of our youth had a particular structure and usually entailed lots of talking with vocabulary that required a dictionary as well as numerous spiritual proclamations and revelations with a smattering of opportunities for silence. Basically, prayer was very complicated.

Prayer, however, isn’t complicated, complex or contorted! It is a God conversation consisting of simple, plain language. A conversation that should begin by saying nothing at all.

Samuel’s prayer of Speak, for your servant hears is about as simple as it gets and yet it is perhaps one of the most poignant prayers that we can speak. It is a says it all prayer for the believer. No matter one’s circumstances, environment, mood or situation here is prayer that can be prayed no matter the season of life.

But, it does have a requirement that makes this prayer also one of the most complicated–silence. And, in an age of talking heads, iPods, and cell phones silence is a rare commodity. In order to hear there has to be a willingness to listen and in order to listen silence is an absolute necessity.

God calls our name every day. The only response necessary is–Speak, for your servant hears.

Prayer–it’s as simple as that.

thank you for calling out to me–
Speak–I am listening.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Staying Put

Before I was afflicted
I went astray; but now
I keep your word.

Psalm 119:67

Don’t nobody know my troubles but God. Trouble was well known to the American singers of these words. Brutal days of arduous labor and nights of aching limbs were what made up their existence in the 1800's. Nevertheless in spite of the injustice, unfairness and inhumaneness of their world they never stopped singing about their troubles and the God who helped them.

Troubles have a way of waking us up from our spiritual slumber. The long term memory suddenly kicks into gear and while we may not have talked with God recently, read the Bible consistently or lived our lives particularly faithfully, we are desperate for help.

When we get our help and trouble has again moved on, too often we find ourselves moving on as well. But then, like a wheel of fortune, it stops on trouble and looking up we discover that we are a long distance, once again, from the Help we need.

Times up! To keep spinning the wheel, hoping for it to hit better times, is a gamble. Trouble has more spaces than fortune. There comes a point, if we want to live free, that making a decision to stay put and live in the presence of the Help that knows our troubles will stop the spinning wheel.

The answer to why me isn’t nearly as important as whose am I? Answering this question will make a difference in how you live your life when trouble again appears.

Jesus, you never ran away!
Through the good and bad
of your earthly life you
stayed put, doing exactly what
your Father wanted.
Help me to stay put in your presence.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Contemplative Thought

Today's meditation comes from The House of Prayer by Florence Converse. During this season of Lent here is a good reminder of what we are eagerly anticipating. I pray that it will touch any reader who, like me, needs to hear this particular message, at this specific time. Blessings!

How can you hope to make the imperfect things perfect, unless you keep before your eyes the vision of God, who is perfection? The prayer that is only against evil destroys itself. If you look at nothing but sorrow and sin, your heart may be at first full of love and pity, but presently anger--righteous perhaps, but still anger--will enter and begin to crowd out love; and then despair will come and deaden pity, and at last will even smother righteous anger. And then there will be silence, for the heart that is filled with despair cannot pray.

It is not enough to know that the world is full of evil, we must know also that God is good.

Christ is a part of all the poverty and misery because He was born into it and didn't try to get away from it. If you put Him in the background, with the sin and sorrow all in front, how He shines and makes courage and hope! Yes! And if you put Him in the front, with the darkness all around Him, how He shines again! Either way, He is the light in the picture.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stop Scratching

But God’s not finished.
He’s waiting around

to be gracious to you.
He’s gathering strength

to show mercy to you.
God takes the time

to do everything right.
Those who wait around

for him are the lucky ones.

Isaiah 30:18 (The Message)

All good things come to him who waits supposedly originated with the French tracing back to the 1500's. While it seems that waiting has been an issue for generations it would appear that the origins of all good things come to him who waits has a much longer history than France. The inability to wait and allow good things to come can probably be traced back to our initial parents–Adam and Eve.

Throughout any given day we’re always being asked to wait, forced to wait or wait by default. Waiting seems to be the undiagnosed itch that we keep thinking will go away but only becomes more irritated with our scratching. We just don’t want to take the time to wait.

Isaiah’s definition of waiting isn’t particularly comforting, in fact, it promises a lengthy scenario! Not only is God waiting to be gracious to us, but he takes... time to do everything right. Nothing can be hurried or impulsive when everything turning out right is at stake. It’s all there--graciousness, mercy and rightness–the healing balm for the waiting itch. What is required of us is to stop scratching, allowing time for the balm to do its good work.

Creatures of habit find it difficult to change. But, in order to experience the right, gracious, mercy of this God who isn’t finished with us we have to wait. It’s in our remembering of everything that was right from our past that we find ourselves believing that God is now gathering strength for our waiting future. Now, if we could only stop scratching!

Jesus, I find waiting a habit
that isn’t easily changed.
Thank you for loving me enough to wait
until everything is right.
Help me to become a waiter of all that is
gracious, merciful and good

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Checking Reality

Religion that is pure
and undefiled before God
and the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows
in their affliction, and to keep oneself
unstained from the world

James 1:27

It’s startling. One’s mind cannot sufficiently wrap around the image to even get a clear picture. How did we get to this point? Unseen by scientists, there are three invisible rings that surround the world. They are made up of children standing hand in hand–143 million of them. They are the world’s orphans in the 21st century.

Given the definition of pure religion, as found in this passage of James, it would appear that the challenges facing Christians in the 21st century haven’t changed from the 1st century. Hundreds of years later the world continues to work feverishly to divert our attention away from reality. While searing images of emaciated children and desperate women may flash before us they are quickly soothed by promises of a good night’s sleep.

When we find ourselves in the midst of a crisis it is difficult to think next door much less globally. Most of the time we feel only what is touching us in our self focused reality. And, the stains of the world assure us that it is our right to focus and concentrate on our ourselves.

But, according to James, to live a religion that is pure is to live outside of one’s own discomforts, disadvantages, and disappointments and live in the turmoil of another. More than likely it will be painful, but the resulting relationship will give us a focused view on what is pure and undefiled while heightening our awareness of what is staining our souls.

Jesus, there are times
when I cannot see anything
or anyone other than myself.
Forgive me.
Open my eyes, today, to
the reality you would have me see

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spirit Listening

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing
you do not understand now,
but afterward you will understand

John 13:7

Having plopped in front of the computer and clicked the icon, I sat, potato-like, waiting for the promised e-mails. My expectations were zilch. God really didn’t know what he was doing this time! Up popped the address of a trusted friend with these words...Several nights ago, I was awakened and felt strongly that I needed to pray for all of you...then the Lord reminded me of this verse. Spirit friend had heard and responded.

Many of us find ourselves at odds with two facts: We know that the Holy Spirit wants to speak to us but we also don’t know how to become Spirit listeners. The very idea makes us feel muddled and confused because we’re never quite sure whether what we’re sensing or feeling is really the Spirt talking.

There is, however, an important component of Spirit listening–we have to be ready and the readiness makes us receptive. In order for my friend to be reminded of a verse, she had to know the verse in the first place! In order to be ready we have to spend the time necessary getting to know the Speaker. Being ready gives us the ability to respond to the reminding of the Spirit as we encounter our own challenges as well as those who join our journey.

To be a Spirit listener takes time and commitment. We may not always understand the message, but, for my part, I am grateful that my friend made herself ready.

Jesus, forgive me for the
times I fill my time with useless stuff.
Help me to be ready,
meaning, help me to know you.
And by knowing you, be receptive
to the voice of your Spirit.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Depth Diving

He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him

Daniel 2:22

Five miles down, in the ocean depths, lives a fish that nobody has ever seen. Because it lives in an environment completely devoid of light, as far as scientists are able to discover, it is a species that has no need for eyes. Eyes, after all, are only necessary for the purpose of taking in light.

There is, for many of us, a memory of the darkest day of my life. It is a moment when light was completely sucked out of your environment and eyes were no longer useful. Immobilized you had no sense of how to move forward. The darkness robbed you of your sense of place.

Unfortunately, an honest journey through the Lenten season can match this darkness. Here is a season that encourages individuals to go inward allowing the light that dwells with Him to reveal the deep and hidden things that live in the five mile depths of our souls. Our response to the revelation is repentance, literally meaning, turning and going in the other direction. What else could be our response when Light shines on the things that live without light?

Forty days of stumbling around in the dark, frequently startled by Light shining on what we need to turn away from doesn’t sound very appealing. But, unlike the deepest dwelling fish, at least there is some light. And, when we consciously turn to go in the other direction, our eyes will take in such quantities of light that we will discover we are bottom dwellers no longer.

Jesus, I’m not looking forward
to traveling down to the depths.
But, I do want to see what it is
you will show me and turn away
from all that hinders me from living
completely in the Light.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dear Friends,
Today begins the season of Lent. These forty days, leading up to Easter, has historically been a time of fasting and prayer for the believer. It is my prayer for you that this will be a time where you spend intentional time with the One who made you. The meditations during this Lenten season will focus on themes of repentance, fasting and prayer. Take time today to be quiet and listen--you'll be amazed at the experience. Blessings!

Asking Why

And the angel of the LORD
appeared to him and said

to him, The LORD is with you...
And Gideon said to him,
"Please, sir, if the LORD

is with us, why then has
all this happened to us?

And where are all
his wonderful deeds
that our fathers recounted to us...?"
Judges 6:12-13a

Oh God, why is this happening were my first words after hanging up the phone. Having moved five times in four years, this move, to work with a Christian organization, was supposed to be the move that would begin the financial stability we desperately needed. Now, four months later, sitting in a near empty house, we were learning a difficult lesson–our chosen state of residence had laws that allowed employers to fire employees without warning or reason. It didn’t feel like the LORD was very near!

Gideon was living the upheaval of having to move, frequently. Israel had been under an oppressive regime that swarmed over them devouring their crops, destroying their pastures, literally consuming their lives. As a result, Gideon found himself living in a cave. No wonder, when assured of the LORD’s presence, he asks why then has all this happened.

Sometimes the circumstances of our lives make us feel like we, too, are cave dwellers. Retreat seems our only resource, afraid that if we poke out our head we will feel the smack of another blow. And we ask, why then has all this happened? In the case of Israel, as recorded in Judges, they created their own problems because of their disobedience. Gideon, however, had remained faithful to the LORD and yet he was not immune from the difficulties.

The LORD never does answer Gideon’s why question. Instead the LORD responds by giving Gideon a task that seems beyond his ability. And when Gideon further objects, the response he hears isn’t an answer but a promise...I will be with you.

Jesus, there are times when all I want to do is hide.
Thank you for knowing that about me!
Help me to receive the circumstances of my life
within the security of your promise,
"I will be with you."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Good Discipline

At the time,
discipline isn’t much fun.
It always feels

like it’s going
against the grain.
Later, of course,
it pays off handsomely,
for it’s the well-trained

who find themselves
mature in their
relationship with God.

Hebrews 12:11 (The Message)

It hurts me more than it hurts you were the most ridiculous words I heard as a child. How could being disciplined possibly hurt my parents more than it hurt me? It made absolutely no sense until years later when I found myself disciplining my own child. My intentions were to bring about a specific character or pattern of behavior but I found that disciplining, like being disciplined, hurts like crazy. Good discipline isn’t given or received easily.

If one pursues a relationship with God it’s a guarantee that discipline will be involved. Our inability to live in the challenging moments of our lives can become the hurdle preventing our discovery that God may be disciplining us towards a specific character or pattern of behavior. Sometimes we allow the pain of now to keep us distracted from discovering who we are and what God may want us to become.

Athletes speak of breaking through a barrier or challenge in the midst of training. It’s the pain of discipline that helps them break through to their desired goal. To experience the pain, the hardship, the crises of our lives and yet break through the barrier, is to begin discovering the handsome pay off–a well-trained, mature relationship with God.

God could very well be saying, It hurts me more than it hurts you, but, inflicting pain isn’t what he’s after. His good discipline, however, does have a break through goal in mind. What specific character or pattern of behavior is God wanting to achieve in your life today?

Jesus, I don’t like being disciplined.
It hurts! I need your help today to
break through the discomfort
and discover the specifics of
who you want me to be.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Reaching Out

She had heard the reports
about Jesus and came up
behind him in the crowd
and touched his garment.
For she said, "If I touch even
his garments, I will be made well.
Mark 5:27-28

She was well known in the community. After all her disease was one of those that attracted attention because it isolated her, from everyone. Living wasn’t the challenge, simply existing was the insurmountable hurdle. No one would touch her. No one would intercede for her. Her youth was gone and the medical bills had emptied her accounts. The situation was beyond hopeless, but then she heard that the Healer was in town.

Names don’t seem to have any significance in this story. But maybe the name of this woman should be, HOPE! Her pro-active life seems to define the meaning of the word. The losses in her life were extensive with her health being the first domino. And yet having lost everything, one thing remains, hope, and it gets her out of bed, onto her feet, into her clothes, out the door and down the street. This outcast from the community must have heard the gasps and felt the shudders of the people she passed. But her hope was in the Healer that was in town and so she stumbles on and pushes her way through the impenetrable crowd. Each step turning hope into confident belief that this Healer, unlike all the others, was different. The word swirling around was that true healing power was what flowed out of this Healer. She knew that all she had to do was reach out and touch.

Yes, hope–it’s what kept her walking to the point where she stretched out her hand and touched. HOPE wasn’t disappointed–everything she had heard was true.

Jesus, forgive me when I am tempted
by self-pity and wound gazing.
Help me, today, to claim hope
as my motivation to keep reaching out and
touching You. I will not be disappointed.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Praying for Rain

Elijah said to Ahab,
"Up on your feet!
Eat and drink–celebrate!
Rain is on the way;
I hear it coming!"
Things happened fast.
The sky grew black
with wind-driven clouds,
and then a huge cloudburst
of rain...And God strengthened Elijah mightily...Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot.

I Kings 18:41, 45-46a (The Message)

Elijah was a prophet who didn’t move through life easily or smoothly. However, he spoke the truth, walked with God and prayed, energetically. In chapter 17 of I Kings, Elijah prays over the dead son of a widow, O God, my God...Why have you killed her son? His prayer confidence got results! Scripture says, God listened to Elijah’s prayer and put breath back into his body...

Now in chapter eighteen, three years of a Elijah predicted drought had settled in and the people of Israel were pretty desperate. They were looking at other "god" possibilities that might help them out. Having already spoken with God, Elijah puts together a "god" competition (read the whole of I Kings 18)–the earth bound god Baal against I AM. After hours of crying out, all the prophets of Baal managed were hoarse voices. Elijah, on the other hand, confidently approaches the altar and prays, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God...reveal to this people that you are God, the true God. That’s all it took! God responded with such intense fire that the altar and everything around it was incinerated. Sheets of rain followed as well as God giving Elijah so much energy he out ran a chariot of horses!

Praying confidently–it’s a thought worth pondering. When we pray is it with the confidence of Elijah or do we make ourselves hoarse with our Baal crying?

Jesus, thank you for listening to me!
But, I want to learn how to talk to you
with "Elijah confidence" believing that
no matter what happens you will give me
the energy to out run the horses.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fire Walking

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; and through
the rivers, they shall not
overwhelm you; when you walk
through fire, you shall not be
burned, and the flame
shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2
Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Esther, Daniel, Mary...Jesus...,Peter, Paul, Timothy–they all survived growing up. Yet there isn’t one of them that didn’t endure a "flood" or "fire" at least one time in their lives. The truth is most of them lived through numerous encounters with overwhelming events that surely left them feeling soggy and charred.

Experience tells us that it takes some pain to grow up. We didn’t learn to walk without falling down or ride a bike without skinned knees. Why should it be any different, spiritually. Eugene Peterson says that, "growing up and growing up in Christ are the same thing." When I first heard these words twenty-five years ago I left the room completely confused. How could they possibly be the same? But with each passing year my growing up continues and along the way have come the "flood" and "fire" challenges that have helped strengthen body, soul, mind and heart.

If I open myself up, each encounter with "flood" or "fire" has the possibility of becoming that which will help me grow up in Christ. The promise is that while this "growing up" won’t be overwhelming, there will be some pain attached to it. However, I can anticipate becoming a fire walker!

Jesus, you are the power over water and fire!
Take the floods and fires of my life
and form them into the lessons that will
keep me growing up in You.