Monday, March 31, 2008

Prepared for Skirmishes

Be prepared.
You’re up against
far more than you
can handle on your own.

Ephesians 6:13a (The Message)

Images of disaster flash across the screen with the words, Are you prepared? Disaster kits should be purchased, lists downloaded of essential supplies, storage bins packed with food stuffs and additional medicines. And, of course, one can’t forget the pets, one must be prepared for them as well.

How about being spiritually prepared? Our world is in turmoil due to a battle being fought. A battle of good versus evil. In other words, God and Satan are fighting for our lives. For some the mere mention of evil is an opportunity for scoffing. Believing that an evil entity exists is unnerving. And yet, Ephesians reminds us that we are not in a battle against the things that we see but against the stuff that is unseen. That’s scary! So, how can one do battle against the unseen?

Be prepared. God has given us a spiritual can’t do without list. In the beginning God gave the presence of Himself to His people, Jesus then came bringing a new way of living pointing the way to God. At Jesus’ death a Comforter is promised, the Holy Spirit, who comes and continues the work of God the Father and Son. God has everything in hand. We can relax.

No! You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Just "believing" in God won’t help in the battle. Knowing God, intimately, provides the essentials (read Ephesians 6:10-18). This kind of intimacy requires one’s personal time–lots of it. But the resulting spiritual preparedness will win the inevitable skirmishes.

Jesus, thank you for being
beside me in this unseen battle.
Open my spirit, my eyes, my heart
to Your presence.
I want to take the time needed
to know you intimately

Friday, March 28, 2008

More Sister Wendy on Prayer

The truth is that I am deep in unpacking boxes which means my writing is coming in between. I long for more extended periods of writing! This book by Sister Wendy Beckett, however, is one I pick up and read a little at a time. It keeps me thinking while I unpack. Prayer and its importance and impact is a favorite meditative subject of mine.

Almost invariably when one talks about prayer, people think it is about asking God for may seem to us that we are asking God to give us something--good weather, good health, good exam results--and, of course, that is our explicit intention. Since God is not a puppeteer who will stretch out and change the weather, adjust the cells of our body, or jiggle with the examiner's markings (and at a deeper level we know this), the essential nature of our plea is not that God will change the real world, but that he will strengthen us to bear the impact of it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sister Wendy on Prayer Requests

How often do you find yourself telling others that you'll pray for them? Sometimes we end up feeling guilty because we realize that days have passed without our "praying." Here is a wonderful quote from Sister Wendy on Prayer.

What happens when people ask us to pray for them? Perhaps I can tell you only what happens within me. I have heard the request, and hearing it has changed me. I am now a person who knows that X wants a baby, that Y is sick that Z is locked in an unhappy marriage. I say, "Yes, I will pray for you," and I mean it. But what I mean is that this person, this me, who now has this knowledge, gives herself to God and, in the giving, I give all these problems. None of them are new to God. He knows far better than I can ever know what longing and anguish lie behind every request, but these requests are now part of me. I do not verbalize them, I may never even think of them specifically, but I am confident that I have given them to God, and He thinks about them and longs to support my friends with his strength and understanding. God knows much more about the joys and sorrows of humanity than any of us could ever do [sic]. So when He takes possession, he takes possession with all that He sees and knows, and I am content with that.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Selective Memories

And when the Lord
your God brings you
into the land that he swore
to your fathers...
with great and good
cities that you did not build...
then take care lest
you forget the Lord,
who brought you out
the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.

Deuteronomy 6:10a, 12

Memory is selective. Family history, friendships, marital relationships whatever the situation there are memories from which to choose–pleasant or otherwise. What we recall depends on us. Memories are the pavers that give shape to our life road. It is up to us which pavers we want to use.

Remembering our lives in the context of God’s abundance is a conscious choice. Unfortunately, it is sometimes easier to remember what we have not instead of what we have. Expectantly tearing into a beautifully wrapped gift we are suddenly blind sided. Inside wasn’t what we wanted and our memory shifts not back to the initial beauty but on the unexpected.

Daily, the world visually reminds us of what we we’re missing. After all, focusing on abundance wouldn’t be good for business. This is our house of slavery and God knows the difficulty of remembering His goodness while living in this residence. He, however, is in the business of giving us what we did not build. He wants to take us out of our house of slavery, calling us to remember both past and present His goodness. Granted, life isn’t fair and supposedly the world order revolves around the have’s and have not’s. But what is the criteria that determines these categories?

With an honest selection of memories we find that the have not’s are outnumbered. And, like the Israelites, whose lives were filled with have’s and have not’s, God asks us to pick up His pavers of goodness to shape our life road.

What memory paver will you pick up today?

God, thank you for
bringing me out of this
worldly house of slavery.
Help me to pave my life road
with the memories of
Your abundant goodness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Shuffling Feet

God answered...
When you hear
a sound like shuffling feet

in the top of the [trees]...
God will be
two steps ahead of you...

I Chronicles 14:15a (The Message)

Riding high on energy generated from the celebrations, David was feeling great. Confident in the knowledge that God had made him king of Israel he looked to the future with anticipation and expectation. Life was good. But it’s a given that bad things happen in life. When the Philistines discover David’s kingly coronation they shatter any illusions he might have had for the future.

Daily we are confronted with the highs and lows of living with the endurance of each episode varying. There are some who, when life is good, immediately begin looking for the downside because the good life "can’t last." Finding it difficult to enjoy the good, they wait for the bad.

David, however, was right to have confidence. God had selected him specifically for the job that He intended. There were, however, no indications as to the events of David’s future. The only certainty for the future was God’s promise of His presence. God will be two steps ahead of you. What was required of David was to expectantly wait and listen.

When we’re feeling attacked and the "good life" has seemingly disappeared it’s becomes a challenge to listen for a sound like shuffling feet. Keeping safe inside our protective selves we don’t venture outside where the wind of God’s presence blows. God doesn’t promise a safe life. Like David, He offers a life full of unknowns–a combination of coronations and assaults.

But, step outside, listen, there’s a breeze blowing in the tree tops–God is two steps ahead of you.

Jesus, thank you for the life
you have given me.
Help me to open the door
and step outside to hear
your presence ahead of me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Peaceful Striving

Strive for peace with everyone...
See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;
that no root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble...

Hebrews 12:14-15

Even with the briefest of glances one can see that the world doesn’t pursue peace. Newspaper columns and Internet sites bulge with stories illustrating the difficulty of pursuing peace. While peaceful ideas abound we remain in an unpeaceful mess. Finding ourselves surrounded by battles at home, church, neighborhoods and countries we wonder is it possible to strive for peace in a world that ricochets from battle to battle?

The world of the Hebrew writer, written around A.D. 68, was fraught with turmoil, unrest, discontent, jealousy and vindictiveness. It appears that human nature has endured through the centuries! If this is the case, is there any hope for us, as 21st century Jesus followers? Absolutely!

Strive for peace with everyone. It’s not a suggestion but a command with the implication that the goal is attainable. Human nature, or that uncomfortable word, sin, causes us to fall short. For many of us our natural instinct is not peace striving but defensive strategizing!

Perhaps a negative word has been said or the appropriate appreciation wasn’t given for that large donation. Maybe a neighbor encroached on a boundary line or a spouse cheated. When we perceive an injustice we can quickly become strategists for our defense. And sometimes we don’t stop with just the battle. Having conquered our enemy we continue picking at the resulting wound reminding ourselves of how sorely we were wronged, tilling the soil and planting the root of bitterness.

Striving for peace with everyone seems impossible. Nevertheless, the Hebrew writer encourages; strive for peace with everyone--don’t grow bitter weeds! Striving indicates movement and like a regular routine of exercise a conscious choice of peaceful striving is required. In the beginningresults aren’t apparent but soon our spiritual muscles are strengthened and we will find that our impossible has become God’s possible.

Jesus, you lived a life of peaceful striving.
Help me to discover what exercises my
spiritual muscles require in order to move
towards being at peace with everyone.