Thursday, December 30, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Thursday

It has been a dark season for my husband and myself these last couple of years. I don't remember where I saw this quote, although it was credited, but when I read it I wrote it out and propped it up on my desk.

Nobody is wise who does not know darkness. I appreciate the dark hours of my existence in which my senses are sharpened.

From It's All Right to Cry

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Wednesday

I begin each day with my Celtic Daily Prayer Book. Even though I have been using this prayer book for ten years and have read and reread the various Scriptures and readings they always seem to be new and fresh and perfect for whatever I may be facing on any given day.

Too often when we come to pray we have fixed ideas as to what the subject for our intercession will be - or if God gives us the subject we again lapse into our own thoughts, ideas and preconceptions instead of letting the Spirit teach us what to pray. We need to take authority over our own thoughts, however good, in case they are an impediment to God's directives and burden.

Wordless prayer can often be effective, too. Some of the times when we 'worry' about a person for hours on end for no apparent reason, who normally we rarely think of, may turn out to be the closest to real intercession we have ever come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Final Week of 2010 - Tuesday

This year I've learned much from the Desert Fathers - always straight and to the point, sometimes painfully pointed!

Living without speaking is better than speaking without living. For a person who lives rightly helps us by silence,while one who talks too much merely annoys us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Final Week of 2010

It doesn't seem possible that this is the final week of 2010. This year will be memorable for me on multiple levels; filled with euphoric highs coupled with demoralizing lows. But this I know, God was in the midst and He has not moved. Thank you Father!

This week I am going to be sharing with you some of the quotes and scriptures that helped carry me through this tumultuous year. My only prayer for you all is that God will reveal Himself to you this week in a way that you can understand, appreciate and claim as your own revelation. A word meant for you.

Live from day to day, just from day to day. If you do, you worry less and live more richly. If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Bring Me a Unicorn

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

For unto us a Child is Born!

Thanks be to God!

With prayers that your Christmas is rich with joy and blessings.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Expecting Angels

But she was greatly troubled at the saying,
and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

I would think I was delusional if I saw an angel. I don’t expect angelic visits in spite of the fact that I read about them in the Bible. Throughout the Old Testament angels make appearances to all sorts of people. The psalmist assumes angelic presences in Psalm 34:7—“The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him…” But, I don’t live my life anticipating, expecting an angel!

Now I come to Mary. Gabriel gives her assurances, “Don’t be afraid.” But I haven’t often considered or “pondered” Mary’s response at the moment Gabriel bursts into her room. While Gabriel later says, “don’t be afraid”, Luke doesn’t record “fear” as Mary’s first response but “discernment.” She doesn’t seem to be all that surprised by Gabriel! Instead she looks at the encounter reasonably and rationally. It’s not the presence of Gabriel but what he says, “O favored one, the Lord is with you” that gets Mary thinking.

I usually put Mary in the ultimate spiritual category and yet if Jesus is to be accessible, to all of us, it surely begins with Mary. She was a girl who had somehow learned to expect the unexpected--so much so that Gabriel’s appearance isn’t startling. Instead Mary wonders how her life warrants such a visit.

Are you ready for an angelic visit? Don't be afraid. The Lord is with you.

Jesus, your coming was a miracle.
But you came using regular, ordinary means in order
for me know that you are with me.
Thank you, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Living in the Future

Ask a sign of the Lord your God, let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.

Isaiah 7:11

Angelic preschoolers were standing in two rows singing through their repertoire of music. The audience, consisting of parents and grandparents, were enthralled. However off key their songs of Christmas it didn’t matter, they were opera singers in the eyes of those who loved them. I was one of the observers sitting by my now adult “child” who not long ago was singing her own Christmas songs.

Looking at the sweet, innocent faces singing about the birthday of Jesus I was struck with the realization that in ten, fifteen years the world would look very different. These singing voices might look back and wistfully recall their childhood and “better” days. “Oh God,” I prayed, “let these children live in your future.”

God heard the cries of the Israelites and in his compassion, in His love, He gave them a promise that would allow them to live in his future. A virgin would conceive and bring to birth a son whose name would be “God with us.” This sign would reach the highest heavens and the deepest portions of the earth and with it would be the opportunity of living in God’s future—“Immanuel.”

Jesus, I want to live not only inthe present but in the future with you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dangerous Rejection

He was despised and rejected…

Isaiah 53:3a

Recently I met a woman who doesn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Her reasoning is, she went to church the whole time she was growing up and didn’t learn anything so why would she want to sit in a pew now. Her questions are posed such that she wouldn’t hear the answers. Her spirit lives behind a granite wall. The path that she walks is paved with her desires, her wants, her choices—her fears. It’s fear that keeps her despising and rejecting.

Long before his birth, Jesus was destined to be rejected. To have that kind of shadow hanging over one’s existence sure isn’t promising or hopeful. The Bethlehem innkeeper was just the beginning of a series of rejections. How does one keep living in the midst of continual rejection?

And today, thousands of years later, the rejection continues. It’s painful when those we love reject the One we love. Their rejection becomes the elephant in the room that is squeezed around and avoided. With every conversation there is a limit because the ultimate, deepest part of oneself cannot be shared—a love for Jesus. Conversations start but end quickly as soon as faith pulls up a chair.

But should their rejection be surprising given what is required of a Jesus follower? When Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” he’s asking for a total commitment, a complete handing over of oneself. No wonder those that despise and reject are fearful! Relinquishing ourselves to Jesus is dangerous!

Jesus, when those I love reject you, I feel rejected too.
Help me to love even when I feel despised.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking for Justice

The Lord will bring about justice and praise
in every nation on earth, like flowers blooming in a garden.

Isaiah 61:11 (CEV)

In an attempt to entice travelers to their country, the government of Iraq adopted the slogan, “tourism not terrorism.” Despite the promotion, I still would not move it to the top of my travel list. Images of devastation, drought, sand storms and death persist in streaming through my mind. And yet, around 600 BC, travelers journeyed to what we know as Iraq to see the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the world. Even more poignant is the possibility that somewhere in the vicinity of Iraq was the first garden.

In a world that seems hopeless, the Iraqi slogan is revealing. They are waiting, hoping for justice to reign. So much has been lost and memories of their ancient past are fading. They have only the stories of their ancestory when justice, praise and peace were the government.

Difficult times have taught me that justice is hard to come by when human nature rules. I think Adam was gifted with an innate sense of justice but he believed the serpent’s lie and it warped his ability. As a result “man’s” eye focused on "me", instead of  "them" and justice fell to the bottom.

But I have hope! In the new heaven and new earth of God’s kingdom there will be no other governing power but His justice. My tears will be replaced with laughter, sorrow will be given over to joy and death turned into life. What was seen as lost will be found and the gardens of the world will bloom once again.

Creator God, let your justice take control of my heart, soul and mind, today.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Riding the Waves

She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger…

Luke 2:7a

God shows up at the oddest and most unexpected times. Once, at the heart of a difficult time I was the accompanist for a worship service where there were intentional times of silence. All day, in very psalm like fashion, I had been asking God to show up in a powerful, awesome way and perform the spectacular miracle that would end my sea sickness. Now, silently sitting at the piano, I again prayed my week long big miracle prayer. In the stillness came a quiet voice, “But I came as a baby.”

God’s promised people had waited a long time for the Messiah. Their hopes rested on the big miracle, a Messiah that would rescue them from the tremendous weight of persecution and genocide. When the Messiah came they would be rescued and regain their rightful place as the people of God. I think they anticipated that, despite prophecy concerning a child, the Messiah would come charged and ready for battle.

But of course it wasn’t just the baby that was the issue. When Jesus comes into his ministry his intentions become clear. He will not be a life-rescuer. Instead he is a Messiah that calls people to a life-change. Those waiting for a Messiah rescuer never figured that they would have to change how they acted, how they lived, how they worshipped.

After my piano revelation my “difficult time” didn’t change. In fact, it got worse. But the words, “But I came as a baby” reminded me daily that life changing miracles often begin with little or no recognition. And so I open myself to be changed from the inside out, and I’ve found that instead of being sea sick, I can ride with the waves and eagerly anticipate the unexpected.

God, thank you for showing up with your
big miracle and changing me from the inside out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Poem for Advent's Waiting

No one can celebrate
a genuine Christmas
without being truly poor.
The self-sufficient, the proud,
those who, because they have
everything, look down on others,
those who have no need
even of God - for them there
will be no Christmas.
Only the poor, the hungry,
those who need someone
to come on their behalf,
will have that someone.
That someone is God.
Emmanuel. God-with-us.
Without poverty of spirit
there can be no abundance of God.

Oscar Romero

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where is Home?

the Son of Man has no where to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20b

Having a place to live should be one of those inalienable “rights” for everyone and yet the homeless rate continues to rise. Growing up I took “home” for granted, the front door always opened to the familiar and I felt safe. In the span of six years I once lived in six homes. Barely did I become familiar with my surroundings but the boxes were packed and a new home was becoming “familiar.”

There are many who have lived for years in the same home. They have found safety in a shared community of church friends, local schools and volunteer organizations. Feelings of unfamiliarity aren’t familiar. For those individuals this verse will be unsettling.

My waiting for Jesus this Advent season means that if I'm committed to following Him I'll also become aware that His arrival will mean living with uncertainty and unfamiliarity. Setting up house wasn’t on Jesus’ ministry agenda. His focus was bringing the kingdom of heaven to a world that had lost its place.

I am reminded of this when I moan about not living, for the last thirty years, in a home any longer than seven years. Alas, answering the call of Jesus on my life has meant that I had to put aside all that I considered familiar, certain, secure. The flip side is that my safest “home” is now with Jesus and together we’re on the move!

Jesus, thank you for being “home” for me.
When uncertainty and fear grip me I feel the pull
of your hand and I’m on the road again with you.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wilderness Wanderings

My apologies if this meditation doesn't make sense! It made total sense to me as I wrote it so it may be much more out of my own experience and desire to "see" God than anything else! My only prayer is that God will use it in some way! Blessings.

Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.Revelation 21:3a

While wandering through the daily grind of my wilderness I have only to take a glance or renew a memory to be reminded that I am not alone. God’s presence is always evident in some way or another. Sometimes, however, I wish I could gather physical manna like the Israelites. But then chagrined, I admit that I am too much like the Israelites in their denial of the obvious.

God dwelled with the Israelites in objects that could be seen, felt, heard. Of course, even those weren’t enough for them at times. Despite all the visuals they still took to shaping golden cows. And then Gabriel appears in Mary’s bedroom and it is yet another physical demonstration of God’s presence with man.

It was an amazing birth - God revealing Himself to man through his Son! It should be the event that stops all doubt of His existence. Surely from this point on there will be astounding accounts of God’s presence, now that He has appeared in the flesh. Now I should be able to visually see Him! But in my wilderness wanderings it doesn’t happen like that and I’m left wondering if the Israelites had it any better.

With the appearance of Jesus I become more vulnerable when it comes to experiencing God. Faith in the unseen is now required. But, by looking more intently for God, keeping open and vulnerable to the experience, the seen and unseen visuals that do appear will take me deeper into the mind of God. And that is a gift the wandering Israelites never received.

God, make my life Your dwelling place.
Help me in the experiencing of your presence
to go deeper into You.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A New Showcase

…whatever God does endures forever…

Ecclesiastes 3:14a

When I read the first couple of chapters in Genesis I sometimes allow my mind to wander and think about what God really had in mind. His initial plan was quite creative and then He topped it by deciding to create in His image. By doing it this way the rest of His creation would be cared for with the love and attention that He envisioned. It was a brilliant plan which went south when His “man” creation decided to take matters in their own hands!

But continued reading reveals a God that doesn’t ditch his creation even though it doesn’t remotely resemble Him and has pretty much been a disappointment. Instead He keeps finding ways of showing “man” what they are supposed to look like. Seas are divided, walls fall down, battles are won against all odds, fires don’t consume—these are just a few of God’s showcases. He loves and never gives up on what He created in His own image.

By the end of the Old Testament God’s patience seems to have become tissue thin. Despite the numerous appearances and revealings “man” has continued their blundering resulting in a royal mess. The prognosis for the future is…zip.

Zip still does not deter God! His original vision, however, still gives Him pleasure. And so He sets into motion a plan that would turn it all around. He would become the image He created. So He begins again, sending His Son, as a new showcase. This time He hopes that “man” will see Him more clearly and understand that whatever God does endures forever.

Creative God, thank you for never giving up on your
creation. Help me to see clearly your kingdom through
the life of your coming Son.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Club Membership

God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available
for everyone!

Titus 2:11 (The Message)

At one point in my life I lived in an area where people were defined by their club membership. It was one of the first questions asked when meeting someone new, “Where are you a member?” Without employment at the time, I felt completely excluded by the question, apart from the fact that I couldn't even begin to afford club membership!

With the arrival of Jesus in the waters of the Jordan, a life-changing ministry begins and the doors to the existing religious clubs are thrown open. Almost immediately the “club” board realizes that their power base is eroding away and that before long their membership will include the “riff raff” dining with Jesus. The important levels of religiosity that they had carefully put into place would no longer have any merit.

With the coming of Jesus God appears in the flesh ready to give and forgive. The rules that had been put into place for the protection of His creation were no longer needed. Nothing would now stand in the way of a personal, one on one relationship.

It’s a marvelous sense of belonging. I feel no exclusion! There are no entry interviews, fees or personal recommendations in God’s kingdom. Doors don’t exist because the kingdom is always open and everyone is invited and welcomed into the “club!”

Jesus, thank you for coming and changing
the system, the structures,
the rules so that everyone is welcomed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

His Knowing Nature

Come, see a man who told me all that
I ever did. Can this be the Christ?
John 4:29

Recently I assembled a series of interview questions for an upcoming hire. Of course, the questions were supposed to shed light on the person being interviewed. Some of the interviews ended up being longer than others because at the front of the interview was a question of story – tell me a story from your life that would help you connect to our clients.

Granted, I work at a faith based organization that ministers primarily to young women and their babies but the stories that surfaced were fascinating. And perhaps even more revealing - who could connect a life story and who struggled. Whether they realized it or not their stories gave me a glimpse of their character.

When the Samaritan woman returns to town it is with a message of being known. In her conversation with Jesus she discovers that her words are merely the surface of what Jesus knows about her. After all their theological debating what turns her into a believer is the knowing nature of Jesus.

It is this intimacy of knowing that I find particularly unique, comforting and unsettling. I may try to hide certain flawed traits from others but my core, my very soul is totally exposed to Jesus. He knows exactly who I am.

This is the Christ for whom I wait this Advent season.

Jesus, from the beginning
I have never been hidden from You.
I praise You for Your all-knowingness!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Little is Something

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among
the clans of Judah…

Micah 5:2

“Little is much when God is in it” is a phrase I heard frequently while growing up. It was full of hope and promise. It's comforting knowing that in a culture where "bigger is better" in God's world size doesn’t matter, amount isn’t quantified and quantity isn’t valued. If at the heart of the matter God resides endless possibilities exist.

Throughout the Bible there are accounts of people who gave abundantly out of their little. Elijah prepared a meal with the last of a woman’s oil and flour - she ends up with enough money to feed her entire family for several months. Rahab offers protection under a pile of straw and her name reappears as the woman who helped change the course of a nation. A widow gives a couple of coins amounting to less than a cent and her life turns into a lesson of abundant giving.

Then there is Bethlehem, whose line of historical significance is limited but whose impact is profound. A young boy sleeps with his sheep and calls Bethlehem home and becomes the King of Israel. And while Bethlehem may be mentioned later no one really thinks much of it because there isn’t much to think about!

Bethlehem is small and seemingly of no consequence until it shows again that little is much when God is in it. Bethlehem, out of its “little” gave in abundance to a world and its residents an event of such significance that nothing could or would ever be the same.

You overcome the odds, God!
Help me not to think in terms
of how little I might have
but how my little could affect
a change that mattered.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Calm Fidgeting

I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

Genesis 49:18

Every day I always spend a certain amount of time waiting. And I confess - I don’t like to wait. But no amount of neck craning, fidgeting or dashing seems to quicken my wait time. A quick trip to the market is extended because of the “quick trips” of others. My drive to work is stalled due to road work. Living and waiting walk hand in hand, and in my case, uncomfortably!

And now is the time of Advent—a time of waiting for the salvation of God. But with this waiting comes hope, promise of a future. There is a "known" in the waiting--Jesus bearing witness to God in his flesh. All my other waiting pales by comparison. I am humbled in this waiting.

Throughout the coming days as I wait in line for whatever reason I want to consider waiting as an opportunity. Instead of fuming over time lost, I want to work on rejoicing in the time gained to consider and wonder at Who I am waiting for.

Jesus, calm my fidgeting spirit
as I eagerly wait for you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

In Good Company

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

John 15:18

Confronting people makes me uncomfortable and even though I know that their behavior or attitude is wrong it is easier to avoid them and the issue, than to confront. Fear of their anger warps me and overshadows the effect of their destructiveness. I hope, that by ignoring the “problem”, it will disappear. So far, I haven't found that to be the best approach!

During Jesus’ ministry the attacks against his character increased, almost daily. Even by the third chapter in the gospel of Mark, the Pharisees have already joined up with their arch enemies, the Herodians, plotting Jesus' destruction. They hated Jesus and their hatred drove them to cunningly plot his demise.

I haven't known a level of hatred where my life is in danger but I have felt the heat of someone’s hatred. Jesus was hated because he confronted sinful behavior. He wasn’t afraid of speaking truth, bringing to daylight the dysfunctions and sinfulness that thrive in shadows.

As a follower of Jesus Christ I am called to confront what I know to be sinful. Whether it be in myself, my church, a friend or family member, I can't be afraid to bring into the light what has lived in the dark. Hatred may be my “reward”, but my strength lies in the knowledge that I am in the good company of Jesus who endured a hatred that led him to his death, but also to his resurrection.

Jesus, forgive me when I see sinful behavior, allowing
it to continue to live in the shadows.
I am afraid of the anger and hatred I might get back.
Help me to be bold in your strength.

Image--White Crucifixion, Marc Chagall, 1938

Friday, December 3, 2010

Quality Life

I waited patiently for the Lord…

Psalm 40:1

Patience has never been my virtue, which is probably why I seem to need to learn the same lesson repeatedly! My mother says that in my eagerness to get going I jogged in place in the womb. Not much has changed. I like to see things happen—quickly. So, when confronted with obstacles that slow down my progress, instead of seeing them as moments of reprieve and rest, I view them as nuisances. But, in my defense, I am learning a life-changing lesson. These obstacles are becoming prayer moments.

The psalms talk frequently of waiting, patience, be still. The psalms know me pretty well! Rushing from project to appointment I become frustrated, irritated and annoyed that life isn’t as “smooth” as I want it. Like the stop signs held by road workers, obstacles are constant,. But fuming over being stopped doesn’t get me to my destination any faster. Patiently waiting, being still is what allows God’s voice to be heard and in hearing our spirits are quieted.

It’s hard to be still. But I’m finding that there is a greater richness to the quality of life with the obstacles. Without them I would be more apt to forget to take in the surrounding view and more importantly keep a listening ear open to the heart of God.

Thought for the Day: How often during the day am I “still” ready to hear God’s voice?

Jesus, forgive my rushing life.
I want to accept the obstacles as stop signs that allow me
more time with you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prayer. . .A Convo

Pray all the time.

I Thessalonians 5:17 (The Message)

I know that praying is important. But there seems to be an elusive quality about it in that I'm not always sure just "how to do it." Once in conversation with a group of people I discovered that some "prayed" once a day. I was left wondering if they talked to their friends, spouses, family "once a day." I heard a pastor call a congregation to 90 minutes of prayer a day for the purpose of spiritual growth in their community. The grumbling I heard about how "impossible" or "difficult" it was again promoted me to ponder over how much time is spent watching television, reading or even exercising!

Most of my daily activities are intentionally planned, intentionally executed, intentionally accomplished. Prayer somehow falls, too often, through the cracks of my intentionality.

When I listen to prayers it seems that it is often approached as a one way conversation. Most of my friends wouldn't tolerate my friendship for very long if I sat and talked at them for 90 minutes. Our friendship continues and flourishes because we talk in a mutual back and forth conversation. Its the talking and listening that makes a rich and satisfying experience.

But, prayer has made a significant difference in my life. Some days are spent with 30 minutes here, 15 minutes there and so on. Other days there is a total immersion into the refreshing waters of prayer. It has been life changing. My days have become turning off the radio while driving to a appointment and I find I've just had a 25 minute conversation. Standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes listening to God's Spirit suddenly 20 more minutes have passed.The days and hours of intentional prayer have given me life at times when I have felt life waning.

If you're like me, sometimes I wonder about "how to do it" or even "when" but when I think of it in terms of a conversation, I realize that prayer is a back and forth convo with the One who made me and wants to be in relationship with me.

Speak Lord, your servant is listening. . .
and occasionally talking!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's been a good break, but now it's time to start thinking and writing again. Thank you for joining me again on the journey! Thank you for your comments. I appreciated and loved hearing from you.

Joy in Darkness

Even though troubles came down on me hard, your commands
always gave me delight.

Psalm 119:143

“I don’t know why Job had so many problems. He just got hit with all sorts of stuff and I can’t remember what he did,” said my eighty plus year old friend. “Absolutely nothing.” I quickly replied as I remembered all the times in the the last several years I’d gone back to Job and wondered at God’s “permission” for Satan to give a crack at bringing Job down. It made me think that maybe God had given his “permission” for my life as well!

Trouble isn’t “fair” in its distribution. For some life seems to offer little difficulty while others get far more than their “fair” share. Truthfully, I find the lack of a “fairness” quotient in life troubling!

But, Job does bring me comfort of sorts. Through all the loss, all the discomfort, all the pain God remains in Job’s space. God knew and was confident that He had built Job to last. However, Job also reminds me of all my own classic responses – upbeat, initially, with a slow slide into despair.

Job’s life had been shaped by disciplines that gave him what he needed most when most needed. He had lived, studied, and knew God along with His commands. It’s these commands, God's promises, that paved the road for Job, leading him through the darkness and into the light. In the end he says with complete confidence, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

Always present God! When troubles come down on me hard,
don’t take them away, but bring me the memory
of your promises so that I can find joy in the darkness.