Monday, February 28, 2011

Living Noisily

I will pray with my spirit,
But I will pray with my mind also…

I Corinthians 14:15b

Jesus did not live quietly. As an adolescent he wasn't intimidated by the religious scholars but was confident in his identity and what he knew. From baptism to a wedding at Cana to feeding thousands Jesus lives his life publicly and noisily. Mark's
gospel repeatedly describes the "crowds" following Jesus. It wasn't a quiet life that Jesus lived.

In this "politically correct" age I find myself too often living "quietly." To live each day as an opportunity to live noisily for Jesus is a challenge. But what I'm realizing is that while I may not go down the street yelling "Jesus!" I can find a way of speaking Jesus into the life of each person I meet. It becomes a conscious awareness on my part. Each waiter, clerk, doctor, mortgage broker, window washer becomes an opportunity to not live quietly.

How I live noisily for Jesus will look different with each person I meet. But there is a constant between them all that requires nothing from the other. I can pray. Whether "quietly" or out loud the simplest way to be noisy about Jesus is bringing them to Jesus, in prayer.

Jesus, I love you.
Help me to see with Your eyes,
hear with your ears
and respond with Your love.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Psalm 73

From Psalms/Now

It is generally expected that God will stand by the righteous
and related to those whose deeds and thoughts
are purely altruistic.
I am afraid I just don't belong to that class of people.
I guess I am just a perpetual backslider.
Rather than thinking unselfishly,
I find myself envious and covetous
about those who have so much more than I.
They never seem to have problems.
They are always so strong and healthy.
I doubt that they know the meaning of conflict.
They are proud, carefree,
devil-may-care, even malicious,
and so disgustingly smug about it all.
They act as if God didn't even exist,
and they are almost blasphemous in their attitudes and actions.

And yet people will honor and applaud them;
they find nothing to censor about them.
What aggravates me is their obvious unconcern
about God or fellowman.
Yet they always appear to be so comfortable and well off.
And all the while I struggle so desperately with my sin-permeated nature.
I try so hard to please God, yet my days are full of conflict and my heart seethes in unrest.

I know I speak foolishly and unfairly,
but I get so fed up with it all.
That is, until I begin arguing with God about it.
Then I realize that they are not as well offf as they appear to be.
Their bright bubble will burst one day;
their dream will turn into a nightmare.

It's just that I get so depressed at times,
and I act like a stupid fool.
What is so amazing is that even while engrossed in irrational and unspiritual contemplations
I am never far from You.
You hold me close to Yourself.
You guide me and watch over me.
You assure me that is is all worth it.
And because of this glorious truth
I really have no need for anything else.
The essential desires of my being are met in You.
I shall often be victimized by human failure,
but my great God never ceases to love me and bless me.

How good it is to know that God is always near!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jesus vs. Wal-Mart

I am with you always. . .

Matthew 28:20

Wal-Mart isn’t one of my favorites. Nevertheless I found myself one recent day in their storage area, along with a supervisor, rummaging through boxes of discontinued baby cribs. Struggling with one box, my Wal-Mart cohort called out to a co-worker, “hey could you help me with this?” “Off the clock,” was her snap reply and away she walked with her gargantuan soda cup. I overheard me saying to myself, “thanks a lot!”

Encounters such as this one always get me thinking. And this is what came to me: I am thankful that the Trinity is never “off the clock.” In the movie, Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey finds out what it means to be always on the clock when he assumes, for a brief time, God’s responsibilities. He can’t even begin to keep up with the prayer requests!

And so I come to the mountain, along with the disciples, a place of safety and strength, to hear Jesus promise, I am with you always. There is no going “off the clock.” He is always ever present, ready to help me rummage through whatever pile I am struggling with. Now that's service!

Jesus, thank you for being with me – always!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Crawling Forward

I didn't get home from work last night until ten so I thought I would post a piece that I wrote three years ago. You may recognize it but as I reread it I found it very appropriate for my life at present. Amazing how some things just don't change! Blessings!

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,
but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10:39

I watched on TV how the summer heat tried to beat the life out of Gabriela Andersen-Schiess of Switzerland. Having run 26 miles in the 1984 Olympics she collapsed 400 meters short of the finish line. It looked pretty certain that Gabriela’s race was over. But then Gabriela proved to everyone watching, including myself, that she was made of tougher stuff. My body hurt as I watched her crawl, waving away all attempts to help her.  And I marveled as Gabriela crossed the finish line. Six runners had completely quit the race long before.

Jesus was made of tougher stuff. From the beginning, when the Holy Spirit drives him out to the desert, Jesus demonstrates what it means to not shrink back. At every turn the religious "heat" was continually turning up the temperature in its attempts to beat him down. Even falling under the burden of his cross, he continues to the finish.

In following Jesus, I feel the intensity of religious "heat." Throughout my spiritual race there have been those who have attempted to beat me down with their criticisms, insults and slander. And, I have face planted. But, knowing Jesus and the insults he endured keeps me crawling forward.

Jesus lived a life that proved finishing is possible. Moving forward, even on my hands and knees, will ultimately give me life. If  I shrink back, quitting short of the finish line, I will lose for sure.

Jesus, your life proves that hardships are a part of living.
Thank you for never shrinking back from the finish.
Help me, no matter the position,
to keep moving forward to life with You.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Waiting for God

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.

Isaiah 30:18 (The Message)

When I first went away to college I thought it was pretty cool to grab a group of friends and head down to the dining commons. Scrambling through the food line I could grab whatever I wanted to eat, even if it didn’t fit into the pyramid food grouping. But eventually it was the waiting in line for every single meal every day that prompted this vow when I was a junior, “I will never wait in line for food again!”

Since that vow I can’t think of a day where I am not forced to wait or wait by default. I now wait for traffic lights. I wait for phone calls, doctor appointments and e-mails to be returned. I wait for repair technicians and online orders. I wait. . .Waiting has become an integral part of my life although I still refuse to eat in cafeterias and I don’t care for potlucks – it reminds me too much of my college days!

Honestly, I don’t find Isaiah’s definition of waiting comforting, in fact, it promises an unknown length of time - more waiting! It’s true, I believe that God does want to lavish me with His graciousness, but His demand for perfection just produces more waiting on my part! So, added to my list of daily waiting is waiting for God.

But I long to experience the gracious, merciful rightness of my Father, who hopefully isn’t finished with me, and so I wait. In my waiting I remember all that has been right from my past and I am refreshed knowing that the God of my past is also the God of my future.

Jesus, thank you for loving me enough
to wait until everything is right.
Help me to wait for all that is gracious, merciful and right.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Zumba Lessons

. . .and he said to him, “Follow me.”

Mark 2:14c

In my humble opinion there isn’t anything that will make you feel more like a klutz than joining a Zumba class! With every new pattern the instructor calls out, “follow me” but my feet find it difficult to mirror the beautiful, rhythmic movements. It’s loads of fun in a two left feet sort of way. My instructor keeps reminding me that “it’s hard in the beginning but it gets better” and she’s right. After repeated sequences my feet find their place more easily; in the mirror I can see that I am following my teacher’s steps more smoothly.

With fumbling feet I follow Jesus. He called me years ago and sometimes the following is easier than others. Everyday is a Zumba class with me attempting to mirror the steps He has laid out for me. I know in my heart how I want to walk and live but my desire and my actions aren’t always in sync. But with each repeated lesson and duplicated hardship, I am finding that my steps are becoming more solid, less awkward.

Jesus reminds me, daily, that following him is hard, but it gets better. His steps are not impossible. And, when I finally get the sequence, no matter how complicated, life resembles a cha cha step!

Jesus, You call out the steps.
Help me to learn how to follow.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From Catherine de Hueck Doherty

If we trust somebody we are truly opening the way to love, hope and faith. For God loves a cheerful giver, and there is no limit to the blessing God can give us. He will always make sure that we have what we need for ourselves.  That is to say, that when we give cheerfully, joyfully, of ourselves, of our faith, of our love, then indeed we become truly alive. We become so full that we are like a granary. Others can come and take the grain away.

But the word "trust is an immense word. For if men begin to trust one another, then they will stop killing one another with mental cruelty and every kind of inhumanity. . .Whenever you give it away, God replenishes it anew. Like love, trust can only be kept by being given away.

So let us all go into the depth of ourselves and find out if we trust one another, and if not, why not. Let us talk about, shall we? For charity begins at home you know, and the almsgiving of trust starts with us.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

He Knows Best

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

I Corinthians 2:10b

Family legend has it that my mother once told my then boyfriend that she knew me better than I knew myself. He and I were engaged at the time and she wasn’t exactly keen on the idea. While I bristled at her knowingness the truth is that she had a better idea, than me, of what I would need in a marriage. My boyfriend became my husband and when I became a mother I finally had to admit that as my mother had “known” me I “knew” my daughter! At this point in my life I find it comforting that my mother knew me so well.

How the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists as One is a theological mystery. But how they relate to each other is always consistent. Their intertwining, where one leaves off the other begins, brings comfort. With no beginning or end, I am safe within the center.

With these infinite abilities, why is knowing the depths of God important? Accountability and relationship. Living accountably, and in relationship with trustful friends, gives my life clarity, wholeness and vision. God being in relationship with the Holy Spirit, who searches everything, even God himself, means I know a God that can be trusted.

God sets the example of willingness to be “known.” It’s the kind of life he wants with me—a willing acknowledgment that nothing can be hidden because He knows me better than I know myself.

Jesus, You know me!.
Nothing is hidden.
I will become all You want me to be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Walk in Hell

Be strong and courageous and do it.
Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed.
. . .He will not leave you. . .until all the
work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.

I Chronicles 28:20

If you’re going through hell, keep going. A friend told me that Winston Churchill said it. Google says the same, but I sure wish she had passed this along to me several months ago! It would have made the perfect hole in which to dump the mess I was experiencing. I was going through hell – for months - and I certainly didn’t know how to keep going.

But unbeknownst to me apparently I kept moving. I have proof – I’m still alive! When the heat was on and flaming tongues were doing their best to destroy, I didn’t want to go on. Evil smothered me. Fear paralyzed me. Discouragement neutralized me. Fatigue defeated me. How could I go on when I was standing still?

Though I walk through the valley of death never meant much until I went through hell. I feared the evil that surrounded me and I almost became an ash heap, but I stand today as a witness – God walked through hell with me. And, all I can say is that I was convinced that my work for the Lord was finished – but today is a new day and I awake to the realization that all is not lost or destroyed and His plans for me are still intake!

God! Thank you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reacting to Action

We love because he first loved us.

I John 4:19

Leafing through the fourteen page questionnaire I was required to submit, I blasted a groan. How many clients have you shared the Gospel with? How many clients accepted Jesus Christ? Come on! Was our effectiveness as a ministry really going to be determined by the number of clients that got “saved”? It was a painful reminder of a recent phone conversation with a community agency where I had assured them that while we were definitely a faith based organization we weren’t into “whopping people with our Bibles.” “That’s your reputation,” was her reply.

Recalling the first word in our non-profit’s mission statement I was tempted to cross out shared the Gospel and replace it with lovedHow many clients have you loved? Loving others, out of the vastness of love that has been given, seems like a very effective way to measure success! Any other measure becomes a statistic, a glorious, dust collecting trophy.

Loving everyone who walks through the door takes energy requiring a certain quantity of guts. It requires listening to painful stories, putting up with disgusting smells, bending to inconveniences, closing the gap of opposites with compassion, stepping outside my world and into the world of another.

Dropping my eyes again to the dreaded question I stopped my noisemaking. The “higher ups” weren’t going to get a real picture of what my staff and I did every day with that question because as un-measurable as it may be, loving is incredibly more demanding, far more long term, completely unconditional and sometimes very rewarding. Loving is my reaction to His action – because he first loved us.

Jesus, help me to love as You love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

God's Rhythmic Beat

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22

“Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where no one has a job?” Startled by his question I simply answered, no. “I have” he said. Our encounter began as a knock on the door,a dog yowling nuisance. My interrupter was pushing a sale and I was eager to end our conversation. His question changed the course of our interaction. Closing the door a few minutes later, with two bottles of a miracle cleaner in hand, I prayed that his life would be better for the sale.

For too many years I kept looking out ahead attempting to gain a view of where my life might be going. Frequently I would adopt the life view of friends and try to weave their view into my life. It took awhile for me to face the fact that as much as I might try to change the view, fighting the rhythm of my life was fruitless.

Like the living conditions of the young man at my door, there are an abundance of injustices. But it has always been the manipulations of man that has messed with God’s rhythm, tipping the scales of balance and bringing about unfairness.

God’s rhythm for me, however, is specifically designed. His rhythm for my life has been dark and sweet with an underlying melody consistently playing, growing in its complexity, sometimes fading but always rich. What I have to do is to stop working so hard to interject my own notes and instead submit myself to God's careful arrangement.

Jesus, help me to live my life according to your rhythm.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Carry the Legacy

…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1b

My story about how I came to be a follower of Jesus Christ isn't very dramatic. A friend once told me about sharing her testimony and she was shocked that people had clapped. It didn't surprise me, her testimony included lots of drama! No one has ever clapped about my conversion at 7 years old. But like so many testimonies, whether dramatic or yawn producing, they usually include the influence of another Jesus follower. They are grandmothers, Sunday school teachers, and in my case, parents who dragged me to church despite my teenage resistance. All of them make up a cloud of witnesses - people who faithfully pointed to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ.

It is important that I remember my cloud of witnesses. They represent a legacy of faith. My life of faith today is, or should be, a reflection of those who influenced me. Whether their impact was small or big time significant, their lives left an impact that lives with me daily.

When Jesus appears at the river Jordan he has a cloud of witnesses behind him. For thousands of years faithful individuals had pointed to the promises of God. Jesus was the embodiment. He carries on their legacy, increasing the cloud's depth by pointing the way to God.

While I may think fondly of my “witnesses” I can't stop there. They charge me with the responsibility to carry on their legacy and identify myself as a “witnesses.” It means that every day is another opportunity to faithfully point to the faithfulness of Jesus. It is how the legacy of faith will continue and the cloud of witnesses will grow.

Jesus, thank you for each witness that you have brought into my life.
Help me to carry on their legacy of faith
by being a faithful witness to others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back on Friday, February 11

Still gone on retreat with no internet service or cell phone service! What a relief! See you on Friday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

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. Some of the vocabulary used required a theological dictionary along with numerous spiritual proclamations and revelations. Opportunities for silence were pretty much non-existent. Basically, prayer was about talking, not listening.
I have grown to love hear others pray. Prayer is a unique opportunity! It is a God conversation consisting of simple, plain language--a conversation that is probably best 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 one of those “says it all” prayers for the believer. No matter one’s circumstances, environment, mood or situation here is a simple prayer that can be prayed no matter the season of life.

But, it does have one challenging demand–silence. And, in an age of talking heads, iPods, and cell phones silence is a rare commodity. In order to hear, I have to be willing to listen, and in order to listen, silence is an absolute necessity.

God calls my name every day. I have only to pray, Speak, for your servant hears.
Jesus, thank you for calling out to me. Speak--I am listening.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

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

Psalm 51:7

A few years ago I was taking my dirty clothes to the Laundromat. You never realize how long laundry takes until you have to sit and wait for it! After stuffing the dark load into the washer I began to fold the clean whites. I watched as the water flowed in, suds appeared and the cycle began; back and forth--stop--back and forth--stop.

An old hymn began humming in my brain. Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow now wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Theology shows up in the strangest places and I began to ask, “How do I become whiter than snow?”

It was the back and forth, rubbing together, friction, that got my clothes clean. It was a painful awareness that it was that same action that makes me whiter than snow. It’s the friction of disappointments and struggles that, in part make up my life, that will ultimately wash away my dirt and grime, leaving me clean within and without.
I have no idea how my clothes “feel” when they’re being washed but the washing process looks uncomfortable! I don’t like friction of any kind. My load of dirty clothes is clean within the hour. But my life, at various times, continues to be rubbed with adversity and discouragement. Will the whiter than snow result, be worth this painful rubbing?

When I gathered my clean clothes I saw, that while showing signs of wear, they were clean–made brighter for the rubbing. I pray that 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!
I long to be purer, whiter,cleaner
but I need your strength to endure the washing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Remember my affliction and my wanderings…
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.

Lamentations 3:19-23

The aged coastal cypress is bent and bowed down, but rooted firmly. Prevailing against the unrelenting winds it’s shape and color have been altered, nevertheless, it clings to the precipice above the turbulent Pacific. Though formed and shaped by the winds it cannot control, it has not moved.

Adversities in my life shape and alter me. The result is that my precious dreams and eager ambitions blow 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 has blown my way.

But Jesus remembers my suffering! His own suffering makes him intimately acquainted with the hurts I experience. He responds by loving me, steadfastly. Like the resilient cypress I press in to the Rock. No matter the winds velocity the Rock does not move. Taking any action to move away from the storm will mean letting go of the Rock that keeps me safe.

By pressing in, digging my roots deeper into the Word I feel the Rock’s strength. The steadfastness of the Rock is my only hope of survival. I cannot move.

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

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

For the next eight days my husband and I are going on a retreat geared towards ministers and their spouses who have experienced a difficult ministry positions. Having come through three years of a toxic situation we are looking forward to this experience. With that in mind I will be posting some past writings. Thank you! May God reveal Himself to you in unique and mysterious ways!

May you be strengthened with all power,
according to his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience with joy...
Colossians 1:11

His power is at work in us, and if only we set our mind on the things which concern Him, we will see this power in operation. The power of God makes great works possible, but is just as operative in the small, perhaps unnoticed, things of life.

The power of God is great, yet He gives of it freely for His purposes. We have to wait for the power. There is no time for delay, as the Spirit has already come; the waiting is to prevent us dashing ahead, reliant on our own ability instead of His enabling. Even when works of power or "miracles" occur, these only confirm the message: "Look heavenward!"

The works of power are a signpost which says, "Go, in this direction, to God." But it was never intended that we worship the signpost!

Celtic Book of Prayer