Testing in the waters of life

The following thoughts have been percolating in my mind, lately.  As always they have come from a myriad of directions, but connections long to be made into one standard thought.  But perhaps that is the wrong goal.  So instead, I desire to share pieces from the grand mystery, the questions I ask of my Savior, and the thoughts that I try to test in the waters of life. 

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Yarn 1
 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’


Something about this verse made me stop and say, "What??? He is not served by human hands, He does not need anything, rather He is the giver, He desires to be sought by us, He is not far from us, we live in Him."  

Sure, if a quiz was laid before us and we were asked questions derived from the statements above, such as, "Does God need anything?"  We would most assuredly say, "No," and pass the test with flying colors.  But if we look at the way we live our lives, is that the starting point for the way we worship or are we (and how well we do or don't do) the starting point?

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Yarn 2

I was listening to "David and Goliath: A God-Drenched Imagination" and in it the speaker said he remembered going to Sunday School and after learning about Psalm 139 he was filled him with dread about God.  "God was always watching, He knew everything," did not give comfort but instead filled him with fear.  Those thoughts brought me back to remembering my own youth and the feelings of trying to "figure out the will of God in my life."  That ambition felt like a constantly moving target that was always off-centered from where I was to where He wanted me to be.  20 years later, the phantom appendage of the will of God still at times haunts my life. 

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Yarn 3
Sitting across from my dear friend, over a cup of coffee, and sharing bits and pieces of who I am, my deep questions and fears and hearing her say, "I never would have guessed that about you, you always seems so confident and sure of yourself," throws the question back in my own lap:  Hmmm, what kind of picture do you paint of yourself, is it real or is it false?  If it is false, why?  But on the same token hearing her reflect back to you, what you are doing in a way that reshapes your imagination and offers you a bit of life to take back into the work week.  Those morsels of life, along with the others, renewing your sense of purpose and providing some of that settling that we all long for in our everyday lives.

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Yarn 4
Praise.  The Psalms teach us to praise the Lord, with our whole being.  Where I want to go to when I'm with the Lord is, "Here's my to-do list, my fears, my worries, my friends' fears and worries," and "Oh, and thank you for who you are."  However, my Daily Prayer begins with "Lord, open my lips that I may praise your name," every day.  But consciously living out of a life of praise, is much easier said then done.

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Yarn 5
When you look in your daughter's tear-filled eyes and hear her express a fear she has of the Lord, the mirror holds up nice and shiny and reflects fully back at you.  [Currently, I'm taking a graduate class on assessment, and those opportunities can be full onslaught, productive self-assessment times. IE are you living what you are speaking?] But as I express to her how deep the Father's love is, how grand His plan is for her life and that this grandness can be experienced in the everydayness of life, right where she is at - it's not out there somewhere, never to be attained - I see His gentle fingers creeping in all over the place.  "Yes, you've been speaking to me. Yes, you've been molding and shaping me in a life giving way.  Yes, you were right here, not far from me, all this time."  And it brings life an invitation to look around and feel Him right where He is at and all the other corners He's been hiding the whole time.

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Yarn 6
So I've been starting out my mornings not from my fears and frustrations (2 days, 3 days tops, just being honest), which at times can be long, but from the reorientation that it is In Him that I live, move and have my being. I'm not dragging Him into my life nor am I fraughtlessly (this is supposedly not a word, but captures the essence of what I want to say, so if it were a word it could mean without success in a never-ending way) shooting after a moving target.  Rather, I'm in Him.  He's right there waiting to be known and experienced.  I just need to open my eyes and look.  "Lord, let me see where you are in this day, because I know you are there, and for that I praise you. Give me a God-drenched imagination today" (thank you Eugene Peterson via Allen's sermon for that rich, word picture).


In Christ,


A Conversational Poem

I read this poem last night and I must admit that poetry usually doesn't work for me. Here it is though from Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal pg. 126:


Beloved
   let us love
   for the loving
   is the sending
   and the mending
   and the end
   of the strife-hate
   in the heart of man
   Christ love
         Abba

As I read it, it still didn't do anything for me, until I read it in a completely different manner. So this may not have been the intention of the author (probably not) it is written pulling a line from the top, bottom, top, bottom all the way though. Here it is, enjoy:

In a calling, yearning voice I hear him calling me: Beloved.  to get my attention.
Abba? Is that you my Lord, are you calling me?
Let us love. Ah, there it is again, I sigh, how to do this love thing?
Christ love. Yes, Lord you are right, that is the way to love through living and breathing his love.
For the loving, in the heart of man bring it to my core, Lord, please.
Is the sending of the strife-hate send it all away
and the mending bring the mending
and the end.  Let your love be the beginning and the end of all that I am.

Either way you read the poem (or perhaps in your own new way) I hope it blesses your heart.

In Christ,

The part of the Christmas Story You Never Hear

There is a part of the Christmas story that doesn't fit into our nicely packaged Nativity scenes.  A part of the story for which no songs are written.  A part of the story that we skip over on our Christmas morning readings.  A part we'd rather not think about...

Yet Scripture includes it, and prophets prophesied about it and it is, in fact, part of the story:

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”
We leave it out because it stands in stark contrast to the joy of the season. It makes us uncomfortable.  There are no warm fuzzies attached to it.  There are no theological statements that make the uncomfortable questions in our minds cease.

But maybe, just maybe, we do ourselves a disservice by leaving it out.  Maybe the sweet, perfect picture we paint ends up excluding the harsh reality of the world that Jesus willingly chose to come into. And we could stop and say, "That's not fair.  Why didn't the angel warn all the mothers?  Did God only care for His own son?"  

But we know there is more to the story and that there is a point when God does not spare His own Son and does let Him fully live out the depths of the evilness of this world.  And we forget that Joseph and Mary did, in fact, need to flee.  Immediately before this passage in Matthew 2:13-15 Joseph has to flee in the middle of the night with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Jesus did not live in a magical bubble where no sadness, fear or pain never crossed His path.  No, God came down in flesh, to live with us, Emmanuel, to share in our burdens, our trials and our pain so we could trust Him, so we could turn to Him in our deepest moments of need, so that we could know that He truly does care:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This part of the story shows that God is fully aware of the darkness this world contains.  This part of the story, reminds us that the intersection between humanity & God's full redemption is still being worked out.  This part of the story reminds us that Jesus walked in the real world, our world and that somehow in God's mystery that even in the darkest of nights, Emmanuel, is with us.  It reminds us that there is a reason why Jesus came.  Finally it reminds us that today, in our darkest night, God is with us, and that the last chapter is yet to be written.

In the midst of the Christmas story,
Innocence is lost.
Shining eyes - this world no longer sees.

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

A sweet baby rests on His mother's chest
as in the chill of the night he is whisked
 away to safety. 
Does He too know that there will be a day
when He says,
"God, why have you forsaken me?"

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

till it reaches 
Calvary.

Here's a song that accompanies the sentiments of this post: https://youtu.be/YmZlYiMCvSc

A Very Present Help

During Daily Prayer this morning, I read Psalm 46.  It seemed very timely for my life, the lives of the people whom I love and am praying for, and for our country during this intense season.

I find that when a scripture stands out to me that much, that it is helpful to actually take the time to write it down by hand.  The reason being is it helps me to sit with the words, roll them over in my mind and embed them through prayer into my spirit.  As I did this, I was continually surprised by the words and phrases that jumped out at me that I had missed by merely reading.

This particular psalm is filled with a back and forth volley between the reality of who God is and the current circumstances of the world.

He is our refuge and strength despite the fact that the world is in tumult around us.

The imagery of drowning in overwhelming waters is subdued by the image of the river of peace flowing into the city of God.  He says, He will not be moved.  

As I read it, I remembered recently taking my daughter's head into my hand as she wept about a problem that was overwhelming her.  As I lifted her eyes to meet mine I said, "If you stare at the problem, it will not go away.  But if you lift your eyes and look around you - at all the people who love you, are surrounding you and cheering you through this time - then the problem won't seem so overwhelming."  These verses to me were like God asking me to lift my own eyes from the problems that surround me and place my eyes on Him, where He is sitting enthroned with full confidence and peace.

This psalm, however, recognizes our humanness and the scene is quickly ripped back again onto the shaking and quivering that surrounds the time period.  It is answered by the quiet whisper - the Lord is with us, He is our stronghold. This is how he operates.

Just - be still and know that I am God.

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If the circumstances and situations of your life right now are taking you on this roller coaster of emotions, I pray that your soul and spirit will find solace in Psalm 46.  I encourage you to take time to hand-write this psalm down and see the places where He grasps your heart, mind and spirit.

In Christ,

The Conversation of Creation



The wind rustling through the air.
The sun creeping to far away places.
 The clouds drifting - 
a constantly changing canvas.
 The grasses swaying in the wind.
The birds joining in
Sounds.
The conversation of creation surrounds us constantly
 - from the large to the very small. 
This is just the surface;
it barely scratches all that is there. 
Yet, 
we can't take it all in, 
we can't hold it all - 
the amazement, 
the wonder
 it slips through our hands 
The conversation of love and sustenance
Surrounds.



You didn't need to say much more.
Actually anymore. 
But 
you chose to step in 
to bring love beyond 
what constantly surrounds
what we've grown so accustomed to
 that we stopped 

Listening. 
You took on the simplicity, 
the regularity of our humanity
 and you added another element,
an element of 

Love. 
It started as a baby's cry piercing the night,  
then the laughter of a little child, 
to the deep breaths of a man
creating, building. 
It moved to the cries, 
the tears of loss. 
The rejection
 of acquaintances, friends, those closest to you. 
You were whipped, 
spat upon and through it all you choose to say, 
"Father forgive them." 

In the commonness of everyday man
you chose to come and share the story of the uncreated One
- The story of love-
 every step of the way,
 the crescendo of 

Acceptance.

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Amazing Creator of both big and small,
thank you 
for taking the time to show us your hands aren't too large
to hold our very small.


In Christ, 

Daily Prayer

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