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.

__________________________________________________________

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, 

In light of terror




When I think about the evil and the world today and consider what terror is - I see it as evil that doesn't have a "face to name."  While we do label the evil we see in the news today in numerous ways: ISIS, racism, guns, religious extremism, etc. there doesn't seem to be a specific name, a specific place or a person "to blame."  While in the past, we were able to name and target evil, for instance saying "Hitler" we knew if we could take him down then the majority of the issues could eventually reach a resolution.  But now, as we awake each morning, holding our breath to see if and where tragedy has hit and through whom, there does not seem to be a specific evil that we can unite together, attack and eliminate.

This has caused me to stop and reflect on God and His ways.  Jesus described the Kingdom of Heaven as a mustard seed - it starts small yet it grows.  Our world looks for and asks for leaders who dominate, take over, lead.  But God approaches leadership in the opposite way - discreet, with time, allowing roots to grow deep, being established and then emerging in such a way that there is stability, strength and protection.  In addition, He is well aware that His kingdom currently coexists with evil and for now He allows this.  Understanding this should help us not to be overwhelmed, in despair or without hope.

Instead, we should recognize that we are set-up precisely in the way that God intended and that we are the carriers of His kingdom here on earth.  While we can't pinpoint these atrocities to one face, what we do see through the news are individuals.  Individuals who worked jobs, were married, went to school etc.  People who rubbed shoulders with others on a daily basis.  This world is full of individuals who need to not only hear about the truth of God's love but need to see it, feel it and receive it.  The way this is done is through His individual children seeing, hearing and providing the reality of that love.  This is the kingdom way.

My prayer is that we as the body of Christ, would not lose hope in the light of terror.  That we would not be confused, overwhelmed or at a loss for what our role is today.  That we would be faithful to our call to love and would open our eyes to see that the very individuals we interact with on a daily basis, whether through work, at home, in the grocery store etc, are the very human beings whose lives we touch and spread the seeds of His kingdom.  May His Kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Christ,



I mourn, with hope

Today I mourn.

Yesterday I mourned.

I mourned for the history that has brought us to these days.  I mourned for slavery, for lynching, for Rodney King to Philando Castile and everyone in between.

I mourn for the officers killed in Dallas last night.

I mourn for the African-American man who's heart beats faster today when he passes a police car in the street.

I mourn for the loved ones who send their officers to work today, unsure if tragedy and pain will meet them today.

I mourn that though we've come so far, there is a chasm threatening to grow that causes us to choose sides,  to use the words "they" & "them" instead of "us."

As my husband and I discussed Philando last night, unaware that tragedy was co-occurring in Dallas, he adamantly asked, "What is the solution?"

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

As I read the news of Dallas this morning and coupled it with the sorrow I was already feeling for Philandro, I wanted a way to express my sorrow, my anger, my frustration.  I wanted the biblical sackcloth and ashes to rip and display that I indeed am mourning.  So today I wear a black cloth on my arm, cut from clothing as a sign to simply show that I mourn.


As Johnny Cash expressed in his song, "Man in Black,"
 

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times.


I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.


The black is there as a reminder to me that things are not right, that I need to pray.  It also serves as an opportunity to talk to others and say, "I am listening, I care, I hurt and I too want to see change."

After I wrote the first part, I also tore white and added it to my arm band.  I added white to show that I mourn with hope and belief.  I know that we are capable of change, I know that we are capable to love better.  I know that the people who mourn today, need to be ministered to, need to be loved, need to make a choice with where their hearts will land - if they will choose to forgive or not.  The cycle needs to be broken.

The Lord God has put his Spirit in me,
    because the Lord has appointed me to tell the good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to comfort those whose hearts are broken,
to tell the captives they are free,
    and to tell the prisoners they are released.
He has sent me to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness
    and the time when our God will punish evil people.
He has sent me to comfort all those who are sad
and to help the sorrowing people of Jerusalem.
I will give them a crown to replace their ashes,
    and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow,
    and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.



In Christ,


Why is it important we know we are loved?

As an extension to my last post, If I had a magic wand and could impart any spiritual gift, what would it be?, I want to share why it is so important to know we are loved.  I believe it is important to know we are loved so we can be effective in bringing His Kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.  I have seen (and experienced) as a Christian many days, weeks, hours, months, years, decades trying to get "right with God."  At times, there has been an overwhelming fear that salvation would soon be lost if and when I made the "wrong decision," had the wrong theology on a specific mater, etc.  Instead of resting comfortably on His lap with child-like faith and asking, "What's on your heart, Lord?" I was walking around feeling guilty, ashamed and wondering what I had to do to make "penance" for my latest sin.  While I know we may now scoff at the religious tradition of buying penance for sins, I can see why people would do it and I believe that for some this physical act would relieve the guilt.  I guess what I'm saying is that even today people walk around feeling guilt-ridden and having no seemingly way to get rid of the guilt.   But I really believe that this obsession with guilt is a misunderstanding of Jesus and His and the Father's heart towards us.


 It was through Christ’s circumcision, that is, his death, that you were made free from the power of your sinful self. 12 When you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and you were raised up with him through your faith in God’s power that was shown when he raised Christ from the dead. 13 When you were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self, God made you alive with Christ, and he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the debt, which listed all the rules we failed to follow. He took away that record with its rules and nailed it to the cross. 

Do you see what the cross did for us? It forgave ALL our sins, it canceled the debt - it has been nailed to the cross, left behind.  But perhaps we metaphorically run back to the cross, tear that piece of paper off and hold it before God saying, "But what about this one?"  However, it doesn't say that the record was resurrected with Jesus. Perhaps the nails on His hands should serve as our reminder that the record was left behind so we can move on.

Hebrews 1 & 2 work through these struggles with us.  We see that the Israelite people were never able to enter God's rest and we are warned that we too do not want to be caught missing out on His rest.  While that passage has made me uncomfortable, as I've struggled with it, I've come to realize that they never wanted to accept God's grace, which is why they were unable to enter His rest.  And as I've seen in my own life and the lives of others, when we are trying to  live for the law, from the law and/or in light of the law, we continue to miss out on the promised rest.

14 Since these children are people with physical bodies, Jesus himself became like them. He did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death—the devil— 15 and free those who were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death. 16 Clearly, it is not angels that Jesus helps, but the people who are from Abraham.[b] 17 For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. 18 And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted.

Understanding that we can confidently come before God's throne of grace in our times of weakness is key, key, key.  So this is just the background information that lays the groundwork for the question, "So what then?"

His Kingdom come, His will be done

(If you really want to work through these concepts with an expert check out Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

I was struck the other day by Jesus words considering the kingdom:
Luke 17:20-21
Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?”
Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. 21 People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is within you.”

We are the carriers of His kingdom!  Our world and our churches ask, seek and looking and searching for God's kingdom daily and I think they main reason they are missing seeing it is because they are looking in the wrong places.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 
11 This command I give you today is not too hard for you; it is not beyond what you can do. 12 It is not up in heaven. You do not have to ask, “Who will go up to heaven and get it for us so we can obey it and keep it?” 13 It is not on the other side of the sea. You do not have to ask, “Who will go across the sea and get it? Who will tell it to us so we can keep it?” 14 No, the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

NT Wright says in his book, Surprised by Hope:

The method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom.  The kingdom will comes as the church, energized by the Spirit, goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always - as Paul puts it in one of his letters - bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.

We need to be captured by God's heart and understand His heart if we want to be reflections of it in the world today:
Psalm 146: 6-9
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong 
and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; 
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.

These are the values we are called to carry.  This is the heart we have the honor and privilege to represent.  His Kingdom is here today, it is within you and you can easily spread and extend it by simple acts of love to anyone who walks in your path today - whether family, friend or foe.  Be confident in His love, beloved.

In Christ,



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