28 October, 2017

Stop the Words

My world is so full of words.  Words of action, words of responsibility, words of news, words of pain and suffering, words of encouragement and teaching.  A few of these words are harmful to my heart, many are difficult to hear, some are beautiful, alive and uplifting...yet, I'm tired of the words.  It reminds me of days long ago when I couldn't wait for my babies to say their first words...then months later would wonder if they would ever quit talking!!

It's confusing that inasmuch as I treasure the gift of words, I've realized that they pull me away, they distract me, they lead me to rely on intellect and reason and problem-solving.  I get caught up in the cycle of words and they bind me and prevent me from finding my one source of hope and love.  Think about it, we wake up, we listen to radio and TV, we read email, we Tweet, we go to work, school, weekends are filled with activities and words, evening events, even church services where we're instructed and taught...we start to believe that these activities and actions are the ones that keep us informed, up-to-date, and offer us informed peace and hope and love.  Day after day we live in the unending flow of words from the world and for me...it's exhausting.

My mind and ears are aching.  And my spirit is hungry to hear the Word of truth.  But somehow, I may have found a remedy for my life.  And it is a strange fix, in fact it is two opposites that attract and help me.  These two strange bed-fellows are music and silence.  Let me explain.  Some of my best times are those that I put on my headphones with praise music blaring and get outside and walk.  The only words blasting in my ears and mind are words sung in glory to the King of Kings.  Words sung in joy that declare His power over my life.  As I walk, I only hear and experience His love and offer of healing and all I see before me is His creation.  Somehow, this becomes the most worshipful experience of my week.  Because it's just me and Him.  There are no distractions, no spoken words, no other people.

And the music is LOUD in my ears.  Why, you may wonder?  Because the world's distraction is so loud in my head that I find the music has to be LOUD so my mind doesn't wander and stays on my God.  Seriously, I'm so feeble-minded that I literally need the volume loud to keep my attention.  That is how much my brain has been impacted by the words of the world.

My next step after this loud music-searing experience is the exact opposite...silence.  As I arrive back at my home, I stop the music and simply sit in silence and listen.  Listen to the cry of my heart and listen to my God's response to my soul.  It becomes the most real part of my week.  For I have finally stopped the words, stopped the world, stopped my own goings.  I've had to break the cycle with the music so that I can find the moments with my God.

And the scary part for me is that the words are getting louder and louder in the world.  I'm becoming more and more distracted.  I've simply got to choose the Music and Silence more and more and more.  Am I the only one dealing with this words overload?  Are you?  How do you separate yourself for the world of words?  Would you try my "Music - Silence" experiment?

It is good to praise the Lord
    and make music to your name, O Most High,
proclaiming your love in the morning
    and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
    and the melody of the harp.  Psalm 92:1-3


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. Psalm 42:1




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29 September, 2017

The Bucket List

"The Greatest Commandment: One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions." Mark 12:28-34

Have you read this part of the Bible before?  Or perhaps I should ask, how many times have we read these words?  Have they sunk in?  Let me offer the following story as a parallel to the one above...a modern day encounter with the Teacher.

The day started after a poor night of sleep.  The first appointment was at 7 a.m. so I had to scoot.  Bathed, dressed, make-up, hair done, cute outfit....ready for the day. Meetings happened and all was fine; however, I did notice a strange feeling, a disconnection throughout the day.  It was as though I was not really IN the day but participating at a distance.  I was just going through the motions of the day but no real connection.  It was a distraction but no real issue... probably just a lack of sleep the prior night.
Late in the day, I headed out to my last meeting of the day and the best part of my day.  We call the gathering, Chinese Bible Study.  We gathered, we ate, chatted and sat down to begin a new study.  And thus begin my unraveling.
As we opened the box of newly delivered books...alas, the wrong books had been shipped.  No, I had not bothered to open the box and check the shipment!  So, I decided to go ahead and teach these fifteen people from a new book, that I was barely comfortable with, and one that they did not have in front of them.  Warning bells were ringing in my head.  The day had already been strange but forge ahead, I did.  Have I mentioned that of the fifteen people gathered, we had multiple countries represented: Russia, China, South Korea, Bangladesh, Yemen and the US?  Did I also mention that some of those gathered spoke really great English and some spoke practically no English.  Some were new believers in Jesus and some had never before heard His name.
But, off I went and begin to teach or something like teaching!  Between the language barrier,  the new book, my before mentioned 'off-ness', a bunny trail of explanation of evil in the world and loud children in the room next door...I was slowly losing my mind, sorry, my focus.  All we needed was a dog to come running through the room or a chicken on the loose or any other random act of distraction...

And, we got it...a loud thud from the room next door and suddenly loud crying.  Mothers jumped up and ran to help, more people got up to help, more crying began as other babies became frightened too.  I felt like crying but didn't think that would help the situation too much.  After a fe-e-e-e-w-w minutes, things calmed.  But I had checked out.  I was done.  I knew of no way to bring the group back together.  All my own issues from the day began to mount in my head, the doubts swirled, the assault of words begin in my head....(did I mention that we were studying Genesis and the role of the serpent?)...you cannot do this, you are not a good teacher for these women, stop, stop talking.  And I did.
Our main leader took over the chaos, calmed us all and closed us out for the evening.  Whew! Inside my mind and spirit, were thoughts of inadequacy.  I remembered the preparation, the outward appearance, the effort to appear unflappable...I was none of those things in that moment.  And I was out of sorts.  My human effort had fallen very, very short.

I escaped to the kitchen and joined a Chinese sister.  She immediately asked me, "Do you have a bucket list?"  Thankful for the change in thoughts and conversation, I engaged with her.  And almost immediately she offered to share her top bucket list item.  "I want to talk to God," she said.  I, being the wise teacher again, said, "Oh, you want to pray more."  "No," she said.  "I want to talk with Him just like you and I are talking now.  I want to hear His voice.  That's number 1 on my bucket list!"

There I stood, defeated and helpless, and heard the Word of God spoken directly to me.

As the Mark account refers to "burnt offerings and sacrifices", I suddenly realized what that meant in my daily life.  In this day, my human efforts had failed.  I was bringing my whole effort, my modern day burnt offerings and sacrifices but they fell woefully short.  And, in that kitchen with a young woman who's eyes blazed with a new love for God,  I was blessed, so very blessed to be reminded....my efforts, my performance are not the issue.  GOD loving us first is the issue and then our response: Love Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.

Number 1 on my bucket list: I want to hear His voice.

"We as modern-day believers often grow content with so much less than what’s available to us in Christ. We grow content with programs, sermons, worship, and Bible study that’s void of God’s presence. We believe that the Christian life is one solely marked by discipline and moral living rather than transformative encounters with the holiness of God. Pursue the greater things today. Press into the heart of your Creator that you might know how truly near he is. Seek him and discover the wealth of his presence and love that has been available to you all along. Instead of programs about him, may your life be marked by meeting directly with your good and loving Father."  First 15 Devotional, September 27, 2017

27 August, 2017

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

It is official, summer is over.  I've seen school buses in full operation and that means we're on to September, school days, football and all things Fall.  My summer ended after a long vacation with our family and honestly, it felt really great to step away from the merry-go-round of obligations, mission statements and to-do lists.  And more honestly, it felt less than great to return to busy, busy life.  But we are back, all of us, back to real life today.  So, what do we do now?  What is there for us?

In answering that question in my own mind, I was prompted to look back at the Summer Series. You and I took these summer months to study Matthew; we called it the Summer Series.  What did this series teach and has it somehow prepared us for the busy fall months?

•Follow Me and I will fulfill all that you've been searching for, all the questions you've asked, all the emptiness that never gets filled.
•Just a pinch of salt goes a long way.  A night-light can fill an entire room.
•I pray He will give my eyes a way to see His treasure only.
•He will NEVER stop looking for us.  He will never fail to hear our asks, lead our seeking and answer our knocks!  Do we dare be found?
•Am I expecting the Savior in my world today?  Just say the word, Lord and give me ears to hear.
•He is only there to save us, calm us, comfort us and turn on our hall light.  And as He lives inside of each of us, we have His strength, His Oneness with God...we have Him.
•Go to those in your world who need a touch, need a hand, need an ear.  He will provide all we need, every word we speak.  And it is the very best, most exhilarating experience for He is using us! 

Do I believe these points?  Yes!  I do believe but today...once again, after a blessed, blessed summer I stand wondering, what's next?  HOW do I apply these into my life?  For in my frailty and brokenness as a human-being, I find myself daily contemplating, daily striving for more and more of life.  In my little brain, it's as though the message has a really hard time penetrating my attitudes and my actions.  But suddenly, I received a gently whisper, "It's not primarily about what you do, it's mainly about seeking Me, seeking My glory.  For when you experience My glory you will realize all else disappears."

Today in church, we sang a new song and it spoke deeply to my soul.  This song spoke words to me that stop the striving and call me to the only place that truly matters, a place where I can see His glory.  Ironically, most often it's after the blessing (summer) ends and real life trials (fall) begin that I stop and ponder purpose, existence and meaning.  
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Exodus 33:15-20
As we go into these fall months, let's remember the lessons of summer but let's also be brave and desperate to call out to our God, "show me your glory."  His glory is what will sustain us and lead us and never fail us.  Let's remember that as He calls us into the world He is leading us by His glory.  Spend time today...real time...in listening, talking and seeking that Glory.

•••••

Here as we wait
Seek Your face
Come and make Your throne upon our praise
Here in this place
Have Your way
The moment that we see You, we are changed
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
In wonder and surrender we fall down
Show us Your glory
Show us Your glory
Let every burning heart be holy ground
HolyGround, from the album Worthy of Your Name · Songwriters: Mia Fieldes, Melodie Malone, Maurice Willis, Brett Younker · Published by: Lyrics © CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP
 

12 August, 2017

It's in the Go

On campus this week, the streets are filled and parking lots are overflowing.  Pillows, shoe racks, plastic containers, luggage, lamps, headboards and every other imaginable item are being moved into resident halls and apartments.  Parents follow their children around like professional movers.  It's a grueling task and as a mom who is past this stage in life it makes me joyful (that I'm done with this phase) and reflective.

I too, loaded up a car this week.  We're loaded with beach gear, baby gear, homemade pies, salsa and every other type of food one could imagine.  We are so full that we can barely fit ourselves in the car to drive!  We are beach-bound and on the way to spend a week with our kids.  It's a bit like the resident hall move-in.  For I have prepared every imaginable item we could possibly need.  I want my family to know I love them.  I want to prepare and over-prepare for all their favorite things.  It's my heart's desire to over-love these most dear to me.  Just like the college move-in date, I have anticipated this trip for weeks.  My husband has even been counting down the minutes via family text.  It's been our JOY to prepare and today it was time to GO.

The GO for a new semester and a long-anticipated trip are somewhat the same.  There is excitement.  There is some nervousness as we wonder how things will turn out.
Are we ready?
What have I forgotten?
Will we get along?
Will my college student make friends?
Will these college professors like my kid?
Will he succeed in the college world?

But, the excitement is palatable.  The air is alive with anticipation.  For it is in the GO that the excitement exists.  The GO is what makes our hearts beat fast, and feel giggly, and feel fresh and alive.  It's the GO that gives us purpose and a destination.

There was another group who experienced the nerves and excitement of GO.  This is what their leader told them:
"Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick.  Touch the untouchables.  You have been treated generously, so live generously.
Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light."

“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way." 
And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words." Matthew 10:6-20 excerpts (The Message)

We were made to Go.  And we've got a Parent who has over-loved us and over-prepared us for what is ahead!  We were made to get out of driveways, our comfortable routines and our safe environments.  I believe we were made to pack up our cars and our lives with every good thing we've been given and find those who need those very items.  God hasn't asked me or you to share what we do not have.  He has only asked us to share what He's given us...all the things, gifts, abilities we have.  In these words from Matthew, Jesus is giving the men closest to Him quite a send-off!!  They are excited to Go.  He is excited to send them.
But, we often read these words from the Bible and are so thankful that we weren't part of these twelve men.  We seem relieved that we weren't asked to GO.  But we are asked!

The exiting part of life is that we DO get to pack up, plan every detail, bake pies, hang curtains, haul boxes and help those around us.  Every day someone is need of the same kind of love required to move into residence halls and to take a family vacation.  That's what God is asking of us.  Go to those in your world who need a touch, need a hand, need an ear.  He will provide all we need, every word we speak.  And it is the very best, most exhilarating experience for He is using us!  The God of the universe is using my pie!  He's using my hug!  He's using my time!  Oh, my goodness, let's GO!!!

29 July, 2017

Hall Light

Years ago, when we had small children bath time and bedtime became a ritual.  We would bathe our children and bundle them in towels to dry them off.  I can still remember that fresh, sweet child-scent and feel those soft, soft pajamas.  Often, bedtime included a last snack and reading a book together...or two.  For our Sarah, those moments also included a stuffed animal we creatively named 'puppy'.   So, after long days at work, Ray and I would each pair off with a child and go through this routine.  We then, after the reading would tuck them in and creep out of their rooms in great hope that there would not be one last request.  It seemed to me that just as I would get to my room to relax and do other mom things I would hear one last, sing-song voice...Hall light!  Ahh, yes, my little girl needed the hall light.  Even after the moments of snuggle, the tuck-in, the sweet prayers, the reassurance of love, the kiss.....Hall light would cry out.  She was scared and oh, the light!

We find a similar story in Matthew.  The guys are all tucked away in a boat, crossing the large lake.  These guys were professional fisherman and they knew the water, they knew the surroundings, they were comfortable in their place and in their abilities.  They had a guest with them that night and He was certainly comfortable, asleep in fact.  He was so very confident in the ability of the fisherman and the handling of the craft that He could sleep.  Do you remember the story?
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
 Matthew 8:23-27
He'd been with these guys for a while at this point.  They'd walked many roads together and lived with him and they'd seen many miracles and healings.  They were on an intimate journey with this man.  And, they had come to believe that this self-professed Christ was God and actually, they'd given their lives to that fact.  Yet on this night, the waves came and they came hard.  The boat shook and pitched and waves poured over the bow...fear arrived.  Jesus slept.

How could one sleep in such weather?  John Claypool, well-known and much-beloved theologian, suggests that perhaps, Jesus was confident in what these fishermen had inside of themselves.  Could it be that Jesus knew what was planted inside each of these men and trusted that they would rely on their innermost faith in Him being God.  How beautiful that in our belief in Him, that deposit has been made in each of us.  He knows what power is planted inside us.  But do we?  Or are we just like the fishermen?

They woke him, so very scared, crying out.  Help us, don't abandon us, don't leave us alone but save us!  We live this same type of experience many days of our lives, don't we?  Things happen, we lose jobs, we lose hope, we try and try but fail.  And we cry out; we cry out in our fear....our fear of, 'what now?  What will happen next?  What are my next steps?  How can I fix this?"
It's all fear....it's our crying out to a mother or father...Hall Light!!!

But fear will never have the last word.  So, continuing the story, Jesus woke and asked why they feared.  No answer came, it seems.  He then, calmly, stilled the sea.  At which the fishermen pondered, what kind of man is this?

I believe we often ask the same question, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"  Even after He has calmed the seas of our fearful hearts, we still cannot understand.  Do we need to redefine our definition of this God/Man?  Is it possible that our understanding of Him is askew?  Or, is it possible we have an understanding of Him but do not allow His true nature to govern our lives?

Isn't it true that upon our belief as Christ-followers, Jesus planted inside each of us trust and faith to rely on the fact that He is GOD. Isn't that what He pours into our hearts?  He is not one to lead us into harm or fear or pain.  Nor does he condemn or shake His finger at us.  He is ONLY Love, mercy, and grace.  He is only there to save us, calm us, comfort us and turn on our hall light.  And as He lives inside of each of us, we have His strength, His Oneness with God...we have Him.

Indeed, what kind of Man is this?

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