28 March, 2017

The Rocks Cry Out

It was so busy.  So very many details swirled around us for weeks and months, so many decisions, so much excitement and so much stress!  But the day arrived and I stood in the bridal suite watching my daughter with her closest friends.  They laughed, danced, had makeup and hair stylists surrounding them.  We all dressed in our finery and danced some more...yes, I confess, me too!  Then we shooed the girls out so the bride could dress.  As I helped her into her beautiful gown time seemed to slow down and memories flooded through me.  Her hair bows, her beautiful little girl dresses, her first bike ride, the way she liked to swirl in a full skirt, the way she looked at me...oh, the way she looked at me.  Those are priceless memories.  Soon, the bridal party was allowed back into the room and they gasped and praised this beautiful bride.  And yes...she is incredibly beautiful inside and out.  Moments passed so quickly and before I knew it I was on the front row, standing as the bride entered the chapel on the arm of my beloved.  Her groom was awestruck.  He swayed back and forth and never took his eyes from her entry.  Tears streamed down his face as he stood, swaying and awaiting her arrival.  I've always loved seeing the groom's first look but on this day I was particularly overjoyed with how the groom adored my little girl...his bride.  

Oh how my heart was still full of joy a week later, Sunday morning.  My beloved and I stood in worship at our church.  The music swelled loudly around us.  We joined in and sang of God's love, of God's provision and protection.  We sang of His holiness.  We sang of his love.  Neither of us sing really well but in this worship space we sing and sing loudly.  You see, the music is so loud that one can freely sing at full voice.  And I realized that Sunday that my spirit NEEDED to sing loudly.  I was still celebrating the beautiful wedding day of our daughter but I was also celebrating so much more.  I celebrated His very aliveness in the world and in me.  I cried out in song before Him.  Maybe that's why the songs are so loud in nondenominational churches....so that we can shout out, sing out our great love to the Creator of our souls and of our lives.  My wonderful protestant upbringing was a beautiful beginning to my faith journey and I will forever be thankful for how the Lord met me in those years.  But the singing in my old home church was quiet, it was a place where I didn't sing too loudly for fear that I would be heard and on the wrong key!!  So Sunday worship was quiet singing. Everyone sang but not so that your neighbor could hear.  And yes, it was and is beautiful worship.

But I was reminded on Sunday morning that , "even the rocks will cry out".  Yes, the rocks will not whisper out His name they will cry out His name.  His glorious name.  Play the music loudly so that I, my own little soul, can scream out His name in song because that is the ultimate desire of my whole being.  I believe we all crave that type of experience as He made us that way.  He made us to be ultimately fulfilled by only Him.  So yes, I will cry out.  And my tears flow and my heart swells for it has found its true home.

The groom told me last Sunday, that as his bride walked down the aisle toward him all he could think about was that the beauty he saw in his bride was the SAME beauty Jesus sees in him... the same beauty Jesus sees in me, the same beauty Jesus sees in you.

How can we NOT cry out?
"When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” 
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” " Luke 19:38-40

26 March, 2017

Our Father...4th Sunday in Lent

Cross posted from Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com

There have been times in my life when words failed me.  The day my children were born - I simply had no words.  The day we took our son to rehab - I simply had no words.  The morning my mother died (who celebrates her birthday in heaven tomorrow!) - I simply had no words.  The day my son celebrated five years in recovery - I simply had no words.  Last weekend, as my daughter wed the man of her dreams - I simply had no words.  Please don't misunderstand me as I had plenty of thoughts swirling around inside me in all these instances.  I had memories, I had unabounding love, I had despair, I had deep, deep pain, I had joy, I had hope.  But I had no words.  They were simply stuck somewhere inside me.
What I've described above is one very, simple life of a human with everyday joy, stress and strain. But the men and women living and working around Jesus, were they any different from me and you?  Yes, I believe they were unique in that they completely gave us their lives and work to literally follow Jesus everywhere he traveled.  And certainly their spirituality is not in question.  But neither is their 'human-ness'.  They struggled like us.  I just know in my heart that their words got stuck inside of their heads!  Then came...Jesus.  He was so different.  He was so alive.  He was so loving and forgiving and accepting.  And he prayed...like... everywhere!  Not just in the church or at mealtime or at bedtime but always, it seems.
Matthew Henry, states this in his commentary, "Christ pray[ed] often...: when he was baptized, he was praying; he withdrew into the wilderness, and prayed; he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer; he was alone praying."  His disciples saw Him praying.  And I believe we can assume that the method and frequency of Jesus' prayer life was quite different than that of his followers.  Something or everything struck them as different for they asked him..."Lord, teach us to pray". Luke 11:1
I, too say these words today...Lord, teach me to pray.  There are times that I don't know how to express the thoughts, feelings, concerns, and worry that fill my days.  
And what was Jesus' answer?  Look closely at the reading from Matthew, just before the Lord's Prayer, as we call it, Jesus gives us beautiful instruction.  He says, 'But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen...And don't babble by using a lot of words....for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then is how you should pray:  Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:6-9)
I'll be honest with some of my thoughts.  Perhaps I want to pray the right way and that blocks my real communication with God.  Perhaps those Sunday morning times of prayer in the church service leave me hollow.  Perhaps prayer is not about using any words.  Perhaps prayer is first, getting alone with God...just alone with no time schedule and no agenda.  In our effort to pray the right way we've missed the first step in Jesus' instruction....go into your room, close the door...and pray.  

Occasionally, I attend a noon communion service...where I am a visitor and know almost no one attending.  Oftentimes, the very best part of this small service is arriving early and sitting in the silence of the beautiful chapel.  No words do I speak, no action do I take.  I am simply there...present, needing connection, waiting, breathing...and most every time tears come for He has met me.  It's the alone time, the silence, the 'going away' where I find Him.
What happens when you go into your private place to think, or contemplate or cry or scream?  What happens when your words are stuck inside of you?  As we go into our rooms of prayer today, take time to be quiet.  That's right...just be...just sit.  Let your spirit free by using no words for just a few minutes.  Then pray the prayer Jesus taught us... slowly...in phrases...thinking about what the words mean to you...
Our Father... 
He is your Father, He is my Father, He is the Father of the world and He hears and He loves and He answers.  He is Father to those I don't like too much and He is Father to those who don't even know it.  My Father, I come to you today...
In Heaven... 
I am here in my little world.  And You are in your Eternal world.  You are Infinite and I am finite.  I praise you for the hope of eternal life and that You live and reign in heaven today and you live in me today.
Your Kingdom come... 
I hope in your Glory and in your Power and in the world to come.  I trust in You and that you will come in Your time. 
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven... 
It is Your will that I desire for my will is ignorant, self-serving and naive.  Your will is perfect for the world and for me.  I choose Your will today.

Time with no words, words for every part of life, time with no words...that's my prayer outline.  Will you join me today on this part of the Lent journey?  Will you take time and find your closet and stop the babble and just BE with OUR FATHER?

11 March, 2017

A Process - 2nd Sunday in Lent

Cross posted from my Lent Blog site... Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com

It was summer and our son, Nick who was 9, had just returned from a two-week camp in
Texas.  It was his dad's job to clean out the trunk that held all the clothes, gear, uneaten food, ants and nastiness only a little boy can bring home from a camp experience!  The process was moving along fairly well as Ray dug through the trunk when he came to a layer of clothes that seemed to have never been worn.  They lay there in perfect foldedness (a new Hayes word).  As he removed them, he came to other basic items one of which was the soap dish. (Now, these were the days before the creation of body wash.... one simply used bar soap).  Ray took out the soap dish and opened it.... there lay a perfectly, NEVER used beautiful bar of soap emblazoned with the word, D-O-V-E!  This precious boy of ours had been away for two weeks yet his one bar of soap had never been touched! When questioned, Nick told Ray that he had been swimming every day!

Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me Psalm 51:10

Scott led us to this verse last week and I've been pondering it ever since.  To 'create' takes time and takes a subject willing to be molded, changed, remolded, tweaked by the creator.
My son's intention was for a clean body but he took a shortcut.  When I read this prayer from David as he poured out his heart to God, it resonates with me.  It speaks to my soul and I too want a clean heart to be created inside me....
But like my son, I'm afraid I often make a different choice.
Was Nick not aware that he needed soap?
Was he too busy?
Was bathing just a low priority?
Was he anticipating that the process would be too slow?

Can we draw parallels from this childhood story? Like my son, perhaps I need a new definition of clean!  For I've tried and tried to become clean in my spirit.  I've said the words, I've prayed the prayers, I've earnestly desired this cleansing yet I still feel stuck in the words.  So, I read further in the Psalm and noticed that David continues his writing as if he senses that this clean heart deal is a process.

Verse 12, reads Grant me a willing spirit to sustain me... 
Verse 17, the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart...
(just a heart with the correct priority, i.e. God on the throne on my life instead of the bossy, needy me that usually rules my life).

Could these two verses be the HOW of a letting God create in me and in you a clean heart?  
By letting Him do the cleaning in His on time and in His perfect manner...
By being willing to give my own needs and selfishness to Him every day...

Is this second week of Lent such a time in my life?  We're busy people.  We go and we go and yet we all are still seeking something more.

This creating of a clean heart is a process inside each of us.  Am I ready to let Him do His work inside me?  Am I willing?
Or do I think I just don't need the cleansing?
Am I too busy?
Is such spiritual work a low priority in my life?
Is it taking too long?

Create and keep creating a clean heart in me, Oh God.

01 March, 2017

Lent 2017: "Lord, Teach us to pray"

Cross posted from:  Fortyfaithful.blogspot.com

One day, Jesus was praying in a certain place.  When he finished, one of his disciples said, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." (Luke 11:1, NIV)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  For the next forty days, we are called to "reflect," to "inspect," and ultimately to "resurrect" on Easter Sunday.

While some observe this season by ceasing to do something as a representation of "sacrifice," Lent is often taken as an opportunity to adopt a new practice, or renew an old one.  For the next several weeks, we have chosen to consider the practice of prayer.

We will share our questions about prayer, our "successes and failures" in prayer, and what we have come to understand about prayer up to this point in our lives.

What we won't be able to share is "all the answers," because we definitely don't have them!  We are just travelers on a journey who are willing to share, "just as we are!"

Will you join us for these 40 Faithful Days?  There will be a new posting each Sunday, first from Scott on March 5, then from Kathy on March 12...and we will continue our alternating pattern all the way through the Lenten season.

We will use prayers found in scripture as a structure for our reflection and writing, including...

...Create in me a clean heart, O God...
...Our Father in heaven, holy is your name...
...Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses...
...O Lord, why have you forsaken me?...

We hope you will join us and invite others to do the same!

In Christ,

Kathy and Scott

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