Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘GOD’ Category

What’s your earliest memory?

Maybe there is more than one? Maybe they blend together? Maybe they are incomplete? Maybe it isn’t a memory so much as a feeling?

I have a memory from my childhood. It is late spring or early summer. The sun high in the sky, causing my squinty eyes to squint even more. I can recall it’s warmth on my skin, not enough to sweat, but feel comfortably warm. I remember holding the hands of my parents, me in the middle … where every child aims to be. We are walking through a path or trail with trees on either side. I remember feeling, not just the warmth of the sun on my skin, but also the warmth of love, connection, safety.

And that is all I remember.

It is a happy memory.

We all have memories from our childhood. Ones that make us feel good things and ones that leave us feeling the trauma of that moment. Sometimes we can identify the origins of our feelings, but not always. Sometimes it is smells or sounds that awaken our memories of years ago. Sometimes, our memories aren’t accurate at all and what we think we remember may not have even happened.

The Psalmist has said, (9:1), “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Have you ever done that? Recounted the wonderful deeds of God in your life … ?

Ever looked back for times when you know that God stood in the gap for you? That something in your occurred and you know, without a doubt, that he worked things for you? That he did a miracle? That he filled you with joy?

Try it. Really! Try it.

You might remember something that has been forgotten, some evidence of God in your life that you need to remember now.

Read Full Post »

To serve is to submit, help or do for another … another group, another person or to God. Basically service is submission of me for another.

To be in service can mean that there is a payment for such acts, but the act of service is always, always an act of the will.

In recent days the word service has been used more than in months previous, added together. The death of Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth, has heralded the use of the word service in news articles and social media posts in the most honorable of ways.

Just yesterday, scrolling through Instagram I came across a post referring to the decades-long service of Philip to his wife and Queen. Following that was a meme about how we deserve better. I paused my scrolling … and sighed.

To serve is selfless, to speak of our deserving more is quite a different thing.

I think we humans, in this age, struggle to serve others, for we are constantly told that we deserve more, better. Serving takes on the connotation of being low, personal sacrifice without recognition, being in the shadows. No one wants to live in the shadows when the spotlight is so shiny.

This perspective can be exemplified when the culture around us has a pattern of looking down on those who serve others. The current pandemic has done some repair to this perspective, acknowledging those who serve others in hospitals, care homes, grocery stores, schools, on ambulances etc.

Our human choice to focus on what we deserve as opposed to how we can serve others means that we lose out on the joy of serving, of understanding how our strengths and gifts might be used in our service to others. To serve others is to live our life walking more closely with Christ, for he himself came to serve.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served,
but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:45

What we deserve … would not be IG meme popular today to our eyes and hearts. For there would not have needed to be a cross if what we deserved was socially marketable. What we deserve is why Jesus had to die … his body broken, his blood spilled, his father’s back to him … he did this because of what we deserve. Thus we have John 3:16 (the Carole Wheaton translation)

“For God so loved the world,
that he GAVE his SON,
that whoever SERVES HIM,
will not get what they deserve.”

Romans 3:24 does give us hope in regards to what we deserve,

“God treats us much better than we deserve,
and because of Christ Jesus,
he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.”

His is the example of service to us, for through his sacrifice, we get far more than we deserve. May we focus our lives on what the example of Christ’s serving rather than on what the world says we deserve.

Read Full Post »

I didn’t really get it fully, until the consequences were too close to home … actually they weren’t just close to home, but they reverberated from the foundation right up to the top of the roof.

The it I refer to is the very real necessity and freedom to use sick days, provided through our employment benefits, as mental health days. To understand that a conflicted heart, a weary soul, an unwell brain are as valid a sick day as vomiting, a migraine or even symptoms of Covid is to have evolved as a worker, an employer and a society.

On a website called Bored Teachers I read this quote :

“My first year of teaching, my principal looked at me in the eyes and told me that sick days were for my mental health too, and to never forget that. It was the best advice anyone has ever given me.”

We have all heard people brag about their unused sick days, even referring to them as banked, as if in not taking sick days they had made an investment.

Though there are those of us who are truly blessed with good health, the goal of sick days is not to accumulate them, but to have them available when employees are ill … when they cannot do their best work.

Sometimes it is not just when we are physically ill that we cannot do our best work, but when we are emotionally or mentally exhausted.

Added to this, though we may be able to push through and do good work even when we are not feeling best, we may do more danger to ourselves by living by the mottos of keep calm and carry on, push through the pain or just get through the day. Heart disease, digestion-related problems and infections are just three of the areas of our physical bodies that can be negatively effected by ignoring our mental health struggles.

Mental resilience or grit is a great life goal, but it can only be developed within a well rested (physically and mentally) individual.

In the Bible there are numerous accounts of Jesus take a mental health day.

Ok, so maybe that is not how it is worded in these narratives, but … they are instances when the work was still needing to be done, yet Jesus either sent his disciples away, or he removed himself from the work at hand for a time.

After hearing of the death of John the Baptist, “he (Jesus) withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself” (Matthew 14:13).

As the crowds were gathering, Jesus said to his disciples, “come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mark 6:31). Now, the passage goes on to say he had compassion on the crowds, then fed them … some times we do need to push through! But, then, once they were fed … keep reading :

After feeding the five thousand he sent them away, “and after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went …” (Matthew 15:39). He sent them away and then he got outa town.

After teaching for a period of time it says, “leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was” (Mark 4:36). He needed refreshment and separation from the task at hand.

“Great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:15-16). Take note of this … he withdrew and prayed … when we take a mental health day, Netflix is not our top priority, but intimacy with and rest in Jesus!

“And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know …” (Mark 7:24)

“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” (Mark 14:32)

Sick days are for those who are sick, who cannot do their job best, be it a sore throat of a muddled mind.

Though it has taken me years to understand the validity of mental health days, I have seen the long term results of pushing through to meet the needs of the crowds.

“Yet He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.”
Luke 5:16

(* and if you take a needed mental health day, don’t just withdraw, but pray … it is the best filling for emptiness)

Read Full Post »

As we walked along the forest trail it wasn’t the heights of the trees around me, not the brook noisily flowing past, but the moss growing on the trees that captured my attention.

Lush, soft, growing in varying amounts on every tree and stump. It drew one’s eyes to it simply because the rest of the forest, in early spring, was still in it’s winter slumber. Only the emerald green of the moss dotted the landscape with colorful life.

Moss does not harm trees, unless the weight of it, saturated with rainwater grows to the point that the stability of branches is in question. It just simply lives and grows on them, adding mystical appearance.

Moss growing on a tree is an example of commensalism it gets a place to live and grow and the tree neither benefits nor is harmed. Basically, moss is simply a squatter on the tree.

At least that how science would define the relationship.

But, as I walked amid the moss covered forest trees, I saw things differently.

That rich, life-filled moss drew my eyes to the tree that, otherwise, would have blended into the forest of trees. It stuck out, brought joy, delight in the showy example of living brightly in a dark and shady place.

Though the tree is not harmed or benefitted from the moss growing there, I was indeed benefitted.

Sometimes, as a follower of Christ, as one who lives and desires to be light in the dark, be living water amid the murky depths in our world …

it can feel as though we are like moss on a tree …

growing and living,

but never having an impact on our host (the world).

It can seem, perhaps, that we are so busy with our own living, that we don’t bring Jesus to those around us.

As though, like the moss on the tree, we are simply living our life, without any impact for Christ on our surroundings.

Psalm 34:5, a Psalm of David, tells us:

“Those who look to Him are radiant with joy;
their faces shall never be ashamed.”

We, who are followers of Christ, have looked on his Crucified self … sacrificed for us, for the world. But we have not only looked, we have accepted that his sacrifice was for our own good. That “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And in seeing the reality of the purpose of his crucifixion, we reflect, or radiate joy that is found only in Him.

This joy that we radiate is not only seen by God, or by his followers, it is also seen by those around us. It is seen by those walking though along beside us,

standing out like moss on the trees in a forest in early spring.

Like that moss, we can have an impact (if we live as followers, growing from the word as our nourishment). Though we are busy we still bring something to the forest in which we live …

we bring beauty

Isaiah 33:17 tells us,

Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will behold a far-distant land.

We reflect this beauty of the King and He in us will allow others to imagine life and eternity with HIm.

All we have to do is bring beauty to our dark and murky world.

Read Full Post »

It doesn’t matter how tired I am, time off always means that I struggle to get to sleep on the eve of my first day off. My brain is whirling a twirling around, trying to come up with a way to squeeze everything I have been dreaming of doing in the days and weeks leading up to the break.

One would think, at my age, I might have grown beyond this sort of anticipation, but alas I still spend my first night tossing and turning, counting sheep, cows and kittens and trying every trick in my getting to sleep book!

In my over-excitement of what is to come, I lost out on the sleep, the rest that my body and mind so needed.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Sometimes we (okay, I) think that the (above) text has to do with the fearful anxieties that take over our minds, but we can also be excited to the point of anxiousness … to the point that our excitement and anticipation can take over our thoughts wholly, interrupting a healthy balance in our lives.

The apostle Paul, in this clip from a letter to the Philippians, reminds us all that prayer is the key to peace in any and every situation. That this peace will be out of this world (perhaps even allowing sleep to come to us).

According to Paul:

Prayer is the conduit to peace.

Though I remembered this truth after the fact, it is one I need to remember.

When my anxious thoughts are on the dire, the sad, the fear-laden, the dark and twisty things of life … I always remember to take them to God in prayer.

But, when my heart and head are full of joy and excitement that bubbles over, filling my thoughts only of what I anticipate, I am slow to remember to share those joy-filled thoughts with Him.

Perhaps, if I did, I would sleep in a heavenly peace.

Read Full Post »

The feeling of being in love is euphoric, but it is not necessarily intimacy.

Intimacy is (poorly) defined in dictionaries as close familiarity, an intimate act, sharing secrets, knowledge of another.

The thing about intimacy is that if it is to be authentic intimacy, is cannot occur in isolation with just one person.

Nor is intimacy necessarily physical. Sex is often viewed as intimacy, but it cannot truly be intimate unless both individuals feel safe and share a connection beyond just the physical experience.

My definition would be :

intimacy is a deep, unexplainable connection between two or more individuals who attend to each other in their sharing of time and space

I have to say I think there cannot be a more intimate relationship than that of prayer, between a mere mortal and the God who created them.

In a comment on a blog post the other day (A Prayer of Trust) a dear friend left me the following (names changed) experience she had in prayer, not for herself, but for another :

The other day I got an email from Tammy. I had promised to pray for her one day a week and I had forgotten! So I started to pray and then asked him if he took retroactive prayer into consideration (I love the honesty 🙂 ). As I was muddling through this concept I got this feeling, like he was looking at me. Jesus was looking at me. Not at Tammy and those I was praying for but looking at me. Seeing me with such an intent look. Like while I’m praying he is interested in me and not all those other people I’m concerned about. Then I realized that that is what prayer really is. Just talking to Jesus with our eyes fixed on each other like lovers, holding hands,not saying much. He loves ME! He accepts me like I am and he will deal with those I care about in the same way.

As I read her words, specifically those which are underlined, a feeling of familiarity came over me … for I knew exactly of what she was describing.

Moments in prayer when the words I speak fade into the background as the eyes of my soul meet his, when I know that I am present with him, that he is present with me. When everything and everyone one else disappears into the background. When prayer is not about praises, and confessions, and requests but about a relationship of intimacy.

when it’s just the two of you and you know you are loved beyond measure

Early mornings, no interruptions, out in the middle of nature, in the middle of a sleepless sleep, standing in the shower with the water beating down, sitting on a city bus, standing on a beach … the place doesn’t matter, plans don’t matter, failures don’t matter, even prayer requests for others don’t matter … just the intimacy between you and your God in shared time and place.

Read Full Post »

Prayer is the ultimate intimacy.

Best done, most intimately done in private. Just between us and our Creator.

“ … when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6

Yet, it is also best done for others.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

In so many of his letters to the churches, Paul would pray for them. He knew them and knew much of what they needed. So, he prayed with knowledge and direction.

We do not always know what others need, yet sometimes the call to pray for others is so strong. We can be left with the urge, but no words. I like it when that is the case, for then my prayers are offered to God, not with my own knowledge, but with trust …

and having to trust God is a most holy ground place to be.

So, today, rather than my musings of what I am experiencing in my wonder-filled walk with God through my days, I would like to offer up a prayer of trust to God. For you, the reader.

God, you are our God.

The one who created the sun, still below the horizon, yet brightening the sky every minute.

The one who created every living thing, from the coyotes who all out at night, to the tiny bugs who exist all around us, to ourselves who muddle through life trying to figure our our purpose (and, hopefully, fulfilling that purpose in the meantime).

Today God, I pray in trust (I pray I always do so).

For the one who is unsure. Unsure of what today will hold. Unsure of what to do, what is safe. For that one who is filled with fear, anxiety, worry. For that one who wrings their hands, tosses and turns at night, jumps at the slightest noise. Loved wrap your arms of comfort and security around them. Remind them that they are safe in you. Give them peace.

For the one who is self medicating to dull the physical or emotional pain. Who is looking to medication, or food, or alcohol, or drugs, or exercise, or work, or exercise, or … Netflix to dull the pain in their life. To take away the memories, the pressure, to fill the empty places in their life, their heart. Lord, may they turn to you, who can fill all the cracks and crevices of the broken heart and spirit.

For the one who is tired, discouraged, defeated. This is such a large group of souls. They have been beaten down … Lord bring reminders into their day that they are not destroyed, that you have a good plan, that the shards that they see as their life are pieces of a beautiful whole. That they are not alone in their fatigue but that you are right there, holding them up.

For the grieving. Those who are in the midst of sorrow for the earthly loss of one they loved, one they still love. For the memories that both comfort and haunt them. God, sustain them with your love. Provide a hedge of protection around them as they process their great loss. Wipe their tears.

For the lonely. There are so many in their group of people today. As this pandemic continues to separate us mere mortals (despite so many devices for connection) the numbers of lonely increase. Some are physically lonely, separated from their families and friends. Some are still brushing shoulders (at a distance) with many others each day. Both feel the loneliness of missing others in their daily lives. Both feel alone in their days. Both are longing for others. Lord, bring the connection that they so need. Bring an end to this pandemic, Lord please.

And God, for all others. For those who are in a good place in their life. Who do not struggle with their studies, or fear, or loneliness or grief …. sustain them. May they not forget you in their blessings. May they seek you in their joy, in their successes, in their ease. May they not forget the God who saves them.

At your feet, into your hands we lay our every request. Not picking them back up to try to fix in our human ways.

For you are the God of Creation, the one who formed us. You are worthy of all praise and honor and worship. Into your hands we commit our day.

Amen

“Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.”

Psalm 31:2-5

Read Full Post »

What or who do we rely on?

Our human existence is one of reliance.

We are born helpless, crying out for someone to meet our every need from food, to protection, to direction. As we grow into independence, what we really do is transfer our reliance from mother/caregiver to friends and lovers, spouses and even to our own children. In later years many revert to their newly born state of helpless reliance …

human life is the ultimate chiastic structure, where the beginning and ending mirror each other, both symmetrically moving to and from the mid point with similar characteristics

For any human to think that independence is actually possible, is fooled.

As a newborn, our dependence is based on the choice and will of another. Often this is similar as we age toward the end of our earthly existence. In the realm of cause and effect, so much of life can be shaped by on whom this dependence, this reliance falls. Into adulthood we choose on whom to rely and we must rely cautiously, as these individuals are also powerful in influencing our life to come.

In the book called Letters to an American Lady, CS Lewis wrote:

“… the thing is to rely only on God …

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” says the Psalmist (46:1).

Jeremiah (29:11) tells us that “he has plans for us.”

Moses tells us in Exodus (14:14) that “he will fight for us.”

Isaiah (41:13) reminds us that “he is the one who helps.”

Again the Psalmist (118:8) says, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

God is our constant. The one who is with us even before the wool has been cast on the needles of our pre-birth existence. It is he who is right beside us, all the days of our life. It is he, whose face will see when the breath of our life has exhaled it’s last. On him we can rely.

CS Lewis continues:

” … the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done …”

God has always been, will always be right at our sides, yet our reliance on him is like our human reliance on water. It is said that depending on a few factors (such as age, gender, health, etc.) a human can live only about three days without water. Our very life is dependent on it. For the sake of our very life, we must have water.

Our reliance on God is similar. We must rely on him daily, newly every day. Not relying on our connection to him yesterday to live our life today, but deeply connected, consciously rooted to him each day.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Read Full Post »

The clock glowed 5:00 in the dark bedroom. Not a sound from hubby beside me, or the Wonderdog in his bed at the foot of our bed. Yet, my heart’s beat was pounding in my ears. The sleep cycle of my day was done, whether I wanted it to be or not.

As expected, the change in my breathing from slumber to awake alerted the dog that it must be time to start the day, so as I exited the room, my shadow followed closely behind me.

Dark.

The house was dark, even in the familiar descent down the stairs all that was familiar was covered in almost complete blackness.

We walked outside into the cold air, my skin immediately contracting from the chill, the Wonderdog immediately in need of just the right slice of grass to let loose his waterworks.

Coffee was brewed, the dish on the floor filled with kibble, we ascended the stairs to the cozy chair, the light box turned on and laptop in my hands, to tap out the wonderings in my early morning mind.

Immersed in my tapping until suddenly I turned towards the window. Sure enough the blackness was fading, lightening the sky with ombre blues.

I smiled.

Though it is lovely to see the sun setting later in the day, it is it’s earlier rising that thrills my solar-powered self the most. This morning light fuels me with a foundation of light for whatever the rest of the day might hold.

It is the foundation of hope that returns, day after day, year after year. Yet, it is in spring that we are reminded of the hope that rises early, like the sun in spring.

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: 
The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, 
Fresh as the morning,
as sure as the sunrise.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

Read Full Post »

There is simply nothing better, more delightful than when someone lets you know that they are or have been thinking of you. That declaration can keep one going for days and days. There is something almost mystic about it. Possibly the significance of such a statement is because we did nothing to deserve another’s attention. It just happened … as if the stars fell into place, as if God himself whispered your name into the heart of another.

The older I get, the more such happenings I have been the recipient of, the more I am encouraged to do the same … send a note, a card, an email, a text … whatever it takes to communicate that one’s name has been mysteriously on my heart, in my mind and I wanted them to know.

A number of days ago I was feeling in the dumps (as we all do at times … such is part of our human condition). Then I remembered a photo I had taken quickly, but never looked at afterwards. I scrolled through my photos and located the image I remembered being wowed at … the sun was rising from behind the mountains and a beam of light was shining through the clouds. That image had brought a smile when I saw it … that morning, but also this grey day (inside and out).

I remember that day because I remember smiling, then speaking out loud, “thanks God.”

Moments of natural beauty, for me, are like whispers of God, saying,

I am thinking of you

You are on my mind

I am here with you

They are manna from heaven that satiates the hunger pains in my soul.

My phone is full of such photos. Their quality is not great, but they are like the stones that the Israelite tribes gathered from the middle of the Jordan as they passed through the river (Joshua 4:1-7). They carried them to the bank on the other side, leaving them as a reminder to future generations of God’s faithfulness … that God was thinking of them.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

My Pastoral Ponderings

Pondering my way through God's beloved world

itsawonderfilledlife

looking for wonder in everyday life

What Are You Thinking?

Theology is a conversation, and you're invited.

Sealed in Christ

Sixth Seal Ministries

Amazing Tangled Grace

A blog about my spiritual journey in the Lord Jesus Christ.

FisherofMen

Giving a unique view and input on information to help individuals establish a concrete perspective on terms, words, topics and the world around them.

Following the Son

One man's spiritual journey

Fortnite Fatherhood

A father's digital age journey with his family and his faith

Raise Them Up

Parenting with Purpose

Frijdom

encouraging space to think deeply

Life- All over the map

A family journey through childhood cancer and around the world

A L!fe Lived

seeking the full life that only Jesus offers

J. A. Allen

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins