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Archive for the ‘GOD’ Category

“I have dealt with it” (whatever it is), we say.

Then we hear, we feel the creaking

of the door

to the past

and we are right back there again,

staring into the blackness

of that night, that day, that season.

That time we thought we had left behind a locked door,

never to see the light of day,

never again to pinch and pierce our hearts.

Through the opening flood memories.

There are good memories,

but they are shadowed by the bad, the ending,

singed by the fires that ravaged those joys with sorrow.

As if the light of those joys is forever dimmed

by the inferno that brought it all

to ashes.

How is it that though it is done, has been done and dusted now for years, the door still creaks open, letting the darkness of that time flood back, stealing today’s joys? And, let’s face it, we cannot but say,

why God? Why do you let my today be darkened by yesterday?

Then, I hear it …

every.

single.

time.

Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.

And I hear it.

I hear it with my ears, but I also feel it in my deepest parts,

the click of the door,

the slide of lock.

I feel the warmth of the light with me,

inside of me.

I am not alone,

for my Creator, my Redeemer is with me.

I can face, not just tomorrow, but yesterday too.

He will make all things new.

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Writing, at least for me, is a cathartic, comforting experience, usually one which has far less to do with those who read it and far more to do processing of life and making sense of God in my vertical communion with him.

In the beginning, I was seeking a place to have my own voice … I place to be heard.

Now, just over eleven years later, writing is a place to be quiet, a place to listen and learn, not about me … my thoughts, my feelings, but about the God I choose to serve, the God who chose me.

These daily moments of praying through my fingertips on a keyboard are the best moments of my day. They are active moments, ones where I speak whatever comes to my mind and listen. and listen. and listen. and learn. God has opened my mind to his word, making it exciting, a mystery to understand, stories to peel back to their plot line, seeing the grand story within.

Though I have worked in an educational environment for almost twenty years, applying teaching principles one-on-one and in small groups, it is through this daily practice of fingertips to keys, a multitude of tabs opened at once, where I have learned to love to study the life of Jesus and others gone before, where I have learned to love to study the blueprint for my own life. For I read, I listen, I write … a multiplicity of learning methods, encapsulated in the writing of a blog post.

What you might read is actually a vertical conversation, or a vertical confession, or a vertical prayer that takes place on the pages/screens of this site.

What I want you to know is that, maybe you, too could benefit from such a vertical conversation. It doesn’t have to be on a screen. You could write it on paper, in a journal. It doesn’t have to be public. You could write in a document. But, I have to say that, for me, there has been a most magical experience in this sacred practise each day, for it has drawn me into the word of God in a profound and meaningful way.

I write to know my heavenly Father, and to know that He is here with me.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 10.15.07 AM

ad·vo·cate
intercessor, consoler, comforter, helper

1 John 2:1 came to mind:

“we have an advocate with the Father …”

It was the word advocate that drew my attention.

An advocate is one who intercedes, who speaks for, who pleads a case to a higher authority. We do not have to argue our case for justice, because an advocate will speak on our behalf, will fight the fight for us.

To have one to plead our case is such a gift. Because, sometimes we need an advocate simply because we don’t have what it takes to speak for ourselves, to stand up for us when we are weak, when we are ill, when we are not at our best. One who will look at us and our condition and says the words and makes the decisions that we do not have breath to speak.

Someone who is willing to get dirty on our behalf.

I think we all, instinctively, look for such a person. One who knows us so intimately that they will speak and do for us when we cannot. Though we may come up empty in looking for such a one with skin, we do have advocate.

Who is our advocate? “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” (1 John 2:1b).

But, Jesus also refers to the Holy Spirit, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14).

Jesus, the righteous, sinless, virtuous, good. He is our advocate, it is his spilled blood that has corrected us so that we can stand before the God of this universe as righteous, sinless, virtuous and good. In a sense his blood is the rose-colored glasses through which God sees us.

Jesus who, as Charles Spurgeon said:

“Jesus.” Ah! then he is an advocate such as I want, for he loves me and takes an interest in me. Jesus is the name of one who became man for my sake. He knows what sore temptations mean; he understands what trials mean, what afflictions mean. I am glad I have one who will be interested in my welfare, and will plead for me as a friend for a friend, and as a brother for a brother.”

No better advocate can be found than one who loves us, who is interested in us, who understands what it is to experience human temptations, trials and afflictions. Not only that, but he is one who will argue our case … to death, to his own death.

That is how much he believes in us! How much he loves us.

We have an advocate, and his name is Jesus.

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For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Death and taxes … that is said to be the only guarantees in life. Sounds kinda grim and it is, if one lives without God in their life. For God in our lives guarantees one more thing …

hope.

The thing is that even for those who do not walk with God, he walks with them. I often visualize him as that shadow that is just on the edge of our periphery, that presence in an otherwise empty room, a whisper that is only heard inside our own heads, the sense of touch, of embrace when one is alone.

I kinda think of the Spirit of God like a stalker, who hovers, awaiting an invitation to enter into our life, to lead rather than to follow. His ghostly presence, causing the heebie jeebies for those who have yet to welcome him in, is the essence of peace for those who rely fully on him to do life.

For those in whom the Spirit lives, there is another reality …

you cannot get away from the Spirit.

There is no hiding, or ignoring or running away from him. He is simply always there.

Always near.
Always loving.
Always right beside.

His presence is comfort, peace to those who know him. The awareness of him in our lives gives hope for the future, whether it is decades of life on this soil, or hours.

The other day the song (below) started to play and was absorbed into my otherwise preoccupied mind and soul as I’d spent that day in constant prayer for another. My heart was heavy, immersed in the weight of those circumstances. Then these words pierced my mind:

You love me when I’m lost
You love me til I’m found
Your love it surrounds me
I can’t get away

I tell you, he’s always there, you can’t escape him.

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Numero uno?

Top dog?

Big cheese?

The main thing?

What’s yours?

Now, think about it … give it some time, thought.

What is the main focus of your life?

Got an answer for it? If not … keep thinking. If so … keep reading.

To know what is our main thing
is to look at how and where we spend
our time, our money, our energies.

This explanation of what defines our main thing is kinda clear in the Bible. Matthew 6:33 says it straight and to the point:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be added to you.”

Ugh! This is now humbling … agreed?

What I want my main thing to be is Christ.

But, if my main thing is defined by how I spend my time, money and energy, I am not sure that what I might say my main thing is, actually is my main thing.

So, we know the goal … for God to be the main thing in our lives … now, to live it. But, we cannot aim for such a lofty goal in a solo trek. This life isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. So, to make it through the long and winding race of life, we need help.

In Luke 4:1-13, Jesus was alone in the dessert … or was he?

The telling of this event indicates that Jesus went into the desert “full of the Holy Spirit” (V.1). Each time Jesus was tempted by something he humanly might have desired (you know, things that could have become his main things), he replied each time with “it is written:” (v.4, 8, 12). He knew the Word! Therefore we need to know the word!

Keep in communication with God … all throughout your days.

Spend some time each day in the Word.

Aim to make God your (my) main thing.

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Once upon a time there was a lumberjack who was hired to cut down several trees atop a mountain.

He went to the first tree and noticed a bird, building a nest.

Now, this lumberjack was a compassionate soul, who loved all living things. He knew that he would be cutting that tree down and he didn’t want the bird to build its nest there. So, he picked up a wooden mallet and hit the tree hard and loud. This disturbed the bird in the tree and she flew to another tree.

Now, the lumberjack knew that he would also be cutting that tree down so he walked over to it and hit it with his mallet. Again the bird moved further into the forest to another suitable tree to build a nest for her babes.

This process reoccured numerous times, taking the lumberjack further and further from where he desired to begin cutting trees. Each time the bird flew off, each time the lumberjack banged on the tree to discourage her from nesting there.

Finally, hours later, the bird was out of the area where the lumberjack was to cut the trees down. So, her turned and walked back to where he was to begin to fulfill his job.

I heard this story told this weekend and could see myself in that determined bird … maybe you will too.

So many times in my life I am distracted from what I want to do, what I hope to do … even good things, by irritations, noises and even struggles. So, I alter my course, but stick to my plan, getting irritated again by other irritations and noises.

Those are the times I often have words with God. Saying something like,

“what the heck?!”

“why is this happening?”

“why don’t you intervene?”

“why?”

“you are supposed to be good”

I bet all of these prayers sound like the angry, irritated chirps of that momma bird. I bet she had no idea that the irritating noises, causing her to move from tree, to tree, to tree were actually saving the life of she and her babes. That the temporary struggle was actually an act of compassion, of love.

“I don’t think the way you think.
The way you work isn’t the way I work.”
God’s Decree.
“For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

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Once again the stalking has been happening.

I go about my days, minding my own business, when, out of nowhere, there it is … a theme that has been popping up lately, again and again and again.

daily bread

well, actually, it’s more like

DAILY bread!

(because we all know that when something is written capitalized, it is being yelled loudly).

I blame God.

I know it is him, because he is, quite simply, relentless in his stalking.

It might be a verse, lyrics in a song, something said by another person, a portion of a sermon … praying the Lord’s prayer.

That is where it got me (again) yesterday.

give us this day our DAILY bread …

Over, and over, and over again, God has been stalking me with the idea, the message of DAILY bread.

not bread for the week ahead,
not storing it for a rainy day
not investing in it

but DAILY bread …

coming to him,
each and every day,
to ask for enough bread,

just for today.

It is a flashback to those wandering Jews … 40 days of daily bread in the form of manna, from heaven. It is what Matthew Henry says, “to be content with enough” … ah, contentment … that is a hard, life-long, lesson … one we must learn and then learn again each and every day.

This DAILY bread reminds us that we need to ask for it … every day. That we need to acknowledge that he give us just what we need.

Tomorrow’s bread is yet to be seen.
Yesterday’s bread is not longer fresh.
Today’s bread … that is what we live on.

Bread … it’s food, sustenance. We need it every day … like the one who is what bread symbolizes in the Bible … the body of Jesus. He too sustains us. He too is needed every single day.

And … he is enough for today.

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The night is lit by the stars and moon and my how they put on a stellar show sometimes. The night sky is not static, it changes with the days and seasons providing an original performance every. single. night.

“When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars …”

Psalm 8:3

I find it impossible to look up at the dark night sky, illuminated by the moon and stars, and not thank God who created it all. It is an unnecessary beauty, for beauty is not needed for it to fulfill its function. Yet, God, in his wisdom and grace gives us this nightly display.

You know what I find interesting?

The light display is more glorious when the backdrop of the night is more inky black. It is, in actuality, the inky darkness that enables the moon to shine most bright.

And so it is when darkness seeps into our souls and minds. When sorrow, or grief, or sadness, or fear, or anxiety, or depression, or loneliness, or heartbreak or … you name it, for we have all been visited by a time of darkness … when the dark stops by and stays, when the shadows cast eerie images and feelings … that is when the little glimmer of light shines brightest, in the forms of connection, hope, delight, beauty, joy, good news.

While watching an episode of Call the Midwife (season 9, episode 8), recently, the monologue caught my attention … stayed with me into the next day :

Welcome the darkness, embrace it as a canopy from which the stars can hang, for there are always stars when we are where we ought to be, amongst the faces we love best, each with our place, each with our purpose, as fixed and familiar as the constellations.
The darkness is beautiful, for how else can we shine?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that God makes everything beautiful in it’s time.

As we look up to the night sky, as we are treated to the beauty, may we not just thank God for the moon and stars, but also for the dark backdrop, from which their beauty shines best.

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I find that I am like that dog in the Disney movie, Up. I am completely focused on a task (or really, really wanting to be focused on a task), when my attention is diverted by some sort of ‘squirrel’ which completely sidetracks my original intent.

This seems to be the worst when I pick up my phone to do a specific task. Maybe I want to send an email, but, when I turn the phone on, I see that I received a text, so I open that app. Then I remember that I hadn’t posted anything on Instagram, so I open that app. Then, I see a product advertised that looks interesting, so I click to see the cost (then I go to my Amazon app to see if I can get it cheaper there. Then I remember I was looking for one of those garlic crushers that look like a pastry blender. Then I remember the email, so I open that app to see another email, with a word I am not sure of it’s meaning, so I open Safari to google it …

Two hours later I put my phone down with the prevailing thought,

what did I pick my phone up for?

This is often what it is like when I try to spend time in prayer.

I read the words of the Psalmist (42:1):

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”

and I think, yes, that is how I feel. Yet, when I sit alone in prayer, it is often more like:

As a deer (oh, I should go put water in the dog’s dish) pants (hum, I wonder why there’s a rattle when I breath … I should Google it now, so I don’t forget) for flowing (do I hear a faucet dripping? I better go check) streams (I better go to the bathroom, because if God gets comical in my prayer time … well giggling with a full bladder can be catastrophic), so pants (ugh! These pants have dirt on them, I better go change them now, because I know that if I don’t do it now, I will end up showing my dirt all over town later) …

and so ends my prayer time, because I went into another room, only to find metaphorical squirrels everywhere!

So, what does one who has the attention span the size of a gnat do? How does one have prayer time when every single thought, every single word diverts our attention away from the one to whom we are praying?

I have picked up the Lord’s Prayer as a regular intro to my prayer time.

It is rote. I learned it in memorization when I was young, so it is something I do not have to consciously think about to pray. Squirrels don’t enter in at all, for my ritual of recitation needs to come to it’s expected end.

I repeat it, sometimes multiple times, until I have firmly got the blinders on to ward off the distractions.

I concentrate on it. Once I have slowed my brain, so that is void of distractibility (this doesn’t always happen), I focus my thoughts on the words I am praying, changing words like ‘we’ and ‘us’ to ‘me’ and ‘I’.

Somedays, this little ritual prepares me for concentrated time in prayer with God. Time when I am completely focused solely on that one thing. Sometimes, this prayer is all I get to … and that is okay, for it is dense in meaning and relevance … remember this is the prayer taught to us by Jesus himself!

Remember too that God hears our hearts, even in the rote words. That he wants to hear from us. That we need to connect with him.

So, if you’re fighting to keep your focus on Him, if there is a squirrel infestation in your mind, give this a try.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed (honored) be your name;
your kingdom come;
your will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses (sins),
as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

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“Relying on God
has to begin all over again
every day
as if nothing had yet been done.”
-CS Lewis

The saving grace that God offers and gives is once for all. Once we open the door to his presence in our lives, He is present.

Yet within that irrevocable oneness is a human challenge … to awaken each day as if it were the first day of our saving, our redemption. To awaken fresh, not carrying the baggage of the night before, but awakening to newness … as my hero Anne Shirley has said, “a new day, with no mistakes in it yet.”

For, if we perpetually take the sins, the wrongs, the heaviness of one day into the next, it is as if we are rejecting the freedom, the redemption that has been bought and offered to us. It is as if we are not trusting him in his most gracious gift to us.

Right now, this very moment,

exhale yesterday

inhale today

exhale

  • the sins
  • the worries
  • the massive missteps
  • the tears
  • the yelling
  • the silence
  • the anger
  • the resentment
  • the guilt

of yesterday, and yesterday’s yesterday.

inhale

  • Him
  • His love
  • His forgiveness
  • His goodness
  • His persistence
  • His pursuit of your soul
  • His goodness
  • His grace

that is today. Start right here, today, with Him … let Him be enough, be so enough that we do not need the past, yesterday. Depend on Him.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

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